According to all reports and Dave Dombrowski himself it looks like the Boston Red Sox are happy where they are. They plan to retain John Farrell and his staff and the players on the roster are all expected to return as is except for those who retire including David Ortiz and likely Koji Uehara. Is that good enough though to compete next season?
Obviously the roster is full so a subtraction would be required before addition. When Pablo Sandoval returns this offseason it makes short term sense to slide Travis Shaw to first base and Hanley Ramirez to the DH spot. That is a tiny downgrade at DH even if Hanley does a repeat offensively of 2016 and Shaw is a big step down at first, but he was already on the roster so it’s not a big impact to the team and perhaps he can gain more power next season.
The big change will be Sandoval and that’s a huge wildcard. He could be a 3 win player and make the loss of Ortiz about even or he could be the dumpster fire of 2015 and not only be a downgrade but a net negative player. I suspect he’ll be closer to the 2014 Sandoval and make a similar impact to John Lackey when he returned from Tommy John. Could even battle for comeback player of the year award, but honestly 2 wins above replacement would be fine for this season.
The outfield is a spot the Red Sox have zero interest in adjusting with three players all under 27 years of age and a bench of Chris Young and Brock Holt should do just fine for next season. I don’t expect any changes in the outfield. The farm is still stocked and while Yoan Moncada struggled he should be ready in 2017 if Sandoval, Dustin Pedroia or even Travis Shaw struggle or get injured.
As for catcher the team still has a loaded if injured group in Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez and the surprise breakout for Sandy Leon. I wouldn’t count on Leon to repeat those numbers since his BABIP stands at .392 in those 78 games played. That said the team will need to make a decision on direction with this group and might decide to send one of them packing for another need.
At pitcher it makes sense to expect David Price to be better and Rick Porcello to help. The return of Steven Wright will be a welcome addition, but where does the back end of the rotation slot? Clay Buchholz has an option that needs to be decided on, but even when he pitched better in the second half he was hiding some concerns. His xFIP has 5.49 in the first half and 5.03 after the break. Essentially he got lucky/better on home runs and that’s not something pitchers can really control in the long run. If I was Dombrowski I would let Buchholz walk and count on Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz for now. That said I would try to improve on both of those options if the chance arises.
The bullpen might also need work, but that depends on several factors. If Carson Smith is ready to go and Joe Kelly is committed to the pen then you might not need as much as before. That plus Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler gives a solid group. You won’t be signing a top closer from anyone so perhaps a trade for another arm if questions about Smith arise.
The 2017 Red Sox will have a large hole in the personality of David Ortiz and his bat will be missed, but perhaps the team is best served by smaller moves this offseason and maintaining the current roster. It won’t be flashy and might make for another tough race in the AL East, but unless you can convince Joey Bautista to take over for Ortiz it’s probably the best decision.