The Winter Meetings have come and gone, and it appears as if there is only smoke and mirrors at this point for the Boston Red Sox. There has been essentially no rumors to report, other than the fact that they are apparently listening on offers for Rick Porcello, Jackie Bradley Jr,. and Xander Bogaerts. While these rumors have been refuted, I tend to believe the national guys that initially reported this, rather than the talking heads in Boston that say it is a lie.
It has become quite apparent that this team is going to need some help in the bullpen. Joe Kelly is leaving for the LA Dodgers after signing a three-year, $25 million deal with the club. This move did not come as that much of a surprise to me. Sure, the Red Sox probably could have matched this contract, but rumors were surfacing that Kelly wanted to go back west, as he is a native Californian. I have also heard rumors that the Dodgers blew him away with their pitch, which perhaps means they are open to the idea of occasionally letting him start? Thank you for the inside source. As for Craig Kimbrel, that man is as good as gone. He is reportedly seeking a six-year, $100 million contract to make him the highest paid reliever ever. After a shaky playoff performance where he was essentially rendered useless, as well as just an average regular season by his standards, there is no shot the Red Sox should touch Kimbrel with a 10-foot pole.
So, what should the Red Sox do at this point? Here are a couple options I could see for this team. Most names will not surprise you.
Nelson Cruz (2018: .256 AVG, .850 OPS, 37 HR, 97 RBI, 2.9 WAR)
Ah. Good 'ole friend Nelson Cruz. This dude has wanted to play for the Red Sox for his entire career. David Ortiz was lobbying for the Sox to get this guy back in the day, and it appears as if his days with the Seattle Mariners are finally over. At 38 years old, he can still rake. He mashed 37 home runs this past season and could really make a living at a park like Fenway that is more hitter-friendly than Seattle. Now, his age is an obvious concern, but I think the Red Sox can use that to their advantage. They can offer him a shorter deal to win a championship as one of the focal points in their offense. Again, the Red Sox do not necessarily need to improve their lineup, but Cruz could be an option if the Red Sox decide to actually move Jackie Bradley Jr. Cruz's days in the outfield appear to be over, but JD Martinez has made it be known that he desperately wants to play the outfield still. What is to say the Red Sox could not move Martinez to left field, flip Andrew Benintendi to center field, and leave Mookie Betts in right? The Red Sox would be sacrificing some defense, but I think this would be a good option for the team in 2019 if they want to alleviate some of their payroll woes.
Jed Lowrie (2018: .267 AVG, .801 OPS, 23 HR, 99 RBI, 4.8 WAR)
Another old friend. Lowrie has grown up since his days with the Red Sox and has blossomed in to quite the player. He is the top second baseman on the market at the moment and the Red Sox have been rumored to be interested in him for the past couple of seasons. Ian Kinsler was a decent and affordable option for the Red Sox for their postseason run, but he is getting older and I do not think he is that much of an upgrade over some of the utility guys they already have on the roster. Obviously, this move has everything to do with the health of Dustin Pedroia. If he comes back and is completely healthy, then you can completely delete this part of the article and we can move on to pitchers. However, I do not think he is going to be back with the Red Sox any time soon. In fact, I do not think he is ever going to be a significant part of this team. Maybe he won't even ever suit up for a MLB team again. He is still under contract with the Red Sox until 2021, with his "team friendly" deal. Lowrie represents an everyday option for the Red Sox at a clear position of need. If the Red Sox do not think Pedroia can come back and be an effective player, signing a guy like Lowrie makes a lot of sense. Entering his age 35 season, Lowrie won't make a ton of money and could really help this team moving forward. He did fade a little bit in the second half of the season, but he was one of the best hitters in the first half of 2018.
Matt Harvey (2018: 7-9, 4.94 ERA, 131 K, 155 IP, 0.7 WAR)
Remember this guy? Entering his age 30 season, Harvey still has a lot of bullets left in the chamber. The guy was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball up until 2016, when he had a falling out with the New York Mets that lasted until 2018, when he was traded to Cincinnati. He may never be "The Dark Knight" again, but I think Harvey could be a reliable back-end of the rotation guy if he can keep his head on straight. He is a guy that potentially has a ton of upside and could be useful for any team that is looking for some starting pitching depth. Now, the Red Sox are rich with starting pitchers at the moment, but that could change if this team starts to shed some payroll. A guy like Rick Porcello could clearly be on the move to help alleviate their tightness up against the luxury tax, while guys like Eduardo Rodriguez could be looking for a change of scenery after so many up and down seasons. Furthermore, you can really never have too much starting pitching depth. Harvey will be able to be signed for short money and, if he could ever return to form, could be one of the steals of this free agent class. Fortunately for the Red Sox, they are at the point with this team that they are looking at pieces as a luxury, not out of necessity.
