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The Flyby - Keep On Waitin’ on the World to Change

So begins the waiting game.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
Xander Bogaerts is pretty awesome. He’s hitting .325/.381/.377. The power isn’t there yet, but he’s being pesky, and that’s enough for the time being.
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

This past week, I asked you all to list how you would fix the Red Sox offense. To absolutely no one’s surprise, the most common answer was basically to do nothing. When something was proposed, it was generally to add a little more power to the lineup. It was an expected result, but not an unwelcome one. Given the amount of responses (including one surprise that I’m super excited I get to reveal), I’m not going to go in-depth with my responses this week. Just know I read all your pieces, and they are excellent. Keep up the good work, and keep being excellent people in general.

The first user to respond makes their return after a successful first week. User gosawks had this to say about the offense.

He notes the obvious, and simple answer of “don’t mess with anything”, and it makes a lot of sense. It’s a logical argument, and one that doesn’t require a whole lot of work to make work.

They do, however, make an appeal to me that is very much appreciated, and offer a solution that isn’t waiting. I love when someone goes against the grain and plays Devil’s Advocate, even if it isn’t their viewpoint in truth - provided of course it is well thought out. He offers three scenarios of note.

In his first, he suggests throwing a ton of money at David Ortiz. Ignoring the fact he was walking wounded basically, and has stumps for feet right now, he’d still probably be the best or second-best hitter on this team. With how weak the offense has looked in some games this year, his presence would be very welcome. But again, stumps. Also, he should enjoy his retirement, and not be made into a baseball robot that never gets to rest.

Division Series - Cleveland Indians v Boston Red Sox - Game Three
Nope. Not happening.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

I’m going to pass over his second scenario, because I believe it’s intertwined with his third scenario, which involves solving the issue internally. Specifically, he pitches moving Sandy Leon (who I would not shed tears over losing) for Justin Smoak (who I might shed tears over gaining), and improving at third by trading for Adam Duvall. Now, Duvall is a fantastic player, but he has about as much experience at third base this year (and last) as I do (ok, he has 3 more games of experience since the start of 2016 at third base).

While the offensive boost would be valuable, I’m not sure I’m open to trusting third base to Duvall, a player with such limited major league experience at the position. What really scares me there, beyond the loss in defensive value (or is it a loss? Marco Hernandez has looked lost there, recently), is the potential cost. He lists four trade targets. I won’t pretend to know trade value, but there’s one player in that list I do not want to part with.

Baltimore Orioles v Cincinnati Reds
Adam Duvall is actually an incredible athlete. Maybe he could play third, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Either way, he’s a possibility that is worth discussing, if briefly.
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

He lists off Brian Bogusevic, Fernando Abad, Chris Young, and Shaun Anderson as the package it would take to acquire Duvall. Now, those first three names are fine. They aren’t worth enough without Anderson’s involvement, obviously. You could comfortably get rid of any of those players (maybe with the exception of Young) and emerge a better team for it. But I caution against moving Anderson.

In 27.2 IP, he has walked 7 batters, and struck out 24. He has kept the opposition to a 0.98 ERA. Essentially, he’s looked nigh impossible to hit, and a large part of that is his insane cutter. It’s not quite Rivera-esque, but it might be the single best developed pitch in the Red Sox farm system. He’s not going to get far as a one pitch starter, obviously, but that’s not where his repertoire ends. He boasts a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup on top of that, which all have a decent level of deception to them. Anderson, with the plentiful arms in the system, may be relegated to the bullpen. But we’ve seen what a pitcher with one dominant pitch can do in the bullpen. Imagine a pitcher with one dominant pitch and four other average level pitches he can go to in a pinch.

He proposes this lineup for the beginning of June:

2B Pedroia

LF Benintendi

RF Betts

DH Smoak

3B Duvall

1B Ramirez/Moreland

SS Bogaerts

CF Bradley Jr.

C Vazquez/Swihart

Bench: Swihart/Vazquez, Holt, Ramirez/Moreland/Smoak, d’Arnaud/Sandoval

Ignoring the Duvall at third issue (let’s pretend it goes well), I’m not sure this lineup is enough of an improvement to justify the move of Anderson and Chris Young (who is something of an unsung hero off the bench).

It’s definitely food for thought though, and could be something to revisit, if it turns out the Reds convert him to third base, and he ends up fine.

Another poster, tomisphere, believes that the best option is to wait as well. If you are going to read any one FanPost on this topic, I recommend you make it this one, as tomisphere backs up his thoughts with great factual evidence, and statistical proof.

Essentially, he believes the offense is here, it’s just not getting the results it should be expecting. And in a way, he has already been proven semi-right, if this weekend’s games are any indication of the offensive firepower of this team. Of course, there’s a different issue on display, but that’s an argument for a different prompt.

