When asked about how the Red Sox will compete without Mookie Betts or David Price, Bloom responds, “It’s reasonable to expect we’re going to be worse without them.”— Joon Lee (@joonlee) February 11, 2020
Now that the dust has (finally) settled on the Mookie Betts and David Price trade, we can finally put a cap on the Red Sox’ offseason. I’ve always been glad to not be a Red Sox fan, but after watching how the team’s winter unfolded, I’m especially glad. Boston went from a World Series juggernaut just two years ago to a team ready to kick the can down the road.
The direction of Boston’s organization has changed dramatically in the last few months, and it started from the top. Some changes were expected, whereas others not so much.
First, we knew the Red Sox would have to replace Dave Dombrowski, who was let go in September. It’s pretty clear that his replacement, Chaim Bloom, was brought in to undo all of Dombrowski’s work. What, a 108-win World Series champion GM doesn’t get a pass for one disappointing season? Who’d have thought.
Bloom came over from the Rays’ front office where he was VP of baseball operations. Tampa Bay’s executives tend to get poached more than other organizations, and the reasoning is pretty clear: wealthy owners are impressed by those Rays’ teams win totals on low payroll. So, John Henry wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Bloom should be able to keep Boston afloat in terms of being a merely good team. Even though he’s clearly here in some part to trim payroll, he’s also working with a higher budget than the Rays have ever had. The Red Sox should win in the mid-to-high 80s this season, but the next time they are World Series contender isn’t going to be in the short-term.
In addition to Bloom, the Red Sox made an unplanned managerial change. Once Alex Cora’s name came up in the Astros’ cheating scandal, it was only a matter of time until he and Boston parted ways. Ron Roenicke, Cora’s bench coach, will take the helm.
They voluntarily traded Mookie Betts
I’ve already spent some time ranting about the Mookie Betts trade here and here. Anyway, anytime you can trade the best player not named Mike Trout for pennies on the dollar, you gotta do it. Payroll flexibility is in vogue these days and the impending free agent Betts posed a big financial threat to Henry’s $6.6 billion Fenway Sports Group conglomerate.
By trading Betts, Boston significantly downgraded its outfield and playoff odds. PECOTA projects Betts to slash .294/.381/.538 (142 DRC+) and accumulate 6.2 WARP, second to that Trout fellow. Alex Verdugo, the headliner in return for Mookie, will presumably take over in right field. Verdugo’s projection is pretty average: .271/.330/.434 (101 DRC+) and 2.4 WARP.
Boston will have the right to keep Verdugo for the next five seasons, though it’s difficult to imagine him ever approaching Betts’ production. Yes, he’s already a solid player and was Baseball Prospectus’s 19th-best prospect entering last season, but Betts is a superstar and only three years older than Verdugo. Moreover, all indications are that Betts is a great guy. Meanwhile, Verdugo reportedly was present during an alleged sexual assault with other Dodgers’ minor leaguers that’s seemingly been swept under the rug.
An incomplete rotation
Boston starters had a 4.90 ERA last season, 11th-worst in the majors. Naturally, they decided to do absolutely nothing to improve the pitching staff. Granted, I think Chris Sale is a good candidate to rebound after a down 2019, but everything else isn’t very pretty.
First of all, they traded away David Price in the Betts blockbuster and will absorb half of the $96 million remaining on the southpaw’s deal. Price wasn’t very good in 2019, but he’s just a year removed from being a Boston postseason hero.
Now, if the Red Sox simply think Price isn’t good anymore, then that’s fine. But if that’s the case, at least do something to boost those around him. Instead, barring any last minute moves, Boston is going to trot out this rotation in 2020:
- Chris Sale
- Eduardo Rodríguez
- Martin Pérez
- Nathan Eovaldi
Yep, that’s noted offseason addition Martin Pérez joining the middle of the rotation. That’s the move Boston made to shore up its rotation that needs Sale to rebound, E-Rod to repeat his strong 2019, and Eovaldi to stay healthy and rediscover his 2018 form.
To make matters worse, the rotation is incomplete and seriously lacks depth. The fifth starter is a mystery — maybe Chris Mazza? Matt Hall? Yikes. Last year, at least they had some respectable names for depth in Rick Porcello and Andrew Cashner. The downside this staff has, particularly if Sale gets hurt, is remarkable. Boston may still hit aplenty even without Betts, but it’s going to be hard to outslug teams with this rotation.
Boston’s other offseason moves are pretty unremarkable. They added José Peraza to replace the still-available free agent Brock Holt. The Red Sox also found themselves a new backup catcher in Kevin Plawecki. He replaces Sandy León.
One bullpen move may pan out nicely for Boston: the trade for Austin Brice. Admittedly, this is a bit of a reach as I was trying to find *something* positive Boston did. Brice, a right-handed reliever last with Miami, posted a 3.43 ERA and struck out 46 batters in 44 2/3 innings last season. He’s not a hard thrower, but his curveball appears to have some potential with a 94th percentile spin rate.
Lastly, here’s a quick look at the changes to the Red Sox major league roster.
- Alex Verdugo
- Martin Pérez
- José Peraza
- Kevin Plawecki
- Matt Hall
- Jeffrey Springs
- Austin Brice
- Chris Mazza
- Josh Osich
- Mookie Betts
- David Price
- Steve Pearce
- Rick Porcello
- Brock Holt
- Jhoulys Chacín
- Andrew Cashner
- Travis Lakins
- Sam Travis
- Sandy León