Adam Ottavino (2018: 75 G, 2.43 ERA, 112 K, 77.2 IP, 2.6 WAR)
Now, this is a name that the Red Sox are actually rumored to be in on. Ottavino is one of the top remaining free agent relievers on the market. At 33 years old, he is on the older side but did not turn into an everyday major leaguer until 2012. Since then, he has been a reliable reliever that had one bad season to sway his numbers. He essentially has no experience as a closer, so the Red Sox would be thrusting him into a new role if that is the direction they decide to go down. However, he would be a great late-inning option to replace a guy like Joe Kelly. Since 2012, he has not had a K/9 under 9 and posted a 13.0 K/9 last season. He has a devastating breaking ball with an upper 90s fastball. Ottavino would help the Red Sox, who desperately need bullpen arms at the moment. While he does not help you in the ninth inning, I think he could be a great addition to this ball club. There are other suitors potentially for him, so the Red Sox will need to put the pressure on if they want Ottavino in Boston in 2019.
David Robertson (2018: 69 G, 3.23 ERA, 91 K, 69.2 IP, 1.0 WAR)
Again, the Red Sox are rumored to be in on this guy. I have been enamored with Robertson for quite some time now. The guy is one of the most consistent relief pitchers in baseball and is still doing it going into his age 34 season. Because of his age, the Red Sox may be able to get away with offering this guy only two or three years. He has a ton of closing experience and has shown he can pitch in the AL East, having been one of the top arms in the bullpen for the Yankees in two separate stints. Now, he is going to get a contract in the neighborhood of three-years, $30 million, so the Red Sox will have to pay into the luxury tax if they want him. However, at this point, I don't see how the Red Sox are going to be able to avoid this. They need arms in the bullpen and cannot rely on a bunch of no-names when they are fresh off a World Series victory. The Red Sox do not have a large window, with many notable names becoming free agents in the next couple of seasons. Tying down Robertson ensures the Red Sox a reliable closer that can take Kimbrel's role with little-to-no drop-off. Sign. This. Man.
Zach Britton (2018: 41 G, 3.10 ERA, 34 K, 40.2 IP, 0.7 WAR)
A few years ago, this guy was legitimately competing for Cy Youngs as a freaking closer. That is absolutely incredible. Now, however, after a flurry of injuries, Britton has dropped off to a good, not great, reliever. Despite being booed off of the mound at Yankee Stadium countless times, Britton was great in pinstripes and bounced back nicely in 2018. I do not think you have to overly worry about his injuries at this point, but they should be taken into account when unloading him a big contract. Going into his age 31 season, Britton will be in for a contract similar to that of Robertson. At this point, I would rather have Robertson, but it is clear that Britton has more upside. The question comes down to whether you believe Britton will ever return to his 2016 form, where he posted a 0.54(!!!!) ERA. Many teams are enamored with Britton, so perhaps the Red Sox would be wise to steer clear of him in 2019. It is clear that teams will be paying for past performance when it comes to Britton. I am just not sure that I want to take that big of a gamble with a team that wants to win their second consecutive World Series. Rumors have circulated that the Red Sox want both Britton and Robertson, so keep an eye on this guy in the coming days.
Andrew Miller (2018: 37 G, 4.24 ERA, 45K, 34 IP, 0.2 WAR)
Another old friend. Also, are you sensing a theme here? The Red Sox need relief pitching. At the age of 33, it wouldn't surprise me if Miller's best days are behind him. He is coming off a season in which he was plagued by injuries and saw a decrease in his velocity when he came back. It remains to be seen if he can return to form, but I am fearful that he is no longer the multi-inning guy we saw only a couple seasons ago. Nevertheless, the Red Sox are paying for past performance with this guy. He has shown that he can pitch in the AL East and could come at a decreased price compared to a guy like Britton. While Robertson is a sure thing, I may take the gamble on Miller given that he is such a dynamic pitcher, especially in the postseason. He is devastating against left handers and could be a really good late inning guy if the Red Sox decide to splurge on a closer. If the Red Sox were to hypothetically land Robertson and Miller, they would surely be over the luxury tax, but they would also have upgraded their bullpen from last season, which was surprisingly good to begin with. I would love to see this guy return to Boston, but it is all about the price.
Are things about to get interesting? What was once thought to be a quiet Winter Meetings has turned into a frenzy for the Boston Red Sox. Both Bob Nightengale and Ken Rosenthal have confirmed that the Boston Red Sox are looking to cut payroll in order to ensure that they do not go over the luxury tax threshold. According to reports, the Red Sox have been open to the idea of trading Rick Porcello, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts, among others.
