The Boston Red Sox followed their nearly perfect 2018 franchise record-setting season with a quickly underwhelming follow up, full of growth, questions to be asked, and plenty of underachievement.
Following a 108-win regular season and cakewalk of a postseason suffering no more than one loss per series, is anything but easy. Too many pieces need to fall in nearly perfect fashion in order to construct or replicate what the 2018 Boston Red Sox managed to all year round. They played at an elite level regardless of the level of their competitors on every given night. That’s not something you can expect from any organization in baseball, regardless of talent, payroll flexibility, or chemistry, on a seasonal basis. However, the 2019 Boston Red Sox attempt at defending their World Series title was an underwhelming case, nothing short of an instance of inflicted harm that built up to an October-less year.
At the end of September and the end of a disappointing 84-win Red Sox season, owner John Henry expressed the organization’s goal of remaining below the $208 million luxury tax threshold without approaching the 2020 season as a “bridge year”.
A very suspicious comment that evidently states a justification to the potential departure of franchise cornerstone Mookie Betts this upcoming off-season. An off-season in which the Red Sox can very so easily walk into 2020 without their best player (Mookie Betts) and their second-best player (J.D. Martinez). In the unfortunate event in which that becomes the reality in 2020, that puts Alex Cora, the currently unknown General Manager, and the entire organization under unmatched pressure to follow a playoff-less season with one that doesn’t include the two guys who played tug-a-war for the American League MVP all of 2018.
Not to mention that this roster includes two arms who were both underwhelming and to a degree undeserving of their combined $213 million contracts given following the World Series in 2018. Chris Sale, the man who’s dealt with a tremendous battle against late-season injuries, and Nathan Eovaldi, who was without a question phenomenal and pivotal in the World Series, but still a proved why postseason heroes shouldn’t get paid.
Chris Sale (25 games) and Nathan Eovaldi (23 games) combined to make 48 appearances in 2019. Both registering over 4.00 earned run averages and both winning under double-digit games by the end of their seasons. Eovaldi, 29, went 2-1 with a 5.99 ERA in 67.2 innings pitched. That was the least in his career since 2012 for the Miami Marlins. As for the man with the most to prove in 2020, 30-year-old Chris Sale put together perhaps the worst season of his career. His 11 losses were the second-highest of his career, most since his 14-loss 2013 in which the Chicago White Sox lineup do some explaining for. Sale also notched a career-high 4.40 ERA in 147.1 innings pitched. He would find himself very familiar with the disabled list as he’s become accustomed to throughout his stint with Boston, eventually getting the plug pulled for good in August with an elbow injury.
Yet the $203 million disaster is indefensible when accounting for its role in a possible end to Mookie Betts in a Red Sox uniform. To at all propose that Betts contract was a road beyond the view of the front office just a year ago is idiotic and an excuse that doesn’t slide. Betts who just turned 27 is younger then both Sale and Eovaldi and has proven to be a significantly more important piece to the future of this organization for years to come.
Last season was considered an “off-year” for Mookie Betts who batted .295 with 29 home runs and 80 runs batted in while playing in 135 games. He finished 12th in WAR with 6.8 wins above replacement in all of baseball. In Betts’ immaculate 2018 he finished alone at the top of baseball with a WAR of 10.9. Yeah. Imagine just how elite you must be for those numbers alone to define your season as “off”. A season where Mookie Betts isn’t in MVP discussion, still puts top their offensive stats and plays defense that very likely isn’t matched by anyone else in right field in all of the MLB, is “off”. That just goes to show what a special talent Betts is. Yet somehow, someway, ownership is willing to let the blessing that is Theo Epstein’s draft genius walk away due to the foolish and unjustified signings of players of less importance.
Here’s where we stand.
The General Manager seat is one that’s both hot and empty. It’s one full one of pressure-filled decisions to be made, none which can be mismanaged.
Questions needed to be answered urgently remain: What’s the current health status for David Price, Chris Sale, and Nathan Eovaldi? Does the organization have a plan in place with the intention of keeping Mookie Betts in Boston? Do we have an answer on whether or not J.D. Martinez intends to stand by his contract with Boston? Are contract negotiations currently in place with Eduardo Rodriguez? Will the front office beat Rafael Devers to another potential financial battle identical to Mookie Betts? What’s the plan for the bullpen rebuild?
That’s just a little of what’s in store for the currently nameless GM for the 2020 Red Sox. Decisions regarding finances and trade market creativity are to be heavily considered before ownership officially announces the next man for the job. Not to mention the desperate need for a farm system revival.
What a way to kick start a front office stint in Boston! So who will it be?…