The Boston Red Sox have stumbled out of the gates in the second half, losing all six games by a combined 34-9 score. Boston has fallen deep into last place and are now 11 games out of first in the AL East. The 2015 season is effectively over and it is time to start thinking about next year. It is very likely that the Sox will finish in last place for the third time in four years. This is the continuation of a trend that began in September 2011, took a brief sabbatical in 2013 and has continued ever since with no ending in sight. The 2013 World Series championship is looking more and more like an aberration with each game the 2015 team plays.
Will the future be better?
It doesn’t appear that the 2016 season and near future will be much better than it is now due to the youth and financial constraints that the team will deal with in the upcoming seasons. The Red Sox are a mixture of young talented players that aren’t quite ready for stardom and overpaid veterans that can’t be unloaded due to their contracts.
The Red Sox are a big market team and are one of a handful of teams that can approach the $200 million mark in payroll each season. However, they still have a budget and the Sox put themselves in a bad financial position in the next few years with a series of reactionary moves due to their last place finish in 2014. The Red Sox management reacted like a fat rich person that tried to cover up their problems by throwing money at them. The team overreached for players like Rusney Castillo, Rick Porcello, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. The Sox are committed to all four of these underperforming players through the 2019 season. The team will commit around $70 million dollars to them annually for the next four seasons. There is no doubt that management would like a do over and get rid of these contracts now if they had the opportunity. However, it is very unlikely that they will be relieved of these financial constraints the way the Dodgers bailed them out of the Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford contracts in 2012.
How will the 2016 team look like?
The Red Sox have too much money tied up at second base, third base, left field and utility outfield positions. They won’t be able to move the contracts of Dustin Pedroia, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez or Allen Craig if they wanted to do so. The Red Sox like what they see in their young talent like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Blake Swihart and probably won’t be making changes at shortstop, center field and catcher. The Sox will also want to hold onto their productive veteran players and will likely exercise the options of David Ortiz and Clay Buchholtz. If the Sox exercise those options, the team will have over $126 million committed to ten players in 2016.
How will the Sox change their makeup?
The Sox will probably sign a first baseman when Mike Napoli’s contract expires after this season. The Red Sox don’t have much depth in their starting rotation and are without the services of an ace at this time. They will probably sign two starting pitchers given their unreliability in this area. If they want to make a run at Johnny Cueto, David Price or Zach Greinke this offseason, they will need to commit at least $25 million annually to get one of them. They will probably also need to spend around $15 million annually to sign a number two or three starter. The Red Sox will also need to fill out their roster with a few bullpen signings.
When will the Red Sox get better?
The Sox do have some hope in a few years from now as long as they don’t mortgage their future. Most of the best teams in baseball today like the Giants, Royals, Cardinals and Pirates were developed from within instead of buying high priced free agents. The most positive area on the 2015 Red Sox has been the emergence of younger players that were developed in the farm system like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox should also have a good young catcher going forward between Blake Swihart and Christian Vasquez, who were also developed from within. The Sox farm system is ranked in the top 5 in baseball by most publications and is stocked with very good prospects. The list of prospects includes Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, Manuel Margot, Henry Owens and Brian Johnson, who just made his major league debut last night. These players will take several years of development to form a nucleus that is championship caliber, assuming that they pan out. The Boston fan base may be more patient then it was a decade ago but they will demand better results in 2016. The management of the team may be pressured into trading some of their young chips in an attempt to become competitive again next season. The team’s best course of action would be to stay patient. The Red Sox have several holes and won’t be great again overnight. The front office and fan base needs to give the young players time to develop and form a competitive team for the foreseeable future instead of going for a quick fix.