Rick Porcello is coming off of a decent season in which he went 17-7 with a 4.28 ERA in 191.1 innings. All in all, the former Cy Young winner has regressed since winning the award. Prior to pitching for the Red Sox, Porcello signed a contract extension that has him signed through the 2019 season. Looking back on his four-year, $82.5 million contract, he appears to have been a success in this city. However, with one year remaining on his contract and little chance of him re-signing with a plethora of guys in need of new contracts, Porcello could be the odd man out. I do not think Porcello could get the Red Sox a king's ransom, but it would definitely be a step in the right direction to re-stocking the farm system or perhaps netting a solid bullpen arm. In his final year under contract, Porcello is owed $21 million.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has become one of the most tantalizing figures on the Red Sox since he came on to the scene in 2013. The sure-handed center fielder will be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season and will be in the market for a massive contract. While he did win the ALCS MVP award this past season, he is a career .238 hitter and a .185 hitter in the playoffs. He does have the occasional power surge, but he is essentially a non-factor at the plate 95% of the time. Given his mild success in the 2018 postseason, it will be interesting to see if the Red Sox sell high on a guy that still has some life on his contract. This year, JBJ is slated to make roughly $9 million.
Perhaps the most interesting name on this list was that of Xander Bogaerts. Conveniently enough, he may also get the Red Sox the most in a return. The all star shortstop is coming off a great season, where he hit .288 with 23 home runs and 103 RBI and even saw himself get some MVP votes. Over his six-year career, Bogaerts is hitting .284, provides solid defense, and looks to be finally getting into the prime of his career at the age of 26. Bogaerts will be looking at an absurd deal in the offseason, where he could sign something in the neighborhood of $25 million per year.
Losing each of these guys in a deal would have obvious benefits and detriments to the team. Trading Porcello makes a lot of sense, although I would love to see him stay in Boston for the rest of his career. He has a great attitude and can obviously work effectively here. However, he could be the odd man out in this rotation if the Red Sox plan on signing Chris Sale after this season. It would be interesting to see what the Red Sox could get for him, given he is a free agent after this season and has the largest contract of the three guys mentioned. Because of his contract size, the Red Sox may be most interested in trading him this offseason. Dealing JBJ also makes a lot of sense because of his impending big pay day and his awful offense. The Red Sox wouldn't really be losing anything at the plate, could easily fix their outfield when he is gone, and not take that much off the big league club. I wouldn't overly want to mess with the outfield because it is the best in the game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a team overspend on JBJ, as he sinks away into obscurity.
Bogaerts gets his own separate paragraph because I think he is that important to this team. He is a two-time World Series Champion, has been great at the plate, and is a solid defender, but I feel that he has still underperformed for his career thus far. His numbers won't show it, but I feel that Bogaerts could be a potential MVP candidate. I simply don't think he has the right mindset to be one of the best players in baseball, although I think he is capable of it. My guess is Bogaerts could net the Red Sox a massive return. If they do not think they can re-sign him, trading him may be the best move. The Red Sox could use any number of the utility infielders they have on the roster to replace Bogaerts, or perhaps they could sign a guy in free agency. Maybe the recently released Troy Tulowitzki?
This team has an incredible lineup, so they can afford to lose one of these guys and they will still be more than okay. Furthermore, if Sale is right, then losing Porcello after re-signing Nathan Eovaldi is also not that big of a deal. The Red Sox are a team rich with talent, but their farm system needs to be replenished and they desperately need arms in the bullpen. These are only rumors, but it is interesting to see the Red Sox not staying complacent after winning a World Series. I think Dave Dombrowski knows this team cannot keep everyone and wants to do as much as he can to milk one more championship out of this core before they all go their separate ways.
(Via Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Heisman voters made a mistake.
I know, that sounds brash. How dare I insult our beloved Heisman Trust, right? But it's true. Kyler Murray is outstanding- but he's not the nation's most outstanding college football player in 2018. That player is Tua Tagovailoa.
How can I reasonably say this? Let's look at the numbers.
