The Red Sox were officially eliminated from playoff contention Friday night. Unofficially, it happened long before the math confirmed it. A season after winning 108 games and another 11 in the postseason en route to their fourth World Series title since 2004, the Sox will finish with 20-something fewer wins (they have 81 with six games remaining) and could finish more than 20 games behind the juggernaut Yankees in the AL East.
Not everything went wrong this year; Rafael Devers became a star, Xander Bogaerts delivered a vintage Nomar year, and Brandon Workman and Eduardo Rodriguez were bright lights on an otherwise burned-out pitching staff. But it’s been a lost season for a while now.
In the waning days, it’s a worthwhile exercise to take a look at the individual performances among the 2019 Red Sox players as we figure out who might be a part of this going forward, and more important, who should and shouldn’t be.
Mookie Betts: The bar is so high for him that a superb season like this one (28 homers, 40 doubles, 133 runs, .911 OPS) feels like something of a letdown. It’s a shame if the Red Sox choose not to pay a player of this magnitude, especially since he’s not going to bring even close to an equal return in trade given that he has one year left on his deal.
He should be a generational player here, and I’ll never get the Red Sox fans who are cool with dealing him. You probably would have traded Carl Yastrzemski in 1968 and Jim Rice in 1979, too.
Rafael Devers: Butch Hobson was my favorite player at 8 years old, which means he’s my favorite Red Sox player of all time. For 42 years, he held the franchise record for home runs in a season by a third baseman (30). Devers, an immense talent who plays with the joy of someone who wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, broke that record this season. Can’t think of a more worthy successor.
Xander Bogaerts: A soon-to-be-27-year-old shortstop with 30-plus homers, 50-plus doubles, an OPS well above .900, a personality that connects different corners of the clubhouse, and he’s signed to a team-friendly six-year deal? Thank goodness he wanted to stay.
J.D. Martinez: He has to be considered one of the best free agent signings the Red Sox have ever made, right? Entering Tuesday, he had 78 homers and a .986 OPS in two seasons with the Sox. Call him the anti-Jack Clark.
Andrew Benintendi: The 25-year-old outfielder seemed a decent bet to emerge as a genuine star this season. Instead, he has taken a bewildering step back, with just 13 homers and 138 strikeouts, second-most on the roster to Jackie Bradley Jr. Forget those heady swing comparisons to Yaz and Fred Lynn. He’s not even Mike Greenwell at this point.
Michael Chavis: His home run surge upon recall from Pawtucket in April was briefly a saving grace for a struggling team, but perhaps the best development this season is the realization that he can play three infield positions with competence. He’s not going to be star, but the power is legit.
Christian Vazquez: He’s basically the opposite of what he was supposed to be when he arrived in the majors, hitting for unexpected power (22 homers) but getting by defensively on reputation more than results.
Brock Holt: His contract status will get overshadowed with the Betts/Martinez situations, but he’s probably the best utility player the Red Sox have had in my lifetime (current manager included). Here’s hoping he gets a nice salute at the season finale.
Jackie Bradley Jr.: I know, I defend him the way he defends center field. Sure, he’s the only regular with an adjusted OPS below 100 (89), but he does have 20 homers, and there’s never been a better defensive center fielder to roam Fenway for the home team.
Eduardo Rodriguez: The one and only positive in the rotation this year, he finally got the results to match his repertoire. Entering his start Tuesday, he was 17-5 with a 2.77 in his last 22 starts. And to think he started slowly, with a 5.04 ERA at the end of May.
Chris Sale: Who knows what to expect going forward? The best lefthander in the American League for the last half-dozen years became an enigma this year, striking out 218 batters in 147⅓ innings, but getting hit around and/or losing his command all too often. And then he got hurt.
Question: What would he get on the free agent market right now if he hadn’t been signed to a $145 million extension in spring training?
David Price: He was OK before a cyst on his wrist ended his season, but he’s not being paid $31 million a year to be OK. Price has pitched more than 200 innings in six seasons, but he gave the Sox just 107⅓ innings in 22 starts this year, failing to make it beyond the fifth inning in half his starts. If he’s not going to be an ace, he at least has to be a workhorse.
Rick Porcello: It’s been a lousy year (5.56 ERA) by just about any accounting, but is it a silly idea to think the Red Sox should try to bring him back? He’s accountable, doesn’t succumb to the pressures of this market, and they’re going to need someone to give them about 180 league-average innings next year.
Nate Eovaldi: The most memorable thing he did this season was give up a bomb at Fenway to a Yastrzemski.
Brandon Workman: Just imagine where they would have been without his welcome breakthrough after years of trying to find his form following Tommy John surgery. How great has he been? Opponents have a .170 slugging percentage against him.
Matt Barnes: Was asked to do too much early and ran on fumes for a while, but will finish with an elite strikeout rate (15.3 per nine innings) and generally did his job well.
Marcus Walden: He had some Joe Kelly-like inconsistencies in the summer, but all in all, a fine season (3.55 ERA, nine wins, team lead in relief innings with 76).
Josh Taylor: Getting Taylor, who has 62 strikeouts in 47 innings, for Deven Marrero was the rare subtle good move by Dave Dombrowski.
Ryan Brasier: He has a 5.03 ERA in something of a lost season, has allowed nine homers in 53⅔ innings, and somehow rates second on the team with seven saves.
Darwinzon Hernandez: He’s averaging 16.9 strikeouts per nine innings, and if/when he gets better control of his high-voltage stuff, look out.
Colten Brewer: He has pitched in 55 games and I’m not sure I remember one of them.
Heath Hembree: It feels like he was one of the more reliable bullpen options when healthy, which tells you just how bad the bullpen was considering he gave up seven homers in 38⅔ innings, with a 4.87 FIP.
Brian Johnson and assorted others: The Red Sox got 25 starts from Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Andrew Cashner, and Jhoulys Chacin, with none of them having an ERA under 5.63. You know, in case you were looking for another reason why this season went off the rails.
Marco Hernandez: Looked like he was in line to fill Holt’s role on the roster (presuming Holt doesn’t return), but a .457 OPS in the second half doesn’t exactly help his case.
Sandy Leon: His most similar batter through age 29 is Gary Allenson. Makes sense to me. As far as good-field/no-hit backup catchers go, he’s a decent one to have around.
Sam Travis: He’s 26, has a .669 OPS in 267 major league plate appearances, and has never hit more than 13 homers (majors and minors combined) in a season. The solution at first base shouldn’t include him.
Mitch Moreland: Quintessential pro who probably will be elsewhere next season. We’ll always have Game 4 of the World Series.
Steve Pearce: In case you forgot, his home run (singular) came on May 23 against the Jays’ Ryan Feierabend. We’ll always have Game 5 of the World Series.