Five questions for the Red Sox this offseason
BOSTON -- After a title defense attempt fell well short, the Red Sox will spend the coming days and weeks regrouping in an effort to make sure Fenway Park is open for business next October.
There are many questions to answer before manager Alex Cora’s team takes the field again in 2020, and here are five of the most pressing after an 84-78 season.
1. What impact will Bloom make?
With Chaim Bloom set to run the front office as chief baseball officer, it will be interesting to see what moves he makes in the short and long term.
Bloom’s background with the Rays suggests he is the right person to fulfill owner John Henry’s desire to bring the payroll below the first luxury tax threshold penalty of $208 million while also bolstering the farm system. The Rays have been masterful at building a strong team without a high payroll, and Bloom will obviously have better financial resources to work with in Boston.
Bloom also specializes in player development and analytics -- two areas Henry was open about saying he was looking for in his next baseball operations leader.
2. Will J.D. opt out?
This was a big question entering the offseason, but rather than opting out of his contract, J.D. Martinez has reportedly positioned himself to be back in the middle of the Red Sox’s batting order next season.
A source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand that Martinez decided not to exercise his opt-out clause. Martinez has three years and $62.5 million left on the five-year pact he signed with Boston in Spring Training 2018. However, Martinez can also opt out following the ’20 and ’21 seasons.
3. Will Mookie gets traded?
As has been well chronicled, 2020 is a walk year for Betts, who has indicated he doesn’t plan on signing an extension with the Red Sox before he gets a chance to try free agency. With Henry’s candid admission about needing to trim some payroll, it could be hard to get down to $208 million with both Betts and Martinez on the roster. Betts is due to receive yet another big bump through the arbitration process.
“That’s out of my hands. I have my representation to take care of that type of stuff, so I don’t worry about it,” Betts said.
4. Can Sale, Price get healthy?
Of all the reasons the Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs, this is the biggest: Chris Sale and David Price combined for 47 starts, 254 2/3 innings and a 4.35 ERA. The Sox need better health and a higher level of success from two pitchers who will earn a combined $62 million next season.
Sale’s upcoming follow-up visit with Dr. James Andrews will be pivotal in determining the course of his offseason. Price is also recovering from surgery on his left wrist.
5. Will Benintendi bounce back?
In a season in which most of Boston’s offensive players performed either above their expected levels (Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vázquez) or right about what you expected (Betts, Martinez), left fielder Andrew Benintendi saw a significant dip in his production.
After hitting .290 in 2018, Benintendi finished at .266 this year with a whopping 140 strikeouts. When Benintendi is a frequent presence on the basepaths, the Red Sox are a nearly unstoppable force on offense.