I have taken my time in writing this article because there is just so many different ways in which this Red Sox team could go moving forward. They could try and trade one of their newly acquired players (Pablo Sandoval/Hanley Ramirez), they could hang onto them and sign more free agents (Johnny Cueto/Chris Davis/David Price/etc.), or they could trade some of the prospects out of their prized farm system in order to get an ace (Sonny Gray).
No matter what the Red Sox decide to do, there is no doubt that they are going to have to make some serious moves if they want to become a World Series threat in 2016. Here are the moves that I would make to turn this ship in the right direction come Opening Day.
1. Figure out 1st base.
While this may not be the biggest priority going into the 2016 season, it is going to be something that needs to be addressed in the offseason. There are a few candidates for the position, mostly coming from inside the organization. Travis Shaw has been a pleasant surprise as he has spent the better part of July and August with the big league club. In 18 games, Shaw is batting .326 with 4 home runs and 7 RBIs. However, he's 25 years old and a rookie. Everyone needs to start somewhere, but do the Red Sox think that Shaw can be their first basemen for the next 5-10 years? I'm not sold.
The next two names are quite familiar, but would have to switch positions in order for it to work out. Hanley Ramirez, who has openly stated that he is committed to only playing left field, is the likely candidate to make the move. While it would help ease the plethora of outfielders, Ramirez isn't the most gifted of fielders and would have to work at the position. Pablo Sandoval could make the move to first and Hanley could play third, a position he is more familiar with, but Sandoval is a good, if not great third basemen. He hasn't shown it this season, but I am not ready to give up on him so soon.
The next candidate, who may surprise you, is Blake Swihart. With Christian Vazquez coming back from Tommy John Surgery next season, the Red Sox are going to have two potential young All-Star caliber catchers vying for playing time. Not a bad problem to have. In my opinion, if Vazquez can hit .250, he is the catcher behind the plate for the Red Sox for the next 10-15 years. His leadership reminds me a lot of Varitek and he has one of the best arms in the league. Because of this, the Red Sox, who seem to want to keep Swihart instead of trading him away, may look to move him to another position.
The last option that the Red Sox have would be to bring in a big time free agent this offseason to man first. The first name, which is also the most likely in my opinion, that comes to mind is Chris Davis. Davis has been one of the best power hitters in all of baseball the past couple of seasons. He is on the right side of 30 and will command a contract close to, if not exceeding, $100 million. The Red Sox are known to love big named positional players, so I would not be surprised if we at least hear rumblings of Chris Davis-to-Boston.
My Prediction: If Travis Shaw continues to rake, he's in. If he struggles, Chris Davis is coming to Boston.
2. Get bullpen help.
As of right now, the scariest part of this entire Red Sox team may be their bullpen. While guys such as Robbie Ross Jr., Tommy Layne, and Ryan Cook are good for mop up duty and occasional appearances, the Red Sox are rolling them out whenever their starting pitcher comes out of the game.
Junichi Tazawa has been stellar the past two seasons, but has struggled, specifically as the closer (short lived, I may add), as of late. His 3.31 ERA in 50 appearances may not look bad, but he is consistently one bad pitch away from completely breaking down. Similarly, Koji Uehara's reign of dominance looked to be coming to an end before his season was cut short with a broken wrist. Koji had been having a decent season (2.23 ERA in 43 appearances), but his numbers were also deceiving in my opinion. After this injury, one has to question if this will push Koji's retirement even closer as he closes in on 41 years old.
Who could the Red Sox bring in, though? One of the top targets for the Red Sox heading into the offseason should be Aroldis Chapman. I have previously written about the lefty hurler, but the possibility of him pitching for the Red Sox could become very real. The 27 year old is posting a 1.66 ERA in 49 appearances with 88 strikeouts. As the Reds continue to explore the trade market for him, the Red Sox could offer them a couple young up-and-coming prospects for the flamethrower's services.
It doesn't take much money or prospects to get good bullpen arms and the Red Sox should explore this avenue as they try to mirror their back-end pitching after 2014 Kansas City Royals.
My Prediction: The Red Sox get a couple good bullpen arms that no one has heard about, and make a serious run after Aroldis Chapman.
3. Get starting pitching.
One of the many great things about being a Boston Red Sox fan is that money is never an issue. Even with the third highest payroll in all of baseball, the Red Sox look to be a big spender this winter. After missing out on Max Scherzer and Jon Lester last offseason, I would be surprised if the Red Sox continued with their "no pitchers over 30" philosophy.
The Red Sox plan of putting together a bunch of #3s that can eat innings failed miserably, and, if we can take away one thing from this whole season, it is that the Red Sox need an ace. In my opinion, that many is David Price.
Price is very well acquainted with the Red Sox, as he has now played for two AL east teams. With the Rays, Price always shined against the Red Sox and was known for his fiery intensity. After being traded at the deadline to the Toronto Blue Jays, Price could contend for a World Series, but he will not be sticking around there for long. The Blue Jays don't have the resources to pay David Price the necessary amount that he is looking for (7 years, $200 million).
There Red Sox, however, do. Names such as Jordan Zimmerman and Johnny Cueto have been floated around, and, while I wouldn't be disappointed with either of them, I want Price the most. Johnny Cueto has just emerged as a top pitcher and Jordan Zimmerman is not on the same level as either of them. If the Red Sox want to win now, they will pony up $200 million and get David Price. If they want to satisfy the fans and make it seem like they are doing all they can, they get Jordan Zimmerman for $150 million.
My Prediction: The Red Sox sign Jordan Zimmerman and trade for a #2 to put a very competitive team on the field for 2016.
Some may think that these moves are just a pipe dream. But, to be perfectly honest, the Red Sox actually have some money to spend this offseason. I mean, they did have the third highest payroll in all of baseball at the start of the season, right? Yes, but a lot of money is coming off the books at the end of the season. Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli's combined $39 million bucks will be gone, while various other free agent players will push that number close to $50 million.
With $50 million, the Red Sox could get Jordan Zimmerman, Chris Davis and bring in almost any bullpen arm they want. But who's to say they won't go over that number? I mean, they are the Red Sox, right?
By Pete Packowski @Pete_BBS