2018 Red Sox Alternate Universe: What Could Have Been
Going into Spring Training at Fort Myers, the Red Sox had an obtuse amount of questions that most first place teams don’t have to ask themselves.
Will David Price and Rick Porcello return to their Cy Young form or be Boston busts? Can Carson Smith be the dependable set-up man Boston needs to preserve Craig Kimbrel? Will the Sox be getting the 30-homer, 110-RBI Hanley Ramirez or the injury-plagued, $22.8 million clog in the middle of the order?
Well, David Price and Rick Porcello have combined for a meager 3.93 ERA so far, Ramirez and his dreadlocks have been kicked out of town, and Smith suffered a season-ending injury after throwing a tantrum in the dugout.
Despite this, the Red Sox have somehow clawed their way to the top of the AL East standings after sweeping the Nationals on Independence Day. Maybe the phrase “clawed” is a bit melodramatic considering that the Sox have two MVP candidates in Mookie Betts and the gem of last year’s offseason, J.D. Martinez. Not to mention Chris Sale is still pitching like the perennial Cy Young candidate he has always been, while Kimbrel continues to make his case for being the best reliever in baseball.
So why doesn’t it feel like this roster is enough?
Maybe it’s the disease that comes with being a Red Sox fan, where the anticipation for disaster is an unrelenting phantasm. And yes, after winning three World Series since 2004, we Sox fans are a tad spoiled.
But this time we might actually have a right to put our faces in our Samuel Adams soaked hands!
If it weren’t for a franchise-altering series of moves by former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington, Boston might be the clear favorite heading into this postseason instead of fighting the Yankees for first place. Here is a look at an alternate universe in which the Red Sox made the right moves, preventing Cherington’s disasterpiece.
Take Care of the Rotation
What happened in reality: Jon Lester is traded for Yoneis Cespedes; Cespedes gets traded for Rick Porcello; Porcello signs four-year, $82.5 million extension to lead rotation; David Price signs ridiculous $217 million deal; Miss out on Andrew Miller sweepstakes.
Correction: Instead of letting go of Lester in the first place, the Red Sox would not low ball their ace and give him the five-year, $125 million deal that he deserved. Cherington initially offered Lester a four-year, $70 million deal which was significantly lower than the six-year, $155 million deal he would receive from the Cubs. Lester went on record saying that he would have taken a hometown discount but that the Sox never offered him a fair deal. The Red Sox not only get an ace in Lester here, but they would also get him at under market value.
By doing this deal, the Red Sox wouldn’t have paid a bottom of the rotation starter (Rick Porcello) $22.5 million and use that money to go after another free agent ace in the 2014 offseason.
Going into that offseason, everyone knew some team would overpay Max Scherzer who is a client of Scott Boras. It looked as though Scherzer wouldn’t hold up as long as he has due to the stress that his arm angle puts on his elbow. Scherzer has not only proved he was worth the $210 million the Nationals paid him; he is now a potential Hall of Famer.
Instead of giving out $265.5 million to Porcello, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval, all of whom have flirted with the “bust” label, the Sox would give Scherzer the $217 million contract that David Price would receive in the 2015 offseason. They would, of course, let Price and his diminished fastball sign with someone else.
By eliminating Porcello and Price from the rotation, the Red Sox would have avoided the duo’s mediocre 4.01 ERA over the last three years. Instead, they would plug in Scherzer’s 2.75 ERA and his proclivity for racking up strikeouts to go along with Lester. In this universe, the front-office would still trade for Chris Sale to establish one of the best 1-2-3 punches in baseball. This especially would be convenient against a powerhouse 2018 Yankees lineup.
Speaking of dominant pitching trios, Boston could have also cobbled together a dominant back end of the bullpen by pursuing Andrew Miller and David Robertson in 2014. Miller traded teams with current Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, so this might be a tad awkward. But this is the perfect Red Sox universe so simmer down and suspend some disbelief!
The four-year, $36 million deal for Miller seems like a steal, knowing how dominant he would become as a go-to reliever. Robertson would act as the third closer that is necessary for playoff baseball. Not to mention that Boston currently lacks a true eighth inning set up man along with a (dependable) second closer.
How do they pull this off financially you ask? The Red Sox, in this universe, would also not sign the international bust Rusney Castillo to the ill-advised $72.5 million deal Cherington gave him. The Sox have wasted over $300 million on Ramirez, Sandoval, Castillo and Allen Craig’s contract so they wouldn’t have to pinch pennies to get their relievers.
Add Bats Around the Kids
In terms of offense, the Red Sox have actually done a good job, outside of Ramirez and Sandoval, in finding quality bats to complement their lineup. Mookie Betts has turned into a top-five outfielder in the game, while Andrew Benintendi is blossoming into a premier corner outfielder. Third Basemen Rafael Devers has a ton of work to do in the field, but can swing the stick incredibly well for his age; Jackie Bradley Jr. has the opposite problem, as he needs to develop his swing to go along with his elite defensive ability.
With that core intact, Boston could have addressed their elongated first base problems by signing Daniel Murphy to his modest, four-year, $56 million deal he received from the Nats. Murphy is more suited for first base than second base (ask any Mets fan) and would provide veteran leadership that owner John Henry looks for in free agency.
In 2018, the Sox could roll out a lineup that looks like this:
- Xander Bogaerts
- Pedroia (when healthy; in this universe, he is)
- Bradley Jr.
- Christian Vasquez
Yes, Murphy is slumping, but that could be attributed to a toxic Washington culture. He has hit .325 during his tenure with the Nats and deserves the benefit of the doubt after reinventing his swing in 2015.
Okay, I am just a hopeful, delusional Red Sox fan. Retrospect is dangerous for sports fans, but when your team has botched so many moves due to big market arrogance, it is difficult to think about what could have been for this Red Sox team.
They could still take the league by storm in the second half, but the Sox’s holes are pretty glaring despite the hot start.