Well, the Red Sox season is over, the playoffs have moved on, grades have been given to every player and coach, and players have been given their garbage bags to clean out their lockers. Some players will clearly be moving on for one reason or another, including Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, and David Ortiz (insert frowny face).
However, the Red Sox still have a job to do and major moves in the bullpen is necessary for this team to succeed. While I am starting to become concerned with President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski's willingness to make earth-shattering deals, here is my dream-scenario for the Red Sox this offseason:
1. Sign Aroldis Chapman And Revamp The Bullpen
I know that people have issues with Aroldis Chapman's demeanor off the field, but on the diamond he is one of the best closers in all of baseball. The 28-year-old Cuban flamethrower has been lights-out since being traded to the Chicago Cubs. In 28 games, Chapman has a 1.01 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. The numbers speak for themselves; expect Chapman to get a lofty pay increase from his $11.33 million base salary in 2016.
Chapman would almost certainly want to close for his new team, which would present a problem if he were to join the Boston Red Sox. Craig Kimbrel was acquired last offseason in a trade with the San Diego Padres, and had an up and down 2016 campaign. Could the Red Sox transition Kimbrel into an eighth inning role? Could the Red Sox trade Kimbrel, then sign Chapman? Could the Red Sox convince Chapman to stay in his current role?
One thing is for certain: the Red Sox desperately need help in the bullpen. Acquiring the best available bullpen arm would do wonders to a group that will look quite different in 2017, regardless of if the Red Sox sign Chapman. The Kansas City Royals proved that a team does not need an elite starting rotation if they have a great bullpen. Speaking of the Royals, trade a Blake Swihart-type of player for Wade Davis as well. Load it up. With so few available starting pitching options on the market this offseason, the Red Sox would be wise to not overpay and stack the bullpen instead.
2. Trade For Chris Sale
Reportedly, the Red Sox were the most interested team in Chris Sale at last season's Trade Deadline. The Red Sox were looking to obtain some combination of fellow ace starting pitcher Jose Quintana, the aforementioned Chris Sale and former-Yankees star closer David Robertson. However, according to multiple reports, the White Sox were asking for a king's ransom, highlighted by Yoan Moncada AND Andrew Benintendi. While Moncada left a sour taste in every Red Sox fans' mouth after his struggles late this year, he is still considered the best prospect in all of baseball and is extremely young. If the Red Sox do not think Moncada has the ability or maturity to be a franchise player, then they should trade him in a deal for Sale.
The White Sox are going nowhere, yet they have a few pieces on their roster that could start the process of rebuilding their farm system. According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, the Red Sox could and should, in his opinion, revisit this trade this offseason. Of course, the price is still high, as Cafardo believes talks will likely start with Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers or Yoan Moncada, and possibly Eduardo Rodriguez.
"But Pete, the Red Sox have their ace in Rick Porcello!"
Come on. Sure, Porcello had the best season of his career and will probably win the Cy Young award, but he still has a career ERA of 4.20 ERA in 245 games. Porcello is a solid 2/3 starter that can, at times, perform like an ace. However, it would be ludicrous for a franchise with a $200+ million payroll to have Porcello be their starter on Opening Day.
3. Sign Edwin Encarnacion
Unfortunately, it appears that the Blue Jays' successful ride with their bandwagon fans is coming to an end. This offseason, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, arguably their two best hitters, not named Josh Donaldson, are slated to hit the free agent market after the Blue Jays failed to extend either one last offseason. While both players are in their early-to-mid-30s, they are expected, specifically Encarnacion, to get deals with an average annual value that approaches $20 million. As a relatively small market team, I believe the Blue Jays will be lucky to re-sign one of these players. The most likely scenario is the Blue Jays sign Bautista to a three- or four-year deal and let Encarnacion sign with the highest bidder in free agency. Jays fans hoping for a hometown discount from Encarnacion are going to be sorely mistaken.
That is where our Boston Red Sox come in. According to Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe, the Red Sox will have somewhere between $37 million to $50 million to spend this offseason. While the Red Sox have to settle in arbitration for a few members of the team, they will still have a large amount of money to spend until they get to their 2016 salary number. Truthfully, that does not even matter, as John Henry and the ownership group have shown they are willing to throw a lot of money at players if it is deemed fit.
In my opinion, at least, Edwin Encarnacion is a need, and not just a want. The Red Sox will be losing David Ortiz to retirement, which means a massive bat and spot in the lineup will be vacant. Sure, the Red Sox may move Hanley Ramirez from first base to DH, but I do not want to see Brock Holt or a combination of players manning David Ortiz' previous position.
Edwin Encarnacion on a four- or five-year deal will help the team next season, even if you are stuck with a 37-year-old Encarnacion later. Throw $100+ million at Encarnacion; it is only money.
With that being said, however, the main focus of this season needs to be starting pitching and/or the bullpen. The Red Sox cannot survive another season without more elite arms.
4. Sell High And Cut Bait
The Red Sox have a plethora of young talent and savvy veterans. Because there are only so many positions to play in the field and in the rotation, the Red Sox should look to move on from guys they know won't be playing much in Boston. Travis Shaw and Sandy Leon are two players that most notably jump to mind. Both of these players could thrive in a smaller market, and you may be able to get a mid-level prospect or a bullpen arm for them.
As well as the aforementioned players, guys like Blake Swihart, Drew Pomeranz, and Jackie Bradley Jr. could be on the trading block as well. Blake Swihart was hurt early in the season and never truly recovered. Swihart's value may be at an all-time low, but if Swihart proves to be healthy in Winter League or in Spring Training, teams almost certainly will start calling. Personally, I would not mind hanging on to Swihart and trying to make him a better defensive catcher. I have no proof to back this up, but Swihart reminds me of Buster Posey.
Drew Pomeranz proved that he is nothing more than a spot-starter and/or lefty specialist out of the bullpen. Manager John Farrell used Pomeranz in high-pressure situations in the playoffs and he faltered. Similar to Swihart, Pomeranz' value could not be any lower. Additionally, along with simply not pitching well, there are injury concerns, as Pomearnz was reportedly pitching with forearm discomfort. The Red Sox would be wise to sell Pomeranz, regardless of their return.
Finally, we have Jackie Bradley Jr. Sure, he was an all star and almost hit 30 home runs this season, but the peaks and valleys offensively for JBJ are still wildly visible. If the Red Sox are able to package prospects in a deal centered around JBJ for an elite pitcher, that deal has to be made. The Red Sox could then move Mookie Betts to center field, and have some combination of players at right field, or sign a veteran like Carlos Beltran to a one-year deal.
Until next time, Red Sox Nation.