Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Early Returns on Red Sox 2013 Draft Not Looking Good

Lefty Trey Ball was selected by the Red Sox in the first round of the 2013 draft. Boston later selected righty Teddy Stankiewicz in the second round. The Sox had high hopes for both.

However, the pitchers are now ranked as the 29th and 25th best prospects, respectively, in the Red Sox system. With three-plus years of minor league experience under their belts, that's likely not what the Sox were expecting from the them at this point.

At 6'6" and 190 pounds, the 22-year-old Ball is a lanky left-hander with a thin frame, who scouts say "needs to fill out and add strength." However, they also says he "has great athleticism and is very projectable."

Though Ball has "middle of the rotation potential," according to his scouting report, he is "extremely raw, particularly for someone drafted so early and has a long way to go to reach that potential."

At 6'4" and 215 pounds, the 23-year-old Stankiewicz possesses a "solid pitcher's build with room for growth," since he is "on the thin side at present," reads the scouting report.

The expectations for Stankiewicz have clearly dropped in recent years. About him, the scouting report reads:

"Potential to be an emergency spot starter or long relief type. If command doesn’t improve and secondary pitches don’t develop, will have to move to the bullpen. Lacks an above-average offering, which limits upside."

The scouting report seems to indicate that Ball has the greater upside of the two, yet the former first rounder is ranked as only the 29th best prospect in the Red Sox system. That's not encouraging.

The status of these two pitchers reveals why scouting, drafting and development are so critical. The Sox may have essentially wasted the first two picks in the 2013 draft on pitchers who don't seem to have a lot of upside or major league potential.

At this point, both seem to be a long way from the big leagues.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What to Expect from the 2017 Red Sox

The Red Sox will open the 2017 season on Monday and the expectations are high for this group.

What exactly should we expect? Are the Sox the best team in the highly competitive AL East, meaning they will win the division? Are they, at the least, a playoff team? According to many experts, the answers are yes.

ESPN projects that Boston will claim the AL East title, winning 93 games, as do USA Today (94 wins) the St. Louis Dispatch (90 wins), Bleacher Report (91 wins) and the Arizona Republic.

The 2016 Red Sox claimed the AL East title by winning 93 games, yet were swept by Cleveland in the ALDS.

The biggest changes to this year’s team are the retirement of David Ortiz and the addition of Chris Sale. While the loss of Ortiz could make the offense weaker, the addition of Sale should make the rotation/defense stronger.

The Red Sox had the best offense in baseball last year, leading the majors in runs, hits, doubles, total bases, RBI, batting average, OBP, slugging and OPS. That’s nearly every single statistical category. Yes, the Red Sox' offense was a juggernaut in 2016.

While Ortiz was a key cog in that prolific machine, he was not the entire offense. In fact, Mookie Betts was runner up for the MVP Award, with nearly identical stats to winner Mike Trout. Ortiz aside, the rest of that high-powered offense returns in 2017, with the addition of first baseman Mitch Moreland.

For what it’s worth, Red Sox’ stats guru Bill James projects Moreland will produce the following numbers this season: 20 homers, 65 RBIs, 52 runs, .246 batting average, .310 on-base percentage, .431 slugging percentage, .741 OPS.

Though he has eclipsed the 20-homer plateau in three of the last four seasons, Moreland is actually a defensive specialist, having won the AL Gold Glove at first base with Texas last season. Any offensive boost he provides the Sox would be a bonus.

Boston will also benefit from a full season of Andrew Benintendi, who played in just 34 games for the Sox last year.

James makes the following projection for Benintendi this season: 38 doubles, 5 triples, 12 home runs, 73 RBI, 87 runs, .290 batting average, .352 OBP, .443 slugging, .794 OPS, 21 steals.

If James is accurate, or even close, with his projections for Moreland and Benintendi, the Red Sox offense should withstand the loss of Ortiz and be highly potent again this year.

Then we get to the Red Sox rotation, which, on paper at least, may be the best in baseball. Boston will feature 2016 Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello and 2012 Cy Young winner, David Price, who will start the season on the disabled list. The addition of Chris Sale likely makes the Red Sox’ front three the most formidable in baseball.

James makes the following projection for Sale: 33 starts, 231 innings, 16-10 record, 3.04 ERA, 195 hits, 24 homers, 47 walks, 259 strikeouts.

Price posted a solid 17-9 record last season, but had a disappointing 3.99 ERA in 35 starts. The lefty led the majors with 230 innings pitched, but also gave up a league-leading 227 hits.

James envisions a bounce-back season for Price in 2017: 33 starts, 16-10 record, 3.22 ERA, 229 innings, 222 strikeouts, 48 walks, 23 homers, 211 hits

It should not be overlooked that both Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz were All Stars last season. What other team has All Stars in both the No. 4 and No. 5 rotation slots? None.

James makes the following projections for the Red Sox' fourth and fifth starters, as well as Eduardo Rodriguez, who will fill in for Price until he is healthy and who could replace another injured starter this season:

Wright: 30 starts, 198 innings, 11-11 record, 3.91 ERA, 152 strikeouts, 70 walks, 20 homers, 195 hits.

Pomeranz: 31 starts, 177 innings, 11-9 record, 3.92 ERA, 170 strikeouts, 67 walks, 21 homers, 163 hits.

Rodriguez: 31 starts, 172 innings, 10-9 record, 3.87 ERA, 148 strikeouts, 53 walks, 20 homers, 171 hits.

As is always the case, health will be the ultimate determinant to the Red Sox success this season. If Price’s elbow continues to be problematic, that would be equally problematic to the Red Sox' ambitions this season.

In the same way, the loss of a player such as Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley could also derail the Sox’ hopes and dreams.

If Boston’s key players remain mostly healthy this season and do not miss significant time, this club is clearly capable of winning the American League Pennant and even the World Series.

One thing is for sure, this team will be fun to watch, and 2017 should be a very exciting and eventful season for the Red Sox.

Let the games begin!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

To Land Chris Sale, the Red Sox Gave Up a Lot to Get a Lot

The Red Sox appear to have paid heavily in the trade that netted lefty Chris Sale. While the Red Sox did not give up any major league talent in the deal, they traded away three of their top-eight prospects in a single transaction.

Yoan Moncada is the top prospect in baseball, righty Michael Kopech was Boston’s No. 5-ranked prospect and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe was ranked No. 8 in Boston’s farm system. Right-hander Victor Diaz was ranked No. 28.

We all know about Moncada, who is the center piece of this deal for the White Sox. Boston signed the 21-year out of Cuba in Feb. 2015 to a record-shattering $31.5 million signing bonus, which came with a 100 percent luxury tax for the club. Boston will continue to pay the remainder of that bonus even as Moncada joins the Chicago organization.

The infielder hit .294/.407/.511 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs in 106 games between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland in 2016. But he looked overwhelmed in his brief September call up with Boston. Still, he possesses an alluring array of talents, including power and speed. To this point in his minor league career, Moncada has stolen 94 bases in 109 tries — a success rate of 86.2 percent.

But the Red Sox had a big problem projecting where exactly Moncada would fit on its big league roster. Moncada is a natural second baseman, but Dustin Pedroia is signed through 2021. The team leader and de facto captain is still playing at a very high level, as evidenced by his 2016 Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year award. Moreover, Pedroia has 10/5 rights and cannot be traded without his consent. In short, second base is Pedroia's for the next five years.

Meanwhile, third base did not seem to be an option for Moncada either. The Red Sox have Pablo Sandoval under contract for the next three seasons. Given his obesity, his 2016 shoulder surgery, his poor performance in 2015 and the $58 million that he is guaranteed through the 2019 season, the Red Sox likely own him for the duration, at least until he raises his trade value considerably.

With Andrew Benintendi (22 years), Jackie Bradley (26 years) and Mookie Betts (24 years) all young, in their prime and under team control for the next few years, there was no place in the Boston outfield for Moncada either.

Add in the fact that Red Sox’ minor league third baseman Rafael Devers is just a couple of years away from the majors, and that logjam will only worsen. The 20-year-old Devers was rated the No. 16 prospect in baseball by entering last season, and scouts call him “one of the most exciting young players in the system in years,” with All Star potential.

In essence, Moncada was a man without a position in Boston. That made him an expendable trade candidate, despite his enormous, raw talents.

The 20-year-old Kopech, who was Boston’s first-round pick in the 2014 Draft, went 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 12 starts between Class A Short-Season Lowell and Class A Advanced Salem this past season.

The consensus among scouts was that Kopech was the best pitching prospect in the Arizona Fall League this year. Kopech’s fastball registered in the upper 90s in Fall League action, which he led with a 11.6 strikeout rate per nine innings. The righty hit 100 mph five times during the AFL’s Fall Stars Game.

After trading away Anderson Espinosa in the deal for Drew Pomeranz last summer, Kopech was the best pitching prospect remaining in the Red Sox system. Boston has now dealt away its two best pitching prospects in the span of just five months. That will hurt in the long term and the club will need to restock.

If the Sox end up a perennial playoff club, due to its deep starting rotation and young, potent lineup, they won’t have good draft positions for the next few years. Let’s not forget that the Red Sox have not successfully developed a starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz, who debuted in 2007.

But winning is always the goal, and winning now is especially the goal in Boston.

As for Basabe, scouts say he has a plus arm, plus speed, surprising power and shows average-to-better potential in center field. Scouts believe he “will flash at least four average-or-better tools."

For his part, Diaz, a 22-year-old right-hander, has drawn rave reviews from scouts. “Great arm. Just electric stuff. He’s going to be worth keeping track of to see how he does as he moves up the ladder,” said one scout.

