It’s pretty damn fun to dream, isn’t it? During the course of the past two seasons, last offseason and now this offseason, as a Sox fan, I’ve done a lot of it. I constantly find myself thinking, “Man, wouldn’t it be great to go get so-and-so?” and of course, it never happens. Last year it was the dream of signing back Jon Lester and going to get Giancarlo Stanton (before he signed for over $300 mil). Then it was the dream that the Sox would make a playoff push behind the bats of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, and a pitching staff with “a lot to prove.” During the 2015 season, it was the dream that the young guys would exceed expectations and make the Red Sox buyers at the deadline. Then, Boston would land deals for guys like Johnny Cueto, Craig Kimbrel (which ended up working out last month) or Tyson Ross, and somehow find their way into the playoffs.
I dreamed a healthy Mike Napoli, fresh out of sleep apnea surgery, would get back to his slugging ways. I dreamed a healthy Clay Buchholz would finally pitch like a potential Cy Young candidate for a full season. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz were healthy, Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts were promising (and delivered) and John Farrell, the pitching guru, would mold this staff into a halfway decent one.
Hardly any of that happened. And that brings us to this offseason – the here and now. The Sox have a lot of work to do, but not as much as you might think. We’re almost there, guys. Almost.
Of course, I wouldn’t be a Red Sox fan if I wasn’t expecting a few giant signings or blockbuster trades to be made before the season to get my hopes up for another playoff push. But this offseason feels different. Under Dave Dombrowski, I actually feel confident for 2016, and that’s not including the moves I think they have yet to make. The Kimbrel deal is already done – that’s already a major upgrade for an abysmal pen that still needs more work. Did they give up too much? Possibly, but prospects are never guaranteed to reach their potential. Then came the Chris Young signing. He’s a perfect fit for Fenway and the Sox, the ideal 4th outfielder that they so desperately need, and he puts the Sox in better position to move Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Brock Holt (which they absolutely should do).
That brings me back to my main point – dreaming. So without further ado, here are my ideal situations I’d like to see the Sox get into this winter, most unsurprising, but some might make you think.
Give David Price whatever money he wants
I am a firm believer in the “every good team needs an ace” mentality; I actually think each team needs more than one. Yes, the Royals won this year having hardly an ace in Cueto, but their immaculate defense, excellent baserunning, and uncanny ability to get timely hits is unique. Price is the top arm on the market, and he’s a lefty – something Boston needs atop their staff. He knows how to approach the AL East and is a terrific regular season pitcher. His playoff stats are shaky (0-8, 5+ ERA) but I’d rather at least get there, because as we all know, anything can happen in October.
Trade for Sonny Gray
Remember when I said each team needs more than one ace? Remember when the A’s said Gray was untouchable? Well, I remember when they said the same thing about Josh Donaldson, so I took the Gray proclaimation with a grain of salt. Plus, they might actually see Gray as somewhat expendable – for the right price – given his low K rates these past couple of seasons. At 26 years old, he’s a terrific, young, affordable arm that would fit nicely behind Price. But, of course, he’d come at a steep price. The A’s are a depleted team playing in a tough AL West, and they need young talent to boost their system. Rafael Devers is an obvious piece to this hypothetical trade. Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, maybe even Eduardo Rodriguez, are likely pieces. And Oakland would probably want two big-league-ready players. My dream deal would be Gray and a prospect-to-be-named for Devers, Owens, JBJ and Holt. But in reality, the A’s would demand Blake Swihart, Betts or Bogaerts, too. I’d be totally fine with losing anybody I already listed that isn’t Betts or Bogy for Gray.
***Ideal trade: Gray + Prospect = Holt + Owens + Devers + JBJ*** Sidenote: I love JBJ and Holt, and I think they both have upside, but right now the are at PEAK value and should be moved immediately before their stock takes a hit. If not for Gray, then for somebody else.
Sign Darren O’Day
The 33-year-old reliever has been a headache for opposing hitters for a couple of consecutive seasons now, and according to the Washington Post he’s the best free agent bullpen arm available. The Sox need a guy like that. His stats: 1.52 ERA, 82 K’s and a 0.93 WHIP in just over 65 innings in 2015. That’s damn good. His price has a ceiling because of his age and, most importantly, the Sox would be stealing him from an AL East rival. He should do just fine in the set up role in Boston.