Kyler Murray: 70.9 completion %, 4,053 yards, 40 TD, 7 INT, 123 rushes, 892 yards, 11 TD
Tua: 67.7%, 3,353 yards, 37 TD, 4 INT, 48 rushes, 190 yards, 5 TD
On the surface, this isn't close. Murray blows him out. But Tua rarely played into the 4th, unlike Murray did. So, let's look at Tua's stats assuming he played into the 4th during every game where he didn't (and some games where he only played a few snaps)
Tua's new numbers look like this: 67.7 completion % 4,471 yards, 49 TD, 5 INT, 64 rushes, 253 yards, 7 TD
Ignoring that nearly 10 to 1 TD/INT ratio, keep in mind that these are just projections. Tua could've underperformed, or he could've overperformed. But given what we have, assuming Tua played into the fourth, he manages to throw for more yards, more touchdowns, and still fewer interceptions than Murray did. Now, Murray is still a better number, even adjusting for Tua's projected 4th quarter performance. But no award, in any sport, has ever been decided purely based on one or two stats.
But it is based on performance, and Tua laid an egg against Georgia, so that has to count for something. That's true. Kyler Murray was better than Tua for that week. But you know what? For the first 13 weeks, Tua was much better. Let's look at their conferences. Tua is in the SEC, the best football conference in the nation. Not only that, he's in the SEC West, the best division in the nation. Not even including Alabama, the SEC West also is home to Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. Remember A&M, by the way. Even though Ole Miss is coming off NCAA Sanctions, all six teams in that division are great almost every year. (I said almost, because Auburn was hilariously bad this year.) While Steve Spurrier's assessment that even SEC waterboys are fast is very true, the SEC is known for their defense. And Tua went up against SEC defenses every week in conference play. Murray? Well, let's put it this way. Tua plays the best defenses in the best defensive conference in the country. Murray plays in the Big 12, where defense is entirely optional. The Big 12 has no defenses ranked in the top 10 in the nation. Or the top 20. Or the top 30. The highest ranked defense in the Big 12 was #36, belonging to Iowa State. To be fair, Murray had no control over the quality of defenses in his conferences. It's not like he had a job at QB in the SEC West or anything like that.*
*except he did. Murray was at Texas A&M in 2015, he transferred to Oklahoma the following year. This has almost nothing to do with the rest of this, but I want to bring up that Kyler Murray left the SEC because he was too scared to face SEC defenses week in and week out so he ran to a no-defense conference to back up an NFL star.
Let's talk other awards. Murray won the Davey O'Brien Award, which is given to the best quarterback in the nation. In recent years, winning the O'Brien does not necessarily mean you win the Heisman. From 2013-17, only three of the five winners also won the Heisman. But, in fairness, one of those years had a non-quarterback win the Heisman. That year was 2015, when Deshaun Watson took home the O'Brien while Derrick Henry won the Heisman. And still, Deshaun Watson won two of those awards in that span. Only Archie Griffin is winning two Heismans. Let's look at more broad awards then. The Walter Camp Award goes to the college football player of the year, as voted by the coaches. The 2018 winner? Tua. The Maxwell Award is also one for every position. It's for the best all-around college football player in the nation, as voted by the writers and the coaches. Tua won that too. But what do coaches know about college football, right? Every Heisman winner between Mariota and Jackson also won these two awards. To that, I raise this question to anyone still reading this: how can a player be voted the player of the year and the best all-around player but not the most outstanding? Could it be because our sacred Heisman Trust is not actually as good as we project it to be?
Mack Wilson said it best:
When Murray faces a real defense for the first time come New Year's, he'll prove my point right. Until then, just remember that the Heisman voters got it wrong.
It appears as if one of the top names on the starting pitcher free agent market has found a long-term home. Moments ago, it was announced that Nathan Eovaldi would re-sign with the Boston Red Sox. The deal is pending a physical and the exact numbers are not yet known, but it can be deduced that the hard throwing right hander is getting a deal in the neighborhood of four years and $67-$70 million.
Eovaldi was traded to the Red Sox from Tampa Bay and shined with his new club. He went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 outings with the Red Sox last season, which does not really garner a massive contract. But Eovaldi was able to get his money in the postseason, as he was one of the best players as the Red Sox rolled through the playoffs to a World Series Trophy. Hell, he almost won World Series MVP. In six postseason outings, including two starts, Eovaldi went 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA.
Now that we get the hard news out of the way, lets get a little objective about this. I will be the first to say it, I loved watching Eovaldi in the playoffs. He was a man amongst boys and gave one of the best postseason performances in the World Series that I have ever seen. However, it is important to look beyond the numbers. Eovaldi has had two Tommy John surgeries and and throws 102 MPH. Does that seem like a good mix to you? It doesn't to me. Those types of guys don't last, regardless of how young they are. For reference, Eovaldi is 28 years old.
Ultimately, this deal will be garnered either a failure or success based on what the Red Sox decide to do with Eovaldi. If he is converted into a closer, then I think this deal is wildly idiotic. You don't pay closers close to $20 million, especially for a guy with not a lot of experience at the position. If the Red Sox want to use him as a starter, I will like this deal a lot more, but I just don't think he is going to be able to last the full four years. I simply feel that this deal is looking too short-term, but what do I know?
