2019 Red Sox Will Produce Improved Version of This Year’s Elite Roster

Rainman M.

Sunday, October 28, 2018 7:34 PM UTC

Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018 7:34 PM UTC

The upcoming offseason will give the Red Sox ample opportunity to purge some of their weaker players and acquire stronger replacements.

If there are any Boston players who have made Red Sox backers tear their hair out, then they can find some consolation in the offseason. Ian Kinsler, whose error in the bottom of the 13th inning of Game 3 in the World Series ultimately helped L.A. stay alive in the series, will be a free agent. Kinsler has been a waste of $11 million. His .380 slugging in 2018 is a career worst and his BA was only .240. Kinsler is getting old and it seems like the 38-year-old’s best days are behind him.

Another source of frustration has been closer Craig Kimbrel, although this frustration seems to be more superficial than that directed toward Kinsler. In some senses, Kimbrel regressed significantly from last season. His ERA has risen from 1.43 last season to 2.74 this season. His 5.91 postseason ERA also merits concern. Above all, he is likely to give a Boston bettor a heart attack because he is struggling with his command. His thrown strike and first-pitch strike percentages have dropped heavily from last year. His inability to generate as many swinging strikes prevents him from making up for his poor command. But while his statistics have suffered and he is not very fun for Boston backers to watch, he’s still reliable in the sense that he is responsible for only one loss and, in converting 42 of 47 save opportunities, has a stronger save percentage than he did last year. Plus, many of the runs he allowed came in non-save situations and that caused his ERA to balloon.

Drew Pomeranz is slated to be a free agent. I can’t imagine who would be interested in him. In the regular season he was 2-6 with a 6.20 ERA. His regression from last season was immense. He generated fewer strikeouts, walked more batters, and allowed a higher rate of homers. Not only did the quality of his stuff suffer, but his command did as well in that he struggled to find the strike zone. He was terrible overall and against the opponents Boston faced the most — those in their division. He yielded an ERA above 5.00 against Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Toronto. He is carrying an $8 million burden to Boston’s bankroll and I imagine Boston would love to let him go.

Boston could use some quality left-handed pitchers in its bullpen. Possible considerations would include the Yankees' Zach Britton and Arizona’s Jake Diekman, each of whom has shown in recent years that he can be dominant and maybe they would get their careers back on track through a change in scenery. They could help a Boston bullpen that had suffered a meltdown in September. Boston still also has hope in righty Tyler Thornburg. He achieved a 2.15 ERA in his last season in Milwaukee in 2016. He has struggled with long-term injury, but in 2019 he will be back.

There are some players Boston would probably like to prevent from reaching free agency. Starting pitcher David Price could opt out of his contract. He has been a good starter. Only one time in the past eight years has he yielded an ERA over 3.60. His ERA was 3.58 this year. He had a reputation for being poor in the playoffs, but he seems to have forgotten it. In his last two postseason starts, he allowed only two runs in 12 innings. Nathan Eovaldi has proven to be a terrific acquisition for Boston. He had his best season in terms of ERA since 2013. Above all, he has been an awesome part of Boston’s playoff run. In fact, he almost became a legend through his six-inning performance in Game 3, in which he would have been the winner if Kinsler could have only fielded a ground ball. His postseason ERA is 1.61 in 22.1 innings. I would think Boston will reward him with a decent contract. The most important player is Chris Sale, who spearheads Boston’s rotation. Sale has been one of baseball’s best pitchers for several years now. The southpaw finished 2018 with a 2.11 ERA. One can only assume Boston will pick up his $15 million option.

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While the bullpen will surely see some further improvement from its ninth-best regular-season ERA, concern over acquiring batters is mitigated by the assurance that second baseman Dustin Pedroia will return. He’ll presumably replace Kinsler. He only had 11 at-bats in 2018 due to injury. But with a career .300 BA, he’ll give Boston another boost when he’s healthy. Even without Pedroia, Boston ranked first with 5.46 runs per game.

On the MLB odds board, Boston is favored at +700 to win next year’s World Series and +300 to win the 2019 AL pennant. Boston could very well become the third team this decade to repeat as AL champions. With their current roster and future outlook, it’s certainly worth a shot at plus money.

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