BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox season once again came to an end in disappointing fashion. The team won 93 games and the AL East title for the second straight year, but just like the 2016 squad, the 2017 Sox we’re bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Yes, this team fought. Give them credit for that. Down 0-2, they rallied to win Game 3 and were six outs away from forcing a Game 5 in Houston. But they simply fell short.
Usually, a season like this is “another step” in the right direction. Not this time. All is not right with the Red Sox.
Fans never warmed up to this team, despite a lot of very good ingredients. TV ratings weren’t great and, incredibly, there were plenty of tickets available for their two postseason games. Something needs to be done.
So, let’s dive in and see what options John Henry, Tom Werner, Dave Dombrowski and the Baseball Ops. department might look into doing this offseason:
– The first order of business is manager John Farrell. His resume reads well with a World Series championship and three AL East titles. I’ve defended Farrell all the way through as he’s had good results and had his guys play hard for him, all while handling the pressure that is Boston. Could he be a better in-game manager? Yes. But, they’ve won despite that.
However, there’s a bad vibe around this team and they’re in need of a shake up. It may not be right, but changing the manager is part of what they need.
So, who comes in? My choice would be Houston bench coach Alex Cora. He knows the market, having won a title here in 2007 and is well-respected. Brad Ausmus might be another choice after he was let go by Detroit. Dombrowski hired him during his time with the Tigers.
– As for the players, there’s a lot of talent on this team. Chris Sale performed well in his first season a Red Sox uniform. Well enough to potentially win his first Cy Young award, though he’ll probably finish second after Cory Kluber’s amazing run to finish the regular season. The biggest problem for Sale was his struggles in the second half and in September continued this season. So, what can be done? The first and obvious solution is to watch his pitch count and maybe skip a few starts in the rotation. However, I can’t fault Farrell for rolling him out there every five days. They had to or they would have probably missed winning the AL East. Maybe Boston can add veteran depth to the rotation and stash it in Pawtucket, or hope that Dombrowski can add at the trade deadline if the Sox are in contention.
– The young talent is in flux. Benintendi, Betts, Bogaerts and Bradley Jr., had good, but not great years. They all struggled – to some degree – in the postseason. This team lacked power (finishing last in the AL in homers), so maybe Dombrowski could orchestrate a deal with one or more of these players to get some pop back in the post-Ortiz lineup.
The problem is identifying who to trade as this group is so young. None of them have entered their prime “power” years and they have all performed under the spotlight that is Boston, which is never easy.
Who is there to bring in? Start with the temptation of Giancarlo Stanton, but you’d have to ask the Marlins to eat some of his huge contract.
– Dombrowski can also scour the free agent market, with the Royals pair of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer intriguing options. They’ve been through several great postseason runs and they’re still young. If Moustakas was the guy then Devers would have to move to first base. Meanwhile, Hosmer will seek years and big money. I’m not sure if another year or two of Mitch Moreland is just as good an option.
– Most importantly, there needs to be an image remake. A campaign of good will. Perhaps a tour of New England in the offseason by the players. It sounds corny, but ask each player to come up to Boston for a few days, pair them up and put them on a bus tour. For instance, Mookie and JBJ come into town in early December, do Christmas at Fenway and then head to western Massachusetts for two days of “meet and greets” with tickets, jerseys, baseballs and other giveaways. And you can spread others all around New England. It’s old school but it goes a long way toward good will. President Sam Kennedy can lead the way; he was born for these kinds of Q&A events.
So, there you go. Just some initial thoughts looking ahead to 2018. There’s plenty of time to get specific and that will happen as the Hot Stove season fires up.
There is lots of work for the Red Sox and little time to waste — there’s only about 115 days until pitchers and catchers report for duty in Fort Myers.