The 2018 Red Sox, it turns out, stayed together one year too long. But that's about to change.
The ugly, painful, unwieldy dismantling process will begin with some light pruning before the really tough decisions — Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez — must be confronted. Unless ownership has decided that both must go in service of dropping below the $208 million luxury tax threshold, how to handle their respective futures will be the job of whomever ends up in charge of baseball operations.
A few decisions can be made right now, however, and they'll require saying goodbye to championship stalwarts. Three are free impending free agents, and one is likely to be traded, and before they go, let us take one look back at what they meant to the Red Sox.
We'll start with right-hander Rick Porcello. The 2016 Cy Young Award winner loves pitching in Boston and desperately wants to stay. While there's a chance his market will be so meager that the Red Sox bring him back on a one-year deal, it's probably best for both sides to move on.
Of the 58 pitchers to make at least 75 starts over the last three years, only three posted worse ERAs than Porcello (4.80). He has been below-average for the majority of his Red Sox career, outside of the one obvious outlier, but that doesn't mean he didn't deliver in some big moments.
He one-hit the Yankees last August, joining Pedro Martinez as the only Red Sox hurlers to turn that trick in the last 50 years. He outlasted former teammate Justin Verlander for the 2016 Cy Young Award in one of the closest votes ever.
But if we remember Porcello for anything, it should be the trend that he started last October. With the Red Sox holding on for dear life vs. the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS, Porcello recorded two of the most pivotal outs of the game out of the bullpen to start the eighth, allowing closer Craig Kimbrel to finish off a four-out save in a 5-4 win.
The rest of the starters followed suit, and their relief contributions helped lift the Red Sox to their fourth title since 2004.
Another key contributor last October was first baseman Mitch Moreland. The former Gold Glover made his first All-Star team at age 32 in 2018, but injuries derailed each of his three seasons in Boston. That didn't stop him from delivering one of the biggest hits of the playoffs, his mammoth three-run homer with two outs in the seventh starting the Red Sox on their comeback from a 4-0 deficit en route to a 9-6 win in Game 4 of the World Series.
Moreland arrived from Texas with as much postseason experience as anyone on the roster outside of Dustin Pedroia, thanks to seven playoff trips with the Rangers. A title had always eluded him — he can thank David Freese of the Cardinals for that — which is why he was as overjoyed as anyone to finally win it all last season.
Another 2018 supporting player might've been the ultimate supporting player, period. Where do we start with Brock Holt? The impending free agent has likely been made expendable by the younger and cheaper Marco Hernandez, but it doesn't change the impact he made after as arriving as a throw-in from the Pirates with closer Joel Hanrahan.
All Holt did was earn Rookie of the Year votes in 2014, make an All-Star team in 2015, and deliver the first postseason cycle ever during a savage beatdown of the Yankees during the ALDS.
Holt completed the accomplishment in style with a ninth-inning homer off catcher Austin Romine, racing around the bases with an grin that screamed, "CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS!?" Outside of Chris Sale striking out Manny Machado or Andrew Benintendi's diving catch in Houston, it might've been the most joyous moment of the postseason.
And that brings us to the final name on this list. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is technically arbitration eligible, but with his offensive production once again frustratingly intermittent and the Red Sox looking to cut costs, there's a strong chance he'll be moved rather than paid $10 million-plus. If that's the case, the ups will eventually outnumber the downs in our memories.
He debuted on Opening Day in 2013 after a monster spring training, eventually working a walk off Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia that keyed a ton-setting victory. He quickly wowed us with his glove, establishing himself — with all due respect to Fred Lynn, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Ellis Burks — as the greatest center fielder in franchise history.
You could run highlight-reel catches for three hours and still leave jaw-dropping plays on the cutting room floor, but his brief offensive explosions were nearly as memorable, whether it was his 29-game hitting streak and All-Star start in 2016, his insanely hot out-of-nowhere August in 2015, or best of all, his one-man wrecking crew act vs. the Astros in last year's ALCS.
Bradley only batted .200, but he made his three hits count, blasting two homers and a double for nine RBIs en route to the series MVP award.
It turned out to be his high-water mark, because he spent most of 2019 batting below .200. It is now clear the team can sacrifice a little defense in center to gain a better bat, and that means Bradley is expendable.
He won't be forgotten, though, and neither will the other three players on this list.
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