By Marisa Ingemi
BU News Service
It’s hard to imagine now, but the Red Sox are in a good position.
Despite being swept in the American League Division Series, Boston took a huge leap in 2016, and the retirement of David Ortiz will force the lineup to reinvent itself. That could mean signing a bat like Edwin Encarnacion, or a rotation of Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and Travis Shaw in the DH slot.
One way or another, offense should not be a problem moving forward. Xander Bogaerts, despite his post-season struggles, is one of the best hitting shortstops in the game and has proven he can go on streaks. Mookie Betts could be the MVP of the American League and is one of the best young hitters in the league, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. has finally found a way to contribute regularly. Andrew Benintendi proved he can be a star, returning from a mid-season injury where he showed no ill-effects, hitting .333 in the playoffs.
Other than possibly adding an outside bat to replace Ortiz, the one other lineup change we might see is at third base, and it’s all dependent on how well Yoan Moncada plays in fall and winter ball. Moncada struggled in his first Boston audition, striking out in nine straight at-bats (tying an MLB record), but he also showed a few flashes prior. If Moncada has an impressive spring training, it’s not a stretch to say he could be the regular third baseman, especially if Sandoval falls into a DH role.
Blake Swihart should return healthy with a chance to earn back the starting catcher spot, unless he is used as a trade piece if the team elects to bolster its rotation. Christian Vazquez struggled to hit when Sandy Leon began tearing the cover off the ball, and it might be time to give up on him as the team’s primary catcher. Unless Leon can prove his 2-for-23 post season was a fluke, Swihart and Vazquez could be the duo again.
The biggest question moving forward is the rotation — a rotation that could includes two Cy Young winners, if Rick Porcello were to earn the AL’s award this year. Yet he and David Price struggled considerably against the Indians, and Clay Buchholz possibly will not return. It’s fair to assume that Steven Wright will return, but if he does, how much of this year’s run can he recapture?
If Eduardo Rodriguez can pitch like Boston imagined he would, and he can avoid injury, he could change the narrative of the rotation. However, without much pitching development in the minor leagues, they may have to look elsewhere to sign another arm.
Free agents the Red Sox may target on short term deals could be Rich Hill, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, or Jeremy Hellickson, all of whom have pitched in the American League. Riskier signings may be Alfredo Simon, who struggled mightily in Detroit, or Jared Weaver, who may seek a longer term deal.
Boston has an incredibly bright future if it plays its cards right, and this will be Dave Dombrowski’s first true test with the Red Sox following a postseason defeat.