In order to get a pitcher of Sale’s caliber (four top-five Cy Young finishes), the Red Sox had to surrender a lot in return.

Sale has posted a collective 3.04 ERA with 10.0 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 1,015 2/3 innings. He’s set to earn just $12 million next season, and the Red Sox will hold club options valued at $12.5 million and $13.5 million for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively.

In total, the Red Sox just picked up three years of control of dominant starting pitcher, who will be just 28 on opening day, at a cost of only $38 million; that’s peanuts for a pitcher of Sale’s caliber. Expect him to be a perennial All Star and Cy Young candidate for the duration of his time in Boston.

Yes, he may be a bit nutty (he did, after all, get suspended for using scissors to destroy all of the throwback uniforms his Chicago teammates were expected to wear during a game last season), but he really wants to win.

In Boston, he will get that chance over the next three years, in a rotation that features Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, former Cy Young winner David Price, plus 2016 All Stars Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz. All of them are under control for the next few years.

When you add in Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez, the Red Sox now have seven, proven major league starters. Expect another trade to address Boston’s search for a DH/first baseman.

The Red Sox are built to win not only in 2017, but in each of the next few years thereafter as well. This trade is an immediate win for Boston and may prove to be a long term win for Chicago.

Again, while the Red Sox appear to have given up a lot in return for Sale, as I always say, prospects are a gamble. You never truly know what you have until they prove it at the major league level.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Will David Price Rise to the Occassion this Post-Season?

What are we to make of David Price, the Red Sox’ $217 million pitcher, this season?

There is much to consider.

After signing a contract that large — the biggest in club history — big things were obviously expected. Perhaps a Cy Young Award? That's not going to occur. Not this season, at least.

First the good…

Price led the Red Sox’ staff with 34 starts and 225 innings this season. In fact, Price leads the majors in both categories. Those are really important numbers. It means that he wasn’t getting shelled early and that he made the most of his starts, taking pressure off the bullpen and, ultimately, manager John Farrell.

Price also led the Red Sox with 224 strikeouts in his 225 innings. That’s impressive stuff. Strikeouts matter because the ball is not being put in play, meaning the batter cannot reach base. In that regard, a strikeout is not like any other out. Line drives, ground balls and fly balls can all fall in for hits.

Ultimately, the lefty won 17 games (against 9 losses) this season and if a fortune teller had told me that in spring training, I would have been satisfied.

Now the bad…

Price had a 4.04 ERA this year, which is not the stuff of a No. 1 pitcher, much less an ace. Some of that can attributed to the fact that the lefty surrendered a career-high 29 long balls this season.

Then there’s the fact that Price posted a .259 batting average against this season, which is the worst for any Red Sox pitcher who made at least 14 starts. Again, it's not the sort of thing one expects from a No. 1 pitcher.

However, Price has made his final regular season start and now it’s on the post-season, where the lefty hasn’t fared well.

Over 14 games / 63.1 innings in the post-season, Price has posted a 2-7 record (the two wins were in relief) and a bloated 5.12 ERA.

An ERA of that size is particularly troubling since most post-season contests are low scoring affairs. In other words, the Red Sox won’t likely be able to slug their way through the playoffs. They will have to win close, low-scoring games with great pitching and great defense.

The $217 million question is whether Price will finally be able to reverse his post-season struggles, putting the Red Sox in a position to prevail whenever he pitches.

Though his history says otherwise, why not? Price routinely pitches in stadiums filled with 40,000-50,000 screaming fans, with millions more watching at home. He’s started many games on national television. It’s hard to imagine that he gets psyched out or overwhelmed by the moment in the post-season.

I’d say it’s merely a coincidence that he's pitched at his worst when the lights shine brightest and, as a result, that luck is likely to change this year.

On the other hand, Price certainly hasn’t pitched at his best this season. This was sort of a middling year for a pitcher of his caliber and achievements.

But over the course of the next month, Price can surely make this the greatest season of his entire eight-year career.

We all know he’s capable of it. Now he just has to go out and do it.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Red Sox Will Carefully Consider Promotions of Benintendi and Moncada

In Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada, the Red Sox have two highly promising prospects who may eventually be called upon to help the big league team in some way this season.

This brings up the question of what determines a player’s rookie status, as well as a player’s major league service time.

According to MLB rules:

A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).

If a player were to average just three at-bats per game (it isn’t likely that Benintendi or Moncada would average more, since either would most often be called upon as a defensive substitute, or as a pinch runner or hitter), he would reach 130 at-bats in about 43 games.

The Red Sox will play their 100th game of the season tonight, which leaves 62 remaining games.

That being the case, neither Benintendi or Moncada would likely play enough games, or make a big enough impact this season, to receive consideration for Rookie of the Year.

However, if either player were instead called up earlier next season, they may indeed earn such consideration.

Why would one or both be called up "earlier" next season, rather than simply start the year with the big league club? It’s all about the team’s ability to control top players for as long as possible.

Major League service time ultimately decides how long a team has control over a player at the beginning of his career.

Service time pertains to a player's days spent on the 25-man roster. A year of service time is 172 days. Once a player reaches the Major Leagues, his contract is under team control for six years of service time, which consists of approximately three years near the league-minimum salary and three or four years of arbitration.

The Major League season generally lasts 183 days — 162 games plus 21 off-days.

By keeping a player in the minors for just two weeks (or 12 games) to start the season, a team can ensure that he will not reach a full year of service time that season, and thus would not reach six full years’ worth in six seasons.

Teams use this as a tool to maintain an extra year of control over their top prospects when they enter the majors.

However, teams can also tally that handful of Minor League days throughout the season to maintain the same outcome and keep control of the player for an extra year.

In other words, by sending a player back to the minors at any point(s) in the season, so that he misses just 12 big league games, the team can maintain control for an extra season.

The Red Sox will surely bear this in mind when they eventually decide to promote Benintendi and Moncada, whenever that is.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pomeranz Could be Difference-Maker for Red Sox This Year

The Red Sox potentially gave up a future ace in Anderson Espinoza -- their No. 3 prospect -- but the 18-year-old is probably still four years away from the majors. Meanwhile, Boston is built to win now and is therefore playing for this year.

With that in mind, I like the acquisition of Drew Pomeranz, the No. 5 overall pick by the Indians in the 2010 Draft.

The lefty has a 2.47 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 102 innings this year. That's a strikeout rate of 10.1 per nine innings.

However, Pomeranz's innings mark is a major league career-high, calling into question his endurance in the second half.

For what it's worth, Pomeranz is huge: 6'6" and 240 pounds. Some think size makes a pitcher more durable, but all pitchers take incremental steps each year in increasing their innings threshold.

The Sox were seeking controllable pitching and they got that in Pomeranz, who won't become a free agent until after the 2018 season.

At the start of his career, Pomeranz struggled over 34 games from 2011-2013 with Colorado, posting a cumulative 5.52 ERA.

But after being traded to Oakland, he started to deliver on the promise of his No. 5 pick status, posting a 2.35 ERA over 20 games (10 starts) in 2014 and a 3.66 ERA over 53 games (9 starts) in 2015.

Then he became an All Star this season with San Diego.

Pomeranz is young, controllable and cheap -- all attributes the Red Sox had to receive in order to give up a prospect of Espinoza's status.

There have been early comparisons of Espinoza to Pedro Martinez, which are both unfair and ridiculous.

The Red Sox could come to rue the day they traded the future ace, or he could wind up as a marginal big league talent (perhaps a relief pitcher) as so many prized prospects do. Who knows?

As I always say, prospects are a gamble -- a roll of the dice.

For this season, Pomeranz could be a real difference maker for a Red Sox team that is built for the post-season, and maybe even more. That all means playing October baseball.

In order to do his part to make that happen, Pomeranz will need to reach at least 200 innings, and that is not a certainty by any means.

That is, perhaps, the Red Sox biggest gamble in this deal.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Red Sox Will Likely Make Major Trade for Pitcher, but at What Cost?

Everyone knows that the Red Sox desperately need starting pitching. There is no greater evidence of this than the fact that 28-year-old journeyman Sean O’Sullivan -- who possesses career 5.99 ERA -- is now the team’s No. 4 starter.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that the Sox don’t even have a No. 5 starter at present.

This is all due to the abysmal performances of Clay Buchholz (5.91 ERA), Joe Kelly (8.46 ERA) and Eduardo Rodriguez (8.59 ERA) this season.

The Red Sox starters have been so bad that they’ve overburdened the bullpen, which has clearly shown signs of overuse this season.

The Red Sox pitching staff ranks 10th in the American League in ERA (4.52), 10th in starter ERA (4.82), 12th in walks (279), and has a 5-27 record when scoring four runs or fewer.

The Red Sox are presently attempting to navigate the path to the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline with no identifiable fifth starter, which made minor leaguer Aaron Wilkerson so intriguing… until he was traded to Milwaukee yesterday for 34-year-old veteran infielder Aaron Hill.

In 92.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, the 27-year-old Wilkerson had allowed just 69 hits with 25 walks and 102 strikeouts. He’d allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of his 16 starts. In 10 of those 12, he’d allowed one run or less.

No one was expecting Wilkerson to be part of the Red Sox pitching depth this season, much less the solution to their season-long pitching woes. But he looked like a much better option than minor leaguers Henry Owens or Roenis Elias at this point.

Yet, Wilkerson is now gone, leaving only questions. Who’s next up for the Red Sox?

While the Wilkerson trade was not earth-shattering (Dave Dombrowski said he felt Wilkerson was too inexperienced to help the Red Sox this season), it was a likely precursor to something much larger. After all, the Red Sox cannot operate much longer without a fifth starter, or perhaps even with O’Sullivan as their No. 4.

