Today is Super Bowl Sunday, which means in just a handful of hours people will declare that it’s baseball season. I will be nice and ignore the fact that I’m supposed to get snow three days in the next week — a decidedly non-baseball season fact — and also ignore that this statement always ignores that it’s actually basketball and hockey season. But, to be fair, it does mean we’re just a couple weeks away from pitchers and catchers, and so it sort of is almost baseball season.
And so with the season getting closer, some of the focus is starting to shift away from targets and towards the current roster and how it could perform on the field. In this week’s mailbag, we deal with a bit of both.
Mike on Twitter asks:
If the Red Sox don’t make another move how many wins do you predict this season?
I am going to tweak this question just a bit because I can and make it so they don’t make another major move. If they don’t make another move they simply have an incomplete roster, as they need at least one more outfielder, or second baseman as we discussed yesterday. So for the sake of this exercise let’s say they add a few more pieces to the puzzle before the season there, at first base with someone like Mitch Moreland, and maybe a Brandon Workman or similarly cheap reliever. Not exactly how they look now, but close enough.
With that, I think it’s certainly fair to say they are not a great team. There is a path to them being competitive, though I will admit part of that comes from the natural optimism most people tend to look for right as the season is getting ready to kick off. That said, the offense has a very real chance to be good. If you’re confident that J.D. Martinez’s 2020 was a blip, which I mostly am, then the top part of that group with him, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo is very good, with a solid supporting cast behind them as well. I think this team will score runs.
The pitching is clearly a different story, though. I do believe there’s a path for this pitching staff to be good enough, too, but it requires a whole lot to go right. It requires at least 25 starts each from Garrett Richards and Nathan Eovaldi. It requires Chris Sale coming back at the early end of his timeline and showing minimal rust. It requires Eduardo Rodriguez to be the 2019 version of himself. And it requires one of Tanner Houck and Nick Pivetta to show last year wasn’t a fluke. Individually, I can buy into any one of those happening. All at once? That’s a tougher sell.
So to get to the original question, I think this is a team that can hang on the periphery of the wildcard race into late July, but they’ll be far enough out at that point where they’ll look to start selling off players. By the end of the year I’d say they’ll probably be something like a 75-win team.
subP25 from the comments asks
Travis Demeritte was just designated for assignment. Would you claim him and designate Marcus Wilson? Wilson could go unclaimed and Demeritte has two options remaining.
There’s a couple of issues I have with this idea. The biggest one is that I’m not really sure this is an upgrade. I’m not the biggest Wilson fan out there, but he can at least play solid defense all around the outfield. I won’t pretend to be an expert of Demeritte’s defensive qualifications, but I don’t think he can do more than fill in in left field, and the Red Sox are hurting for outfield depth that can help at all spots. So in order for this to make sense just in a vacuum, Demeritte would need to be much better offensively. I can certainly buy he’s better, but I don’t think he’s better by enough to make it worth it on this team. If they had better depth in the outfield, I’d be more willing.
But maybe even more important than that is the fact that Wilson’s roster spot probably needs to go to somebody else anyway. The Red Sox still have one more spot to make for Martín Pérez, and then as I alluded to in the answer above they probably have two or three cheaper moves coming as well. It’s not a guarantee that Wilson’s spot will come up for one of those, but it’s a solid bet unless there’s some sort of bigger trade on the horizon. So really you’d just be trading that scenario out from Wilson to Demeritte.
Red Sox Fan on Twitter asks
Any chance the Mets could be a trade partner for Nathan Eovaldi? Free up some of that money at least?
I feel like I’m in the minority here but I’m not really interested in moving Eovaldi in a salary dump kind of move. It goes without saying that he is not untouchable, but I’m not trying to move him with the main objective of clearing salary. I think Eovaldi has become somewhat underrated. The health is clearly an issue and maybe I’m just more willing to live with that than others, which is not to say either side of that coin would be right or wrong. But when he’s healthy, he’s been very good. It was easy to miss last year because the world was on fire and the Red Sox were a dumpster fire themselves, but Eovaldi pitched well when he was able to pitch. He finished last season with an ERA- of 81 and a FIP- of 88, meaning he was 19 and 12 percent better than league-average in those stats after adjusting for park effects.
So sure, I don’t think it’s crazy to shop him. There’s only a few players on this roster right now that you don’t at least see what’s out there. But I don’t think teams will give up anything given the health issues, and the Red Sox need bodies both for this year and next year, especially with Eduardo Rodriguez approaching free agency.
Floyd on Twitter asks
What’s your opinion on limiting shifts? Two infielders on each side of second doesn’t seem that radical to me.
I used to be adamantly against this, but I’ve softened my stance a bit. I think there is something to be said about how this is affecting the aesthetics of the game, not only turning more players into launch angle guys, which in turn has contributed some (though not entirely) to the peaking strikeout rates. There’s also the very weird feeling that I still can’t get past when a ball is shooting up the middle but is turned into an out. I can’t train my brain into not thinking that’s a hit no matter how hard I try, and it’s discomforting.
That said, I still think if I were in charge I would leave it as it is. Baseball evolves. That’s how it’s always worked. Shifting isn’t new, though the prevalence obviously is, relatively speaking. Batters will adjust to it at some point — and the launch angle stuff is part of that adjustment — and then defenses will adjust back and round and round it goes.
And then with this specific proposal it gets a little dicey. Do you tell a player they can’t move until the pitch is thrown or until the ball is in play? It would probably be the former, in which case you just have your shortstop right at the edge of where he can stand and then as soon as the pitch is thrown he hops over to the other side. So like I said, I’m not as adamant against the idea as I once was, but I still lean on the side of just let things evolve as they’re going to evolve.
Thanks again for all of your questions. And again, if I didn’t get to yours look out for it in a future edition of the mailbag or on the podcast. We always appreciate more questions, so please if you have any you can either ask me on Twitter @OverTheMonster, you can leave a comment on our Facebook page, you can drop a comment down below on this post, or you can send it via email to email@example.com.