Offseason a ‘Slap in the Face’ to Red Sox Fans

Offseason a ‘Slap in the Face’ to Red Sox Fans

by March 17, 2022 0 comments

Two wins. That’s how many more the Boston Red Sox needed to make the World Series in 2021. Optimism rained down on the streets of Boston that the organization may be closer to a legitimate contender than they thought, and sooner, too. It had not even been two turns of the calendar since the team traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. However, they had the right group that believed and fought for each other, but frankly, were not talented enough to have a date to the big dance.

A lot of that group is returning. While subtractions such as Hunter Renfroe, Adam Ottavino and Kyle Schwarber will sting, there were plenty of worthy upgrades on the free-agent market. Boston was a couple of moves away from cementing themselves as a contender again in 2022. Instead, they took a significant step backward.

It has not been all bad for CBO Chaim Bloom and company, as signing Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and James Paxton to shore up starting pitching depth was a stroke of genius. Also, adding veteran southpaws Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm on tax-friendly deals is a double-positive for bullpen depth, without investing too much. Taking on Jackie Bradley Jr.‘s exceedingly high salary to get two solid prospects in exchange for selling Renfroe at an all-time high is a justifiably good move. However, the Red Sox had significant detriments last season. Offense and infield defense went unaddressed.

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Infield Defense

Last season, the Boston infield ranked dead-last in outs above average (OAA) with -35. They also ranked last in runs prevented with -26. Not only have they not responded with signing any free agent infielders, they also never approached shortstop Xander Bogaerts about potentially converting to second base.

In fairness to Bogaerts, his defense improved drastically in the second half last season. The problem? He still posted -5 defensive runs saved (DRS) and -9 OAA. On the other hand, his ultimate zone rating (UZR) was positive. While it is good that he is reliable when the ball enters his zone, a shortstop can’t have -2.2 range runs (RngR).

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

– Albert Einstein

Bogaerts and third baseman Rafael Devers have anchored the left side of Boston’s infield full-time since 2019. During that period, Bogaerts has -18 DRS and -21 OAA. Devers had an outlier season in 2019, posting 17 OAA. But he’s undone it all since, posting -17 OAA since 2020 to couple his -22 DRS since 2019. Continuing to trot those two out there next to each other neither addressing nor considering a change is malpractice. As it stands, Christian Arroyo, who has never played more than 57 games in a season, is Boston’s best defensive infielder. With Carlos Correa and Trevor Story on the market, there’s no excuse in not entertaining one of them at shortstop and moving Bogaerts to second.

Offense

Boston led the ALCS 2-1 over the Houston Astros last year. They took a 2-1 first-inning lead in Game 4 before scoring just one run over the next 26 innings, losing the remaining three games and the series. Offensive production should have been a priority this winter. While the owner-imposed lockout knocked out valuable recruiting and negotiation time, Boston not only lost Kyle Schwarber (161 wRC+ in 41 games for Boston) to the Phillies, but also traded Renfroe to Milwaukee for Bradley Jr. and his 35 wRC+ in 2021. Right now, the Red Sox lineup is poised to have Bradley Jr. as the everyday right fielder. Here is how the offense looks, as currently constructed.

Note: The number in parentheses is their ZiPS 2022 projected wRC+.

Boston had four hitters achieve a 120 or better wRC+ and 150 plate appearances for the team. They’re projected to have that number cut in half this season, with the number of impact bats on the market dwindling by the minute.

Financial situation

Bloom said Boston was in a better position to make a significant, financially strenuous signing last offseason. That seems hard to believe, given the fact that –– assuming Bogaerts opts out –– they’ll have north of $80 million coming off of the books after the season. J.D. Martinez‘s contract expires. Nathan Eovaldi‘s does too. Price’s contract (which Boston is still on the hook for 50 percent of) will, too. Then there’s Bradley Jr.’s $11 million and Bogaerts’ $20 million.

That’s a significant sum of money coming off of the books, with top prospects Triston Casas, Jeter Downs and Brayan Bello getting another year of development, pushing toward MLB consideration barring a significant step back. There are options that, while emotional decisions loomed, made it so retaining Eovaldi or Martinez was not necessary.

Couple what Bloom said with President and CEO Sam Kennedy said on Tuesday, that there was no rule in place that said they could not exceed the CBT, and you have inconsistencies in logic. Signing Correa, Story or even Freddie Freeman are entirely plausible, they just don’t want to. Boston was so close to making the Fall Classic in 2021. This offseason, however, shows signs they are content taking a step back and allowing Toronto to usurp them. Even the Yankees and Rays made strides, albeit the former’s weren’t to the approval of many fans.

This offseason has been a major slap in the face to Red Sox fans that believe their championship window should’ve included 2022. There is still time to make an impact move, though time is running short. And there should be long-term faith in Bloom to make the Red Sox a formidable organization. In the short term, things look exceedingly bleak for the AL runner-up from a year ago.


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