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As the halfway point of the 2020 Major League Baseball season approaches, there have been some surprise teams in contention. None of those teams are named the Boston Red Sox. Following a scandalous offseason that saw the team fire manager Alex Cora about a month before the start of Spring Training, and star outfielder Mookie Betts traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team seemed embroiled in the mire. The path was made even harder when MLB had to shut down the season, only to restart with a 60 game schedule, meaning they had to get off to a hot start.
Barring an unthinkable come back, Boston’s season seems doomed. Given the circumstances surrounding team, it may be time to restart and rebuild.
After previous general manager Dave Dombrowski traded away several top prospects for pitchers Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Craig Kimbrel, and gave huge contracts to Eovaldi, Sale and pitcher David Price, the team is in really bad shape. Boston is going to have to hit the reset button hard, similar to what the 2016 New York Yankees did. It’s not ideal but following last year’s disappointing season and this year’s atrocious start, they have no choice.
So what would pressing this button look like in Boston?
Well, it’s already started by replacing Dombrowski with young up and comer Chaim Bloom as Chief Baseball Officer and Brian O’Halloran as general manager. While in his previous stop with the Tampa Bay Rays, he was one half of the team that built a perennial playoff contender on a modest budget. Given that Boston’s gone over the luxury tax limit enough to the point they’d lose draft picks, they picked the right guy to shed salary and pick up players that may be low budget, but impactful.
That’s only step one though. What’s next? Let’s take a look:
Step Two: Find A New Manager
We start off calling a spade a spade: manager Ron Roenicke is a temporary option for this season. Similar to what the team did when they hired Bobby Valentine in 2012, the team needed someone to distract from the terrible season they were having, following controversy. The years leading up to 2012 had the infamous chicken and beer storyline, this year had the video replay scandal.
So who would the modern John Farrell be? Without knowing who could be fired following the season, there’s still some intriguing options. Houston Astros’ bench coach Joey Espada and Washington Nationals’ hitting coach Kevin Long are seen as potential up and coming managers to look for.
If the team is going younger, former Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showhalter is well known for building young teams well. However two interesting names to watch are Tampa Bay bench coach Matt Quatraro and their pitching coach Kyle Snyder, given their history with Bloom. Snyder especially is interesting since he spent part of his playing career with Boston, including winning a World Series. Whoever it is, they need someone to groom the young talent and grow with them.
Step Three: Liquidation
When a team struggles, it causes the general manager to ultimately look at the roster and assess the situation. From how much certain players earn on the total payroll to their production to just whose vital or a piece to build around. With all of those, Boston has a lot to comb over.
Starting with salaries, Boston shot themselves in foot. When Dombrowski was general manager, he managed to give our several big contracts. How big? Designated hitter J.D. Martinez, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Sale take up close to 42 percent of the team’s payroll. Add to it another 7.12 percent for helping pay recently traded pitcher David Price’s salary and they’re close to 50 percent, on six guys.
Breaking this down in a liquidation stand point, there’s only so much they can shave. First, Pedroia more than likely will be calling it a career soon, so his contact will come off the books. Martinez has an opt-out clause following this season. One way or another, he probably won’t be back next season. Either he’ll be traded on the August 31st trade deadline, he’ll choose to opt-out and become a free agent, or he could be traded in the offseason. Either way, his salary will off of Boston’s books.
Then there’s Sale, who someone will take a flier on if made available. While Eovaldi’s contract makes him essentially untouchable, Sale could still grab the team a potentially valuable piece or two in the form of prospects.
In addition to Eovaldi, Bogaerts is pretty much untouchable as Boston has deemed him the new cornerstone of the team. Bogaerts, third baseman Rafael Devers and outfielder Alex Verdugo will be the players the team will most likely build around. While infielders Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec and Jeter Downs try to mold their place into the team, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them up by next year. More than likely, Devers may slide into the designated hitter role with Dalbec playing third base.
Step Four: Offseason
Assuming that the team declines first baseman Mitch Moreland’s club options, here’s what the potential line up will look like going into the offseason:
Catcher: Christian Vazquez
First Base: Michael Chavis
Second Base: Jeter Downs
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
Third Base: Bobby Dalbec
Right Field: Alex Verdugo
Center Field: To Be Determined
Left Field: Andrew Beintendi
Designated Hitter: Rafael Devers
With outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Pillar hitting free agency, and Beintendi never really putting it together, some changes may need to be made in the offseason. Keeping in mind that they may have the money to do so, they could arguably make a run at Houston outfielder George Springer or Los Angeles outfielder Joc Pederson.
Though it’s more likely they’ll nab someone in a trade, one name to keep an eye on is Atlanta Outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Though he won’t get the team home runs, his contact would play well in Boston. Plus if he puts the ball in the air, he’d have the Green Monster in left field to help give him some extra base hits. Though he’s 30, a short term multi-year deal would be good for him.
Pitching, both starting and bullpen, will be crucial in the offseason, especially if they deal some arms. Starting pitchers like Robbie Ray and Brad Keller are pitchers that could line rotation and still stay young, making them ideal candidates. Relievers depend on what the new managers’ policy is for relief work and if he used openers.
That leaves us with the expectations. It’s still going to be a hard year no matter what. Boston may not be in playoff contention until 2022. Barring a huge surge during the rebuild, the team must focus on realigning and building to compete that year. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try to win…but after going through the aftermath of Dave Dombrowski, it could take a little time.