There are rumors of the Red Sox purported interest in Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson. However, the 29-year-old will be a free agent at season’s end and is not controllable.

Moreover, Hellickson profiles as nothing more than a mid or even back-of-the-rotation starter in Boston. Though he is having a decent season for Philadelphia, going 6-6 with a 3.92 ERA, Hellickson struggled in his final two years with the Rays before being traded to Arizona prior to last season.

Take a look at Hellickson’s ERA since becoming a full time starter in 2011:

2011 - 2.95
2012 - 3.10
2013 - 5.17
2014 - 4.52
2015 - 4.62
2016 - 3.92

It appears that after some success with Tampa early in his career, big league hitters figured him out. Even a switch to the more pitcher-friendly NL last year didn’t help. All of that makes this season look more like an aberration than anything more promising.

Hellickson is not the answer to the Red Sox problems; they need someone much more effective -- even dominant -- than him. Ask yourself this: can Sean O’sullivan and Jeremy Hellickson help carry the Red Sox into the playoffs this season?

I don’t think so either.

That’s why I believe there’s something much bigger brewing in the Red Sox front office right now. A more impactful trade for a starting pitcher is likely to occur sooner than later.

As I said previously, let’s just hope the Red Sox don’t have to sell the farm — and their future — to obtain a true difference-maker.

That may not be possible. Pitching is in short supply this summer, and the free agent market this winter isn’t much more promising (36-year-old Rich Hill or Andrew Cashner, anyone?).

Here’s the issue the Red Sox face when it comes to trading from their farm system:

When they dealt outfielder Manuel Margot, shortstop Javier Guerra, lefthander Logan Allen and utility man Carlos Asuaje to San Diego for Craig Kimbrel last winter, they limited their ability to make deals at the trade deadline this year.

By sending away four of their better prospects, the Sox drained some of the top talent from their system, which not only left them with fewer pieces to deal now, but also makes their remaining prospects all the more valuable to the organization.

That’s something Dave Dombrowski surely has on his mind right now.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Red Sox Front Office Will Conduct a Balancing Act in July

The Red Sox have played 78 games and are nearing the season's midway point.

The Sox got off to a hot start, going 13-10 in April and posting a sizzling 18-10 record in May. But then things went downhill quickly.

Due to the failings of Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez, plus the loss of reliever Carson Smith to season-ending Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox struggled mightily. Quite predictably, the bullpen was overworked and faltered.

The beleaguered Red Sox went 10-16 in June. The team, which once looked so mighty and sturdy, is suddenly taking on water as it approaches the second half.

Though the Red Sox have slipped -- surrendering both first place and numerous games in the standings -- in the midst of their June swoon, they are still 42-36 (six game over .500), tied for second place in the AL East and would be the AL Wild Card team if the season ended today.

That's the bright side.

But given the absence of reliable No. 4 and 5 pitchers, and the stress that has created on the bullpen, this team appears to be in big trouble as it heads into the second half.

In my view, obtaining a starter is the top priority for the Red Sox right now. There is no justification for trusting Clay Buchholz, Joe Kelly, Roenis Elias or Henry Owens in the rotation at this point.

As for Eduardo Rodriguez, all the Sox can do is keep their fingers crossed and hope that he can get it together quickly at Pawtucket. The organization must help the lefty rediscover the form that made him so effective last season.

Otherwise, the Red Sox problems are much bigger -- they'll need two starters, not just one.

Securing a mid-rotation starter in a trade shouldn’t be too costly in terms of the Sox top prospects (Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Anderson Espinoza). Additionally, it would also take stress off the withering bullpen.

John Farrell needs another option in the seventh and eighth innings because Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa have been overused. But that sort of help could come from within.

While the Boston front office is surely exploring trades for bullpen pieces, Pat Light could prove to be an internal solution since he possesses a 100 mph fastball. The hard-throwing righty‬ was recalled earlier this week from Pawtucket. Prior to his latest promotion (his second this season), Light hadn’t allowed a run in any of his 10 outings with Pawtucket, posting a 2.05 ERA and .161 batting average against.

Despite his struggles as a starter, Kelly can be converted to a reliever once he recovers from his going strain. His 98 mph heater would play nicely out of the pen, where he would only have to pitch one inning per outing. Kelly hasn’t fared well the second (10.38 ERA) and third times (24.00 ERA) through the order. Though he prefers to be a starter, Kelly has a 3.25 ERA in 30 career relief appearances – compared to 4.13 as a starter.

Finally, Brandon Workman, who had Tommy John surgery on June 15, 2015 and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since Sept. 18, 2014, hopes to see action with the Red Sox again this season. Though he can’t be relied upon right now, the 27-year-old’s presence could make a difference in the second half (likely August) for a team in desperate need of bullpen help.

Don’t forget, the right-hander pitched meaningful innings for the Red Sox during their 2013 World Series run, even completing a scoreless eighth in Boston’s series-clinching win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the Fall Classic.

The key is for the Red Sox to improve a ball club that looked like a World Series contender in May without giving away too much out of desperation.

They need to trade for a young, controllable pitcher if they are to make any trade at all (I don’t think that 36-year-old Rich Hill, who will be a free agent at season’s end, is the answer).

Let’s hope Dave Dombrowski can execute a trade or two that improves the club for the second half, without sacrificing its future.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Red Sox Pitching Woes are Rooted in Developmental Dysfunction

As every Red Sox fan surely knows, the Boston rotation is a mess. This is something I predicted before spring training when I said that David Price wouldn’t be enough of an addition to solve the Red Sox rotation troubles.

The Red Sox must continually look to trades and free agency because they can’t seem to solve their pitching problems in house.

The Sox haven’t successfully developed a major league pitcher since Clay Buchholz debuted in 2007, and even his career has been dicey.

The list of pitchers the Red Sox have failed to develop in recent years is lengthy and includes:

Michael Bowden
Felix Doubront
Rubby De La Rosa
Allen Webster
Anthony Ranuado
Henry Owens
Brian Johnson

Some may feel that the jury is still out on Owens and Johnson, but I think the ship has sailed on both.

Owens has regressed this year and his command is awful. The lefty can't consistently throw strikes and he no longer looks a big league pitcher. His confidence appears shot, and for good reason.

Johnson is on leave due to an anxiety disorder. Fenway Park is definitely not the place for him.

Even Eduardo Rodriguez has gone off the rails. The righty, who was viewed as a potential No. 2 before the season started, was mercifully demoted to Triple A after posting an 8.59 ERA over six starts this season.

Though Joe Kelly averaged 16 starts during three seasons with St. Louis before coming to the Red Sox, he has entirely regressed since arriving in Boston. Kelly has an 8.46 ERA through six starts this season.

What is going on?

The Red Sox generally draft multiple pitchers each year, through multiple rounds of the draft. While most minor leaguers never make it to the majors — much less become solid, every day players — the Red Sox inability to develop starting pitching is glaring.

Do they really draft that poorly when it comes to pitchers, or does their developmental system have structural failings?

Pitching coach Carl Willis replaced Juan Nieves just over a month into the 2015 season after the Red Sox staff posted the second-highest team ERA (4.86) in the majors. But Willis has not been successful in stabilizing the rotation this season.

Could his job now be on the line? It should be.

Let’s not forget that manager John Farrell was the Red Sox pitching coach from 2007-2010. So, in essence, the Red Sox having two pitching coaches on the staff, yet they still can’t right a ship that is dangerously listing.

The Red Sox inability to develop starting pitching has led them to sign high-priced free agents, such as Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lackey, David Price, etc., and make trades that have netted the likes of Wade Miley, Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello.

Needless to say, none of them have worked out as expected (or hoped), though Price is only in year one of his lengthy (and ridiculous) seven-year deal. There’s still time for Price to become a true ace in Boston, but that contract will surely become cumbersome after year four.

Even if Price does somehow manage to live up to his $217 million pact, it won’t solve the gaping holes in the Red Sox rotation this year, or next.

Because of the failings of Buchholz, Kelly and Rodriguez, the Red Sox will soon make some trades they’d rather not engage in and didn’t anticipate not so long ago.

Dealing the likes of Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers or Anderson Espinoza could haunt the Red Sox for years to come.

Then again, prospects are often a gamble -- a mere roll of the dice. The Red Sox once thought that Lars Anderson, Ryan Kalish, Anthony Ranuado and Will Middlebrooks would all develop into stars, but that never happened.

Not much has become of “can't miss" righty Casey Kelly or outfielder Reymond Fuentes, whom the Red Sox sent to San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez in 2010. Then again, the Sox would surely love to have back first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was also included in that deal.

With prospects, you just never know.

Dave Dombrowski needs to take a long, hard look at the Red Sox player-development system and figure out why they can’t solve their pitching problems from within the organization. After all, this issue has gone on far too long, and it affected his predecessors, Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington, as well.

The Red Sox future depends on drafting and developing their own stable of starters. They can’t simply trade away the best of their farm system -- their future -- to obtain big league-caliber starting pitching, nor can they solve their problems by signing a rotation full of free agents.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Number Retirement a Unique Honor for Select Red Sox Greats

The Boston Red Sox organization (known as the Boston Americans from 1901–1907) began in 1901, as one of the original franchises of the American League.

Yet, with the recent honoring of Wade Boggs’ No. 26, the Red Sox have now retired the numbers of just nine former players: Ted Williams (9), Joe Cronin (4), Bobby Doerr (1), Carl Yastrzemski (8), Carlton Fisk (27), Johnny Pesky (6), Jim Rice (14), Pedro Martinez (45), and Boggs (26).

