Ever since my parents have been living within spitting distance of Fort Myers, I’ve sent them a quick list of Red Sox storylines going into Spring Training. Seeing as pitchers and catchers report today, I figured today would be a good day to do it. 2016 is going to be an important year for the Red Sox.
- There's a good chance that manager John Farrell is on a relatively short leash. His World Series victory in 2013 has given him a little benefit of the doubt, but the last two seasons have seen last-place finishes and declining attendance. General Manager Ben Cherington was replaced with his assistant Mike Hazen, so it's clear that ownership is willing to make changes. I'd bet if we finish in last place again, Farrell would be gone.
- We've got lots and lots of young talent, mostly promoted up through the farm system. Mookie Betts (RF) is probably the most prominent, but Jackie Bradley Jr (CF), Xander Bogaerts (SS), Rusney Castillo (LF), and Blake Swihart (C) are all promising kids, too.
- We signed the premiere pitching free agent in December: David Price. He's making $30 million this year, and then also for the 6 years following that. He won the Cy Young in 2012 and was 2nd in voting and led the AL in ERA last year. He won 18+ games three of his last five seasons and we haven't had an 18-game winner since Lester in 2010.
- We also picked up a big name closer: Craig Kimbrel. Led the league in saves for 4 years (4th place last year). Both he and Price are solidly in their prime, too: 28 and 30, respectively.
- As for last year's big signings that didn't perform as expected, well, we'll see how they go. There were rumors of trade attempts for Pablo Sandoval ($17M/y) and Hanley Ramirez ($22M/y), but nothing panned out. Ramirez was moved from his usual shortstop (where we're overloaded) to left field last year (where he looked lost at Fenway, especially compared to the young guys) and this year will be at First Base, where he's never played.
- The rest of our starting rotation is pretty stable from last year, which is to say: mediocre. Buchholz will look amazing through June like usual, but then will go to 15-day DL and stretch that out to missing a dozen starts. (We exercised his option for this year, and we've got another one for next year, but I wonder if we let him go if he can't stay healthy. Again.) Porcello will hopefully live up to his 4-year $20M+/y extension. E-Rod, Kelly, and Wright will probably get through the year with 4ish ERAs and we'll have to hope that's good enough to keep us in games.
- And last, but definitely not least: this will be Big Papi's last season. By most advanced metrics (WAR, OPS+, RE24), he was among the top hitters on our team yet again last year and hopefully he'll go out on top too.
Most statistical projections have us favored to win the division or be in the running for a wildcard, both of which depend on some luck and few injuries. Hopefully it’ll be an exciting year.