If the Red Sox don’t win it all this season, they won’t ever with their current core.
Take a minute to appreciate the Boston Red Sox. Watch your favorite Win-Dance-Repeat routine. Listen to the crack of the bat of a Hanley Ramirez home run. Try to watch a whole David Price interview without throwing yourself headfirst out of a nearby window.
Because it won’t last much longer.
The Red Sox have assembled a core group of players that will compete for the World Series in 2018. But if this group doesn’t win it all this year, they never will.
After this season, key Red Sox players will start to break off into free agency or opt out of their contracts. David Price, J.D. Martinez, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Sale, Rick Porcello, Xander Bogaerts, and others could be long gone by the beginning of the 2020 season.
The pitching rotation will be cut to pieces first, when several Sox arms hit free agency after 2018. Price can opt-out after this year. Sale hits the market after next year. Kimbrel becomes a free agent after this season. Drew Pomeranz will depart with him.
To make things worse, they acquired most key pitchers by trading away their future. To get Sale, they shipped the second-best hitting prospect in baseball, Yoan Moncada, to Chicago. Kimbrel and Pomeranz cost them a haul of Manuel Margot, Javier Guerra, Carlos Asuaje, and Anderson Espinoza, a 19-year-old starter who drew Pedro Martinez comparisons.
As things stand, the Red Sox’s rotation may be among the most dominant in baseball. Two years from now, that won’t be the case. Aside from 23-year old Eduardo Rodriguez and 19-year-old Jay Groome, the Red Sox don’t have young arms in their minor-league system.
The structure of J.D. Martinez’s new contract also sheds light on how the Red Sox view their future. They owe him $50 million over the next two seasons before opt-out clauses activate in 2019 and 2020. The ability for Martinez to leave Boston after only two years shows just how narrow the championship window has become.
In a stacked American League, winning on the bigger stage boils down to the young guys. Bogaerts and Betts are both 25. Jackie Bradley is 27. Pedroia is 34 with nagging injuries. The Red Sox need a few of those guys to take the next step and start to carry the team collectively like David Ortiz once did by himself.
Above all, though, the Red Sox desperately need somebody to grab them by the throat and knock some sense into them when it matters most – playoffs. In the past two seasons, the Red Sox own a 1-6 postseason record. Winning 93 games isn’t enough anymore. Deep playoff runs need to happen, and deep playoff runs take guts, clutch hits, and an intangible drive to hoist a World Series trophy after two years of disappointment.
Whether it’s Bogaerts, Betts, Andrew Benintendi, or Jackie Bradley who steps up, the Red Sox need production on the field and maturity off of it. This season, or never.
We might look back on this era and shame the team that only could have been great.
Ben Healey is a high school junior from New Hampshire. He enjoys watching sports and does not enjoy grammatical error’s. You can contact him on Twitter @healey_1 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org