When you’re reigning world champs, your offseason is a bit different than everyone else’s. You’re trying to preserve or somehow improve upon what you already have so you can do it again next season; they’re scrambling to build teams that can attempt to beat yours.
The Red Sox haven’t had much to do this winter. World Series MVP Steve Pearce practically re-signed on the duck boat, and should’ve-been-co-MVP Nathan Eovaldi took a 4-year deal to stay nasty. Joe Kelly made the somewhat puzzling decision to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers, likely because he’d rather have a fat paycheck than continue playing for the winning side, as did Ian Kinsler, who will be slightly south of him in San Diego. Other than that, not much has been going on in Red Sox Nation other than endless celebrating. And I’m mostly fine with that because I’m incredibly confident in this team. But I do have a few nagging questions that keep poking their heads out of the sand. So let’s talk about them, starting with:
1. What’s going to happen with Dustin Pedroia?
The longest-serving member of the team has also been a big question mark for most of the last two seasons, and he still has three years and more than $40 million left on his contract. The Red Sox have maintained the stance that they are optimistic about him being a big active part of the 2019 season. Dave Dombrowski said in November, “we’re hopeful he’ll be ready for the season.” Hopeful.
But this is also the same Red Sox who said Pedroia would be back in May 2018. He returned in June, played three games, and went back on the DL for the remainder of the season, even returning to Arizona for a large portion of the summer and not traveling with the team.
There’s also the fact that the veteran second baseman had a second surgical procedure on his knee during the season, and the Sox did not disclose it until late fall, when they announced that he would be with the team for the postseason, but would be unable to play at all.
So forgive me for not taking the team at their word when they say that Pedroia will be back in fighting form this year. I want him to come back, and I want him to succeed; this is not an attack or criticism of him in any way. This is simply me being realistic.
Ian Kinsler took a deal with the Padres, which leaves the Sox with Brock Holt and Eduardo Nuñez, as well as Tzu-Wei Lin, Marco Hernandez, and Tony Renda. But Eduardo Nuñez has been open about his deficiencies at the position; his skill lies at third base. So the Red Sox can either pin their hopes on Pedroia, make Brock Holt their primary 2B rather than a utility man, or go out and sign one of the free agents still available. Marwin Gonzalez would likely be too pricy, but he’s not the only guy on the market: Asdrubal Cabrera, Derek Dietrich, Logan Forsythe, Josh Harrison, Yangervis Solarte, and Neil Walker are all still available. But I hope Pedroia, with the help of some of the other utility infielders, can make second base work this year. With a lot of the Red Sox star core players entering free agency in the next two years, it wouldn’t be optimal to have to add another free-agent contract to the payroll.
My hope is that the Red Sox are going into this season assuming Pedroia will not be ready and that they will prepare for that possibility in some way. Better to be pleasantly surprised than left hanging out to dry.