BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox have to pick themselves up and regroup after their 2016 season came to a disappointing end on Monday night.
Manager John Farrell equated their end, a three-game sweep in the ALDS at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, as face planting into a brick wall. But Farrell and president of baseball ops. Dave Dombrowski assured everyone on Tuesday that they’re already focused on getting better in 2017, and will make the necessary moves in order to do so.
That will prove to be extremely difficult, at least from an offensive perspective. The Red Sox were an offensive juggernaut in 2016, but will be missing a key piece in their lineup, and organization as a whole, when everyone reports to Spring Training in four short months.
Gone will be three-time World Series champion David Ortiz, who will be enjoying his retirement after 20 years in the big leagues. He was a key cog to that powerful offense in 2016, clubbing a team high 38 homers while driving in 138 runs. He had an absurd 1.021 OPS to lead all major league hitters.
And really, how the heck do you replace a legend like David Ortiz?
While someone will take his spot in the lineup, it’s nearly impossible to replace what Ortiz brought to the franchise, both at the plate and in the clubhouse. But that’s the tall task the Red Sox find themselves in as they shift their focus from 2016 to 2017, a challenge they knew they were in for when Ortiz announced he’d be hanging up his cleats after the season last November.
“I don’t know that you ever replace David Ortiz,” Farrell told reporters on Tuesday (yes, Farrell will be back in 2017). “I don’t know that that’s possible given how dynamic of a person he is, from what he means to our city and organization. Looking that number of years he’s been here and success he’s had, that takes time to replace, if ever.”
Dombrowski said replacing a player of Ortiz’s stature is not something that can be done by just one player. It will be a collective task from a number of players, some who are already on the roster, like Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, to name a few. There is also the potential to bring in a big bat or two this winter, with Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion set to hit the free agent market.
“He’s an icon and one of a kind,” Dombrowksi said of Ortiz. “But we’ll do our best job to replace the offensive aspect however we can. It won’t come from one person hitting 38 home runs or knocking in 130, but we’ll do the best to try to combine what we have and keep an open mindedness in that regard.”
It may be a puzzle that Ortiz himself helps with. Dombrowski said he hasn’t spoken to Ortiz about it yet, but if he would like to join the organization, in any capacity, he’s always welcome. They’d love to have the now-retired slugger in the front office, and Dombrowksi joked that he can even name his job title — just as long as it’s not president of baseball ops., we’re assuming.
The Ortiz void creates an interesting scenario for a team that knew they could rely on one player to produce out of the DH spot in their lineup, a rare luxury for teams these days. Farrell said he’ll be open to anything next season, keeping in mind that Ortiz is, essentially, irreplaceable.
“If that one guys hits 38 homers and drives in 120 runs, you’ll take that full time DH,” he said, adding that potential additions to the roster have yet to be discussed. “We have no idea who is available in terms of adding to your roster… I don’t know that that hitter exists to be honest with you.”
The Red Sox have plenty of work to do to make the 2017 version of the team better than the one we saw in 2016. Their biggest, and most difficult, task is filling that vacant spot on the scorecard that has been occupied by No. 34 for the last 14 seasons.
Good luck fellas. You’re going to need it.