Happy New Year, everyone. As we sit around nursing our hangovers — unless you are a responsible, functioning adult, but where’s the fun in that? — this is generally the day we think about our New Years Resolutions and cry at the work we’ve laid out for ourselves. Maybe you’re going to start hitting the gym everday, or maybe you’re going to cut out sugar, or maybe you’re going to quit smoking. Maybe, after last night, you’ve sworn off drinking. Whatever it is, it always seems a lot easier to accomplish until it’s actually time to follow through.
Along these same lines, the flipping of the calendar represents a bit of a shift in the baseball offseason. This year is certainly a little bit different with so many big names left without a team, but January is generally the month when we really start looking forward to the new season. It is also when publications like this very site make resolutions for whatever it is they happen to cover, which would be the Red Sox in our case. It is a cheap, lazy, easy idea for some of that sweet, sweet content we all desire. So, yeah, I’m going to do that too. I feel a little bad about it, if it makes you feel any better.
Sign J.D. Martinez
So, we’ll start with the task that should be completed the earliest. The Red Sox came into this offseason looking for a big bat to sign, and while Mitch Moreland does fill a potential hole at first base he doesn’t really qualify as a middle-of-the-order bat. As the roster stands now, the Red Sox could enter the year with Hanley Ramirez as their everyday designated hitter, but that’s not something many of us would feel great about. J.D. Martinez is one of the very best hitters in baseball, entering his age-30 season and fits perfectly in the middle of the Red Sox lineup. There are certainly concerns here, and I wouldn’t want to give him more than five years, but the match is just too perfect to pass on. Before camp starts, Martinez should be on this Red Sox roster.
Find a new approach at the plate
While the 2017 season was an overall success for the Red Sox, that was mostly because of the pitching. We spent most of the year pulling our hair out over the lack of punch coming from the lineup. Much of that, I would contest, was some bad luck and having a bunch of guys going through down years at the same time. At the same time, whenever a large group of players regress all at once, there is probably something else going on as well. The Red Sox and their new coaching staff led by Alex Cora need to find a way to counteract whatever that cause was. The two biggest suggestions would be to try getting more lift on the ball and to be more aggressive early in counts. We discussed the latter here. As for the lift point, the launch angle revolution is cited as one of the many reasons for the home run boom across the league, and the Red Sox were not participants. This is a team that had some of its key hitters carry ground ball rates above or around 50 percent and a lineup that, as a unit, finished in the upper-third of the league in ground ball rate and the lower-third in fly-ball rate. These adjustments could make a world of different in 2018.
Keep the starters fresh all season long
As the end of the year came along, the Red Sox found another issue with their team beyond the lineup. Their big pitchers, specifically Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz, couldn’t keep their performance up throughout the whole season and were showing clear signs of fatigue. Cora and his staff need to find a new strategy to prevent that from happening again. Whether its working a sixth starter in more often or giving his starters shorter leashes early in the year, the Red Sox need their best pitchers to pitch up to their potential late in the year if they want to accomplish their 2018 goals of winning a championship.
Extend Mookie Betts
Here we have what I would consider both the most unlikely and most important resolution for this team in the upcoming year. Obviously, the Red Sox would extend Betts if they could, and these things are a two-way street. Still, the front office needs to keep this at the top of their priority list for the foreseeable future. He’s not the only extension candidate on the roster, but he’s the most important one. Betts is the best player on the team and something has gone horribly wrong if he’s anything besides the face of the Boston Red Sox for the next decade. The earlier they can ensure that will happen, the better.
Improve the left side of the infield’s defense
No, this does not mean they have to go out and trade for Manny Machado or anything like that, though I’m not necessarily opposed either. Really, the more important and more realistic way to accomplish this resolution would be to simply find a way to coach Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts into better defenders. The Red Sox don’t need either player to be Gold Glovers, but both were really rough when they played in 2017. Fortunately, both have the skills to be at least passable at their respective positions with the potential for even more.
Find a consistent setup man behind Craig Kimbrel
Boston’s bullpen was mostly incredible in 2017 and a major reason they were able to win so many games despite a lackluster offense. Craig Kimbrel in particular was on another level, but the whole group was impressive. That being said, it was something of a revolving door in the eighth inning before Addison Reed came aboard, and even he wasn’t that consistent. Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly served the role at other points, but also had some really frustrating moments. This year, the Red Sox could really use someone to step up and take that role. Carson Smith is probably the favorite, but Tyler Thornburg has the talent as well, and perhaps they could look outside the organization for more help. Not only would someone stepping up help the 2018 team, but it’d also make it easier for the Red Sox to walk away from Kimbrel in 2019 if his asking price in free agency is too high.
Win the World Series