Postmortem: 2014 Boston Red Sox And A Look At 2015
(I would start off by saying that I am in no way an expert on the Red Sox, and most of what I know I get from ESPN, NESN, and the broadcast team during games. It is entirely possible, and even likely, that I don’t know what I’m talking about.)
I know that the corpse that is the 2014 Boston Red Sox isn’t even cold. It probably hasn’t even started to stink yet, though it could be argued they have been doing that since July. In any case, the autopsy must commence.
They, in a word, sucked.
I must admit, this one does not hurt as much as the debacle at the end of the 2011 season, missing out on the playoffs after a historical collapse. It also was nowhere near as bad as 2012, or as I like to call it “The Valentine’s Year Massacre.” And we’re not even in the same discussion as 1986 and 2003.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I was at the doctor’s office the other day and was asked if I’d ever had any heart problems. I said, “only when the Red Sox break it.” So far the Patriots aren’t doing anything to heal the wounds from the 2014 Red Sox season. It’s going to be a long off season.
So with the wounds of 2014 still fresh and festering, let’s do this.
As originally constructed, the 2014 Red Sox looked pretty good, but suffered from underperformance and injuries. Daniel Nava was so bad he went to the minors for part of the year, but did pick it up late in the season to finish strong. Shane Victorino missed almost the entire season with injuries. Dustin Pedroia played hurt and finally had to have surgery ending his season early. The reclamation project that was Grady Sizemore showed early promise but fizzled out. A.J. Pierzynski was just a bad move on so many levels. Mike Carp was hurt. Jonny Gomes could not recapture the magic of 2013. Will Middlebrooks was hurt and couldn’t get it going at all. Xander Bogaerts went through a tough stretch that was partially not his fault. Jackie Bradley. Jr. showed that he could be a perennial gold glove centerfielder, but unfortunately not for us. There were numerous other injuries to key players at various times.
In short, the season was an unmitigated disaster.
To make matters worse, the Middlebrooks injury prompted the Red Sox to make the panic move of signing Stephen Drew. You know, I will never forget that both J.D. and Stephen Drew each helped bring the Red Sox a World Series, but neither of them were ever very good. They both had their moments, where they would go on a streak for a week or two and drive in a couple of winning runs, but overall, they were average at best. They paid J.D. Drew an awful lot for mediocrity. Signing Drew was a big part of Bogaerts struggles. I know to some it will not make sense that changing a defensive position would so greatly affect offense, but it has happened to players over and over. Add to that his inability to hit the low and away breaking pitches they were getting him out on for a couple of months, and his struggles were downright painful to watch. Would Bogaerts have suffered through that playing shortstop? Possibly, but the switch certainly didn’t help, and he started to pick up again after they dumped Drew. Were they going to win the World Series this year? Probably not, but the Stephen Drew signing was the nail in the coffin on the 2014 season. It just took a while for everyone to realize it.
And what is the saddest part of this debacle? The pitching was darn good. Lester and Lackey were as good as any top of the rotation duo in baseball. Buchholz took a while to get going coming off his injury last year, but eventually got things headed in the right direction. Doubront was okay and poor Jake Peavy couldn’t get any run support.
The disastrous first half led to the dismantling of the team. I kept getting texts from ESPN about the trades and thought I was in some kind of alternate reality. Gomes, Carp, Lester, Peavy, Lackey, and Andrew Miller were all traded. I’m throwing up in my mouth just thinking about it.
However, all of this misery and frustration does not mean there were no bright spots. Christian Vasquez, and Mookie Betts have impressed to say the least. Brock Holt became the ultimate utility man and a great lead off hitter, although he cooled off before his concussion ended his season. Rubby De La Rosa gave them some great starts. Yoenis Cespedes, while not having a fantastic season, certainly showed that he can play in Boston, something which other players like Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez couldn’t do. I think we can expect big things from Cespedes next year. Rusney Castillo also looked good, and he’s signed for a long time. And of course, David Ortiz was David Ortiz.
In Papi we trust. I will cry like a baby the day he retires.
In summation, rest in peace 2014 Boston Red Sox. I will endeavor to never think about you again, though the pain will never go away. (I’m still upset about 1946, and that was 30 years before I was born.)
Now, on to 2015.
Let’s start with the position players. The following really are automatic.
Mike Napoli – First Base
Dustin Pedroia – Second Base
Xander Bogaerts – Shortstop
Yoenis Cespedes – Left Field
Rusney Castillo – Centerfield
David Ortiz – Designated Hitter
Daniel Nava –Utility Player Outfield
Brock Holt – Utility Player Infield/Outfield
That leaves Catcher, Backup Catcher, Third Base, Right Field, and one other utility player, probably an infielder or infielder/outfielder.
