Sox Finish in the Cellar - Management Cleans House
It became clear early on, that it wasn't going to be the Red Sox year. When? Well, I know that I had that "oh oh" moment the same day that Vasquez - their lockdown defense catcher - blew out his elbow. It didn't get a lot of play, but it meant their starting catcher was now Ryan Hanigan, who wasn't on the Sox last year. Ryan did well, but suddenly you had new pitchers: Joe Kelly, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, and all the Rookies - Ownes, Rodriguez and more - depending on a journeyman catcher.
It had the makings of a disaster.
And unfortunately, that's how it played out. The pitching was horrific in the early going, and by the time they righted the ship, the team had a couple of key injuries and began to fade fast.
No, I hadn't forgotten the Sox. Just been busy!
To blame it all on Vasquez is unfair, but it was a major injury at a spot where they had no depth, and the whole plan at some level relied on his ability to transition everyone.
Quickly, Management started looking at everyone. The pitching coach was swiftly canned. As things continued to take on water, and with Lucchino either walking away or shoved out, Sox management decided more change was needed and pulled in Dubrowski. Realizing his authority was going to be cut in half - if not more - Cherrington decided he would seek greener pastures. I think that was a mistake - he could have stayed put and probably earned his way back - but I don't know the details, that's just my gut.
Will we Miss Cherrington?
This is probably the toughest call to make, even with his tenure in the books. A GM has three pillars to make a successful club.
2) Free Agents/Payroll Management
It's not clear to me why, but Cherrington seem to have a knack for drafting late bloomers. JBJ, Boegarts, Swihart perhaps, Vasquez perhaps, and some that didn't bloom at all, or at least haven't yet. (Middlebrooks, Lavarnway). And we've been hearing for years about the pitching, but no one has been able to take the mantle of a starter and hold on to it for long. I do know we've been waiting for players for a long time, but it's hard to determine if that's just because they aren't ever going to do anything. Mookie Betts has been the one sure thing, and at least needs to get credit for that.
As far as free agents, you have to give him credit for 2013, and you have to hold his feet to the fire for 2014 and 2015. Virtually none of the big ticket contracts have looked smart, and the ones that worked so well in 2013 eventually clogged the roster by the end of their tenure, Napoli and Victorino front and center. Having said that, the only three "untradeable" players/ contracts are Dustin Pedrioa, Porcello (who may yet pull a Lackey on us), and Hanley Ramirez. Sandoval is close, but maybe this year he takes the hint and realizes that Father time is cruel to those whose weight goes above their batting average. At any rate, despite the mistakes, the payroll doesn't look anything as convoluted as the Yankees, and is far less risky.
Trades. Trades might have done him in. Rodriguez was clearly the one lone standout. The trades last year were high risk, high reward, and they all looked like there would be close to zero return on the assets traded. Of course, they didn't trade a lot of value, so I think the expectations were high here, but you did need to get something, even if they were prospects that you could flip to a team for a proven vet.
Add it all up, and it was judged not good enough. But I'm not sure Dumbroski can do better-his trade prospects mentatlity has left Detroit in serious trouble. Fortunately, he seems smart enough to know he doesn't need to clean house. Whether or not we miss Cherrington will come down to how good Dumbroski does. But enough about the Boss. Let's look at some Red Sox bright spots, and there were some!
Red Sox 4: A New Hope
Quick: Who was the second best short stop in MLB? You guessed it: Xander Boegarts. After a long (very long) struggle to find the right player at SS, they now have the guy. He got better as the year progressed, showed a knack for knocking guys in, and nobody thinks he's near his ceiling. He is a bonafide, build your club around him star. Mookie Betts is right behind him though, and if you've got Swihart, who started to look GOOD as the season wore on, paired up with Vasquez, Xander/Pedroia up the middle, and Mookie in Center (or a revitalized JBJ), you're cooking with gas. Seriously, you can work around the rest.
As bad as they were at times - and they were putrid - they still ended up forth in runs. So the Offense isn't broken. And looking at the position players above, you can see why. The starting pitching though, well, that's another story.
What to make of Rick Porcello? is he a three? a Four? For sure - he's not a one. But I don't think he's being paid that way. He's getting paid like a #2 pitcher. We'll see if he earns his keep.
As confusing as Porcello is, Joe Kelly is an even bigger mystery. Either his stuff doesn't translate, or his head gets in the way of his arm. Either way, counting on him is probably not going to happen. He's a four.
Buckholz is great, but you can only get half a season out of him.
Wade Miley looks to be a streaky innings eater. Every staff needs ones.
Rodriques clearly has the most promise. He gave you 21 games and a 3.85. For a young, maturing pitcher, you keep him.
Buckholz - who's reasonably priced option will be picked up - and Kelly probably have the most trade value. They would make sense in a deal of major league ready players who - if you get lucky - could be difference makers. Perhaps they get traded for an ace or a near ace, with a prospect or two. That leaves you with an Ace, Rodriguez, Porcello, Miley, and Owens - with more prospects in case of injury - and could be good enough if the offense continues to improve. That would mean Sandoval bouncing back, Ortiz continuing to defy father time, and Hanley Ramieriez at least pretending to be interested. But it could happen. We'll check in again after the winter meeting, and maybe more trade speculation in the meantime.