For a team that has been in existence for well over a century, this recognition has been bestowed upon relatively few former players. The Red Sox have reserved the distinction for a privileged few, making it a truly unique honor.

For comparison, the New Yankees will have retired the numbers of 20 former players once Derek Jeter’s No. 2 is inevitably honored.

Through the first few decades of the 20th Century, baseball uniform numbers were assigned according to batting order. A few years later, some teams correlated numbers with position played, and eventually a looser system was adopted league-wide: the higher the number, the lower the status, with single digits reserved for “everyday players.”

So, the great players from baseball's early days were typically assigned single-digit numbers.

Though they weren’t the team’s earliest stars, Williams (9) and Cronin (4) were the first two Red Sox players to have their numbers retired by the club. Yet, the pair weren’t honored until decades after their playing careers had ended.

The Red Sox waited util May 29, 1984, to simultaneously retire the numbers of both legendary players.

However, Cronin had retired after the 1945 season, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1956.

Williams retired after the 1960 season, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.

So, Cronin waited 39 years for the honor, while Williams had to wait 24 years.

Interestingly, Cronin died on Sept. 7, 1984, just four months after the number-retirement ceremony. He had to wait four decades for the honor, but it was better late than never. At least he lived to experience it.

The Red Sox have long employed one of baseball’s strictest policies related to the retirement of uniform numbers. To be considered, a player must have (1) played a minimum of ten years with the team, (2) been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and (3) finished his career with the team.

After Carlton Fisk was elected to the Hall, the Sox dropped the final requirement from its policy in order to honor their former backstop, who finished his career with the White Sox after 11 seasons in Boston.

Two other exceptions have been made in recent years.

In 2008, the team abandoned its policy altogether with the retirement of Pesky’s number. Although he played only eight of his 10 seasons in the majors with Boston (missing the 1943–45 seasons while serving in World War II) and was not elected to the Hall of Fame, management felt that his 21 years as a player, coach, and manager — as well as his additional years of service with the club — were enough to bestow the honor upon him. Pesky was associated with the Red Sox for 61 of his 73 years in baseball.

In 2015, the Red Sox retired Pedro Martinez’s number, despite the fact that he played only seven seasons with the club. Martinez is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, who played a key role in the 2004 team’s first World Series Championship in 86 years. He is also widely viewed as one of the three greatest pitchers in team history.

Boggs’ number was not retired by the club for more than a decade after his enshrinement in Cooperstown. The former All-Star third baseman played 11 seasons with Boston, and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. Yet, several players wore his number after he left Boston for the New York Yankees as a free agent following the 1992 season, the most recent being Brock Holt.

However, the team finally retired Boggs’ number in a pregame ceremony on May 26, 2016.

A total of 1,750 players have played for the Boston Red Sox, making the nine whose numbers have been retired quite extraordinary.

There are a number of former Red Sox in the Hall of Fame who have not had their number retired by the team, and some of them spent numerous years in Boston building their Hall of Fame credentials.

Among them:

Jimmy Collins (1901-1907) played seven season with Boston

Dennis Eckersley (1978-84, 1998) spent seven seasons with Boston

Jimmie Foxx (1936-42) played seven seasons in Boston

Lefty Grove (1934-1941) played eight seasons with Boston

Harry Hooper (1909-1920) spent 12 seasons in Boston

Red Ruffing (1924-1930) spent seven seasons with Boston

Tris Speaker (1907-1915) played nine seasons in Boston

Cy Young (1901-1908) played eight seasons in Boston

The Red Sox strict criteria for retiring a player’s number has prevented all of the above (as well as other greats) from achieving the honor.

This has made the distinction all the more precious, and unique, for the nine players who have earned the tribute.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Clay Buchholz Lacks the Passion, Will and Desire to be Great

Clay Buchholz is now 31-years-old (32 in August) and in his 10th season with the Red Sox (though he pitched in just four games in 2007).

During his time in Boston, Buchholz has shown flashes of brilliance, but has mostly confounded all observers. How can a guy with so much potential never fully realize it?

It’s rather stunning that after a decade in the majors, Buchholz has never made 30 starts or thrown 200 innings in a season. He has spent too much time on a a trainer’s table, and not enough on he mound.

The righty was on the disabled list seven times in his first nine years. Yes, he’s fragile, and that’s well established.

Here's a look at Buchholz's injury history:

15-day DL: Right fingernail tear (blister)

Games missed: 16

15-day DL: Left hamstring strain

Games missed: 18

60-day DL: Low back stress fracture

Games missed: 93

15-day DL: Esophagitis

Games missed: 20

60-day DL: Right shoulder bursitis (neck strain)

Games missed: 82

15-day DL: Left knee hyperextension

Games missed: 28

Yet, I think there’s more to Buchholz’s struggles than just the physical ailments. I think he is mentally weak and totally dispassionate, and I’m not alone.

In 2014, Buchholz went 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA in 28 starts, logging only 170 1/3 innings.

The following spring, his former teammate, Curt Schilling, said the problem is that Buchholz lacks a true competitive spirit and a passion for the game.

“I don’t think he wants to be (an ace),” Schilling told reporters. “I think there’s a level of commitment mentally and physically you have to have, and there’s a ‑‑ you have to have a little bit of a dark side, I think, in the sense that losing has to hurt so bad, that you do whatever you can do to make sure it never happens again. I’ve never felt like that was... Clay is just kind of, hey, I’m going to pitch today.”

Schilling also said he sees mental weakness in Buchholz.

“He’s unbelievably talented, obviously, physically. But there’s another level to the game, and I think that's the reason he’s been inconsistent. Cy Young potential in numbers one year to what-the-hell-happened next year is upstairs,” Schilling continued. “I think it’s all above his shoulders.”

Perhaps the expectations were too high for Buchholz after he no-hit the Orioles in 2007, in what was just his second career big-league start.

But he’s been an All Star twice: in 2010, when he posted a 2.33 ERA over 28 starts, and in 2013, when he posted a 1.74 ERA over 16 starts.

Schilling recently added to his April 2014 critique of his former teammate.

“We need to move on from an expectations perspective,” Schilling said on WEEI. “Here is the thing: sometimes you are what you are. Clay Buchholz was not going to come out of the gates this year and throw 222 innings, win 19 games and make 33 starts. He’s never done it. I am convinced — and this is not a personal thing. I like Clay. It’s just, he’s not the guy. That no-hitter skewed it all. We go back to one game and a couple stretches where he was as good as anyone in the game, but that is something he ended up not wanting bad enough to make it happen.”

And there’s the heart of the matter: Buchholz simply doesn’t want it badly enough. That’s the sort of thing that will always eat at those with less aptitude, but more passion. How can a guy with so much raw talent be so cool and emotionless about the game?

Ask yourself this: have you ever seen Buchholz get excited? It’s that lack of passion and commitment which has kept him from achieving his full potential and becoming a truly great pitcher — rather than a mediocre, unpredictable one.

As much as Buchholz has shown flashes of brilliance, and even dominance, he has at other times looked completely overmatched and way out of his league for entire seasons.

2008: 6.75 ERA and 1.76 WHIP over 15 starts

2012: 4.56 ERA and 1.33 WHIP over 29 starts

2014: 5.34 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 28 starts

Some fans are still waiting for Buchholz to blossom, realize his full potential and become a Cy Young winner. That ship has sailed.

It’s long since time accept that Buchholz is a No. 3 starter who will at times look like an ace, yet at other times will look like a guy who is lucky to be in the majors.

The frustration of fans, scouts and executives will continue because Buchholz simply lacks the will and desire to be truly great on a consistent basis.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Red Sox Will Long Regret Replacing Jon Lester With Rick Porcello

Who would you rather have, Red Sox fans: Jon Lester or Rick Porcello?

It’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

The Red Sox famously lowballed Lester with a four-year, $70 million offer during spring training in 2014.

Most people in baseball thought contract negotiations with Lester should have started at five-years, $100 million. That would have been a reasonable lowball offer, and Lester would have surely negotiated the figure somewhat higher.

When Lester was asked by WEEI in December 2014 if he would have signed a contract extension with Boston that spring if the team had offered him something in the range of five years and $120 million, the lefty replied, “Probably, yes.”

“That is a lot of money to turn down," Lester said. “That would have made it very difficult to turn it down.”

The Red Sox’s final offer was reportedly six years and $135 million. But it was too little, too late. The organization had already screwed up with its initial offer.

Ultimately, Lester signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Chicago Cubs that month, bringing an end to his excellent Red Sox career.

Lester was, perhaps, the greatest lefty in Red Sox history, helping the Old Towne team win two World Series Championships during his eight-plus seasons in Boston.

I think any reasonable person would concede that the Cubs wildly overpaid for Lester, a pitcher who was entering his age-31 season.

But five-years, $120 million? That seems about right, and the Sox probably could have re-signed Lester with such an offer, as the pitcher himself admitted.

Instead, the Sox ultimately traded Lester to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes at the 2014 trade deadline, before flipping Cespedes to Detroit in exchange for Porcello later that winter.

So, the Red Sox essentially swapped Lester for Porcello. What a huge mistake.

Boston then offered Porcello a four-year, $82.5 million contract before he had even thrown a single pitch for the team; the righty was already under contract for the 2015 season.

In other words, the Sox could have used that year — which proved to be a disaster for Porcello — as an audition of sorts. They could have waited to see how he responded to pitching in Boston, but they didn't.

I’ve long been on the record as saying that Lester is not an ace. But he is a solid No. 1 on most clubs, and a proven playoff pitcher who rises to the occasion in October.

