There’s a job opening on Yawkey Way. And I’m throwing my hat into the ring.
Believe me, it would be an emotional goodbye to the media world, but if I were named the new Boston Red Sox general manager, those tears would dry pretty fast.
Earlier this week on my podcast, we ran through a mock interview for the position, which opened up after Mike Hazen left for the Arizona Diamondbacks. And while I’m not actually functioning as someone who’s about to be invited into Fenway Park as a realistic candidate, I do believe I have some ideas that would get the Red Sox back to the ALCS, and even, the World Series.
As I mentioned in last week’s column, I blame Rick Porcello and David Price for being swept by the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS this year. My point was clear. If you can’t pitch in the postseason, you won’t win. And the team’s two best starters — Porcello and Price — didn’t show up with their best stuff.
So, as new Red Sox GM, my priority this winter would be to take a look at the pitching staff, top to bottom, rotation and bullpen. But I don’t think anyone in the league should give up a king’s ransom to land a reliable middle reliever or setup man. I’ve seen championship bullpens created from within. I’ve seen reliability come from unexpected arms. Just ask Koji Uehara, who wasn’t in anyone’s plans to be the team’s shutdown, dominant closer that he ended up being for the World Series champion Red Sox in 2013.
And don’t try to sell me on the idea that Terry Francona has set a new “blueprint” for postseason success by going to his most dominant reliever in the middle innings. He’s only doing that because he has to, because his rotation is plagued with injuries. Don’t get me wrong, Andrew Miller is a great piece to have in that spot, but I’m willing to bet that even Francona would prefer a rotation of healthy arms who have the potential to at least get into, or through, the seventh inning.
That’s the blueprint I’d be looking for, as new Red Sox GM. I’d be out there trying to bolster my rotation. And I’d be willing to trade a whole lot in order to bring in a top-of-the-rotation guy.
Before we get to that, though, there’s just one thing I’d need to take care of. That would be to offer Edwin Encarnacion a four-year deal with an option on the fifth. I’d let his agent know that money is not an issue, and that it would be in their best interest to get back to me with any offer they receive. Unless someone makes him the highest paid player in the game — which nobody will — I’ll most likely be willing to either match or top it.
Encarnacion will never replace David Ortiz. But his production as a designated hitter who can also play some first base will help ease the pain of losing Ortiz. Once my message gets through to Encarnacion and his agent, it’s time to make some calls and pull the trigger on a trade that would land me another top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. And for that, it’s time to think outside the box.
While Sonny Gray’s name has been brought up before, why not give the Oakland Athletics a call and throw some names out there that would grab their full attention?
After all, Gray is coming off the worst season of his career. Injuries played a role, but he did make 22 starts and went 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA. Still, he’ll turn 27 in November and is arbitration eligible through 2019. With a fastball that can reach the mid-90s, you have to put your money on the fact that Gray has the stuff to bounce back and bounce back strong. He had a 3.08 ERA in 33 starts in 2014, and a 2.73 ERA in 31 starts in 2015. Expect 2016 to be an aberration. And expect me, as Red Sox GM this winter, to treat it as such.
Also expect me to give the Kansas City Royals a call. Because I want Yordano Ventura. The kid is 25-years-old and has already been in the World Series twice. He, like Gray, is coming off the worst season of his career, with an 11-12 record and 4.45 ERA in 32 starts. Ventura’s best season came in 2014, when he went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 30 starts. He’s under contract through 2021, where there’s a $12 million club option. And with a fastball that can hit the upper-90’s with filthy movement, there might not be much incentive for the Royals to move him right now. But, as new Red Sox GM, it would be my priority to make him available. Same goes for someone like Gray, and maybe even a few others.
It’s time to stop paying for 30-year-old pitchers who are coming off the best years of their careers. It’s time to start overpaying in a trade to acquire starters in their 20s who have all the potential in the world to be dominant for several years before they even reach their 30th birthday.
Most of my effort would be spent on a move like that, this winter, if I were hired as the new Red Sox GM. Instead, I’ll be shoveling snow and reacting to the team’s offseason from afar just like you.
But I’ll let you know if I get the job.