Well, that escalated quickly.
The Boston Red Sox entered Major League Baseball’s winter meetings with relatively low offseason expectations. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski promptly blew those expectations out of the water Tuesday, acquiring left-handed ace Chris Sale and reliever Tyler Thornburg and reportedly signing free agent first baseman Mitch Moreland in a wild 24 hours.
Add in David Ortiz’s (alleged) retirement and the departure of Travis Shaw, and this team will have a different look in 2017, both on the mound and at the plate.
How different? Boston could make more moves, but let’s assume the dust has settled for now and project the Red Sox’s starting rotation and lineup in 2017.
Chris Sale (LHP)
Rich Porcello (RHP)
David Price (LHP)
Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP)
Drew Pomeranz (LHP)
Other candidates: Clay Buchholz (RHP), Steven Wright (RHP)
Analysis: The top three are a lock, and putting the right-handed Porcello between Sale and Price makes sense. After that, it gets messy. Rodriguez is a pretty safe bet at No. 4 after his strong finish in 2016, but Pomeranz, Buchholz and Wright all could lay claim to the No. 5 spot — assuming one of them isn’t’ traded first. The Red Sox believed in Pomeranz enough to give up top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza at last season’s trade deadline, so he gets the nod for now.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
Mookie Betts, RF
Hanley Ramirez, DH
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
Sandy Leon, C
Andrew Benintendi, LF
Key reserves: Brock Holt (3B/OF), Chris Young (OF), Blake Swihart (C), Christian Vazquez (C)
Analysis: Shaw’s departure and Moreland’s reported addition means Ramirez can try to fill Big Papi’s shoes at designated hitter. It also means the third base job apparently is Sandoval’s to lose, but if he scuffles, expect manager John Farrell to give Holt some starts at the hot corner. Benintendi stakes claim in left field after his strong major league debut in 2016, with Young serving as a high-end platoon option. Leon starts at catcher on Opening Day, but Swihart and Vazquez should be nipping at his heels.
The bullpen also should look different — especially in the back end — after Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa all likely walk in free agency. Thornburg figures to be the eighth-inning reliever behind closer Craig Kimbrel, with Joe Kelly and Carson Smith likely getting late-inning work, as well.
The bottom line: The Sox are loaded, and expectations will be high on Yawkey Way come spring.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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