Sunday is the last day on the calendar for the 2019 Red Sox, a bittersweet day. It’s the last day of Red Sox baseball, which is always sad, but it’s also officially time to start looking forward. Given the way this year has gone, any excuse to stop looking at 2019 will be welcome by many. This final day of the season, though, will be focused on individual accomplishments. Most notably, the entire team will be behind Eduardo Rodriguez as he looks for his twentieth win, a feat that would have seemed impossible even just a few months ago. On top of that, Rafael Devers is sitting at 198 hits. Simple math tells you he needs two to get to the 200 mark. These milestones won’t come close to undoing the disappointment that was this season, but it will be a nice ending to a not-so-nice year.
Hidden beyond the good vibes around those milestone chases, however, is that this is a profoundly sad day at Fenway. We’ve known for some time that this was going to be an offseason of change, though the extent to which has always been unclear. We still don’t really know what’s going to happen, but it was all but confirmed that things will be shaken up when the owners spoke to the media on Friday and revealed their goal of getting under the $208 million luxury tax figure. It’s impossible to get under that number without significant changes in the coming offseason. That means, excepting a few players here and there, we could be seeing the final game in a Red Sox uniform for a lot of players who have been here either for a long time, for the good times, or both.
We’ll start by ripping the bandaid off. I am still in denial that the team will actually do this, but there’s no doubt that it is looking more likely than ever that the Red Sox will be looking to trade Mookie Betts this winter. There will be plenty of time to talk about the absurdity of that in the coming weeks and months, but for now we just have to acknowledge the possibility. Sunday could be the last time we see Betts, the best Red Sox player since at least Yaz, as a hometown player at Fenway Park.
He is not the only star player who could be leaving, either. The team has already leaked the possibility that it’s an either/or situation with Betts and J.D. Martinez, though the latter holds the cards on his end. The slugger, of course, has an opt-out this winter in which he could re-enter free agency if he so chooses. I continue to go back-and-forth about whether or not he’ll actually do it, but it’s at least possible. Martinez has only been here two years, but his impact on the organization as the rock in the middle of a championship lineup and a mentor to the burgeoning stars who have fully blossomed this year cannot be overstated. I think I speak for everyone when I say I want one more dinger in case this is it.
Those are the two big names to whom we could be saying farewell on Sunday, but they certainly are not the only ones. There are three significant free agents for whom there are good cases to let walk, but who have had big impacts on the team. Rick Porcello seems to me anyway like a slam dunk change-of-scenery guy where both sides benefit from parting ways. That does not mean it will not be sad to see him leave. He has had all-time lows with this team, of course, but he also won a damn Cy Young (I don’t care if he probably didn’t deserve it or if it was a down year a Cy Young is a Cy Young is a Cy Young) and a World Series. His legacy in Boston cannot be denied, and I really hope he gets a relief appearance today so the Fenway crowd can say goodbye.
There’s also Mitch Moreland, whose signings were always met (including by me) with apathy but always seemed to come through with big swings when they were needed. There’s a chance he could be back, but with Michael Chavis and the upcoming arrival from Bobby Dalbec, the role could be more uncertain than what he’s looking for.
Finally, Brock Holt. This is the one that I am going to be most sad about. He is not the best player on this list, but dammit if he isn’t the most fun to root for. Holt’s tenure in Boston has been positively absurd in the best possible ways. From his unique role and versatility to his out-of-nowhere All-Star bid to his work in the community to his playoff heroics, it’s been impossible to root for Holt. He is probably my favorite player on the team, and as a free agent this winter there’s a good chance today will be his last in a Red Sox uniform. There’s a lot of goodbyes today, but I will not be the least bit surprised if Holt gets the loudest cheer from the Boston crowd.
Then, there’s what I call the miscellaneous group. Basically anyone could be traded this winter, but other than Betts the most significant player who is at least somewhat likely to be dealt is Jackie Bradley Jr. There’s no denying the maddening inconsistencies at the plate from the Red Sox center fielder, but I’m trying to imagine watching this team with someone else roaming center field. Thanks, I hate it. Beyond him, there’s a lot of lower-tier players like Sandy León, Sam Travis, Brian Johnson and Heath Hembree who could be non-tendered or traded or designated for assignment at some point before Opening Day next year. None of these players are particularly impactful, but they’ve been here for long enough that it would be noticeable that they are gone. For León in particular, we’ll always be able to look back at that 2016 run.
In the last episode of The Office, Andy Bernard tells the camera that he wishes there was a way you knew you were in the good ol’ days before you actually left them. For Red Sox fans, it was impossible last year to not know you were in the good ol’ days. Unfortunately, no one told us that it was over at the end of the World Series run. That’s not to say this team can’t or won’t be a contender next year, because that is and absolutely should still be the goal for 2020. The talent and infrastructure is still there for that to be the case. If/When it happens, though, it’s going to be a new look. So, before we start looking forward to the next Red Sox roster and an offseason of extreme change, take the time today to appreciate all of these guys who we might not see in a Red Sox uniform again.