How hard is it to replicate a World Series appearance and victory the following season? Just ask the 2019 Boston Red Sox, who went from being the best team in the league one season to completely having the bottom fall out from itself the next.
A 24-game difference is what sets the 2018 version of the Red Sox apart from the slow-starting, already too far behind disaster that was the 2019 version of the Red Sox. While the vast majority of their roster remained the same from championship year to this season, the results did not even come close to replicating themselves again.
Any team should be happy with winning 84 games on the season, but in the American League, that puts you a whopping 19 games behind first place in your own division, which is quite the tough pill to swallow, especially for a team that had handily won the World Series, making their opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, look more like a ragtag minor league squad than the one that had made it out of the National League to fight for the crown.
With money issues plaguing this team on a yearly basis, the thought of trading either Jackie Bradley Jr. or Mookie Betts has surfaced, with not a lot of denial following closely behind. The idea that either of these players could be wearing a different uniform come Opening Day 2020 is a hard idea to fathom, but not necessarily a crazy one at that.
With Chaim Bloom having taken over as the team’s Chief Baseball Officer, having come from their divisional rival the Tampa Bay Rays as their Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, he takes over a team that he is very familiar with, yet a stranger to all at the same time. Needing to cut funds across the board, which may end up making this time a lot worse than better short and long term, is never an easy task to accomplish, especially for the first year of helping run a team.
In terms of players that the Red Sox would figure to be interested in for this ongoing period of free agency, gone (realistically at least) are the days of high spending, always being in the conversation for the best players. With money being tight, their additions will most likely come in the form of mid-tier players who have proven that their time spent at the highest level of the MLB is well warranted, but will not break the bank for this AL East competitor.
Here are three realistic candidates for the Red Sox to go after in free agency this winter.
Rich Hill – SP
Potential Deal – 1 year, $7 million (incentives up to $11 million total)
Having already played for the Red Sox for four seasons, the 39-year-old Boston native would be an excellent choice to bring back to the team to help plug a hole in the team’s starting rotation. For Rich Hill, going from the lights of Los Angeles with the Dodgers to the Green Monster should be a welcomed sight for the former Michigan Wolverine.
A 2.45 ERA across 13 games is impressive in a vacuum, but when considering the types of injuries that slowed down his year and limited his impact, a short-term deal focused on incentives and performance thresholds should do enough to help fill in any back of the rotation needs that this team will have.
With Nathan Eovaldi not living up to his massive contract he signed offseason, which looked to be quite obvious to happen right away, combined with a new pitching coach in former MLB starter Dave Bush, and adding a veteran presence to this team like Hill would be a great step back into getting into the postseason yet again, making this lull in playoff appearances a meager one season.
Jonathan Schoop – 2B
Potential Deal – 2 years, $10 million
From putting together the best years of his career playing for the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, to being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and stinking it up, to finally landing with the Minnesota Twins and making a semi-return to form, Jonathan Schoop has been on a rollercoaster of performance the past few seasons.
In an attempt to help fill a gaping hole in their infield, bringing in Schoop to start at second base while helping Dustin Pedroia drive off into the sunset as still a memorable player of the Red Sox would be an interesting little bow to tie on this situation. Schoop, who has been a second baseman for his MLB career, could dabble a bit in other infield roles, helping fill in at third base for Rafael Devers or even shortstop for Xander Bogaerts on off days and when needed.
Coming into a tough situation, Schoop may not have any interest in this deal simply due to the fact that Pedroia still *technically* is looked at as the team’s starting second baseman, although he has not officially stepped on the field in way too long. A welcome back to the division that made him his money and gave him an opportunity to showcase his skills, Schoop would be well suited to make a return back to the AL East division, this time just with a different team that is heading in a different direction.
Brandon Kintzler – RP
Potential Deal – 1 year, $3 million
A well-traveled journeyman who has made his money pitching in the late innings of baseball games, Brandon Kintzler would represent yet another cheaper veteran investment that would only need to be made for one year before deciding to move on, if need be. Looking for another piece to help Brandon Workman close down games, Kintzler’s relief style and veteran know-how would be a much-needed asset for this team in 2020.
Having pitched for four different teams across 10 seasons, Kintzler’s 2019 season in a Chicago Cubs uniform was not flashy by any means, but consistent enough to make him earn his pay. Three wins, three losses, and a 2.68 ERA across 62 games is exactly what a team like the Red Sox is looking for on the open market. And as an added bonus, the 35-year-old veteran pitcher could be alright with a one-year deal that could see him change teams mid-season if the Red Sox are not yet on terms with the playoffs quite yet.
While the Red Sox have the pieces currently on their team to make an impact in the playoff race for 2020, they may still be coming off of a hangover from their 2018 title run. With the New York Yankees looking to be the cream of the crop (that does not cheat its way to the top) in the AL, the Red Sox have a lot of ground to catch up on if they intend to reinstate themselves into the postseason conversation this year and years after.