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.