Red Sox have crucial decisions to make following disappointing season

By Nate Lannan

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It was never going to be an easy season for the Boston Red Sox. There was enough drama before the season to at least partially derail the team—thanks to the Alex Cora debacle, losing Mookie Betts in a panicked trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers to avoid a salary crunch, and the offseason-long mishandling of ace Chris Sale’s Tommy John injury. The Sox frankly did not have any pressing expectations for this season. But it was still hard to predict them being quite this bad. 

For starters, the pitching was never there. Losing David Price in the Mookie Betts trade during the offseason was bad enough, but it was completely immolated after the loss of Chris Sale became official in the beginning of the season. Trading away Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree at the trade deadline didn’t help matters either.

The Red Sox had a near league-worst 5.58 team ERA, according to Baseball Reference, a part of the website Sports Reference that tracks stats from players and teams and updates them constantly. Nathan “Nasty Nate” Eovaldi had the only winning record among the starting pitchers, while Martin Perez and Chris Mazza both recorded ERA’s above 4.50. Aside from Phillips Valdez, the bullpen was just as excruciating to watch as the starting pitching core. The pen had an irritating 4.37 ERA collectively, leading to many games like their Aug. 22 nightmare against the Baltimore Orioles in which they blew two separate late-game leads—a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning and a 4-3 lead in the 10th. 

Boston notably went on a nine-game losing streak in which they gave up a whopping 86 runs, allowing opponents to score double-digit runs in three consecutive games. When compared to the length of a sans-COVID season, that is the equivalent of a 22-game losing streak. 

Manager Ron Roenicke clearly was not the answer, after leading the Red Sox to a 24-36 record through 60 games, which would disappoint even in a normal season. Not to mention, Boston’s front office essentially viewed him as a placeholder as he was abruptly hired in January after Alex Cora was fired for his role in the Houston Astros infamous sign stealing scandal. Roenicke, who was the bench coach under Cora during Boston’s 2018-19 World Series-winning season, seemed to fans like a solid hire on paper at the time. It never panned out in practice, even if the front office’s expectations of him were low. 

Going forward, this offseason is going to be crucial for the Red Sox. The way this season played out presented them with the arduous task of carefully rebuilding the 40-man roster. It is a task that is quite jarring considering the Red Sox were World Champions just two seasons ago. 

The pitching core undeniably needs some serious renovation. Overall, Boston finished as the third-worst pitching team in MLB during the 2020 season. The Red Sox, thankfully, could have some remedies for what was by far their worst issue. Though he only started three games, Tanner Houck looked like the real deal as he won all of them with a stunning .53 ERA, according to Baseball Reference. Boston also holds the fourth pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, which it could use to select a top-tier pitching talent like Vanderbilt University’s Jack Leiter or—fingers crossed—his teammate and other pitching virtuoso Kumar Rocker. Chris Sale should also eventually return to give the starting squad its much needed jolt. 

Additionally, the Sox could go a number of directions to fill the glaring hole at manager. The decision will reportedly be made by Chief of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom, team president Sam Kennedy said. Bloom prefers to keep his process private, deflecting questions about any possible names. He stated he knows it “may be an unsatisfactory answer, but we’re just not going to talk about managerial candidates for our job at this point.”

This leaves potential job candidates up to speculation among fans. A fan-favorite option in the early stages of this search is the idea of an Alex Cora return. Bloom has not ruled it out, and Cora could potentially come in without missing a step since he is already familiar with most of the roster. Other options might include Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, former Red Sox catcher and current assistant coach Jason Varitek, and Red Sox third base coach Carlos Febles. In any case, whoever Chaim Bloom hires will clearly have their hands full rebuilding the team.

Rebuilding the Sox, however, is not impossible. While fan-favorite slugger J.D. Martinez is able to opt out of his contract this winter, indications so far suggest he is looking to remain on the squad for one more season. The team has key pieces returning from injury like Andrew Benintendi and the aforementioned star pitcher Chris Sale. Boston’s incredible draft position could be used to either select a pitcher to eventually shore up the rotation or boost the team’s hitting ability, its one real strength of this season. 

The Red Sox faithful should not expect a team that is going to win the World Series next season. Quite honestly, this team has ways to go before truly contending for a title. There are too many holes around the roster to be solved in one offseason. When next season does finally roll around, however, Sox fans everywhere should expect a team that will not completely dissolve so quickly. Who knows? They might even be good this time around.