Red Sox

What happened to creativity? Red Sox remain in hibernation as offseason trudges on

What happened to creativity? Red Sox remain in hibernation as offseason trudges on

Red Sox ownership evaluated last year's 84-win disappointment and didn't even wait until the season finale to hand president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski his walking papers.

The changes expected of a bloated payroll required the kind of creativity ill-suited to a 60-something who still kept notes on index cards and preferred consummating trades the old-fashioned way, via actual talking.

Thanks for the World Series, but time for someone new.

In Dombrowski's place, the club hired Chaim Bloom, a 30-something Yale graduate who had demonstrated an ability to think imaginatively in Tampa while helping turn one of the game's smallest payrolls into one of its toughest outs.

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We spent the leadup to free agency wondering how the Red Sox would wow us. It felt like virtually everyone and everything was on the table.

They could trade their entire starting outfield, including former MVP Mookie Betts. They could move left-hander David Price. Maybe they'd even go nuclear and entertain offers for franchise shortstop Xander Bogaerts in an acknowledgement that what comes next might be more of a teardown than a reload.

When they hibernated at the start of free agency, we reasoned it away by saying that they were waiting out the market. The only teams that could afford to acquire players like Betts or Price would first target high-profile free agents.

Only when they'd missed out on, say, Anthony Rendon and Gerrit Cole, would they coming crawling to the Red Sox, ready to deal.

When the high end of the market cleared out and still the Red Sox did nothing, we squinted a little, but figured they'd pull the trigger any day.

Blockbusters take time, especially when they involve the kind of money — $96 million remaining on Price's deal, the roughly $30 million due Betts — that only the richest teams can afford.

Then came arbitration agreements with Betts ($27 million) and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., two trade candidates, and an eye-opening interview with owner John Henry, who expressed indignance to Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy that the media had overblown ownership's desire to drop below the $208 million luxury-tax threshold, even though Henry had had revealed in September in direct terms that not only did the team need to shed significant payroll, "that's something we've known for more than year now."

Henry now insists that the front office's mandate isn't to cut payroll, but to remain competitive for the next five years.

While there's still time to swing a mega-deal, every day that passes brings us closer to the arrival of pitchers and catchers on Feb. 12 and the finalization of opposing payrolls and rosters, at least from a big-ticket perspective.

The Red Sox could soon find themselves without a willing trade partner, which means they'll be inhabiting the worst of both worlds, failing to cut payroll in what feels like a necessary long-term recalibration, but also sitting out an entire offseason, save for a stray Martin Perez or Kevin Plawecki, leaving last year's flaws in place.

What started as an offseason promising seismic changes could instead end with the club returning intact in the hopes that it rebounds.

And for this they needed to overhaul baseball operations? So they could do . . . nothing? Are we supposed to feel good about maintaining the status quo?

The whole idea of change at the top was to avoid a repeat of 2019, but the way things stand now, the Red Sox appear comfortable rolling out virtually the exact same team and hoping for different results.

It's hard to imagine anyone considered that outcome either a goal or a mandate.

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

J.D. Martinez states without equivocation that Red Sox will be exonerated by MLB investigation

SPRINGFIELD -- For five hours on Saturday morning at Winter Weekend, Red Sox players and coaches delivered basically the same message in regards to the 2018 cheating scandal: We're not at liberty to say anything until the league finishes its investigation.

And then J.D. Martinez stepped in front of the cameras.

The slugging DH, who earlier this offseason chose to remain in Boston rather than exercise an opt-out in his contract, minced no words when asked if the Red Sox did anything wrong during their championship 2018 season.

"You know, it sucks, to be honest with you," he said of the investigation. "It does suck. But you know what? I know I'm excited for the investigation to be over with just so that they can see that there was nothing going on here."

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So he believes the team is innocent of the charges that it used the replay room to steal opposing signs in real time?

"I believe that, yes," Martinez said.

And what gives Martinez this confidence, despite a report to the contrary in The Athletic claiming that the Red Sox stole signs?

"Because I was in there," he said. "I saw what was. . . . Straight up, everyone seems to forget that in 2017 and '16 this team was a really good team. This team won 93 games those two years and then we just got better."

Martinez spoke without hesitation, and also saluted departed manager Alex Cora, while offering some insight into why Cora decided to leave the team.

"Kind of heartbroken about it," he said. "I talked to him before and I understood his side of it. He didn't want to be a distraction going into the season. I know it was wearing on him and his family, so I obviously feel for him and I wish him the best. But I know he played a big, big role for our team and he was one of my favorites, if not my favorite manager that I've had. It's going to be tough."

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell says he'd love to take job as Red Sox manager temporarily if it brought Alex Cora back

Mike Lowell would check a lot of the boxes the Red Sox would be looking for in their managerial search. The popular former Red Sox third baseman is a Cuban-American who speaks Spanish and English and is media-savvy as an analyst for the MLB Network. 

Still, there's one condition he has that will probably take Lowell out of the running. 

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The 2007 World Series MVP and 2018 inductee into the team's Hall of Fame has no managerial experience, but told WEEI's Rob Bradford in a text message, "I would love to if I knew it was just for a year and Cora was guaranteed to come back."

Alex Cora, a Red Sox teammate of Lowell's for three seasons (2006-08), was let go by on Tuesday after he was named as the central figure in Major League Baseball's investigation of sign-stealing by the Houston Astros when Cora was their bench coach in 2017. Cora is also alleged to have brought a similar system to Boston when he became manager before the 2018 season. MLB is continuing to investigate the allegations against the Red Sox and it will likely result in a suspension of one season or longer for Cora.

Former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were each suspended for a season by MLB and subsequently fired by Houston.

With Cora facing perhaps a longer punishment, or perhaps even a lifetime ban from baseball -- and from Red Sox ownership's telling silence when asked if Cora would ever manage in the majors again -- Lowell's plan of temporarily filling in until Cora's return isn't likely to fly.