Well, here we are, December 7, 2015, just 84 days from today, or in just 12 short weeks, on February 29th, the Red Sox open their 2016 Spring Training season with the traditional split squad doubleheader against Boston College and Northeastern University.
Two days later, they play their first game against a Major League opponent, the Minnesota Twins, and before you know it Opening Day will be here.
The Sox open the regular season at Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians on April 5, have a day off and then play two more against the Indians before moving on to Toronto for three games. They then come home for the Home Opener at Fenway on April 11 against the Orioles, the first of three. They have the 14th off and then Toronto then comes in for four games, finishing with the Patriot’s Day game on April 18. The next day, they play the first of three with the Rays in Tampa.
From April 6 until May 2, they have just one scheduled day off, April 14th. A difficult way to start the season, particularly when 13 of the first 16 games are against Eastern Division opponents.
Hopefully, they will start the season as hot as they finished 2015 and begin their second trip of the decade from Worst To First. I, like a lot of other people, was excited about the 2015 version of the Sox before the season began and I, like a lot of other people, still can’t believe they did that badly.
However, the saying Hope springs eternal is truer in Boston than any other place in the world and a lot of us are singing the praises of this young team already this year. Only time will tell.
With the signing of left handed Ace, Free Agent David Price, this week, the Sox have taken another big step in the right direction. Price, 30, signed a seven year $217. million contract on December 1. He is an eight year veteran with a 104-56 career record who won the Cy Young Award in 2012 and won 18 and lost 5 last year between Detroit and Toronto. Traded to Toronto from Detroit on July 31, 2015, he won nine and lost only one with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts down the stretch to give the Blue Jays the Eastern Division championship. He was runner up for the 2015 Cy Young Award.
The addition of Price gives the Sox four left handed starters in a ball park that is not kind to left handers. Look for the Sox to trade one of their other left handed starters, probably Wade Miley or Rookie Henry Owens now that they have a left handed Ace. Owens might prove valuable as trade bait in enticing someone to take Hanley Ramirez and his big contract off the Sox hands.
The acquisition of Craig Kimbrel from the San Diego Padres on November 13, for four minor leaguers, gives the Sox one of the top Closers in the game. Kimbrel, 27 years old, saved 178 of 193 of his save opportunities over the past four years and had a 1.43 ERA in five years with the Atlanta Braves before going to the Padres last year. His ERA was his worst of his career last year at 2.58 but he still saved 39 of 43 tries and struck out 87 batters in just 59 1/3 innings. For his career, he has 563 strikeouts in 348 1/3 innings, an average of better than 1.6 strikeouts per inning.
It appears that Koji Uehara, if he is not traded, will step into the set up role with Kimbrel on board. That would move Junichi Tazawa further back in the rotation and could strengthen the bull pen.
They also picked up 32 year old, veteran outfielder Chris Young from the Yankees. Young, who hit .252 with 14 homers and 42 RBI’s in 140 games for New York last year, is a good defensive outfielder with a career batting average of .235 in ten years.
Some ‘experts’ have pointed to the right handed hitter’s .327 average against left handers in 175 at bats last year as being a real plus in Fenway, however, that’s a very small sample and his career average against left handers is only
.263. He is expected to be the fourth outfielder and back up Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley. They also have Brock Holt to fill in in the outfield, and any place else they need him.
Things are looking better for the Sox at this point. This is the time of the year when I usually quote the great Rogers Hornsby, who, when asked what he did in the winter when there was no baseball, responded that he looked out the window and waited for spring.
In the case of Red Sox fans who have been looking at the news and waiting to see what Dave Dombrowski was going to do to strengthen the Red Sox, the waiting has been worth it so far. I have a feeling that it’s not over yet though.
My only hope is that, now that he has his bullpen and starting pitching help that he promised to get, he does not trade away any of the young position players that will provide the defensive and run support that those pitchers need.
With Price signing for seven years and Kimbrel for three and the bulk of the position players under the Sox control until 2019, the Sox could be among the leaders for several years while they strengthen the farm system for the long term.