Sign Alex Gordon
My previous trade for Gray opens up a starting outfield spot because I don’t pin Young as an everyday guy. Not to mention, there’s already buzz surrounding Gordon and Boston because Dombrowski loves the guy. Gordon slashed .271/.377/.432 last season, and posted his lowest double total (18) and fWAR (2.8) since 2010 after missing a third of the season due to injuries. He’s a prolific postseason player, a Gold Glove winner, an All-Star three years in a row, and a tremendous leader. Will he be expensive? Of course, but the Red Sox can afford him even with the Price deal. And don’t forget, he’s extremely versatile and could even be moved to the infield, if they ever needed him there.
Move Kelly to Bullpen
Joe Kelly throws heat, there’s no debating that. Kelly has plenty of potential, but I think it might be time to give up on him being a starter and move him to the back of the bullpen, where his high velocity might produce a high K ratio. He had that hot streak through last July/August, but his overall lack of ability to eat up innings (or get out of early innings) and lack of a truly dependable 3rd and 4th pitch make him an ideal flame-throwing set-up guy.
- Mookie Betts – CF
- Dustin Pedroia – 2B
- Xander Bogaerts – SS
- David Ortiz – DH
- Hanley Ramirez – 1B
- Alex Gordon – LF
- Pablo Sandoval – 3B
- Rusney Castillo – RF
- Christian Vazquez – C
- Chris Young (LF/RF)
- Blake Swihart (C)
- Deven Marrero (IF)
- Travis Shaw (1B/3B)
That’s not the most powerful lineup but it’s one that should produce runs and sound defense, especially if Ramirez and Sandoval show up in better shape. JBJ and Holt are missing as part of my trade for Gray (I am fully aware I’m undervaluing what Oakland would demand but remember, it’s a dream). HanRam and Panda are still there because I can’t think of a single situation in which a team would want to trade for either of them given their 2015 performance and massive contracts. Besides, who knows? After last season, the only place to go is up for both of these guys. Some other players that will undoubtedly see big league time are Ryan Hanigan, Sandy Leon, Garin Cecchini, Bryce Brentz and maybe even Sean Coyle.
- David Price (LHP)
- Sonny Gray (RHP)
- Clay Buchholz (RHP)
- Wade Miley (LHP)
- Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP)/Rick Porcello (RHP)
- RP – Tommy Layne (LHP)
- RP – Matt Barnes (RHP)/Robbie Ross, Jr. (LHP)
- RP – Junichi Tazawa (RHP)
- RP – Koji Uehara (RHP)
- SU – Darren O’Day (RHP)
- SU – Joe Kelly (RHP)
- CL – Craig Kimbrel (RHP)
An absolutely insane upgrade from these past two seasons. They could seriously lead the American League in ERA, and maybe even strikeouts if we see good Miley and a healthy Buchholz (and if they can keep Rodriguez around). That bullpen rivals the Yankees, Royals and Astros. Uehara and Tazawa could come in to any game at any time, and having a great set-up duo leading up to the flame throwing Kimbrel could prove to be lethal. I still have absolutely no idea what to do with Porcello. Part of me thinks he could still be a stud. Part of me also remembers every other pitch he threw leaving the yard. He showed promising flashes, but I don’t think he holds much value because of his horrible Sox debut and obscene contract. For now I’ll just kind of throw him in there, partially because Rodriguez could be gone, possibly because he could find his way in, and mostly because I just flat out have no clue. We’ll also likely be seeing time from Stephen Wright, Brian Johnson, Heath Hembree, Noe Ramirez, and Brandon Workman.
So that’s it, my ideal (yet still somewhat realistic) offseason and 25-man roster for this upcoming spring. The Sox have a lot of promise, and I feel more confident about this upcoming year’s team than I have in a long time. The lineup isn’t going to put out a ton of power, but it should still be able to push more than enough guys across.. The entire pitching staff is under construction still, and even in this hypothetical scenario there are still moving parts, but Gray, Price, and Kimbrel would cover a lot of those holes and improve on last year’s struggles. It’s a team with its share of question marks, but it has a very high ceiling. It’s December, but the road to October 2016 has already started. Gear up!