BOSTON -- After back-to-back 93-win seasons and American League East Championships, the clear goal for the Red Sox heading into 2018 is to turn regular-season success into a deep October run.The Red Sox have played just three home playoff games in the past two years, while producing a 1-6 record
BOSTON -- After back-to-back 93-win seasons and American League East Championships, the clear goal for the Red Sox heading into 2018 is to turn regular-season success into a deep October run.
The Red Sox have played just three home playoff games in the past two years, while producing a 1-6 record in the American League Division Series.
The young core will clearly be better for the experiences of the past two years. But the roster also needs some help, particularly on offense. David Ortiz's absence loomed large, and his void couldn't be filled individually or collectively in the lineup or the clubhouse.
• Despite ALDS loss, Red Sox had strong 2017
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will spend the winter trying to find bats, and probably another arm or two for the bullpen.
More firepower: For a team that plays in a hitter-friendly ballpark and has often been known for high-powered offenses, it was somewhat stunning to see the Red Sox finish 27th in the Major Leagues in home runs in 2017. Some of that had to do with young players not performing as well as the year before, and there was, of course, the absence of Big Papi. But to keep up in today's game, you need to be able to bash. The Astros and Yankees, who are currently playing in the AL Championship Series presented by Camping World, finished 1-2 in the Majors in homers. The Cubs and Dodgers, the National League participants, ranked 3-4 in the NL.
Possible free-agent fits: OF J.D. Martinez, 1B Eric Hosmer, 1B Yonder Alonso, 1B Logan Morrison, 1B Carlos Santana, 3B Mike Moustakas, OF Justin Upton (has opt-out).
Who's on first?Mitch Moreland is the only free agent from Boston's primary starting lineup from last season, which means the club could well be on the lookout for a new first baseman. They could also try to re-sign Moreland, who was a good fit in 2017 and earned respect the way he played through injuries. Prospect Sam Travis could also get a chance to win the job in Spring Training, but his production in the Minors fell below expectations this season. Signing or trading for a first baseman could be a way for the Red Sox to address some production issues.
Possible free-agent fits: Moreland, Hosmer, Alonso, Morrison, Santana.
Bridge to Kimbrel: The Red Sox acquired Addison Reed to fill this role down the stretch, but the righty is set for free agency. The Red Sox have several right-handers under their contractual control for next season, including Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg and Richard Hembree. But a sure-fire eighth-inning stopper is a clear need.
Possible-free agent fits: Reed, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Joe Smith.
Starting rotation: The Red Sox have Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Thomas Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright all under their control for next season. Without question, their depth is strong in the rotation. But Dombrowski will have to decide either this winter or by the non-waiver Trade Deadline next July if it is a championship-caliber rotation.
The big two of Sale and Price -- assuming the latter stays healthy -- is a clear strong point. But Porcello is again a question mark after a sub-par performance just one year after winning the AL Cy Young Award. Rodriguez remains an enigma -- dominant at times, shaky at others, and injury pone. Pomeranz had a standout season, but can the Red Sox bank on him doing it again? Wright is coming back from knee surgery and could be a valuable swingman.
What becomes of JBJ? If the Red Sox land Martinez -- who could be their primary target -- on the free-agent market, they'd likely play him in left field, which means Andrew Benintendi could go back to his natural position of center field. In other words, if the Sox acquire Martinez, they might have to trade Jackie Bradley Jr., who is as gifted a defender as there is in the game, but remains inconsistent at the plate. Bradley has three arbitration-eligible seasons left, and he would be appetizing to many teams.
Will Pedey be healthy? Everyone knows what a tough season it was for Dustin Pedroia, as he battled left knee woes from beginning to end. If Pedroia has another surgery, it could be a lengthy recovery that could keep him out for a significant chunk of 2018. If that ends up being the path Pedroia takes, the Red Sox will be in the market for a second baseman.
Over the threshold? Red Sox owner John Henry made it clear to Dombrowski that he didn't want to go over the luxury tax last season due to ramifications from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That is the main reason the Red Sox didn't make a run at Edwin Encarnacion last winter. After a second straight ALDS ouster in the postseason, don't be surprised to see ownership loosen the payroll for Dombrowski, so he can get what he needs via free agency or trade.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.