Lester has never won a Cy Young Award, an ERA crown, a strikeout title or even won 20 games, much less led his league in wins. In fact, he is just a three-time All Star in 10 seasons.

That said, he is heads and shoulders above Porcello, who continues to disappoint the Red Sox and their fans. Porcello has a 4.96 ERA since joining Red Sox last season.

As I noted recently, former GM Ben Cherington gave Porcello his whopper of a contract despite the fact that the righty had reached 200 innings just once in six seasons, while posting a 4.33 career ERA to that point.

Porcello responded in 2015 by having the worst season of his rather unremarkable career, going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP over just 172 innings. In short, he was a disaster.

Meanwhile, Lester gave the Cubs 205 innings last year (the seventh time he’s reached the mark in 10 seasons), while posting a 3.34 ERA and leading the team to the playoffs.

The Red Sox and their fans are left to wonder what could have been.

Lester would have likely cost the Red Sox just $37.5 million more than Porcello ($120 million vs. $82.5 million). While that’s an enormous sum in the real world, it’s a reasonable cost in Major League Baseball for a pitcher of Lester’s caliber — and it’s pocket change to the Red Sox billionaire owner, John Henry.

It was yet another grievous error by Ben Cherington, who compounded his bad decision of not making a reasonable offer to Lester by grossly overpaying for Porcello — a player who had done nothing to warrant such a large contract.

Oh, and by the way, Porcello is now the Red Sox fourth starter and will make more than $20 million for that this season.

Good grief.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Red Sox Still Haunted by Ben Cherington's Horrible Legacy

Ben Cherington wasn’t fired by the Red Sox; he resigned. No matter, there are good reasons that he is no longer the team's General Manager.

The Red Sox won 71 games in 2014 and 78 games in 2015, finishing in last place both seasons.

The poor performance of the team aside, Cherington made a series of terrible personnel decisions that are still hampering the Red Sox.

At this point, it is well established that Cherington wildly overpaid for the underperforming Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez.

Cherington gave Sandoval — an obese third baseman, whose OPS had declined for three consecutive years before coming to Boston — a five year, $95 million contract with a sixth-year option that requires a $5 million buyout. This means Sandoval is guaranteed $100 by the Red Sox.

Sandoval responded by posting the following numbers last season: .245/.292/.366/.658, with 10 home runs and 47 RBI over 126 games.

If Sandoval had been playing for the league minimum, those numbers would have been unacceptable, and likely would have cost him his job at some point in the season.

However, considering the size of his contract, those numbers were disgraceful. Then there were the 15 errors, poor range and generally weak defense, as well.

Cherington gave Ramirez — a career shortstop — a four-year, $88 million contract to play left field. The pact has a fifth-year vesting option worth $22 million, which almost certainly will vest. If so, that brings the total value of the deal to $110 million.

Ramirez responded by tying a club record with 10 homers in April, but hit just nine more over the next five months. Ramirez ultimately posted a slash line of .249/.291/.426/.717, with just 53 RBI, over 105 games. He failed miserably in the field and at the plate, and became a lightning rod for criticism (deservedly so).

Ramirez is now the team’s first baseman, and if spring training is any indication of what’s to come, he can handle the position better than left field. Being back in the infield appears to be good for him. Handling the ball on virtually every play has reengaged him, and playing first base has more similarities to his natural position than left field ever would.

But those were just the most obvious of Cherington’s terrible decisions.

The former Boston GM gave righty Rick Porcello a four-year, $82.5 million deal that only kicks in this season. Cherington did this despite the fact that Porcello had reached 200 innings just once in six seasons, while posting a 4.33 career ERA to that point.

Given those numbers, does that seem like a reasonable contract offer to you? (It’s a rhetorical question.)

Porcello responded by having the worst season of his rather unremarkable career, going 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP over just 172 innings. In short, he was a disaster.

Yet, there were even more bad decisions by Cherington.

The Red Sox GM gave Justin Masterson a 1-year, $9.5 million deal prior to the 2015 season, despite his 2014 struggles with the Indians and Cardinals.

The righty was so ineffective in 2015 that the Sox designated him ‪for assignment on August 9. Masterson compiled a 5.61 ERA, with a 1.60 WHIP and a 49/27 K/BB ratio over 59 1/3 innings — split between nine starts and nine relief appearances.

Though his was just a 1-year deal, Masterson was clearly overpaid -- given that he had gone 7-9 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.63 WHIP in 2014. To say that the pitcher was overpaid, and underperformed, would be an understatement.

But Sandoval, Ramirez, Porcello and Masterson were merely Cherington’s bad decisions last offseason.

If you go back a year earlier, there were two other horrendous decisions that still haunt the Red Sox today, and that will continue to do so for the next few years.

Cherington signed Rusney Castillo, a Cuban player about whom little was known, to a 7-year, $72.5 million contract. In reality, it was a six-year $72.4 million deal since Castillo signed his deal in late August 2014 and played in just 10 games that season, while being paid $100,000.

Castillo played in just 80 games last season, posting a slash line of .253/.288/.359/.647, with 5 homers, 10 doubles, and 29 RBI. For that, he was paid $10.5 million.

But that’s not the worst of it.

Castillo does not appear to a major league-quality player, and he lost the starting left fielder job to utility infielder Brock Holt, who has a career slugging percentage of .370, with just six homers in 1,027 big league at-bats.

That’s not the profile of a left fielder, yet he still beat Castillo for the position.

That’s an embarrassment for Castillo, but it’s also an embarrassment (and a nightmare) for the Red Sox, who still owe him $56.5 million dollars over the next five seasons. Castillo is a player who could ultimately end up as the richest player in minor league baseball.

But he’ll have competition.

Allen Craig will be paid $9 million by the Red Sox this season to play in Pawtucket. That’s not all; the Sox also owe Craig an additional $11 million for the 2017 season. And here’s the kicker: Craig isn’t even on the 40-man roster anymore. In other words, if the Sox want to call him up to the big league club at any point, they must first cut or trade another player. Stunning!

Cherington obtained Craig and righty Joe Kelly (who was so bad last year that he was demoted to the minors) from St. Louis in exchange for John Lackey. Cherington got fleeced. Lackey won 13 games and threw 218 innings for the Cardinals last season, while posting a terrific 2.77 ERA.

To review, Cherington saddled the Red Sox with expensive long term contracts for Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Rick Porcello and Rusney Castillo, who cumulatively cost a whopping $365 million.

Include Allen Craig, who will cost the Red Sox a total of $31.25 (including a $1 million buyout after the 2017 season), and Justin Masterson’s $9.5 contract from last year, and it adds another $40.75 million to Cherington’s highly expensive, bad decisions.

These horrible choices cannot be glossed over. They will haunt the Red Sox for years to come.

Yes, Boston is a big market club, and ownership has deep pockets. But these deals have consequences in that they prevent money from being allocated elsewhere for other needs.

But they will also create redundancies, in that the Sox will have to pay other players to assume the roles of, or pick up the slack for, these failed players (yes, Brock Holt and Travis Shaw are cheap, but they may not be long term answers).

Let’s not forget that Sandoval and Castillo will each be paid tens of millions to warm the bench this year (to start the season, at least), while Craig will be paid millions more to play in Pawtucket. Meanwhile, Porcello will be paid a hefty $20 million to be the fourth starter this year.

It’s tough to overstate how bad Cherington’s personnel decisions were, and how much he has hampered this club going forward. It's fitting that he can no longer exercise such poor judgement.

The only thing more fitting would have been if ownership had truly held him accountable, and fired him.

The 2013 World Series was as wonderful as it was unexpected, but the Sox finished in last place in three of Cherington’s four years as general manager.

It’s appropriate that he’s now gone. But, boy, did he leave an epic mess in his wake.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Mysterious Decline of Allen Craig

The Red Sox will pay Allen Craig $9 million to play in Pawtucket this season, which is astonishing. Craig was an All Star just three years ago, but his last two seasons have been a disaster.

Craig is only 31-years-old, yet his career fell off a cliff at the still youthful age of 29 -- a time when he should have been solidly in his prime.

For example, here are Craig’s batting averages in recent years:

2011 - .315
2012 - .307
2013 - .315
2014 - .215 (29 games in the majors)
2015 - .152 (36 games in the majors)

Craig slugged .555 in 2011 and .522 in 2012, the marks of a true star. Now he can’t even crack a big league roster.

This is one of the most stunning player downturns in memory. Craig was never associated with PEDs. His sudden, and rather stunning, loss of ability is seemingly without explanation.

Craig suffered through a foot injury in September 2013, but appeared healthy just a month later in the World Series. Playing against Boston, Craig batted 16 times and collected six hits for a .375 batting average.

Though he did not play in the field, Craig served as the designated hitter at Fenway Park and as a pinch hitter at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Clearly, his foot was not affecting his ability to hit.

But Craig started the 2014 season slowly with St. Louis before being traded to Boston at the deadline. His foot seemed to give him some problems after arriving in Boston, to which his poor performance was attributed.

However, he was fully healthy last season, yet continued to struggle anyway.

It's as if he suddenly forgot how to hit, or as if his foot injury somehow affected his vision.

The concern is not just Craig's rapid loss of ability at the big league level; it’s his tepid performance against minor league pitching as well.

After going 7-for-52 (.135) with one extra-base hit to start last season, Craig was demoted in early May and spent the majority of the 2015 season at Triple-A Pawtucket. There he managed to hit a respectable .274, but with with a meager .718 OPS and just four home runs in 93 games.

That’s not the sort of stuff that warrants a big league promotion.

The Red Sox owe Craig a total of $20 million over the next two years ($9 million this season, $11 million next), yet he is no longer on the 40-man roster. He is in camp this spring merely as a non-roster invitee.

