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The Red Sox have depth to preserve their veterans

The Red Sox will want to keep their older players fresh through the entire season, and have the bench players to make it happen.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about the upcoming Red Sox season, and their roster really isn’t even close to being completed. Most of those reasons are tangentially related to their strong finish to the season. Most of the reasons they went on that strong run to finish the season was production from their young players. Ipso facto, most of the reasons to be excited for the 2016 season include Boston’s young players. Even with all of the exciting, youthful talent on the roster, the Red Sox will continue to rely on a fair amount of veteran talent, and with veteran talent comes increased risk of injury and general fatigue. As such, one of John Farrell’s biggest challenges next year will be to find a good balance of play and rest for his best older players.

This is one of the most underrated parts of being a major-league manager. The baseball season is a grind that is unheard of in other sports, with games being played almost everyday and players suffering from low-key wear-and-tear injuries rather than major injuries like those suffered in sports like football. The goal, of course, is to play well into October, and in order to do that a manager must properly rest his best players. Front offices need to build depth all over the roster to make this possible, and the Red Sox have done this in the most important areas. They’ll have plenty of guys who will need days off through the year, and they have the role in place to make that an easier task for Farrell.

We’ll start with Dustin Pedroia, who may top the list of Red Sox players who will need extra days in 2016. As Peter Abraham talked about in his column yesterday, Boston’s longtime second baseman has dealt with a plethora of injuries over the last couple seasons. Although his offense took a step back in the right direction in 2015, he was limited to just 93 games after missing 27 contests the year before. To make matters worse, he plays second base, a position that seems to hinder performance on aging players more than most others on a baseball diamond. To make matters even worse, Pedroia is not the type of player to tone down his style, instead playing at 100 percent (not 110 percent, because he’s merely human) on every pitch. All of this is to say Farrell will have to limit his time if he wants Pedroia to be close to his normal self down the stretch and (hopefully) in October. Fortunately, the Red Sox also have Brock Holt. While he’s known for being a super utility guy, his strongest position is second base, and Boston will be fine with him playing something around 20 games at the keystone while their starter takes a rest. Even beyond Holt, they have Deven Marrero and Marco Hernandez as additional depth, putting them in a good position there.


Maddie Meyer-Getty Images

Pedroia may be the most obvious player to watch for in this discussion, but he’s surely not he only one. Staying in the infield, both of the players manning the corner spots are likely to need a few extra days of rest in 2016. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval each missed some time due to injury in 2015, and are both veterans in this league by any reasonable definition. While the latter isn’t exactly old, he’s also not exactly young, he’s had some injury issues throughout his career, and his body type doesn't scream durability. Ramirez, meanwhile, battled some shoulder issues last year and has his own checkered injury history. Enter: Travis Shaw. Shaw burst onto the scene last year as one of the drivers behind the team’s strong August/September run and can play both corner infield spots. Although he won’t have an everyday spot, he could play 30-40 games stepping in these two even if they stay off the disabled list all year.

That’s not the only spot where Shaw should see playing time, either. In case you haven’t heard, the Red Sox have a slightly older designated hitter who will be playing his final season in 2016. Nothing would be a biggest buzzkill than that run ending early, making preservation extra important for David Ortiz. Even if DH isn’t the most demanding position, we’re talking about a 40-year-old who could use some stress free days. Shaw has the bat to step in for Ortiz when the time calls for it.

Moving to the other side of the ball, the Red Sox have some pitchers who they’d like to keep healthy as well. Obviously, when you think of Boston pitchers and health, Clay Buchholz comes to mind. In addition to him, they have Wade Miley and Rick Porcello, both of whom have been durable in their career but they also have some extra mileage on their arms. This doesn’t even take into account whatever new addition they bring in, which will likely be a veteran. While Farrell likely won’t skip their rotation spots all the time, the team has the depth to not take any chances with minor injuries to them. If one of the veteran starters feels some pain in their arm, they have the backup options to feel comfortable to put their veterans on a short DL stint. Henry Owens, Joe Kelly, Brian Johnson and Steven Wright all figure to start the year outside of the rotation, but could easily step in on a short-term basis without costing the team too much value.

Similar things can be said about the bullpen, who are built on three strong veterans in the back end who have been worked a lot in recent years. If the Red Sox are going to make a run next year, they’ll need Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel to all be available as much as possible. That means giving them time off so they aren’t fatigued when the most important time of the year rolls around. Their 40-man is littered with solid relievers who likely won’t start the year on the active roster, including Heath Hembree, Noe Ramirez and Pat Light.

It’s a lot easier said than done to keep veterans fresh through an entire season, and even the best managers will lose players to injuries through a season. Luckily, the Red Sox have depth almost everywhere on the roster to limit this risk. The one place not mentioned above is the outfield, somewhere they lack depth. However, they have three relatively youthful and versatile players filling those starting roles.

If Boston is going to make it to October, they’ll need strong seasons from their veterans. Part of making that happen is ensuring they get the proper rest. The front office has built the depth to make that possible, and now it’s on John Farrell to press all the right buttons to limit injury and fatigue to the roster’s key aging players.