How will the Red Sox look in 2017

Bryan Mauro-Contributing Writer (@threecolorbeard)

Image Credit: John Tlumacki
Since the 2016 Red Sox season has come to an end, it’s not too early to examine what this team should look like once 2017 kicks off. The Red Sox should see a little bit of roster turnover, but for the most part the starting 9 should be the same.

The starting 9 next year should be Hanley Ramirez at first base, Dustin Pedroia at second, Brock Holt at third, Mookie Betts in RF, Andrew Benintendi in LF, Jackie Bradley Jr. in CF, Xander Bogaerts at SS, Christian Vazquez at catcher, and Pablo Sandoval as the DH.

This leaves the bench with Chris Young, Blake Swihart, Sandy Leon, Travis Shaw, Marco Hernandez, Josh Rutledge, Ryan Hanigan, and Bryan Holaday. Sandy Leon and Bryan Holaday are arbitration eligible players. The Red Sox must offer these players a contract by Dec 2nd. The Red Sox will offer a contract to Sandy Leon, as he was good enough this year to warrant an extended time in the organization. Bryan Holaday will not get offered a contract, due to the number of young catchers still under contract. Josh Rutledge was hurt and doesn’t hit well enough, so I would not imagine the Red Sox will offer him a contract either. Ryan Hanigan has a team option for 2017 that does not appear will be picked up. His omission from the playoff roster was very telling. Aaron Hill is a Free Agent and will try to get a multi year deal with another team.

With David Ortiz retiring, the Red Sox must find a DH. I penciled in Pablo Sandoval, as the DH, strictly because I think Brock Holt is the better defensive third baseman. I also penciled in Christian Vazquez as the starting catcher over Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart. Vazquez should get ample opportunity come spring training to earn his job back. Swihart basically missed a whole year due to his ankle injury, and Leon was not great with the bat at the end of the year. I think the catcher battle will be the most intriguing going into spring training.

Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley
The Red Sox have been linked to many high profile names to take over the DH spot. Some names to keep an eye on when winter meetings hit and free agency opens up are two guys from north of the Border. The first one being Jose Bautista, and the second, Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion was endorsed by Big Papi to take over the DH spot in Boston. He loves hitting in Fenway, and has also said he will explore all options this offseason in regards to his playing future. The Red Sox should be able to outbid the Blue Jays.

The pitching situation is a little murkier. Will the Red Sox carry 6 starters? Will they retain Clay Buchholz? Will Koji retire? You can guarantee that Rick Porcello, David Price, Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez will be back in the starting rotation going into next year. That leaves Clay Buchholz and Drew Pomeranz. Clay Buchholz does have an option year remaining on his contract that the Red Sox could choose to pick up. He did pitch very well down the stretch, and I think this warrants getting his option picked up. I think at the very least, Clay will be retained because it is nice to have a guy who can pitch high-leverage innings in the bullpen or start. Drew Pomeranz will be the other pitcher vying for the fifth rotation spot. He was a good reliever earlier in his career and was a decent starter in the first half last year. I hope the good Drew returns.

I don’t see the Red Sox really making a push for much starting pitching in the offseason. The Bullpen however is a different story. Let’s assume Koji retires, and Pomeranz is the long man, meaning Clay Buchholz won the starter spot. That leaves Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Junichi Tazawa, Carson Smith, Brad Ziegler, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Robbie Ross Jr., Fernando Abad, Noe Ramirez and Robbie Scott.

Photo Credit: Sean McAdam
Brad Ziegler is a free agent and it would be very beneficial for the Red Sox to try and resign him to a 2 year deal. He was good out of the bullpen last year, can get people out, and is death on right handed hitters. Kimbrel will be the closer. Kelly should have the 8th inning. Carson Smith, when he is able to return, should have his spot in the 7th inning back. Robbie Ross Jr. is a versatile guy out of the bullpen and will have a spot. I would love to Robby Scott make this team out of spring training, as he was really impressive in September and really hard on lefties. Matt Barnes and Heath Hembree should round out the bullpen.

Fernando Abad was not good in a Red Sox uniform and is arbitration eligible. Hard to see a way the Red Sox tender him a contract. It will be hard for Noe Ramirez to earn a spot on this roster come opening day. He had his moments this year, but his Frisbee slider is not major league ready and some seasoning in the minors could really do him well. Junichi Tazawa’s time in Boston is over and so is Ryan Hanigan’s. Both were omitted from the playoff roster and Tazawa was barely used in September, so I would imagine we will see Taz in a new uniform come spring training.

I would look for the Red Sox to add some key pieces to this bullpen in the offseason. They will need to replace the spots of Koji and Tazawa. It is also helpful to have some competition and some depth to the bullpen. The Red Sox have a guy by the name of Brandon Workman who should be ready to pitch next year, after sitting this year out with Tommy John surgery. I think Brandon will get a chance to contribute in 2017 to this bullpen.

Spring Training is only a few short months away. Who’s ready?