Saturday, March 14, 2020

Playing Pepper: 2020 Boston Red Sox

I had the pleasure of being a part of group of three Red Sox bloggers who took part in "Playing Pepper: 2020 Boston Red Sox." We were asked six questions concerning the club for 2016 by Daniel Shoptaw, who runs the fine St. Louis Cardinals blog "C70 At The Bat."

Every year Daniel asks bloggers from all 30 teams questions about their teams chances for the upcoming season. This is the seventh straight year I have taken part.

My thanks to Daniel for letting me take part again. Here are the questions and my answers:

C70: Looking for a manager just weeks before spring training isn’t optimal. Will the Red Sox be able to find a suitable replacement for Alex Cora? Should he and the club have parted ways? What do you think will come out of MLB’s investigation of the 2018 squad? (Edit: Strike one to my timing.)
John: The Red Sox really had no other choice than to part ways with Alex Cora. He appears to have had a major role in the Astros chanting scandal, and his position as manager of the Red Sox had been terribly affected. As I write this, his suspension hasn’t been handed down yet, but it should be at least one season. He had to be removed as manager. The choice of Ron Roenicke as a successor to Cora was very wise, as he is a well-respected baseball man who knows the players well, and had a solid record in Milwaukee.
The results of the investigation of the 2018 team is not yet known, but the fact that a number of high profile Sox players are on record as saying there was nothing illicit going on is a marked difference from the Houston investigation, as those players were notoriously silent prior to the punishments handed down. We’ll see what happens.

C70: The other big story this offseason focused on the status of Mookie Betts. Do you think the Red Sox trade him before the end of the year and what kind of package would you want to see them get back? (Edit: Striiiiiiikkkkkkeeee two.)
John: The trade happened, and the team had little choice but to move him. Betts made no secret of the fact he would test free agency after 2020, and every time they attempted to sign him to an extension, he rejected it, including the 10-year, $300 million one. So be it. Betts earned the right to go free agent. I really don’t hold anything against management in this scenario. Betts feels he deserves a deal of more than 10 years, such as the ones that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper got. I think signing ANY player to that long a deal is foolish, and will only be regretted in the long run. I like the trade. Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs can both be players who the Red Sox can build around in this decade, and Connor Wong instantly became their best catching prospect. We’ll see how it works out down the road.

C70: Is there a prospect in the organization that will make a big impact on the major league squad this season?
John: Alex Verdugo will be under a microscope this season because of the trade. But it will be interesting to see how far Michael Chavis progresses after a solid rookie season. Bobby Dalbec is a highly touted infield prospect who maybe ready for the majors at some point this season. And lefty Darwinzon Hernandez, who saw some time out of the Sox pen in 2019, figures to get quality innings in a setup role.

C70: What are your expectations for 2020? Where do you think they’ll finish in the division?
John: Chris Sale’s elbow problems, which ruined his 2019 season, have cast a cloud on 2020, and if he can’t be counted on this year, it will almost guarantee the Sox won’t be in the postseason again. I feel the Red Sox have to pitch well to win. The lineup is still solid without Betts, but if the starting pitching falters again, they have no chance for the postseason, and another third place finish looks ominous.

C70: What’s the main topic Red Sox fans are discussing that maybe isn’t obvious to other teams?
John: The continuing absence of Dustin Pedroia. I see it on many Facebook pages I am on. Those “experts” on their keyboards seem to think it’s in everyone’s best interest that he retire. Well, he’s been a warrior for over a decade and a huge part of two Sox championships, and it is his call when it’s time for him to finally hang it up. I know it’s killing him not to play because of his bad knee. I feel badly for him and have always respected him greatly.

C70: What are you looking forward to most about the coming season?
John: How the team responds to new manager Ron Roenicke. I have to admit it’s been a long time since there’s been so much uncertainty surrounding the Red Sox. They could surprise a lot of people this year by making the playoffs, or they could fall on their faces and finish in fourth. (They won’t finish below the Orioles, will they?)