It’s about time for Red Sox to get the Hot Stove cooking
The Miami Marlins and homer-hammering Giancarlo Stanton have not yet agreed on his new baseball destination. We do know it will not be Boston.
Shohei Ohtani, the all-in-one potential ace and potential slugger coming stateside from the Japan Pacific League’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, has not yet chosen his new baseball destination. We do know it will not be Boston.
We do know, per Monday’s transaction wire, that the Red Sox and pitcher Tyler Thornburg reached agreement on a one-year, $2.05 million deal, avoiding salary arbitration.
So there’s that blockbuster. No, 2018 World Series tickets are not yet available.
The obvious question — other than half-seriously asking why anyone would leave a team awesomely named the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters by choice — is this: When is the Hot Stove going to reach even a simmer around here?
I understand why it’s not going to happen between Stanton and the Red Sox, and I’m glad. He’s never had a season as good as his one-man Home Run Derby performance in 2017, when he hit 59 homers. And I doubt he’ll come close to that again.
He has played more than 123 games twice since 2012. He played 145 in 2014, and 159 last year. He’s still in his prime, but he’s due $295 million through his age 37 season. Players of his physical profile tend not to age well. If he struggled to stay on the field through his 20s, imagine what you’ll be paying for when he’s deep into his 30s.
Plus, taking on that contract may prohibit the Red Sox from retaining current talent and further enhancing the roster. Stanton has always been a favorite at this address. But the time has passed to make 4 Yawkey Way his address.
As for Ohtani, it would have been fascinating to see how rookie manager Alex Cora and the Red Sox front office divvied up his obligations between pitching and hitting. He’s going to be quite the test case for fantasy baseball leagues. Do pitchers’ hitting stats now have to count?
But it never seemed like the Red Sox were an especially serious suitor; did they honestly believe the enigmatic Daisuke Matsuzaka’s experience here was a selling point? At least there’s some satisfaction in seeing the Yankees eliminated at the same time.
It certainly appears that every other potentially significant transaction with the Red Sox — or all across baseball, really — has been at a standstill while waiting for the Stanton/Ohtani matters to be settled. I’m not sure why this has to be the case, though, especially around here.
I can’t imagine Dave Dombrowski is taken aback by not getting Stanton or Ohtani. I don’t think either was ever a realistic Plan A, which means it’s hard to believe he’s being forced to recalibrate and move on to Plan B.
It always made more sense to pursue J.D. Martinez in free agency (especially considering he does not cost a comp pick), with Eric Hosmer or perhaps even the perennially unsung Carlos Santana as intriguing alternatives (though they do cost draft-pick compensation). Yet there seems to be very little Hot Stove chatter about any of them right now. It’s weird, like the offseason is on hiatus when the offseason is supposed to be the hiatus.
I’m sure the action will pick up come the beginning of the Winter Meetings Monday in Orlando, Fla. But the Red Sox often have a major move completed by now. Not that we’re pining for a repeat of this particular day, but Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez both became official Red Sox on Nov. 25, 2014. That was during Ben Cherington’s last winter as Red Sox general manager — and it might have been the reason it was his last winter.
Dombrowski’s history, especially since coming to the Red Sox in August 2015, is to identify his team’s needs and go about filling them quickly. The Craig Kimbrel blockbuster with the Padres was pulled off on Nov. 13, 2015. The first week of December traditionally has been a busy one for Dombrowski. Ten years ago Monday, his Tigers acquired young Marlins slugger Miguel Cabrera. Two years ago Monday, he made the name David Price synonymous with $217 million.
Wednesday would be an especially fitting day for something big to happen. Dec. 6 is the one-year anniversary of the Chris Sale trade with the White Sox and, if you’re a cynic, the seven-year anniversary of the acquisition of first baseman/self-appointed clubhouse lawyer Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres.
This is the time of year when the Red Sox typically do something big. It’s more important that they do something right. But as the Hot Stove starts to warm, the wait for any transaction of note is the hardest part.