Red Sox not balking on opportunity to change


By Twitter user @RedSox

Trevor Morris and Sharyn Gladstone

After last place finishes in three of their last four seasons, the Boston Red Sox ownership group, led by John Henry and Tom Werner, has experimented with bringing aboard older talent to bolster the team’s pitching rotation.

Other recent moves have indicated they are also going outside the playbook to solve other problems of recent teams.

Yet the offseason had to a hot start from the beginning.

The front office, and Red Sox Nation, was thrown for a loop when star slugger David Ortiz announced that 2016 would be his final season. With Ortiz’s bat on its way out of Boston, the question is how the Red Sox could possibly bolster their roster to improve what was a poor 2015 campaign.

President Dave Dombrowski has addressed the team’s biggest flaw: poor pitching. To rectify, the team signed a free agent pitcher, David Price, to a record deal. Price, who is familiar with Boston from his time with the division rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, became the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history when he signed his seven-year, $217 million deal with the Red Sox.

Multiple major league sources were quick to note that David Price was set to sign a seven-year, $190 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals when the Red Sox swooped in with their $217 million offer after their initial $200 million offer. Price took them up on it, to the excitement of Red Sox Nation.

After the signing became official, Price was flown to Boston to be introduced to the city’s media. During his press conference, Price touched on what made him choose Boston.

“This is a pace that has winning in its history, and I definitely think it has winning in its future if they want to win, they know how to win,” said Price. “We are extremely young.”

Price expressed his desire to play for a team with a winning culture.

“I want to be a part of a team that is as young as we are and can stay young the way that we can. Just to be around those guys, to help them, to be a part of something like this,” he said. “The passion from the fans, the passion from the community. This is a place that has winning in their blood. That’s what I want to be a part of.”

The Red Sox also addressed the issue by acquiring all-star closer Craig Kimbrel. To land Kimbrel, the Red Sox parted with four prospects: Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, and Carlos Asuaje.

Kimbrel, who has posted a 1.70 ERA since 2011, will be under team control for the next two seasons at a salary of $24.5 million. His current deal also includes a $13 million club option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout.

The Red Sox also addressed another key issue: scoring runs. The team signed Chris Young as a fourth outfielder to increase the team’s production against left-handed pitchers. According to ESPN, Young’s average is a staggering .327 against left-handers, leaving a lot to be desired.

With the acquisitions of Price, Kimbrel, and Young, the Red Sox added a much-needed power arm to their bullpen and a solid fourth outfielder to help young inconsistent outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. They also fortified their rotation by signing a true ace in Price. But the revamping was not finished there.

The Red Sox began this year’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee by peddling starter Wade Miley and reliever Jonathan Aro to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for relief pitcher, Carson Smith and a fifth starter candidate in Roenis Elias.

Smith fortifies an already strong end of Red Sox bullpen, taking pressure off of aging closer, now set-up man, Koji Uehara, who has dealt with a heavy workload the past two seasons. Elias is set to compete with the likes of Henry Owens and Joe Kelly but will likely end up in the Red Sox bullpen, competing for a spot with Robbie Ross Jr. and Tommy Layne, according to MassLive.

Do not expect the deals to be done so soon for the Sox.

Dombrowski could explore a potential trade involving one of the team’s catchers including, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart. The Red Sox also have veteran catcher Ryan Hanigan on the roster.

Both Vazquez and Swihart are everyday catchers, with Swihart being the better overall player, hitting .274 to Vazquez’s .240, according to their seasonal statistics. But Vazquez holds the longer end of the stick when it comes to defense. Per Christopher Smith of MassLive, “Vazquez threw out 52 percent of base stealers in ‘14 as a rookie. Also, Boston Red Sox pitchers combined for a 3.71 ERA with him behind the plate.”

Vazquez has always stood out on the defensive side of the plate. Former catchers’ coach turned bench coach Dana LeVangie had nothing but praise for Vazquez.

“He’s so far ahead of his age where he is catching-wise. He’s a special player behind the plate catching, throwing, blocking the ball — in all aspects,” said LeVangie.

While Vazquez as well as Hanigan have shown elite status behind the plate, they lack the skills offensively. Hitting is where Swihart strives but the young star still has room to improve.

“He works hard,” said Dombrowski to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. “He works hard handling the pitching staff so he’s got a lot of tools but he improved and needs to continue to improve which everybody believes he will.”

Swihart’s athleticism and versatility make him a more appealing option to start due to his improvement while playing in the big leagues and matching the skills of his counterparts.

Dombrowski has previously stated he felt the Red Sox might be set with the current roster after acquiring Price. Yet, he traded their potential fourth starter in Miley for Smith on Monday.

Dombrowski is a mystery that may never really be done fine-tuning the team. Are the Red Sox really done making moves this offseason?