Spring training is here and workouts have begun for pitchers and catchers. Some position players are down there as well, and they’ll begin their official workouts early next week. Games are only a bit more than a week away. It’s been a long winter, and one that went long stretches with no activity, but things picked up and now it’s just about done. Moves can obviously still be made with spring training underway, but for the most part the winter is over for the Red Sox. And with that, it’s time to hand out grades, which is the staff’s task in this week’s roundtable.
This offseason was a definite success to me. Although the Sox likely won’t be contending this year, they’ve added interesting names and filled most of last year’s holes. Marwin Gonzalez and Enrique Hernández will provide great depth and versatility for both the infield and outfield. In the bullpen, Adam Ottavino already becomes one of their best relievers, and Hirokazu Sawamura is a guy who’s proven solid in Japan. Garrett Richards also has a ton of potential, and I expect him to be a solid contributor to the Sox’ rotation in 2021. I’m not yet sure how I feel about the Andrew Benintendi trade, but I’m a believer in Franchy Cordero if he can stay healthy. At a minimum, however, the trade provides much-needed depth for the farm system.
The main reason I’m so high on this offseason is because of how frustrating 2020 was. No longer will guys like Michael Chavis and Ryan Weber be given unlimited chances - the Sox now have other depth and higher-upside options they can turn to. Not to mention, most of the new additions are coming in on low-risk, 1- or 2-year deals. These contracts (some of which include team options) allow the Red Sox to improve in the short-term while maintaining long-term flexibility.
I give it a C. They haven’t yet extended Rafael Devers or added a long-term option at starting pitcher, and we’re still waiting to see the fruits of that financial flexibility they fought so hard to achieve so it’s hard to be really satisfied. That said, they made some moves that at least make watching this team in 2021 more interesting than last season. I never thought this team was a move or two away from being a contender so if the plan is to make more of a splash in 2022 then what they did this offseason is fine, and there should be some bigger moves yet to come.
After trading a future Hall of Famer for salary relief last year, the Sox didn’t bother to engage in negotiations with a single major free agent. Now, there may be good reasons for this: the pitchers on the market could end up in the same position as David Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi: Disappointing for the payroll committed. Pitchers are just risky investments. J.T. Realmuto was the best catcher available, a place the Sox are already set and could extend their current starter. Trading Benintendi for parts? Marwin Gonzalez? Enrique Hernández? These are all small moves that are unlikely to move the needle but could help the team stay out of the basement.
I refuse to believe Chaim Bloom doesn’t have a plan and these are all moves setting up for when players like Jeter Downs and Jarren Duran are in the majors and other players are available on the free agent or trade markets. There was simply too much to fix and not enough ways to solve the problems in one winter. Another run of good teams like 2003-2011 can’t happen overnight. This is just the beginning. I give this winter a B.
Hitting: The addressed the second base issue with the signing of Enrique Hernández and added a low-risk bench option in Marwin Gonzalez. They also traded two relievers for a catching prospect and Bloom keeps adding depth to the team.
Pitching: The bullpen is greatly improved with the acquisition of Adam Ottavino and they also signed so interesting arms like Sawamura and Matt Andriese.
With a very weak free-agent class, I think Bloom and company did a great job adding depth to the minors while filling in holes on the MLB roster. Sure, I’d still like Jackie Bradley Jr. back on the team, but they deserve a B+ for the offseason.
This offseason was clearly about flexibility and depth for the Red Sox. While they haven’t made any big-ticket moves, they’ve closed a lot of low-risk deals that could potentially pay off. When we discussed some of those transactions in a previous roundtable, I was a bit down on the overall vision, but this team is at least deeper than last year and if you get optimistic enough, you could see how the pieces could fall into place for it to contend. That explains why FanGraphs has the Red Sox as a potential playoff team.
Your mileage may vary, but I do think there is a chance that this team ends up being greater than the sum of its parts, especially as the Red Sox have left the door open to give some of their better prospects (Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, etc.) a chance to compete sooner rather than later. I would have liked to seem them go all in on that direction rather than bring in veterans with question marks and potentially low ceilings, but I also understand the need to add players with experience who can contribute right now and help this team turn things around, even if it’s not a full-on worst-to-first transformation.
This is just my long-winded way of saying I think the Red Sox had a decent offseason, all things considered. If you want a letter grade, I’ll go with a bit of a bump from the last time we did this since I liked the Franchy Cordero addition. This offseason gets a C.
I’m going to give the off-season a B, with the possibility for it to be as high as an A-, dependent on what the PTBNL end up being in the Andrew Benintendi trade.
First, the negatives, because I want to end on a good note. I’m not crazy about bringing in Marwin Gonzalez. As a utility player I’m sure he will be fine, but I really have a hard time rooting for any baseball player who was associated with the 2017 Astros. I’m not sure what to expect offensively. I’m also not a huge fan of giving starting roles to Enrique Hernández and Hunter Renfroe. Renfroe to me profiles as a fourth outfielder, and Hernandez is what I would be fine with as a utility option but not everyday. Finally, while I’m sure I’m in the minority, I just feel like they could have and should have done better than Martín Pérez. I get fans like him. I get he can eat innings, but I think they should have aimed just a bit higher here.
