We are just about done with this terrible, no good, very bad season for the Red Sox. They have but three games left against the Braves before the players head home for the winter and the front office looks to remake the roster for what will hopefully be a better year in 2021. There’s a lot of work to do moving forward, but even with the bad season there are still some things to look back on, which is the theme of this week’s roundtable. I asked the staff for what positive development stood out the most to them. That could be interpreted however they liked.
The emergence of Alex Verdugo as a star stood out the most to me this year. He was solid for the Dodgers as a rookie, but I didn’t really know what to expect out of him in Boston. Verdugo left any doubts behind after posting a wRC+ of 137 and accumulating 1.9 fWAR in just over 200 PA. He was great out of the leadoff spot and was even one of the Red Sox’ best defenders; he’s currently tied for the league lead (among outfielders) in defensive run saved! His spectacular hitting and fielding, combined with his fierce competitiveness in a lost season, really impressed me. I’m looking forward to seeing how Verdugo continues to improve in 2021.
Aside from actually trading Mookie Betts away, Chaim Bloom’s trade and acquisition game has been as good as advertised. It’s the single greatest positive development of the year. While it’s only been one start, Nick Pivetta impressed. Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree were a more than fair price to pay for a young, but previously disappointing starter who at least can hold the back of the rotation together. Which as we’ve seen is important. He might be able to do even more than that. Alex Verdugo has been healthy and good - a very nice addition to the lineup.
Connor Seabold has yet to make an impact at the major league level but this trade is already off to a great start. The return from Mitch Moreland - Hudson Potts and Jeisson Rosario - seems solid enough for the pending free agent. Restocking the farm after the past few seasons is job number one and the process has begun. The core is still good - it won’t take too much to field a competitive team - if not a world beater - as soon as next season. Bloom’s vision is beginning to take shape and that’s a positive in what has otherwise been a 60-game mess.
The most positive development in this awful season may be just how terrible some of the players were. That sounds negative, but I promise it’s a positive.
Had a player been mediocre or bad there was a chance they’d stick around as depth and play meaningful innings in a meaningful season as early as next year. But by playing and being awful offensively, defensively, or on the mound, they’ve shown they simply are not major-league players at present, and should not be allowed to play in a major-league game for a team trying to win.
I trust in Chaim Bloom to build a roster going forward with players who are not negatives, and I also trust the Red Sox to hire a manager who won’t play or insist on playing players like that.
Easily the most positive development for the Red Sox this year is they finally have found their leadoff hitter, Alex Verdugo. For the past few years, they have tried to have Andrew Benintendi be that guy, but has we have seen, that is just not him. Verdugo, on the other hand, has thrived at the top of the lineup. Going forward a Verdugo-Devers-Bogaerts-Martinez combination is really really good. I’m still a believer in Benintendi and think he would fit in nicely lower in the lineup This season has been a mess, but seeing the future lineup come together has been very nice.
I’m going with Alex Verdugo taking a step forward both with the bat and glove this season. In his first full season with the Dodgers last year, he gave a glimpse of his potential and this season he backed it up and then some. When the Red Sox acquired him the calling card was his hit tool. Now, a shortened year with the Red Sox he showed that he has a lot more than that. The defense was very impressive, and he’s stolen as many bases this season in half the games as he did last season. All around positive gains for Verdugo and I’m excited for him to keep getting better.
The most positive development from this terrible season is that Alex Verdugo is actually very good. The panic and anger that gripped Red Sox nation following the trade of Mookie Betts was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Most people seemed to hate the trade, not understand the trade, and many were calling for Bloom’s head after just a few months on the job. The fact that Jeter Downs and Connor Wong is very important for how people view this trade going forward, but it is undoubtedly true that Verdugo is the most important piece in the trade. Before the season the beat writers didn’t expect much of Verdugo; if anything they were down on him, along with much of Red Sox Nation who was bitter about the trade.
Once Verdugo got on the field and people started to see how hard he plays and the joy that he brings to the game, they started to come around. Verdugo ended up leading the team in fWAR with a mark of 1.9 through yesterday’s contest. That mark is the 11th best among all qualified outfielders in baseball. In addition to that he has graded out as the fifth best qualified outfielder in FanGraphs Def metric, ahead of Mookie Betts. He’s second among that group in doubles with 16 and he leads MLB with seven outfield assists. Overall his batting line of .328/.383/.508 coupled with his elite defense show us all that there is life after Betts and that it just might be okay. Start rooting for Verdugo and stop wishing for Betts. This is what we have and it’s pretty damn good.
I want to say Alex Verdugo here, not leastwise because my wizened colleague, Keaton Oakes DeRocher did, but I won’t because this level of skill was the basis for the Mookie Betts trade. This is what Chaim Bloom insisted we were getting, but Verdugo is still not as good as Betts, and the trade is still garbage, so I’m not so positive about this one. Happy he’s good? Sure. I think I’m most pleased with Bobby Dalbec, tho. Yes he strikes out a ton, but who cares? He has proven he can hit bombs at the major league level and that will be the totality of what he’s asked from here to the end of time. I’m encouraged that he can already do it, and feel pretty good with his bat going forward.
I tried to make the phrasing of my question open-ended enough specifically to avoid almost everyone picking Verdugo. I don’t think I passed that test. I think it’s pretty clear that Verdugo was the best player this year, but I’m going to take things in a different direction and go with Nathan Eovaldi. Like everyone else, I’m not entirely sure how much to read into the numbers from a shortened season, but Eovaldi certainly passed the eye test. Despite what we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks and the optimism that has sprouted from that, there is still a whole lot of work to do with this rotation. But Eovaldi looking like he did this year gives me one guy in whom I’m confident in being at least average. I can’t say that about Martín Pérez or any other pitcher I’ve seen this year, and I’d feel semi-comfortable heading into next season with Eovaldi as the third guy in the rotation. Before the season started, getting to this point with that opinion was far from a lock.
Trying to take something positive from this season is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. MLB is so desperate to protect the tanking teams that the Sox won’t even be able to leverage this tire fire into a top draft pick, the leading offensive contributor on the team is a reminder of this team’s biggest mistake in a century, and Martín Pérez has a 5.91 DRA. I’m left to dig deep and when I’m done combing through the lint in my pocket I’m only left with Tanner Houck.
Barring something unforeseen, Houck is not projected to be a major league quality starter. He’s supposed to be a nice little ‘pen arm. But his first two starts this year have been promising. It wouldn’t be the first time that a prospect added a pitch and substantially changed his profile. This season didn’t offer much in the way of hope, but Houck brought all he could.