Even the most optimistic Boston Red Sox fan will be ready to throw the towel in on a disappointing 2015, and the question now is just how the franchise are going to ensure next season is a much more improved campaign for the team. On the back of a dismal start to the year, the Red Sox have been playing catch-up to the rest of the American League East. Even if the team turn things around over the next few weeks, it’s going to be neigh on impossible for Boston to cut the gap between themselves and Tampa Bay at the top of the AL East. While general manager Ben Cherington won’t publicly write off this season, he could be forgiven for having one eye on the offseason, where he’ll be desperate to get to work on fixing the clear issues that have been holding the team back in 2015.
There are a number of areas of this Red Sox team that need addressing and Cherington will already be thinking about what he needs to do when this season ends. From releasing players to signing new ones, getting the ones already on the roster playing the way they need to, solving the clear coaching problems at the franchise and all the other little factors that will need sorting if the Red Sox are going to have any chance of competing next year, the Boston GM faces as busy a few months as he has endured during his time in the role.
Trade the dead wood
The first player the Red Sox should be looking to get rid off will be Mike Napoli, and it certainly looks as though John Farrell has been trying to faze the 33-year-old out. Before he recorded a fourth innings single in the victory over the Braves, Napoli had gone 0-18 this season, and the first baseman hasn’t done anywhere near enough to convince the Red Sox management that he is worth keeping around. Having struggled with injuries throughout 2014, Napoli’s comeback year hasn’t gone to plan and the veteran could be running out of time to save his Boston career. The same could be said for Clay Buchholz. The pitcher has been on a steady decline over the past couple of years and the two-time All Star will be a useful commodity for the Red Sox when it comes to the trade. As long as they can get something in return for Buchholz, Boston will be more than happy to lose a player who was part of the 2013 World Series-winning team.
Stop the field change experiment
Trying to interchange the infielders and outfielders might have been a nice idea in theory, but for the most part it’s been a clear failure. The defense is a reason the likes of betfair have the Red Sox out at around 7/1 at the time of writing to finish at the top of the AL East this season. In terms of the immediate future, Hanley Ramirez really needs to be put in at DH rather than in a position where he merely goes through the motions. Until Shane Victorino or Daniel Nava are fit enough to return to the outfield, the Red Sox shouldn’t be looking beyond Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo and Alejandro De Aza for their outfield. With Jackie Bradley Jr impressing for Pawtucket, Boston may be tempted to bring him back in and throw him in either at outfield or in the centre, which would allow Dustin Pedroia to revert back to his spot at number two. Playing the right players in their right position might seem like an obvious tactic, but it’s one the Red Sox should really start doing, especially out in the field.
Consider John Farrell’s future
It’s probably fair to say things haven’t gone well for Farrell since his arrival in Boston two years ago, and the former pitcher is just one of a number of members of this Red Sox outfit who could be looking for a new job come the end of the season. One of the biggest criticisms for Farrell during his time in charge at Fenway has been his inability to alter his plans in the middle of a game. As soon as the Red Sox fall behind, the 52-year-old is often found wanting in terms of his tactics, and his failure to win over all the big personalities in the Boston changing room hasn’t helped his case. There might be a number of issues within the roster, but getting it right in terms of the management could be as important as signing a new starting pitcher or a slugger. After being forced to call a team meeting to discuss the uncertainty surrounding his future, it appears to be a matter of time before things come to a head for Farrell in his role as team manager.
Tread wisely in the Free Agency
While much of the recent focus has been on whether or not the Red Sox will make a move for Johnny Cueto during the upcoming trade window, but Cherington may feel he needs to wait until the end of the season before shelling out that level of money for new starting players. A new starting pitcher might be top of the Red Sox’s shopping list but they don’t want to make any snap decisions that could end up backfiring.
Cueto could well be the man who the Red Sox feel can take the team forward, but waiting until the end of the season could save a sizable sum of money, not to mention give Cherington the opportunity to weigh up other options. Red Sox fans have seen their team try to save money when it comes to their bullpen but it’s going to take a serious investment from Boston if they are going to finally solve their long-running pitching issues. You can also add to that list a powerful left-armer capable of complimenting Junichi Tazawa, with Tommy Layne expected to leave Fenway as soon as July.