But the positives outweigh the negatives. I really love what they have done in the bullpen. Bringing in Sawamura and Ottavino make the unit a potential strength. If Marcus Walden finds his groove again or Darwinzon Hernandez takes a step forward, even better. The Garrett Richards signing I think may end up being the steal of the offseason. He’s been healthy since coming back, and when healthy there aren’t many pitchers with better stuff. If he can stay healthy in 2021, the rotation has drastically improved. They added a lot of meaningful depth to every facet of our organization as well. It is a far cry from a year ago, where the second and third lines of defense were barely fit to stand in Triple-A, let alone the majors. If someone gets hurt, there are a lot more options. Some of that is prospect progression and some of it are smooth depth signings, such as Matt Carasiti. Also we brought back Alex Cora as manager, which was almost enough for me to sign off on this being a productive offseason by itself. Previous issues aside, he gels with this roster extremely well and that is more important than anything for this roster right now, I think.
Finally, what I figure will be my most controversial opinion, I’ve come around to loving the Andrew Benintendi trade. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a great chance that Benintendi is still the Comeback Player of the Year in the American League. But I also think if he stays that may not happen. With that said, there’s also a non-zero chance that Franchy Cordero is at least as valuable as Benintendi going forward, especially if the latter doesn’t bounce back. Josh Winckowski looks really intriguing as starting pitching depth. He may only end up being a back end guy, but he still represents a breath of fresh air in a system that has wanted for pitching forever. If the remaining players to be named later are good, this offseason goes from a good one to a great one. Chaim Bloom has definitely impressed me with his maneuvering this, even though it took a while for him to get started.
D. I wrote an article a couple of weeks back praising the Sox for essentially buying a prospect. The framing of that article was “if the Sox are going to be rebuilding, these are the things they should be doing.” I was worried that it would come off as an endorsement of the organization’s current strategy of doing a soft rebuild instead of a commendation of that particular trade in the context of their current strategy. So, let me say it loud and clear: The current direction of this team sucks. So, I have to give this winter a D. There hasn’t been a year in my lifetime where so much talent has been available for so cheap and they shopped in the bargain bin instead of capitalizing on this huge opportunity that teams like the Mets, Dodgers, Cardinals, and Padres have connected on in trading for good to great players with “bad” contracts such as Carlos Carrasco, Nolan Arenado, and Yu Darvish. Buying a prospect from a division rival was the correct process for a team that’s rebuilding, but this team shouldn’t be rebuilding! They should be taking advantage of everyone else’s cheapness during this year and going for it while Devers and Bogaerts are still young! Instead, they patched up some holes with some pillow contracts.
With spring training almost here, I’m told it’s time to grade the offseason. Let me put on my thinking cap, which has a big red B on it, and think it over. Well, unlike last year, the Sox didn’t trade their best player in 100 years for parts. That’s good. Their biggest additions we’re Enrique Hernández, Marwin González and Franchy Cordero. That’s... fine. Chris Sale is still in once piece (for now!) and Nathan Eovaldi isn’t yet injured. That’s okay! I’m gonna think this over by looking at my hat. Let’s say B. Gotta get an A’s cap, I suppose.
All things considered I’m giving the Red Sox a B. This offseason was not fantastic, but it wasn’t bad either. It was satisfactory. They needed a second baseman, they went out and added Enrique Hernández, who is mostly a second baseman. They needed help with pitching and they went out and added Garrett Richards, a player I seem to like more and more with each passing day. They needed to address the hole left by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the outfield, they didn’t really do that to my satisfaction instead replacing both Bradley and Andrew Benintendi with Franchy Cordero and Hunter Renfroe. What Chaim Bloom is doing an excellent job of is adding depth around the fringes of the roster. The starting pitching depth looks much better, the depth in the bullpen is much improved, and with Eduardo Rodriguez and Chris Sale coming back this year the team should be able to accurately assess what it has in the rotation going forward. Overall, this has proven to be a very useful offseason for setting up the splashier off-season to come in 2021-2022.
I go with a solid C+, which, you know, is fine. C’s get degrees. I’m certainly underwhelmed, and I’m most annoyed with their lack of activity in the outfield. The pitching additions were fine. I would’ve preferred a different second base solution than Enrique Hernández, but at the same time it’s not a disastrous move or anything like that. I think they needed a big move to really be contenders, but I’m also not really sure what that move was. Nolan Arenado would’ve been great, but that never was going to happen. I didn’t want Trevor Bauer. J.T. Realmuto didn’t fit. D.J. LeMahieu was probably my favorite top free agent but it felt like he was always going to New York. The only big misses I’m upset about is Yu Darvish, who could have been acquired for basically nothing, and Marcell Ozuna, though I’m not sure he would have been easy to pry away from Atlanta either. A C+ is the most nodescript grade there is, and that’s feels like a good fit for an offseason where the Red Sox did a lot but also consistently underwhelmed.