Red Sox

McAdam: A look at the Red Sox' offseason shopping list

McAdam: A look at the Red Sox' offseason shopping list

Beginning Tuesday, free agents can begin signing with teams, marking the official start of baseball's offseason.

This one figures to have far fewer dramatic moves than last year, when, among other moves, the Red Sox handed out the biggest contact in team history (David Price) and landed a front-line closer (Craig Kimbrel) in exchange for two of their best prospects.

Which isn't to suggest there aren't significant needs for the 2017 Red Sox.

To begin with, they must somehow find a replacement for the irreplaceable David Ortiz.

Upgrades would also be welcome in the bullpen, and perhaps, the starting rotation, though the latter is more likely to come via trade with such a thin free-agent market.

A look at the needs and some potential targets/solutions:

DESIGNATED HITTER

Let's state the obvious: Ortiz can't be fully replaced. The combination of his consistent production, ability to deliver in the clutch and his leadership skills make him a once-in-a-generational talent.

But somewhere, the Sox need to find a middle-of-the-order force to maintain their offensive might. The Sox led the majors in runs scored last year and it's difficult to envision them maintaining that perch without adding a elite run producer either by free agency of trade.

Top option: Edwin Encarnacion

Little known fact: The Red Sox had a trade in place in 2010 that would have sent Mike Lowell to Toronto in exchange for Encarnacion. But when Lowell indicated he would retire rather than report to the Blue Jays, the deal was shelved.

If the Sox are to make a deal for Encarnacion this winter, it will come at a significantly higher cost. Expectations are Encarnacion will get, at minimum, a four-year deal with an average annual salary in excess of $20 million. It would also cost the Red Sox their first-round pick next June as compensation since the Jays will undoubtedly present the slugger with a qualifying offer.

In spite of the cost, there's little dispute that Encarnacion would be a huge addition. He's actually hit more homers (193-163) and knocked in more runs (550-502) than Ortiz over the last five seasons.

As an added bonus, Encarnacion could be more than just a DH, with an ability to split playing time at first with Hanley Ramirez.

Next level: Carlos Beltran; Jose Bautista

Beltran was a trade target of the Red Sox last July, but making a deal with the rival New York Yankees proved problematic. A switch-hitter, Beltran would give the Sox some balance to the lineup and could, at least occasionally, fill in in left field. At 40, he would likely command no more than a one-year deal with an option for 2018.

Bautista had the misfortune to have a dropoff season in his walk year. His .817 OPS, while hardly diastrous, was his lowest since 2009. He's lost range in the outfield, but could still contribute occasionally. The one benefit to his disappointing 2016 is that he'd come at a cheaper price than teammate Encarnacion. He's has a huge backer in manager John Farrell, who had him for two seasons in Toronto. And more than any other free agent DH available, Bautista would fill Ortiz's leadership void.

Others: Mark Trumbo, Matt Holliday, Mike Napoli

Trumbo represents a pure power bat. He led baseball with 47 homers, but that was something of an outlier since he'd hit 36 homers in the previous two seasons combined. He's also is all-or-nothing hitter, with 170 strikeouts and a propensity for slumps.

Holliday is more of a pure hitter, who hasn't hit as many as 30 homers since 2007, when he played in Coors Field. At nearly 37, he would also represent a shorter investment.

Napoli, of course, is no stranger to the Red Sox, having been a big contributor to their 2013 championship. Well-liked by teammates and the staff alike, he found himself in 2016 after his wildly uneven 2015. Like Trumbo, he's streaky. Unlike Trumbo, he could contribute in the field, and might come with no strings attached since the budget-conscious Indians might not give him a qualifying offer.

BULLPEN

The Red Sox stand to lose two relievers from their playoff roster (Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler), both of whom they could try to retain.

Uehara will be 41 on Opening Day, meaning a one-year deal at a salary far below the $9 million he earned last year. Ziegler can probably command a multiyear commitment and may want to go somewhere he can serve as closer again.

There are a number of top-flight closers (Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman) on the market, but it's hard to envision the Red Sox wanting to commit the money necessary to land one, especially with Kimbrel on the books for next season at $13.25 million, with an option year after that.

TOP OPTION: Greg Holland

After undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing all of last season, Holland is ready to throw for teams this week and the Red Sox plan to be in attendance. He has closing experience, but presumably wouldn't be averse to setting-up Kimbrel -- if the money were right. Holland has averaged 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings in his career and could give the Sox another swing-and-miss weapon in the late innings.