Craig and the Red Sox can only hope that he gets off to a fast start this spring and creates some interest for another team. Even then, the Red Sox will end up picking up the majority of the remaining contract, paying Craig to play for someone else.

What an odd and unfortunate situation. This is surely not what the Red Sox -- or Craig for that matter -- were expecting when they acquired him in July, 2014 in exchange for John Lackey.

Back then, Craig seemed like a prized hitter, one who would solidify the heart of the Sox lineup and torment AL pitchers for years to come.

Less than two years later, he is merely an afterthought, and a mystery without explanation.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Red Sox Place Four Players on’s Top 100 Prospects List

Baseball's minor league system is the pipeline to the big leagues and, as such, the future looks bright for the Boston Red Sox.

Boston has the distinction of having four of its minor league players rank among baseball's top 100, according to

First, a look at Boston's top 10 prospects for 2016:

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B
2. Rafael Devers, 3B
3. Brian Johnson, LHP
4. Andrew Benintendi, OF
5. Michael Kopeck, RHP
6. Anderson Espinoza, RHP
7. Deven Marrero, SS
8. Michael Chavis, 3B
9. Sam Travis, 1B
10. Trey Ball, LHP

Moncada (No. 7), Devers (No. 17), Benintendi (No. 25) and Espinoza (No. 39) all made’s Top 100 Prospects list. Devers made a huge leap, jumping 80 spots from No. 97 last year.

Moncada is the top second base prospect in baseball, according to He batted .278/.380/.438 in 81 games for Greenville last season. The 20-year-old also had 49 stolen bases in 52 attempts.

Devers is the second-best third base prospect in baseball, according to Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, Devers has outstanding bat speed and a huge offensive upside. The 19-year-old is known for a great plate approach, having struck out just 84 times in 115 games in 2015.

Benintendi is the fifth-best outfield prospect in baseball, according to The Red Sox took him No. 7 overall last year, and he hit a combined .313/.416/.556 across two levels. The 21-year-old is expected to move quickly through Boston's farm system.

Espinoza is the tenth-best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball, according to He advanced to low Class A at age 17 in his pro debut, hitting triple digits with his fastball and showing advanced secondary pitches and command. He is still quite young, but he could be very special.

Travis is the tenth-best first base prospect in baseball, according to The 22-year-old reached Double-A and hit .307/.381/.452 in 2015, his first full pro season. He could be vying for playing time with the Red Sox by 2017.

The rankings were compiled with input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. They are based on an “analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams."

A weighted scoring system is used to determine which farm system has the most elite talent, awarding 100 points to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to No. 2 and so on.

The Red Sox ranked fourth in baseball, with 316 points.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Can David Price Single-Handedly Turn Around Red Sox Rotation?

The ‪‎Red Sox‬ starting rotation this season is projected to be David Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and Joe Kelly.

It's important to remember that three of those pitchers were ineffective, injured, or both last season: Porcello, Buchholz, and Kelly.

2015 Statistics:

David Price
220.1 innings, 18-5, 2.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 225 K, 47 BB

Clay Buchholz
113.1 innings, 7-7, 3.26 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 107 K, 23 BB

Rick Porcello
172 innings, 9-15, 4.92 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 149 K, 38 BB

Eduardo Rodriguez
121.2 innings, 10-6, 3.85 ERA,1.29 WHIP, 98 K, 37 BB

Joe Kelly
134.1 innings, 10-6, 4.82 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 110 K, 49 BB

No pitcher threw 200 innings for the Red Sox last season. No one struck out as many as 200 batters. No pitcher averaged one strikeout per inning.

Of the 30 MLB teams, Red Sox’ starters were 24th in ERA (4.39), 20th in WHIP (1.33), sixth in hits allowed (975), and sixth in earned runs (462).

Four-fifths of last year’s starting rotation is returning this season.

It’s enough to make one wish that David Price could pitch three times a week.

The Red Sox made a big splash in acquiring Price, shelling out $217 million on a seven-year deal.

But the Red Sox had problems all over the rotation last season; it wasn't just one guy. In essence, they’ve replaced Wade Miley with Price.

Each of the other four starters comes with a litany of questions.

Buchholz is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. It is impossible to predict how many innings he will pitch, or how effective he will be. The most likely thing is that he will at some point end up on the DL again, as he has seven times in his nine seasons. He’s never pitched 200 innings, and it’s reasonable to bet against it again in 2016.

Porcello led the Red Sox last season with 15 losses and a near-5 ERA. Yes, he is a bounce back candidate, but he was never as good as the contract the Red Sox gave him. If he posts a 4.00 ERA this year, it would mark a significant improvement, yet still not be all that impressive. After all, this is a guy with a career 4.39 ERA. Porcello has also reached 200 innings just once in seven seasons.

Rodriguez threw a career-high of 170 total innings between the minors and majors in 2015. It’s not reasonable to expect him to throw 200 this year; it’s too big a leap.

Then there’s Kelly, who threw a career high 134.1 innings last season and who had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2-1, which was awful. Kelly was so bad last year that he was demoted to Triple-A at the age of 27.

Feeling hopeful yet?

The truth is, it’s tough to be optimistic about this group. If these guys are just their usual selves, this rotation will be ineffective to uncompetitive, despite the expensive and flashy addition of Price.

Every one of them will need to remain healthy all season long, and pitch to the absolute height of his abilities, for the Red Sox to be playoff team this year.

That’s an awful lot to expect, and it may be quite unrealistic.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Did the Red Sox Overpay for David Price?

Let’s get this part out of the way right from the start:

Did the Red Sox overpay for David Price?

In a word — yes.

In two words — hell, yes!

But, seven years, $217 million is the cost of doing business with an ace pitcher in Major League Baseball these days.

By the way, that amounts to $31 million annually (though there is a player opt-out clause after three years).

When Detroit gave Jordan Zimmermann a five-year, $110 million contract earlier this week ($22 million annually), the market was set. Price and Zack Greinke were instantly set up for massive pay days.

Price now becomes the highest paid pitcher in baseball history, surpassing Clayton Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million contract.

Max Scherzer got a seven-year, $210 million contract last year, amounting to $30 million annually, though the deal is heavily backloaded and will continue paying him even after the six-year term has officially ended.

Is Price as good as Kershaw? No.

But the Sox needed an ace and couldn’t afford to go another year without one. They tried playing without one last season, and that didn’t pan out too well.

In other words, the Sox could afford to pay Price, but they couldn't afford not to.

Boston thought they had a rotation of No. 3 pitchers in 2015, but in reality they had a staff of No. 4s and 5s.

Make no mistake, this is as much about TV ratings and ticket sales as anything else. Price raises fans’ hopes, raises interest in the team, and will put asses in seats.

After three last place finishes in four year years, the Red Sox aren’t the draw they once were. It had to burn Boston’s ownership that the Patriots were garnering more interest and press in July than the local baseball club.

It should also be noted that since Price was traded during last season, the Red Sox do not have to give up their first round pick as compensation for signing him. That was undoubtedly a huge factor for Dave Dombrowski in making this deal.

And a big deal it is.

Over eight years in the Majors, Price has posted the following line:

Record: 104-56
ERA: 3.09
WHIP: 1.13
K/9: 10.5
BB/9: 2.2

Those are some damn good numbers, and they will create excitement at Fenway. Tickets for the 2016 season go on sale this month. The Sox needed a draw, and they’ve now got one.

Price has a Cy Young Award in his trophy case, and finished as the runner up two other times.

Boston likes stars, and now there’s a new one in town.

Of course, Price doesn’t have a solid postseason resume, posting a 2-7 record (the two wins were in relief) and a 5.12 ERA over 14 games / 63.1 innings.

However, once upon a time, Randy Johnson wasn’t very good in the postseason either. Early in his career with Seattle, Johnson posted an 0–6 playoff record in four playoff series. He turned out alright in the end though.

Clayton Kershaw has also famously struggled in the postseason, but who wouldn’t want him leading their rotation?

This deal has the potential to blow up on the Red Sox. John Henry has a noted, and reasoned, distaste for long term contracts for pitchers in their 30s.

Keep in mind, the Sox version of a long term contract is five years. A seven-year deal goes well beyond that.

Price will be 31 next April, so if he plays out the life of the contract, he will pitch for Boston through his age 37 season. Thirty-one million is a whopping sum for a player at age 35 or 36, much less 37.

But if Price opts out after three years, the Sox will likely have gotten the contract's best years for a sum of $93 million.

We all remember that Henry and Co. didn’t want to go dollar for dollar with the Cubs for the services of Jon Lester, who ultimately got six-years and $155 million from Chicago. Boston’s final offer came in at six years, $135 million.

Why the change of heart?

Two reasons.

1. The 2015 season was a disaster without an ace heading the Boston rotation.

2. Price is simply better than Lester, who has never won a Cy Young Award, an ERA title, a strikeout crown, or won 20 games in a season.

For his part, Price has won two ERA titles and a strikeout crown, and has also led the AL in wins, innings and complete games.

Yes, the Red Sox may come to regret this in 2022, 2021, or even 2020. But Price should continue to be an elite pitcher for at least the next four seasons.

And if Boston wins just one World Series in that span, it will have all been worth it.

After all, that’s what this is all about.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Red Sox May Add Two Frontline Starters This Offseason

The Red Sox entered the offseason with just three pitchers likely slated for the rotation next year: Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez.

All three, however, come with questions. Who knows what the Sox will get out of the oft-injured Buchholz and the enigmatic Porcello?

For his part, Rodriguez can’t be counted on for 200 innings next year either. The 22-year-old threw a career-high 169 combined innings between Triple-A Pawtucket and Boston last season.