More importantly, and tangibly, he suggests that Christian Vazquez supplant Sandy Leon as the starter, and I frankly could not agree more. The main reason you would start Leon over Vazquez is the offensive firepower of Leon. However, he has been ice cold, and hasn’t really provided the offensive support he needs to, to stay over CV.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Vazquez has earned the starting spot. Scenes like what is pictured above could be more frequent with him behind the plate, especially if he can continue to hit even close to his current torrid pace.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Vazquez’s value as a defensive backstop is great enough that even when his bat comes back down to Earth, he’ll remain a viable option, due to the production expectations out of the catcher slot.

Vazquez’s offense has been interesting this year. He’s not walking at all, and he’s striking out a bit more than I would personally like, but he’s hitting for a ton of power, and getting solid contact on the ball, unlike anything we’ve seen from him in years past. The line drive rate cannot be sustained, so his numbers will come crashing down, especially when you factor in his Joey Votto-esque ability to not pop-up any baseballs on the infield thus far.

He’s going to regress, this much seems doubtless, but Vazquez has earned the starting job, and Leon has lost it.

The last thing tomisphere recommends is an improvement at third base. He doesn’t pitch an immediate answer, and that’s for the best. You lose nothing by waiting a little bit longer to see what Rafael Devers and Sam Travis are (Travis would be highly improbable to ever see a game at third base, for obvious reasons). If Devers isn’t playing at a high enough level to pull an Andrew Benintendi, then you can go out and acquire a cheap half-year rental. The most obvious, big-bat, third baseman on the market is Todd Frazier. He’s off to a slow start, however, which might limit the Red Sox interest. So instead, I’ll pitch a name in tomisphere’s stead: Mike Moustakas.

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins
I’d love to see Mike Moustakas in Boston. I’m not sure it’s particularly likely, but I believe him to be the bat we want the most. The question is what cost we’d have to pay, especially since we’d likely have to explore ways to move Pablo Sandoval.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Moustakas, while never quite attaining the sky high promise that seemed to be guaranteed by prospect lovers all over during his minor league days, is still quite a good ballplayer, and he’s definitely the power bat the Sox could use at the hot corner. What aids this possibility, is the Royals playing so poorly to start their 2017. Last in the AL Central, at an 8-16 record, it has been about as bad for them out of the gate as the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Royals can still climb back into it (so can the Jays, really, but with how competitive the East is, it’s going to be tough), so it’s entirely possible this avenue disappears shortly. For now, the perfect trade opportunity appears to be for the man they call “Moose”.

Now, I’m no English major, I don’t even do a whole lot of reading or writing outside of what I do for OverTheMonster. But Theodore Peanut Butter shares what I believe to be a very well crafted, artsy take.

Historically speaking, Peanut Butter has a point, the team you see in April isn’t always the team you see at the end of the season. For example, I don’t believe the Orioles and Yankees juggernauts are going to continue to run roughshod over all of baseball. Nor do I believe our team is going to continue to lack for run support.

Lightning will strike. All it takes is one Song of Storms (19 innings baby!) and the season is on.

As always, I want to thank the OTM Staff for continuing to add their own input. It makes the Flyby more interesting, and adds a lot of content that might not be big enough for its own article.

Mike Carlucci

The biggest way to help the Red Sox offense is to stop seeing pitchers like Bundy, Tanaka, Severino Good pitchers having good seasons. Thankfully Jake Arrieta and John Lackey weren't their typical selves and Jon Lester didn't pitch over the weekend - and Boston took two out of three against Chicago.

But...while we're here...

The group of outfielders is fine. The infield is set, more or less. Replacing Pablo Sandoval or Mitch Moreland - isn't something for May. It's something to look at over the summer. Had the team pursued Edwin Encarnacion....we'll never know.

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox
The Sox passed on pursuing Encarnacion. This probably helped make the other moves that needed to be made, but still, people will probably wonder what could have been. It’s worth noting that Encarnacion is only hitting .213/.349/.360 in 2017.
Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Pablo Sandoval is the nut to crack. Before succumbing to a knee injury, the Panda was showing some power - with three home runs in 17 games - but also had just 10 other hits and 13 strikeouts against just five walks. Sandoval can't be traded, unless he's a salary dump. But is anyone in the system any better? Marco Hernandez? Brock Holt? Probably not. Sandoval has a track record of performance and until Devers is ready is probably the best choice, when healthy, to man third base.

Hanley Ramirez could have been a third base solution a few years ago, but after the left field conversion and his swap to DH this season, revisiting a Hanley position change scenario isn't something anyone wants to see.

Moreland is what he is: a stopgap. If a first base deal shows up in July and he's not working out, explore it. He's not part of the long-term plan like Mookie, Bogaerts, etc.

So Rafael Devers. He's 20 years old and 16 games into his Double A career. That's too early to anticipate a call up this season, although late in the year you never know.

It's May. It's early. Give the offense some time. There just isn't much to shake up and this week's home run coming out party is the best sign of that.