Catcher seems easy. Christian Vasquez has exceeded expectations. He is an excellent defensive catcher. He needs to get his batting average up a little, but it was only his first half season. Its been reported, though I can’t recall where I read it, that the Red Sox are comfortable with Vasquez as the starting catcher in 2015. I have to agree with that
David Ross is a free agent, but I really hope they bring him back next year. He does a great job, and having a veteran to help mentor Christian Vasquez going into his first full season would be a definite plus.
Third Base and Right Field are the really hard ones. Mookie Betts MUST play one of them. He played outfield for the Red Sox almost exclusively until Pedroia went down with an injury. He has been a second baseman until this year. He made such an easy switch to outfield, playing great defense, that I have to believe he could make the switch to Third Base. So, what does that mean? Either the Red Sox have to trade Shane Victorino, or give up on Will Middlebrooks. There are arguments for both.
I love Shane Victorino, but he is incredibly injury prone. He is probably tradable with just one year at $13 million on his contract. I’d hate to do it, but something’s got to give.
Middlebrooks has not gotten back to the offensive numbers he was putting up when the Red Sox first brought him to the majors. He’s had injuries, but it might be time to give up on him. The Red Sox have asked him to play winter ball. He did not rule it out, but seems to prefer rest and getting healthy for spring training. This could go either way, and whatever ends up happening could depend on what they do with him next year.
Another possible wrinkle here is that Garin Cecchini could be ready for the big leagues next year. He only batted .258 in 11 games, but that is a really small sample. I believe on one of the game broadcasts someone said that the Red Sox didn’t think Cecchini was ready defensively. Maybe he can change that in the off season.
As much as I hate to do it, if it were me, I would trade the injury prone Victorino. Make Mookie Betts your Right Fielder. I really think they need to give Middlebrooks another shot next year, and if he fails, Cecchini is waiting in the wings to move up.
They need one more Utility Player. That could be anyone either already on the roster or someone new. Unfortunately, it might have to be Allen Craig. It could be his injuries, but he was unimaginably bad down the stretch. He batted .128 in 29 games. He didn’t even bat his weight (215). He is under contract for big money, so they either need to find somewhere to trade him, or he is your last overpaid Utility Player. Even if he’s better, he’s not going to be worth playing over the other outfielders, so maybe they can find a sucker…I mean trade partner at mid season to get rid of him.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. should be traded as he will never play for the Red Sox unless he gets his batting average up to something reasonable for a gold glove outfielder. He doesn’t have to bat .300, but he batted .198 in 127 games. That is not good enough to play centerfield in Boston, especially when we have Rusney Castillo.
This means they really don’t need to pick up anyone accept maybe a Utility Player, and have several players with varying amounts of value in Victorino, Craig, and Bradley to trade.
Pitching is another matter altogether.
Right now every pitcher on the Red Sox expanded Roster is signed for next year (or arbitration eligible) except Koji Uehara as far as I know. I think they will sign Uehara to return as the closer. They have plenty of arms to fill the rest of the bullpen. Burke Badenhop, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica, and Junichi Tazawa would seem automatic. The last two members will likely come from the young arms they already have. I think Brandon Workman needs to be a reliever. He was great in that role in 2013 and has had mixed results as a starter. I would include him. As to the seventh member of the bullpen, it could be anyone they have, or they could go out and get someone. Andrew Miller who we traded to the Orioles is a free agent. I would LOVE to see them bring him back, but even if they don’t, they only need at most one arm for the bullpen.
And that brings us to the starting rotation. We have Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly. Buchholz seems to be getting back to what he was early in 2013 before he got hurt. He’s had ups and downs, but I think he’ll get back. Kelly has looked pretty good and should be in the rotation. They have to go out and get one big name top of the rotation starter. There seem to be two main possibilities. One would be to resign John Lester. I really hope they do that. I would love to have Lester back in Boston. The other option would be a trade with the Phillies for Cole Hamels. It sounded like they would be willing to trade the big contract since they need to rebuild. Of course, the ideal thing would be to get both. That seems unlikely. If you get one of them, or some other big name starter, and the fifth member of the rotation is Rubby De La Rosa, you still need one more starter. I really don’t know that they have anyone on the roster now. Prospect Henry Owens has been brought along slowly. I don’t know that you could count on him for the rotation next year.
The bottom line is you need at least two starting pitchers. One must be a top of the rotation guy. Lester or Hamels are the two that have been talked about, but I’m not up on all the free agents.
So, to sum up, if it were up to me, this would be the 2015 Red Sox.
One More Utility Player
One More Reliever
Rubby De La Rosa
Two More Starters
I will be shocked if next year’s opening day roster looks anything like this, but who knows. Only time will tell.
Pitchers and catchers report in about four and a half months.
God help us all.
Thanks for reading!