After their spotty performances in 2015, neither Joe Kelly or Wade Miley are guaranteed rotation spots, even though both are under contract.

Given the horrendous performance of the Boston rotation (which ranked 13th in the American League in ERA) last season, management needs to add at least a bona fide ace, and perhaps more, this winter.

The Sox could ultimately add two starters this offseason through free agency or trade.

David Price’s name keeps coming up in relation to the Sox, and multiple reports say the Sox will ultimately be the highest bidder for the lefty’s services.

But another name to consider is Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, who recently asked his team, the Hiroshima Carp, to make him available to MLB clubs.

If Maeda is posted, it will require a fee of up to $20 million payable to the Carp just to negotiate with him (the fee is returned to teams that don’t sign him).

Following a rule change, the posting fee is a lot less cumbersome than it used to be.

The Red Sox famously paid $51,111,111.11 to the Siebu Lions in 2006 for the opportunity to offer Daisuke Matsuzaka a six-year, $52 million contract.

More recently, the Rangers paid a $51.7 million posting fee for Yu Darvish prior to the 2012 season. Then they gave the righty $60 million over six years.

The Yankees benefitted from the new $20 million maximum posting fee, and then signed Masahiro Tanaka for $155 million over seven years before the 2014 season.

Maeda will probably land a contract closer to Darvish’s.

Though he has never pitched in the majors, Maeda is projected as a No. 2 starter. One thing is certain; he is widely regarded as the best Japanese hurler since Darvish and Tanaka.

The lack of major league experience will surely make the 27-year-old Maeda less sought after than Price (age 30) or Zack Greinke (age 32) this offseason. Yet, he will still be prized.

Aside from the fact that he is younger than both, Maeda will also come a lot cheaper, despite the $20 million posting fee.

Though he won’t blow anyone away with a fastball that tops out at 93 mph, Meada throws two versions of the curveball, one of which drops down into the upper 60s, as well as a slider and a changeup that also register in the mid-60s.

A velocity range from the mid-60s to the low 90s should allow Maeda to fool more than enough big league hitters to be successful.

Maeda’s strength is his extraordinary control, having posted an excellent 1.9 BB/9 walk rate over his career.

MLB Trade Rumor’s Tim Dierkes ranked Maeda 14th on his list of the top fifty free agents, predicting that the Japanese star would command a total commitment (including the fee) of five years and $80 million.

The Red Sox can afford that, in addition to an ace, such as Price or Grienke.

Considering that Detroit just signed free agent Jordan Zimmermann to a five-year, $110 pact, Dierkes' projection for Maeda could be a steal.

Hiroshima’s general manager Kiyoaki Suzuki said that Maeda’s “request might be granted,” indicating that he’d likely “decide on a course of action around the end of next week.”

Maeda is under club control through 2017, and could be posted again next offseason.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Red Sox Will Really Miss David Ortiz When He's Gone

The Red Sox will really miss David Ortiz at this time next year.

How much?

Well, Ortiz posted a .913 OPS last season, leading the club at age 39. Meanwhile, Hanley Ramirez, the guy the Red Sox (and many others) expected to fill Papi's shoes once he retired, posted a .717 OPS.

Ortiz also led the Sox by wide margins in home runs, RBI, total bases, on-base percentage and extra-base hits.

Ramirez was second on the team with 19 home runs in 2015. That's a massive falloff.

In fact, it took the combination of Ramirez and Mookie Betts -- who finished third on the team with 18 home runs -- to equal Ortiz's 37 blasts. Think about that for a minute.

Ortiz's absence will leave a huge void in 2017.

The fact that Ortiz did all of this at the age of 39 is all the more astounding. He joined Barry Bonds as the only 39-year-olds to top 30 homers and 100 RBIs in a season.

Offensive firepower is hard to come by in today's game. The Sox mostly lack it throughout their minor league system, and that may haunt them in the post-Ortiz era.

Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista will both be free agents after next season. The Red Sox may make a strong push for one of them in order to fill the gaping hole left in the wake of Ortiz's departure.

One way or another, the Sox will need to somehow make up for the lost power and production.

Then there's the matter of veteran leadership and presence. Players all around baseball admire and respect Ortiz for all he's done in the game, and for his cheerful personality.

Yes, the Red Sox will really miss David Ortiz when he's gone.

Me too.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Did the Red Sox Overpay for Craig Kimbrel?

Some are already asking if the Red Sox overpaid for closer Craig Kimbrel.

In a word, no.

Kimbrel is just 27 and in his prime. He has been an All Star four times in his four full seasons. In that time, he has been absolutely dominant, posting a 1.70 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP.

How good is Kimbrel?

Since 2011, he leads Major Leaguers in saves (224), ranks second in ERA (1.70), strikeouts (523), strikeouts-per-nine innings (14.37), and save percentage (90.7); is third in WHIP (0.91) and opponents' batting average (.160); and is fourth in hits allowed per nine innings (5.05).

While it's particularly difficult to part with the highly-talented Manny Margot, as a center fielder he was blocked by Mookie Betts for the next few years, at least.

Margot is 21 and highly athletic. He is a similar player, and possesses many of the same skill sets, as Betts. But he may never be as good at the major league level, where Betts has already proven himself.

The center fielder was promoted to Portland last season and only played 64 games at the Double-A level. He is projected to reach the majors by late next season, but given his limited exposure at the Double-A level, and that he has never played at Triple-A, that may be optimistic.

The Red Sox top three position prospects are/were Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers and Margot. They still have two of the three.

Obtaining a closer of Kimbrel's caliber was going to have significant player acquisition costs, no matter what.

Margot was ranked third among Red Sox prospects by and shortstop Javier Guerra was rated sixth.

But Guerra was blocked at short by rising star Xander Bogaerts.

A reasonable critique of the Red Sox in this deal is that they could have used those assets to instead obtain a frontline starter.

The Sox desperately need to fill that void as well, but perhaps Dave Dombrowski and company felt they could more likely fill that need through free agency (David Price?) than find an elite closer.

Boston has control of Kimbrel for the next three season at a price that they can afford. They will pay him $11 million next season, $13 million in 2017, and they hold a club option worth $13 million in 2018.

Again, he is just 27-yaears-old.

As I've said many times, prospects are nice, but they are a gamble. You roll the dice with them every time.

Think about the faith the Sox once had in prospects such as Michael Bowden, Lars Anderson, Anthony Ranaudo, Drake Britton, Ryan Kalsih, Garin Cecchini and on and on.

The Sox also had great plans for Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes, who they sent to San Diego in 2010 (along with Anthony Rizzo) for Adrian Gonzalez.

Where are they now?

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012, Kelly is still languishing in the Padres farm system as a converted reliever, while Fuentes is now toiling in the Royals' farm system.

In short, neither player panned out as projected. The Red Sox never missed them.

It's likely that Betts and Bogaerts are better than Margot and Guerra will ever be, and that's all that really matters.

If you're the Boston Red Sox, you take the elite major league closer over the minor league prospects any time. This is a team that is expected to compete for a championship every year. They have lots of young talent still in their system, and should remain competitive for years to come as a result.

In short, the Red Sox are much more likely to be thankful for this trade over the next few years (at least) than to regret it.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Red Sox Wrap 2015 Season and Begin Planning for 2016

The Boston Red Sox​ ended the 2015 season at 78-84, a .481 winning percentage.

The Sox finished 15 games behind division-winner Toronto.

This is Boston’s third last-place finish in four seasons, something some of us didn’t think we'd see for many, many years -- if ever.

Remember, even during the Red Sox epic 86-year World Series championship drought, the Sox rarely finished in last place in consecutive seasons, let alone three times in four years.

If you’re looking for a bright side, the Sox posted a winning record at Fenway Park this season, going 43-38 record at home. But the Sox went 35-46 on the road.

The Sox were also 6-4 in their last 10 games. Yet, the four losses were in the season's final four contests. Not a good way to end this terribly disappointing season.

The Red Sox got off to a decent start, finishing April with a 12–10 record — their first month over .500 since September 2013.

But it was all down hill from there.

The Sox only scored 82 runs in the month of May, and went 10-19 -- the worst record in the major leagues.

The Red Sox finished the month of June with an even record of 14–14, but then proceeded to go 10-15 in July.

However, Boston posted winning records in each of the season’s final two months under interim-manager, Torey Lovullo, finishing August at 15-12 and posting a 17-14 record in September/October.

Prior to the August 14 game in Seattle, manager John Farrell announced that he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Lovullo, his bench coach, was named interim manager for the remainder of the season.

Lovullo seemed to light a fire under the players and inspired them to be a much better team. The Sox’ turnaround was evident from that point forward, which makes the team’s decision to bring back Farrell for the 2016 season somewhat curious.

Aside from the Sox unexpected losing season, 2015 will be remembered as the year of the rookies and young, rising stars.

Pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez and Henry Owens both showed why they were viewed as top prospects, and both showed that they could be valuable parts of the Sox rotation for years to come.

The young duo became just the second and third Red Sox pitchers, respectively, in the past 100 years to record at least five innings while allowing one or no runs in as many as six of their first 10 Major League appearances, along with Dave “Boo” Ferriss in 1945.

‪Rodriguez became just the second Boston Red Sox lefty to win as many as 10 games in his rookie season going back to 1950, and the first Red Sox pitcher as young as 22 to win as many as 10 games since Mike Nagy’s 12-win campaign in 1969.

His win total was the most by a Red Sox rookie since Daisuke Matzuaka put up 15 in 2007.

Rodriguez finished with an 3.85 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 21 starts. He threw a career-high of 170 total innings between the minors and majors.

