By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Once upon a time, not too long ago, the standards in this town were different. The idea of realistically expecting a team to win a championship was not exactly prevalent among the local fan base.
Yet, as we all know well, things are different. With five Patriots Super Bowls, three Red Sox World Series, and a Stanley Cup and Larry O’Brien Trophy for the Bruins and Celtics, expectations have been raised. A division title is no longer anything worth celebrating.
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And so, the Boston Red Sox have got some decisions to make. They’ve won AL East titles in consecutive years for the first time ever. Yet they have just a single postseason win to show for it. Since winning the 2013 World Series, the Red Sox are 1-6 in their only postseason action. That’s just not going to cut it — not when they’ve worked in two last-place finishes in their non-playoff years.
For a master’s class in recognizing your own limitations, the Red Sox can just look a couple of miles down Storrow Drive, where Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics took a roster that made the conference championship last season and completely blew it up this summer. The Celtics could have easily returned nearly the same roster and gotten just about the same result from their 2017-18 season, but Ainge realistically assessed that his team was not among the league’s best. He acted accordingly, dramatically reshaping his roster and returning just four players to this year’s team.
Will Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox be so bold?
To be sure, undergoing a massive overhaul while improving your team’s title chances is a massively difficult endeavor — especially in baseball. Simply deciding that this team needs to undergo significant changes is one thing. Orchestrating and executing those changes is a totally different story.
Still, there are some areas of concern that might be easier to address than others.
We can start in the dugout with manager John Farrell. His teams have been successful, particularity with that 2013 title, but questions about Farrell’s in-game management have dogged him for his entire tenure in Boston. Though the team found regular-season success in 2016 and 2017, washing out of the postseason in the ALDS in back-to-back years doesn’t necessarily provide proper job security.
Farrell was asked after Monday’s loss if he’s the right man for the job.
“Personally, yes, I feel confident in that,” he said.
Certainly, several people in Boston might not agree with him.
Moving away from the manager, the Red Sox are undoubtedly going to need to add some power. It could come from signing a free agent or two from the crop of first baseman Eric Hosmer, outfielder J.D. Martinez, outfielder Jay Bruce, shortstop Zack Cozart or another available player. Or it could come from putting together a massive package to land Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins.
That second scenario brings us to our next question: Do you trade away a member of the Red Sox’ young core? While the talent is obvious in Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi, it’s more than fair to wonder if that young core is good enough to really compete for a World Series. The results of the past two seasons would indicate that it is not.
Jackie Bradley Jr., who will turn 28 next April, may not be part of that “young” group, but he too could be considered a trade option this winter.
Perhaps fans may want to see Dustin Pedroia traded after a poor postseason and moments during the regular season where his leadership came into question.
That being said, nobody should necessarily be eager to ship out any one of those players for a bag of balls. But in the right package, with the right return, Dombrowski may be moved to pull the trigger on a deal that dramatically changes the look of this team.
Pitching-wise, the Red Sox aren’t in bad shape. They have Chris Sale for just $12.5 million, a potentially healthy David Price returning, along with Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright. In the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel will be back, and the Red Sox can either sign Addison Reed, promote from within, or go out and sign an available eighth-inning guy.
It’s possible, though, that the Red Sox need to move one of their starting pitchers in order to land a particular player in a trade. There’s no commodity in baseball like starting pitching, so the Red Sox could be forced to throw in a starter in order to complete a deal.
However the Red Sox choose to navigate the offseason, it should be clear that changes are needed. They got swept by the Indians last year, and they lasted just one more game in 2017. Like the Celtics in the NBA, the Red Sox remain a great distance from being a true championship contender, despite reaching the postseason.
The next time the Red Sox take the field, from the manager to the starting nine, they could — and should — look very different.