OTHER OPTIONS: Luke Hochevar, Fernando Rodney, Santiago Casilla

Hochevar has had injury issues the last few years, missing 2014 with Tommy John surgery and undergoing thoracic outlet surgery last August, making his availability to start the season a question. But Hochever has multi-inning capability and might be worth a gamble.

Casilla saved 88 games over the last three years, though he lost the closer's job with the Giants in the second half of the season. He still has good stuff (averaging a career-best 10.1 strikeouts in 2016) and could be worth a gamble.

Rodney, too, represents a gamble. He was brilliant with the Padres last year, then disastrous with Miami after a mid-season trade. He has a history with Dave Dombrowski in Detroit, and at nearly 40, wouldn't be in position to demand much in the way of salary.

Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

The Boston Red Sox's bullpen undoubtedly is the club's biggest question mark entering the 2019 season.

But at least we know who's part of the unit.

The Red Sox made five roster cuts Saturday, in the process finalizing the eight relief pitchers they'll carry into Opening Day. Here's the list in alphabetical order:

RHP Matt Barnes
RHP Ryan Brasier
RHP Colten Brewer
RHP Heath Hembree
LHP Brian Johnson
RHP Tyler Thornburg
RHP Hector Velázquez
RHP Brandon Workman

While it's not a particularly inspiring group on paper -- only Brasier had an ERA under 3.00 last season -- and it doesn't include All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, manager Alex Cora doesn't seem concerned.

"People outside our world think we're short on pitching. We're not. We're fine," Cora said Saturday, via The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham.

But who will pitch in which roles with Kimbrel and setup man Joe Kelly both gone? Cora continues to play coy, so here's our best guess for each role:

Closer: Matt Barnes

Barnes hasn't always been effective, but he's put in the time, throwing at least 60 innings in each of the past three seasons for Boston. The 28-year-old has made steady improvements each year, too, dropping his ERA to a career-low 3.65 in 2018 with a 3.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His leash will be short, but Barnes at least should get first crack at the closer job in 2019.

Setup man: Ryan Brasier

You could make a case for Brasier as the closer after his stellar 2018 campaign (six earned runs allowed over 33.2 innings). But he still has fewer than 50 career innings under his belt, and an infected pinky toe halted his progress in spring training. The 31-year-old thrived in the seventh and eighth innings last year, so why not keep him there?

Bridge/situational relievers: Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman

The Red Sox have been waiting three years for Thornburg. If he somehow stays on the field and returns to his 2016 form (2.15 ERA over 67 innings with the Brewers), he could get bumped up to the setup man role. For now, we expect Thornburg, Brewer, Hembree and Workman to operate primarily in the sixth and seventh innings based on matchups to bridge the gap to Brasier and Barnes.

Long relievers: Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez

Johnson is the only current left-hander in the 'pen, so he could be used situationally, too. Both he and Velazquez have starting experience, though, and should get the call if a starter gets into trouble early.

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Sam Kennedy hints Red Sox could host MLB All-Star Game within 5 years

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USA TODAY Sports

Sam Kennedy hints Red Sox could host MLB All-Star Game within 5 years

It's been 20 years since the MLB All-Star Game came to Fenway Park. According to Sam Kennedy, that drought may not reach 25.

The Red Sox president and CEO said Saturday he hopes the Midsummer Classic will come back to Boston within the next half-decade.

"I would hope that Fenway would have the opportunity to host an All-Star game in the next 3-5 years," Kennedy wrote in an email to MassLive.com's Chris Cotillo.

Kennedy apparently said the same thing at an event in Boston that same day.

The city of Boston has hosted four MLB All-Star Games -- three at Fenway Park and one at Braves Field -- the most recent a memorable 1999 Midsummer Classic that featured Red Sox legend Ted Williams being honored on the field and ace Pedro Martinez striking out five of the six batters he faced over two innings.

 

Fenway is MLB's oldest and arguably most iconic ballpark, so it would make sense for the All-Star Game to return there after 20-plus years. After this year, Fenway will join a list of six active MLB stadiums that haven't hosted an All-Star Game in two decades: Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium (1980), Oakland Coliseum (1987), Chicago's Wrigley Field (1990), Toronto's Rogers Centre (1991), Baltimore's Camden Yards (1993) and Colorado's Coors Field (1998).

Cleveland is hosting this year and Dodger Stadium will host the 2020 game, but the Midsummer Classic is up for grabs starting in 2021.

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