Owens finished with a 4-4 record, a 4.57 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 11 starts.

At this point, Rodriguez is clearly the more finished product. The Red Sox were 13-8 when he took the mound this season, and 5-6 when Owens started.

Blake Swihart hit .274 this season, which is outstanding for a 23-year-old rookie catcher. It was especially surprising given the defensive demands of the position, and the need for him to quickly become familiar with the entire pitching staff when unexpectedly called upon in May.

Swihart also smacked two home runs at Yankee Stadium in late September, becoming the youngest Red Sox catcher to have a multi-homer game since Mike Ryan on May 2, 1965.

But Swihart also showed solid blocking, throwing and game-calling skills. He could be a mainstay behind the dish for many years to come, and may force the Sox to make a tough choice between himself and defensive whiz Christian Vazquez, who will be returning from Tommy John surgery next season.

Mookie Betts‬ appears on the verge of becoming a superstar. He became the fourth youngest player in Major League history to reach 40 doubles, 15 homers and 20 steals in a season.

Betts joined Vada Pinson, Alex Rodriguez and Hanley Ramirez in achieving the feat by age 22 (Betts turns 23 on Oct. 7).

Jackie Bradley Jr. appeared in 74 games for the Red Sox this season, playing his customarily outstanding defense. JBJ has a knack for making difficult plays look routine, and may be the finest outfielder in baseball.

Bradley posted a .249/.335/.498/.832 slash line, with 10 homers, 43 RBI, 17 doubles and 4 triples. But his season was marked by extended hot and cold steaks. As a result, his capability as a big league hitter is still in question.

After the August 7 trade of Mike Napoli to Texas, Travis Shaw was given a chance to prove himself at first base.

Shaw, largely an unheralded prospect, performed admirably and surely opened some eyes, posting a .274/.331/.491/.822 slash line, with 13 homers, 10 doubles and 36 RBI in just 65 games and 226 at-bats.

Depending on whether the Sox are able to trade Hanley Ramirez this offseason, Shaw could be given some consideration as the starting first baseman next season.

The Sox have a number of roster decisions to make this offseason, and many will be determined by whether they can trade -- and get a reasonable return for -- Ramirez and/or Pablo Sandoval.

For example, first base comes into question if the Sox are indeed able to find a taker for Ramirez, yet decide that Shaw is not the answer there.

If Sandoval is traded, that leaves a void at third base. It’s not likely that the Sox see Brock Holt or Deven Marrero as their everyday third baseman.

Yet, Shaw was a third baseman in college and showed solid aptitude at the position this season. His positional versatility certainly increases his value to the Red Sox. He is also young (25), cheap and controllable.

Then there's Rusney Castillo, and what the Sox will (or can) do with him.

The Red Sox signed the Cuban outfielder to a seven-year, $72.5 million contract in August 2014, and haven’t gotten much in return so far.

Castillo played in just 80 games for the Red Sox this season, partly due to assorted injuries and partly due to spending time in Triple-A -- where he didn't impress.

During his 80 games with Boston (273 at-bats), Castillo posted an underwhelming .253/.288/.359./647 slash line, with 5 homers, 10 doubles, 2 triples and 29 RBI.

In short, he hardly looks like a major league player, much less a $72 million player. His signing may be nearly as regrettable as those of Ramirez and Sandoval.

Do the Sox trust Castillo in the outfield next season, or have they already seen enough to recognize that Ben Cherington and his staff made a big, expensive mistake?

If Castillo is not viewed as a viable option, then the Sox need to find an every day corner outfielder.

If they decide to keep both Swihart and Vazquez as their catchers, that would necessitate a trade of veteran Ryan Hannigan.

Then there’s the rotation. The Sox have a number of internal candidates vying for the five spots next season, among them: Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Wade Miley, Henry Owens, Steven Wright and perhaps even Milton, Mass native, Rich Hill.

Let’s begin with Buchholz.

The Sox hold a $13 million team option on the righty for 2016, and it seems quite likely that they will soon exercise that option. Doing so would not preclude them from trading Buchholz, and one way or another, it’s a reasonable cost for a veteran starter. The Red Sox also hold a $13.5 million team option on Buchholz for the 2017 season as well.

Buchholz presents clear risks to the Red Sox, or any potential trade partner. The 30-year-old has never thrown over 189 1/3 innings in his nine-year career due to persistent injury troubles. Buchholz has been on the DL in seven of his nine seasons. He is fragile, to say the least.

My bet is that the Red Sox ultimately trade Buchholz this winter.

Porcello signed a 4-year contract extension worth $82.5 million that won’t go into affect until 2016, meaning he will certainly be back with the Sox next season. With that pact, he is virtually untradable (especially if the Red Sox don't want to eat a significant portion of his contract).

Porcello finished the season at 9-15 (leading the team in losses) with a 4.92 ERA and 1.36 ERA. After his start in Toronto on July 1, he had a 6.08 ERA, and it didn't drop below 5.00 until his final start of the season.

However, the righty improved considerably late in the year. After coming off the disabled list on Aug. 26, Porcello notched a 3.14 ERA over his final eight starts.

Like it or not, he will be in the Sox rotation next season.

Rodriguez is young (22), cheap, and very promising. He will surely have a rotation spot next season.

Kelly finished the season at 10-6, with a 4.82 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. However, the 27-year-old was so bad early on that he was demoted to Triple-A. While he rebounded fairly well, most scouts think he is best suited as a late-inning reliever, and possibly a closer. His high-90s fastball would play nicely in that role.

One way or another, the Sox will not begin the 2016 season with a bunch of middling starters, and that’s why I believe Kelly may ultimately end up in the bullpen next year.

Wade Miley finished the season 11-11, with a 4.46 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP. Everything about Miley seemed average, which is not a bad thing for a guy who was only expected to be a middle-of the-rotation starter.

However, American League pitchers had an average ERA of 4.01 this season, which means that Miley was actually below average. He is under contract for $6 million next season -- a perfectly reasonable price for a starting pitcher. Yet, that also gives Miley trade value, which may be more appealing to the Sox than seeing him in their rotation next season.

Owens may be viewed as too green to get a rotation spot out of spring training. Aside from his 4-4 record, 4.57 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP, the lanky lefty had 50 strikeouts and 24 walks in 63 innings. None of that overwhelmed anyone.

But the 23-year-old threw 122 1⁄3 innings with Triple-A Pawtucket and 63 more with Boston, for a total of 185 1/3 innings. That puts him in line for 200 innings next season, and the Sox may see enough value in that alone to give him a spot in the rotation.

Thirty-one-year-old Steven Wright showed some great flashes when called upon this season, and ended up with a 5-4 record, 4.09 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. The knuckleballer found an opportunity only because of the injuries and ineptitude that plagued the Sox rotation, but unfortunately his season was derailed by a concussion in August.

Wright is still more of a question than an answer, so its hard to imagine the Sox committing a rotation spot to him next season. He will likely serve as minor league depth and could get another shot at some point in 2016.

Hill is an intriguing story. His sudden revival seems nothing short of miraculous.

He was pitching in Independent ball and hadn't started a big league game in six years when the Red Sox signed him in August.

Yet, he made four late-season starts for Boston, and struck out ten batters in the first three of them.

Hill is the only AL pitcher in the last 100 years to record at least 10 strikeouts in each of his first three starts with a team. The only other Red Sox pitcher in the last 100 years to record 10 or more strikeouts and one or fewer walks in three straight starts at any point is Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Hill tossed a complete game, two-hit shutout in one start, and all four of them were quality starts.

In all, Hill posted a 1.55 ERA with 36 strikeouts and five walks over 29 innings.

However, he is 35 and has experienced more downs than ups in recent years. Though his story is a magnificent one, its hard to imagine the Sox giving him anything more than a non-guaranteed contract and an invitation to spring training. A guaranteed contract and the promise of a rotation spot seem unimaginable.

However, if the Red Sox don’t make him an offer, another team certainly will. Hill earned it, and he deserves it.

My sense is that Buchholz and/or Miley will be traded. I think that Porcello, Rodriguez and Owens are likely to get rotation spots, which still leaves two open spots. Surely, Kelly, Miley and/or Buchholz could also fill one of those spots, but it’s tough to imagine the Sox returning every member of a rotation that failed so miserably this season.

Of course, the Red Sox will be big players in the free agent pitching market this offseason. The organization learned a tough lesson about trying to compete without a bona fide ace atop the rotation, or at least a certified No. 1 starter. They had neither this season, and it cost them dearly. Every team needs a stopper, and the Red Sox did not have one this year.

That will change within the next couple of months.

David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Hisashi Iwakuma and Jeff Samardzija will all be sought-after, free-agent starting pitchers this offseason. The Sox will certainly be front-runners for one of them, with Price and Zimmerman likely their top targets.

Then, of course, there is the bullpen, which will see a significant overhaul. Kofi Uehara, Junichi Tarawa and Craig Breslow are the most likely to return. Beyond that, the possibilities and outcomes are endless. Rest assured, there will be changes, and the pen will look quite different next season.

Yes, there are many questions to be answered, needs to addressed and positions to be filled.

To summarize, there could be changes at first base, third base, left or right field (depending on what the Sox do with Castillo), at least one rotation spot, and a good portion of the seven-man bullpen.

That’s a lot of flux for a team that has already seen significant changes in recent years (just seven players remain from the 2013 Red Sox team that won the ‪‎World Series)‬.

But then again, when a team finishes in last place three times in four years, big changes are needed — and deserved.

Hopefully, stability and success will become hallmarks of the Red Sox in the seasons ahead.

It will all begin in the coming months.