To many, it looks now like the decision to fire manager Terry Francona was one of the Red Sox organization’s biggest mistakes since making a transaction with the Yankees in 1919. Boston had a historic collapse in 2011, following which his option for 2012 was declined, and he was ousted, his eight-year tenure in Boston abruptly over. Arguably, Francona is the greatest skipper in franchise history, he was one of only two managers (along with Joe Cronin) to manage for over 1000 games and post an overall winning percentage of .500 or better. The six seasons since then have included three missed postseasons, an ALDS sweep, an ALDS loss (that cost John Farrell his job), and an unexpected victory in the 2013 World Series when the team pulled out one of its greatest seasons of all time.
By all accounts, their chemistry was lacking this past season, when a team that (despite losing David Ortiz and trading Travis Shaw) had just acquired arguably the top pitcher in the league to add to a 93-win team from 2016, but still ended up once again being bounced in the first round of the postseason after winning 93 games. This was a visibly flawed team from start to finish, picked as the heavy favorite to win a division on the back of the significant uncertainties on rival clubs, rather than the brute dominance/depth of its own roster. It’s clear that Dealin’ Dave Dombrowski is, characteristically, only interested in making sure that – at any cost – a title returns to Boston in 2018 or, at very least, 2019. On the heels of yet another impressive regular season, an early exit from the postseason means only one thing for certain thus far: out is five-year skipper John Farrell, in comes former Astros bench coach and 2007 Red Sox champion Alex Cora. That does not sound like a decision that is reached with an eye on otherwise maintaining the status quo going forward.
Roster changes, in some form, are likely to follow. Craig Kimbrel is entering his contract year, but in a year in which the team will likely push for a championship, it’s improbable that the team will shop him. As for the free agents departing, Eduardo Nunez should be the first (and perhaps only) priority to retain. Addison Reed had a fine year, but the team will have a bullpen consisting of solid arms going into next year behind Kimbrel, such as Smith, Thornburg, Maddox, Barnes, Kelly, and Price (if you include him). I don’t see the need to get involved in bidding for Reed when they have more-than-serviceable depth in the bullpen and great needs at several other areas.
Boston, like practically every other team in baseball, has positions at which they’d probably “like to upgrade”, but don’t have necessarily a glaring weakness. Would they love it if their catchers’ combined OPS was better than 20th in baseball? Of course, but they’ll take it because Sandy Leon was one of the best defensive catchers in the league this season. Do they likely ponder what would have happened if Bogaerts’ bat had been solid enough to once again overshadow his issues at shortstop? Could they be so lucky as to have had Jackie Bradley Jr. not suddenly forget how to hit, going from an .853 OPS in the first half to an eyesore .579 after the All-Star Break, accompanied by a 26.3% strikeout rate and a 51 wRC+?
In short, it’s not positional weaknesses that are holding down Boston. There are fundamental deficiencies to this roster. Perhaps most notably, their lack of ability to get power in key situations. 26th in slugging percentage, 22nd in wRC+, and 28th in ISO (a measure of raw power and ability to hit for extra bases) are just a few of the statistics that show exactly how much Boston struggled with getting pop from their lineup, especially in a season that was one of the most power-heavy campaigns in over a decade for this game.
Of course, the free agent market is rather dry this offseason, and it’s not like Boston has the prospects to go shell out for a Josh Donaldson or a Manny Machado (not that Mark Shapiro or Dan Duquette would necessarily deal either player, much less to Boston) on the trade market. As a result, Boston would probably have to look to a franchise who is looking to move a young slugger in a salary dump, rather than seeking top prospects.
Mr. Dombrowski, I advise you: take your trade negotiations to South Beach.
I have yet to find a more perfect mutual fit for Giancarlo Stanton than the Boston Red Sox. Sure, I can see arguments for maybe the Cardinals, the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks and the Rangers. On the whole, however, I like the fit in Boston the best. For starters, I don’t see St. Louis absorbing the financial burden of which Miami seeks to be rid. I don’t love his fit in Los Angeles because I don’t think, even for Stanton, that LA wants to A) absorb a ton more money when they have yet to finish the job at the astronomical levels at which they already find themselves, B) displace and/or trade Yasiel Puig, a polarizing figure though seemingly a fan-favorite to Dodger faithful. Arizona could be a dark-horse, but they will soon find themselves tasked with managing the expiring contracts of several key contributors, including Paul Goldschmidt, AJ Pollock, Patrick Corbin, Jake Lamb, Robbie Ray, Chris Owings, among others. For a midsize-market team, I like the idea better for them of trying to re-sign JD Martinez, rather than splurging for Giancarlo.
For Boston, it makes great sense. They likely get to keep at least one of Travis and Groome, get the power bat they desperately need in their lineup for the next 10 years, give the clubhouse a jolt of excitement it appeared to be lacking time and again in 2017, and give the team the “face” it lacked in 2017 after they failed to replace David Ortiz, in the lineup and in the clubhouse. Stanton may even slot right in at DH to preserve his health and ability for as long as possible. Imagine a lineup with Bradley Jr, Betts, Stanton, Benintendi, Devers, Bogaerts, Travis/Ramirez, Pedroia, and Leon. That seems to look significantly more potent than what was trotted out this season. I would imagine Boston tries hard to find a taker for Ramirez this offseason, but I think either they get a salary dump by moving him, or they use Travis to get a major piece, like Stanton or a pitcher perhaps. Either way, it’s hard for me to see Travis and Ramirez both in the Red Sox organization to start the 2018 season. If rumors are to be believed, then perhaps Stanton wouldn’t want to waive his no-trade clause to join the Red Sox. It’s been reported that he would only want to play for a team based near his family in California. Still, he’ll be asked to seriously consider any offer that’s made to Miami’s liking, and a contending franchise with the history of the Red Sox and the city of Boston could be enough to entice Stanton.
What it would cost is impossible to pinpoint, since the last player traded that can even be compared to Stanton is probably Alex Rodriguez after the 2003 season. I would guess the Red Sox would assume what they deemed to be his market value. For example, when Texas was dumping Alex Rodriguez’s contract, New York assumed $112 million of the $179 million that remained on the deal. In addition, however, Texas also received Alfonso Soriano (and Joaquin Arias). I would imagine that, in lieu of a prospect of Soriano’s caliber, Miami would be looking for a team to assume significantly more than 63% of his contract. I believe 85% seems reasonable – Miami would probably have to eat at least 10-15% of the deal if they have any hope of also getting an even-decent prospect in return. As of right now the contract is a 10-year, $285 million agreement. If Boston would eat, say, $255 million of that, perhaps they would have Miami willing to eat $3 million per year for the next 10 years to get a potential solid position prospect like Michael Chavis and perhaps a high-upside pitcher such as Mike Shawaryn to get a package started. Either that, or perhaps they could include a prospect with a player like Benintendi/Bradley/Devers and assume less of the money owed to Stanton.
That’s all speculation, of course, but I have yet to come across a fit that would be as two-way beneficial as Giancarlo Stanton in a Red Sox uniform. What we know so far: the King of Bombs is on the block, and Boston’s “Domb-Bomb” is on the clock to bolster his roster and not fall short of success for the fifth consecutive year. Until we know for sure where he ends up this offseason, it’s worth speculation what the Fish will do, if only for the halibut.