With spring training a week away, the Red Sox will head to St. Petersburg, Florida, to begin the long journey that they hope will end with a World Series championship.
With questions that still need answering and holes to fill in the roster, fans will get a better understanding of where the team stands by Opening Day.
The Red Sox are the defending American League East champions but have found themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to deep playoff runs the last two seasons.
There are some issues that need to be addressed this spring, such as their lack of power and search for a power bat, who will man the utility role and filling the holes in the bullpen and rotation.
First let’s look at the elephant in the room, power. The Red Sox were 27th in the league in home runs. Though offensive production was down, due to inconsistent play and injuries, the team managed to score 785 runs this past season, it was still evident that the Sox need a big power bat in the middle of their lineup. Power has been absent since the retirement of iconic designated hitter David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
Free agent JD Martinez is an option for the Sox. Martinez is a major power threat, who hit 46 home runs last season, splitting time between the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. 29 of those home runs can in just 60 games with the Diamondbacks.
Unfortunately, the Sox find themselves in a deadlock with Martinez’s agent Scott Boras over terms of a potential deal. The Sox have offered five years and $125 million. Boras is looking for seven years and at least $200+ million but most likely accept a six-year deal around $180 million.
The Sox have other options with less talented players like free agent first baseman’s Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison for their designated hitter role but both players are less effective offensively then Martinez.
A trade is also an option but with a depleted farm system and very few high caliber prospects, deal though not ruled out, is less likely.
Next, let’s look at the utility role. One choice is already in-house, Brock Holt. Holt is a fan favorite, who plays nearly every position and has the potential to play every day and provide solid defense and average offense, though he can be streaky. Holt had a very inconsistent and disappointing due to injury and a battle with virago.
The next option is to bring back super utility player Eduardo Nunez. Nunez was acquired at the trade deadline from the San Francisco Giants. Nunez was a major part of the team clinching the AL East title. Unfortunately, a knee injury slowed him down late in the season and took him out of the ALDS against the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros.
Nunez, like Holt, can play a variety of positions and is much better offensively then Holt. Nunez is definitely a player the Sox want back, though they are not alone in the pursuit of Nunez’s services.
Again a trade is an option and a player that could be in play for the Sox is Pittsburgh Pirates utility man Josh Harrison. Harrison is an above average player, who like Holt and Nunez, play multiple positions.
Whichever way the Sox decide to go the utility role will be a pivotal spot on the roster. Especially with superstar second baseman Dusting Pedroia possibly missing time early in the season after offseason knee surgery.
Pitching is another area that could be addressed. With open spots in the rotation and bullpen, there will be a healthy competition for those spots.
Aside from Ace Chris Sale, Closer Craig Kimbrel and Starter Drew Pomeranz, the pitching staff a many question marks due Due to injuries to starting pitchers David Price, knuckleballer Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez. Starter Rick Porcello had a very inconsistent year after winning the 2016 AL Cy Young award.
With Price and Wright presumably healthy and Porcello looking to regain Cy Young form, the Sox are poised to have a formidable rotation. Though Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to miss the beginning of the season because he is recovering from offseason surgery, the Sox have pieces to fill in until he gets healthy. Of course, another option is to sign a starter off the market. Veteran starters Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn are available. Both starters are experienced and both are inning eaters that can provide relief to the bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, this is another area to watch this spring. With most of the bullpen set, there are still a few spots still open. A left-handed reliever spot is open and could be filled from within. Sox prospects Jalen Beeks and Brian Johnson are players that could fill that role. Free agent Tony Watson is another option. Watson spent last season with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Sox do have two pitchers who are healthy and looking to make an impact. Relievers Carson Smith, who returned late in the season, is looking to return to pre-injury form. He was a dominant reliever/closer for the Seattle Mariners before being traded to the Sox in 2016. He pitched two innings before going down with an injury, which led to Tommy John Surgery. The other being Tyler Thornburg.
Thornburg was acquired last offseason from the Milwaukee Brewers. Thornburg was injured in spring training and missed the entire season due to surgery after the sustained injury. Thornburg served as a late-inning reliever and spot closer for the Brewers. Thornburg will look to rebound and be a strong opinion for the Sox.
With so many questions still left unanswered, spring training will be extremely important to see where this team stand before opening day. The Sox coaches and management have to make vital decisions on whether to stand pat with who is already on the roster or to add players to elevate the team to the next level.
Regardless of what comes to fruition this spring, one thing is certain. The Sox are ready and coming to push for the World Series championship.