I am also interested to see what the Red Sox decide to do with the rest of the offseason. Steven Pearce was re-signed to a one-year deal and we already know about Eovaldi's massive contract. These were two guys that were traded for midseason and had massive impacts in the playoffs. Do they really deserve these contracts? That is up for debate. At least Pearce's contract is only for one season. Will these two deals handicap the Red Sox as we look at what else they need this offseason? As we all already know, it is clear the Red Sox need bullpen help, especially with Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel hitting the free agent market. Will these deals hurt the Red Sox as they try to re-sign these two, or perhaps get over arms, such as David Robertson or Zach Britton?
We will see....
We are a quarter of the way through the season and it looks as if the Boston Celtics are the complete opposite of what we all thought. Now, there is certainly time for them to turn it around and make a deep run, but if the playoffs started today, I do not think anyone would be holding their breath about his team. After watching almost every game, I think Boston's issues are pretty clear.
The starting five simply lacks chemistry because they play "hero ball." If you take a look at the starting five for the Boston Celtics, they are actually all very similar players. Gordon Hayward (the former starter), Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and even Al Horford are well-above average shooters at their position. While Jaylen Brown is not as good of a shooter, he thinks he is and stays out at the three-point line, chucking up shots. If you have five players that all do the same thing pretty well, there is no diversity to your team. I know that we are living in the age of positionless basketball, and call me old school, but I think that teams need a traditional big man down low. Perhaps Brad Stevens agrees with me, as he switched up the starting five to put Aron Baynes at center. However, even Baynes is out at the three-point line. I realize that making three out of ten three-pointers is better than making four out of ten two-pointers, but the Celtics simply aren't getting shots to fall.
If you take a look at Boston's schedule, it was not necessarily the easiest way to come out of the gate. They started 13 of their 21 games on the road with a West Coast road trip mixed in there. This is not an excuse because they have played poorly, but they also should have been expected to start a little slow.
So what should the Celtics do in order to reclaim their standing as the best team in the Eastern Conference?
The short answer? I have no idea. Would the Celtics be willing to essentially stand pat this season in order to keep their assets through the Trade Deadline and make a run at Anthony Davis this offseason? Will the Celtics trade Kyrie Irving (GASP) in a deal for Anthony Davis to ensure that they can land him now over a team like the Lakers? Remember, the Celtics cannot have both Irving and Davis on their team this season until Kyrie signs his extension due to the Rose Rule. Will the Celtics look at other, lesser players that fit a certain role to help the chemistry? Or will they do absolutely nothing at all?
Lets start from the top. In my opinion, I do not think the Celtics should trade Irving. I know, what a scorching hot take. If they trade Irving for Davis, even if it is a direct swap, then they really aren't getting that much better. Sure, you're netting a better player, perhaps only marginally, but the Celtics would be dumping their best player after one season after he has already verbally agreed to an extension. Thats not a good look in making Boston a marquee free agent destination.
So, at this point, I say the Celtics just need to tough it out. They need to trust in Brad Stevens to get the job done and figure out whatever is wrong with this team. If it is as simple as chemistry, then this is something that is on the players. Irving, Hayward, Horford, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris or any one of the plethora of leaders that the Celtics have on this team needs to take everyone aside and get them all to buy in.
Now this is just a theory, but I do think the early problems start and stops with Tatum and Brown. They are two young guys that think they are already the second coming of Michael Jordan. Brown has infamously said he is going to win The Finals for the next six straight seasons, and Tatum is throwing up shots like he is Kobe Bryant who, conveniently enough, is one of his close mentors. At this point in time, I think it would be a huge mistake to trade Tatum. He has the ability of a top five player in the NBA if he continues to progress. But Brown? He can go. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. I do not like the way that he has conducted himself this season and believe that he still has some value in the league. Could a deal centered around Brown and draft picks land the Celtics a player of Davis' caliber in the offseason?
Lets do a little recap, shall we? No, the Celtics shouldn't simply blow it up or make a huge trade in order to drastically change this team. They still have the pieces to hypothetically get any player they want in the NBA, within reason. The biggest available superstar right now is Davis. If the Pelicans decide to trade Davis at the Trade Deadline, then the Celtics will have to have some internal discussions about Irving. However, at this point, I think Danny Ainge and company need to put all their eggs in Stevens' basket and hope for the best. This team is too talented to be a .500 ball club. And no, I don't believe there is such a thing as having "too much talent."