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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What will David Ortiz's Last Season Look Like?

The big news in New England today is that David Ortiz will be retiring after the 2016 season.

Ortiz will retire as the most beloved Sox slugger since Yaz hung up his cleats after the 1983 season. But if the first thought in Boston's fan is to be sad about his retirement, the second one is most likely "What kind of season will Papi have in 2016?"

Ortiz turns 40 today (Happy Birthday, Papi!). Not too many players have a career that goes into their 40s and stay productive when they get there. His last three seasons have been remarkably consistent, all with 30+ home runs, 100+ RBI and 500+ AB. He has stayed healthy and has contributed. But 40...things change when you hit 40.

Baseball Reference has this projection for Ortiz in 2016:

567 Plate Appearances | 130 H | 30 2B | 30 HR | 91 RBI | .863 OPS

That would represent his lowest OPS since 2009 and the first time he went under 600 plate appearances in a 100+ game season since 2008. That said, it would still be a pretty remarkable season for a hitter in his 40s. In fact, you could argue that it would be the best season ever for a 40+ hitter with 500 or more homers not named Ted Williams. Which either speaks to Ortiz's longevity or Baseball Reference being too optimistic.

If those stats held, here would be Ortiz's final career numbers:

10032 Plate Appearances | 2433 H | 614 2B | 533 HR | 1732 RBI

And for his career, here is where he would place all-time:

Plate Appearances: 82nd

Hits: 117th

Doubles: 11th

Home Runs: 19th

RBI: 21st (tied with Honus Wagner)

It is also worth noting that Ortiz would be one of only three players in MLB history to retire with 500+ HR, 600+ 2B and 1600+ RBI. The other two players are Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Which I think will make for some very interesting and volatile HOF arguments once Ortiz retires.

My gut says that BR is being slightly optimistic. The past couple of seasons Ortiz has started cold and needed a scorching second half of a season to get his numbers up. Can he do that again at age 40? I think it will be a little harder to do. But I do think he will still reach 600+ doubles. So get those HOF arguments ready.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Kimbrel Deal Shows Dombrowski Means Business

It was just yesterday morning when I posted a piece talking about whom the Sox were most likely to move in any deal. Two of the three names in the minor league system were Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra.

Less than twelve hours after that, the Sox included Margot and Guerra in a four-player swap for Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. Also included in the deal were lefty Logan Allen and infielder Carlos Asuaje.

There is no sugar-coating that the Sox paid a heavy price for Kimbrel. Margot, Guerra and Allen were all top-20 prospects in the Boston system, Margot and Guerra top-10. But Dombrowski made clear that there were no sacred cows in the minor-league system. He drafted none of these kids, which makes him quite capable of moving them on for what he sees as a good deal.

And you can't argue against Kimbrel being a great pickup. Only 27 years of age, he already has 225 saves. A four-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year, he led the NL in saves four out of his five seasons and is a two-time Sporting News Pitcher of the Year. His fastball velocity has remained constant or improved his entire career. He is also under Boston's control for the next three years. Most importantly, he instantly improves a bullpen in Boston that was a disaster last year.

But I'd be lying if I said that moving some of these guys doesn't hurt. Margot especially; I watched him in Portland and you can tell he is going to be a good big leaguer. But the old saw that "You have to give talent to get talent" exists for a reason; because it's true.

Now, was it too high of a price? That depends on who you ask. Some people think it barely hurts at all. Others feel the pain is a little more palpable. Which I think reflects how Boston fans have viewed their minor-league system over recent years.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Who Will the Red Sox Trade This Off-Season?

So the 2015 season is over and all eyes in Boston turn to one man: Dave Dombrowski. The man who is known for wheeling and dealing will undoubtedly continue that tradition as the top man in Fenway Park. Heaven knows enough stories have been written about it over the past few weeks.

But whom exactly could Dombrowski be open to trading? Which young talent will be going out the door to fill a need? Or could it be a more established player? Let's look broadly at the major league level and then at the minors. We won't look at every single player; just the bigger names that could or couldn't be moving this off-season.

Major League Roster

Going Nowhere

Xander Bogaerts

Mookie Betts

David Ortiz

Dustin Pedroia

Rusney Castillo

Hanley Ramirez

Eduardo Rodriguez

Rick Porcello

Bogaerts and Betts are going nowhere. That is as close to a sure thing as you will find in your life.* David Ortiz is the heart and soul of this team and it would be career suicide for Dombrowski to cut him loose as one of his first acts, even if an argument could be made for it. Pedroia could be interesting trade bait but he is too popular and is a 10/5 guy this year. Castillo has shown flashes of the talent that brought him here which makes you want to see if he can build on that in 2016. Also, his $11M a year deal makes him a little hard to move. Hanley Ramirez is on this list because his contract is too big, almost as big as the disappointment we all felt watching him play last year. To move Ramirez would require Boston eating almost all of his contract AND finding a team stupid enough to take him in. Getting both of those things done is very unlikely.

E-Rod is going nowhere; he is the best arm Boston has in the majors right now. Porcello is going nowhere because he has the same combination of cost and poor performance that makes Ramirez unmovable. Although Porcello's performance at the end of the year was encouraging.

Unlikely to Move

Wade Miley

Pablo Sandoval

Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Blake Swihart

Brock Holt

Wade Miley was exactly the pitcher Boston thought they would be getting; an innings-eater who keeps you in games. You need guys like Miley in the back of your rotation and with an affordable two years left on his deal, Boston will want to hold on to him unless their off-season dealings leave them with no room for Miley.

Sandoval performed poorly and has a big contract. But he didn't play as poorly as Ramirez and is paid less. He is also younger and there is a legitimate chance that Sandoval will play better in 2016. He is also a very likable player and that gives Sandoval some value. It is unlikely that Boston will be able to move him but a team looking for a third base presence that is marketable (like San Diego) may be at least willing to talk.

I want to go on record as saying that I really hope that Boston keeps Bradley. He showed what he is capable of in the last two months of the season. His batting improved and he is already one of the best outfielders defensively in the game today. But those same two things, along with his age, make him an asset. In the end I think they don't trade him because Boston's outfield is so dynamic with him in it. But you cannot ignore what he gives Boston in trade value.

Swihart is in the same boat as Bradley. He came on strong, showed his talent and value and is young. The difference here is that Christian Vazquez, who would have been the 2015 starter before Tommy John surgery, will likely start in Pawtucket to make sure his arm is 100%. That should ensure Swihart begins the season in Boston. But if/when Vazquez returns to Fenway, some decisions will have to be made.

Brock Holt is a super-sub and a newly-minted All-Star. That gives him value, both as a player and an asset. He is so good at what he does I can't see Boston moving him on but he could be a piece of a lucrative deal.

Don't Get Comfortable

Travis Shaw

Deven Marerro

Clay Buchholz

Joe Kelly