Who stays and who goes? Breaking down 10 Red Sox on the hot seat
As the Red Sox drop like a cinder block in the American League wild card race, it's natural to turn our thoughts to next season.
Since returning the 2018 team intact didn't work, there will be changes for 2020. But what will they be? Here are 10 members of the organization whose futures will naturally be in doubt if this season doesn't turn around quickly, with their odds of returning ranked on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being a rock-solid lock and zero needing to book the moving truck.
They're a mix of executives, coaches, and potential free agents.
1. Dave Dombrowski
We laid out the case against Dombrowski here, and when owner John Henry says he has spent enough on this year's team, it's not hard to read between the lines that he's unhappy with wasted resources. There was some internal unease when Dombrowski began stripping the farm system upon his arrival, but players like Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale played integral roles in a title. With most of the system's young talent either in the big leagues or already shipped out, it's time to rebuild the farm, and Dombrowski isn't the guy for that job.
Chances of returning: 4
2. Alex Cora
When a team underachieves, the spotlight will eventually swing to the manager. For a crosstown example, look no further than former Celtics wunderkind Brad Stevens, who's suddenly on the hot seat after one bad year. This has been a similarly humbling season for Cora, whose extreme confidence was about the only red flag cited by ownership during his interview. That said, Cora remains an excellent communicator and leader of young talent. He's not going anywhere.
Chances of returning: 10
3. Dana LeVangie
Here's where things get dicier. The rotation has failed the team more than any other unit, and since David Price ($217 million), Chris Sale ($145 million) and Nathan Eovaldi ($68 million) aren't going anywhere, someone is going to take the fall. The easiest scapegoat is the pitching coach, and LeVangie certainly deserves better. The Whitman native's ties to the organization date back to 1991 as a player, and he has worked his way up the scouting and coaching ranks since. If he's reassigned, he will be sacrificed because a bunch of high-paid veterans didn't do their jobs.
Chances of returning: 3
4. Mookie Betts
Whether it's Dombrowski or his replacement, the biggest decision of this winter will be what to do about Betts. The defending MVP has regressed, but he doesn't even turn 27 until October, and he could easily have six more years of monster production in him. The Red Sox would love to sign him long-term before he hits free agency in 2020, but if Betts seems intent on testing the market, the Red Sox should explore moving him now, because they won't get the chance if they're contending at the 2020 trade deadline.
Chances of returning: 7
5. J.D. Martinez
In the old days, a Scott Boras client coming off a pair of All-Star seasons would have a finger hovering over the "execute" button on his opt-out clause as soon as the season ended. But the market has changed so radically even for hitters as productive as Martinez, there's a strong chance he simply stays and collects his $23.75 million next season. Only a handful of AL teams can justify signing a DH with a bad back, which means Martinez could find himself frustrated if he jumps back into the market. Smarter to stay put for another year — he can opt out again in 2020.
Chances of returning: 8
6. Rick Porcello
Speaking of the old days, Porcello once would've been guaranteed a qualifying offer of roughly $18 million, which he would've declined before landing the Red Sox a compensatory draft pick when he signed elsewhere. If the Red Sox tender him an offer now, he'd be crazy not to take it, because it's doubtful anyone would part with a first-round pick to sign him, potentially leaving him in Craig Kimbrel/Dallas Keuchel limbo. The Red Sox, therefore, can't risk that Porcello accepts, because they need to start turning over their rotation, and his spot is about the only place they can do it.
Chances of returning: 2
7. Brock Holt
The Red Sox can probably find a better use for their money than an injury-prone utilityman who delivers roughly league-average production. There is some value in Holt's versatility — he plays every position except pitcher and catcher — but he's making $3.58 million and there are younger alternatives in the organization with higher ceilings, like Marco Hernandez. Holt is fine as a depth piece if the money is right, but he shouldn't be a priority.
Chances of returning: 5
8. Steve Pearce
Ugh. No. Pearce followed his World Series MVP performance with a worthless season marked by woeful ineffectiveness. Back and knee injuries long ago knocked him out of action and it's possible he's done for the year, in which case the Red Sox have only one home run and a .180 average to show for their $6.25 million investment.
Chances of returning: 0
9. Mitch Moreland
Moreland illustrates the flaws of this roster as well as any player. He's relatively effective when healthy — his eight home runs carried the team in April — but he lacks durability and turns 34 in September. He always seemed on the verge of returning in June and July, which kept the Red Sox from addressing his absence at first base beyond a series of stopgaps. He has broken down in each of his three seasons here and his roster spot is one where the Red Sox can get younger.
Chances of returning: 2
10. Andrew Cashner
Cashner's $10 million option vests if he throws 62 more innings. Will the Red Sox let that happen? I believe it was longtime Springfield Elementary teacher Edna Krabapple who said it best: "Ha!" Cashner has posted a 7.53 ERA here and can't keep the ball in the park. He was never more than a rental.
Chances of returning: 0