Today the Boston Red Sox come to town, and as we have done for all our opponents thus far, we talked to our sister site, in this case Over the Monster. Matt Collins, the site manager at OtM was a good sport and answered my questions, and as always, we thank him for doing so.
1. How did the offseason go for the Red Sox? Are there any big acquisitions you are really excited about? Are there any you find a huge disappointment?
The Red Sox had so much work to do this winter it was almost impossible for it not to feel a little underwhelming. And I think that was the general feeling coming into spring training. It wasn’t that they were inactive or even that people were actively mad about this winter, but rather that the offseason was very much a quantity over quality approach and after losing Mookie Betts (and others) recently, not getting any star power back was a big of a disappointment. That said, I think there were some moves that people excited. Probably tops among them were Enrique Hernández and Garrett Richards, neither of whom are expected to be stars, but rather solid contributors. I’m not sure there was any that was seen as a massive disappointment since it was more about the lack of big moves. But if I had to pick one it’d probably be Hunter Renfroe, less because of anything specifically with him and more due to the fact that they didn’t really do a ton in the outfield and he was one of the few underwhelming moves there.
2. Looking back at that Mookie Betts trade, Brusdar Graterol was a relatively small portion, but having seen his success in LA, do you wish the original deal had gone through, or are you happier with the way it worked out in the end?
I mean, this is one of those things where it’s really hard for me not to just say I wish neither had happened. There was no scenario in which I wanted Betts traded. But to choose one, I’d rather go with what they have. That’s not really anything to do with Graterol, to be clear. He’s obviously incredibly talented. My issue is more that I didn’t want the top prospect coming back in the trade to be a pitcher because the Red Sox are historically not great at getting the most out of pitching prospects. The organization needed to get value they could worth with back in that trade, and I’m much more confident in them getting the most out of someone like Jeter Downs than someone like Graterol, even if it’s reasonable to want the latter in a vacuum.
3. Are the Sox rebuilding? Its sort of hard to tell—they don’t seem to be trying to compete this year, but also, they still spent some money. What is their timeline to be competitive again? Is this one of those Yankee reloads where they have a “down” year or two and then suddenly are amazing, or is this a real rebuild? Do you believe that the Chaim Bloom front office is the right team be successful?
This one is a little complicated because I think everyone has a different definition of rebuilding. If you are asking in the sense of an Orioles-like rebuild where you strip everything down to the studs, then absolutely not. That will never happen with this ownership, who are far too aware of their standing in the Boston sports scene to allow themselves to fall into obscurity in the city landscape. That said, they’re certainly not built like a team that expects to win a World Series. I think that could be the focus as soon as next season again depending on how hard they’re willing to go after pitcher over the offseason, so in that sense I guess it is similar to the Yankees. I just think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s very hard to do that well. I think Chaim Bloom has been very good at getting a little extra value in these small-to-medium kind of deals, but to really be able to take the next step they’ll need to be able to hit the home run in the front office as well. I have no reason to think Bloom explicitly can’t be successful in those types of scenarios, but we haven’t gotten a chance to see it yet.
4. Give us a quick rundown on the pitchers we are scheduled to face this week?
So things start with Martín Pérez, who you guys are of course pretty familiar with. Pérez is still utilizing the same soft contact-oriented approach he started to use in Minnesota, and as is typically the case with that kind of pitcher the results have been varied. He’s a big fan favorite in Boston though, partially due to him just being a great guy and partially due to him being the only thing resembling a reliable pitcher in 2020. The hope is always going to be more for him to keep the team in the game rather than looking for a dominant performance.
After that Nathan Eovaldi takes the mound, and for my money he’s the most underrated player on this Red Sox team, and that’s both by Red Sox fans and nationally. The injury history always takes center stage, and while that’s certainly not unfair his talent when he’s pitching is real. He’s added more to his repertoire this year as well, with his big 99 mph fastball now being the third or fourth offering in his toolbelt. As long as he’s throwing strikes, I’m always confident he can put together a solid outing, though obviously the Twins lineup is one to put that theory to the test.
Eduardo Rodriguez gets the third game in this series in what will be his second start of the season. As I’m sure most people reading this know, he had to sit out all of 2020 after getting COVID and then subsequently being diagnosed with myocarditis. His return last week was really great, to see just getting him back on the mound. But the reality is the Red Sox need him to be the staff ace. He has the stuff to lead this rotation and be a top-20 to 30 pitcher in the game, but it’s just a matter of him trusting that stuff enough to attack rather than nibble. He was solid in his first start, though there was some rust to be shaken off as well.
And finally, Garrett Richards pitches in the series finale. It’s been a total rollercoaster for him early in this season. He got rocked in his first start, and then looked like he was getting rocked again last time out before righting the ship as the start went on. He’s had some trouble with command as well as adding in a reliable third pitch since the spring, so this would seem to be Minnesota’s best chance to put up a crooked number in this series.
5. Who are one or two players we have probably never heard of that will have an impact on this series, or on the season overall?
We’ve got to go with Garrett Whitlock here, who was a Rule 5 pick this past winter. That he was taken from the Yankees makes it all the sweeter that he looks to be an absolute steal of an addition to the organization. We’re obviously still dealing with small sample sizes, but even going back to the spring his stuff just looks nasty. He’s added two or three ticks to his fastball to get it up consistently around 95, and he’s basically learned an entirely new changeup from Matt Andriese. For now, Whitlock is pitching in middle relief, but he’s already being moved into higher leverage spots and long-term the hope is that he can settle in as a back-end starter.
6. Anything else you want Twins fans to know?
The only other thing I’ll add is that if any Red Sox fan complains about Matt Barnes, don’t listen to them. He rules.