Phil Neuffer

The Red Sox are last in the American League in home runs with 15 total. The easy fix to the recent offensive struggles, especially the frustrating lack of runs when Chris Sale pitches, is to hit more homers. But that is much easier said than done. Although players like Jose Bautista enjoyed power boosts with a slight tweak to their swings, that isn’t a solution that can turn an entire team around.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox
When you read this, it will be Chris Sale day. Do we need a better excuse to have a picture of Chris Sale?
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Now, before we get entirely doom and gloom about the power shortage, a lot of the issue has been guys you expect to hit homers just aren’t. Mookie Betts has two after hitting 31 last season, Hanley Ramirez had only one before this past weekend and Xander Bogaerts is still homer-less after a month of baseball. At some point, these guys are going to find the seats. Ramirez appears to be on his way after two monster shots against the Cubs. You can also expect Mitch Moreland to get a few more, as he is a consistent 20-home run guy and Andrew Benintendi has 20-homer pop as well. Patience alone may be the best strategy.

However, that doesn’t address the fact that the Red Sox are without the big run producer that was David Ortiz. There’s no way to bring one in right now, as a leaky bullpen, injured rotation, thin bench and gutted farm system mean Boston doesn’t have the resources to just go steal a slugger. So if home runs are not coming anytime soon the key is going to come on the basepaths. Although Betts is the only really dangerous stolen base threat, there are enough base stealers on the roster to get the pinballs moving and get the runs flowing. Betts has snagged at least 20 steals in back-to-back seasons, Bogaerts has had at least 10, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s career high is only nine but he has wheels and Benintendi is a good base runner. Using that to their advantage by being aggressive could prove effective.

This strategy comes with disadvantages, as it puts valuable baserunners at risk, which is not something you want when your offense is already struggling. However, until the normal homer-hitters get hot or a big power bat emerges in the minors (keeping my fingers crossed for Sam Travis), learning to force the issue would be prudent.

Matt Collins

The Red Sox offense has been frustrating to watch, I will not deny that. It’s easy to say that it will get better, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasurable to watch them struggle to score and ground into double play after double play. With that being said… will get better.

Honestly, there is just too much talent for them to keep struggling so much. Mookie Betts is still one of the best players in baseball. Andrew Benintendi is living up to expectations. Hanley Ramirez is starting to show power again and should continue. Xander Bogaerts has shown no semblance of power, but even despite that he’s been able to get on base with single after single. Jackie Bradley always goes through streaks.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Jackie Bradley Jr goes from hot to cold to hot to cold, and we might be one JBJ hot-streak away from busting out of the offensive slump that claimed the team in April.
Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

There are certainly excuses to dole out, but they each have a reasonable counter. They have definitely played tough pitchers, but then they also struggled to score off Jayson Aquino. The weather hasn’t been conducive to offense, but their opponents are playing in the same weather conditions. To me, it’s just a matter of waiting for everyone to get going. Lineup shakeups can sometimes speed that process up, but I’m not sure I’d do anything. It’s just a matter of waiting out the slumps.

Max Marcovitch

OOLF note - At this time, I’d like to introduce Max Marcovitch. He’s a new writer for OTM, who is beginning this week. I’d like anyone reading this to give him a big ol’ OTM welcome. I’m excited to see what he brings to our staff. Here is his submission for this week’s prompt:

It’s hard to preach patience when the Red Sox have scored in just seven of their last 43 innings and are still last in baseball in home runs. But I think patience is the play for now. Even if Farrell was clamoring to make a major move, I’m not sure what he could feasibly do. Jackie Bradley Jr. is the only starter noticeably underachieving, and it will take a whole lot more for him to get benched, for obvious reasons. Marco Hernandez could conceivably take Pablo Sandoval’s spot when Sandoval comes off the disabled list (more on this in the coming days), but I’m not as high on this move as some others may be -- doing so would diminish Hernandez’s utility value, a la Brock Holt in left field.

The power is an issue. Without David Ortiz, the lack of a fear factor in the middle of the order, at the least, has undeniably left a significant void. It’s still too early to make any major moves outside the organization, and the in-house cupboard is pretty bare. But I think Hanley Ramirez will eventually fill this role (or, like, 80% of this role) in the coming months. As he has started showing recently, the power will come, and if he can stay healthy -- something the DH slot will aid with -- he will hit and he will hit for power.

Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox
If the Sox are going to mitigate the loss of Big Papi, Hanley makes the most sense as the heir apparent in Boston. His propensity for skyscraper level shots makes him a clear power threat on the team.
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

It’s easy to overreact to a few bad games in April, and even easier to react to Bogaerts blaming Ortiz’ absence for the team’s issues. But the macro outlook on this lineup is still positive. It’s still a lineup crawling with talent, that figures to be a top-10 lineup in baseball when all is said and done.

With how many words have been put into this post, I believe that my own feelings should have been made clear, so I will opt out of responding with a piece of my own this week. Don’t take this to mean I want less participation, I’m excited that we’ve gotten to the point where I feel I can skip a week.

Again, I want to extend my own welcome to Max Marcovitch, and hope he enjoys his stay with us.

See you all on Friday!