Sox's window to repeat as champs wide open

Sox's window to repeat as champs wide open

If you're the Red Sox, how do you follow up a season unlike any other in team history?

It's simple. You have another historic season.

The opportunity is an enticing one for these two reasons: No MLB team has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees won their third straight Fall Classic in 2000. And no Red Sox team has gone back to back since 1915 and '16.

Though president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has some key decisions to make in the coming weeks regarding some free agents -- Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce -- who were important to the 2018 team, the roster figures to be a loaded one no matter how the offseason shakes out.

"We're set up for next year," owner John Henry said the night his team won it all at Dodger Stadium. "Could we be better set up for next year?"

Adding to the motivation for next year is that the 2019 roster has three core players -- Chris Sale, Xander Bogaerts and Rick Porcello -- who are in the final seasons of their contract. J.D. Martinez also has an opt-out at the end of '19.

American League Most Valuable Player Award finalist and Gold Glove Award winner Mookie Betts and Gold Glove Award winner Jackie Bradley Jr. are free agents after 2020.

In other words, the window for the Red Sox to maximize their talent is wide open. And that quest will be real as soon as Spring Training starts.

"I do feel that we have a good team, very athletic, very versatile. Wherever the offseason takes us, we're going to be fine, we're going to be good," said manager Alex Cora, who is among the finalists for the AL Manager of the Year Award.

With the energetic Cora steering the ship, the Red Sox could avoid the dreaded hangover effect that has hindered past champions.

"They talk about the hangover effect next year, and I don't know if this group is going to feel it," said Cora. "I can't wait for the offseason to be over with, to get there in February and start preaching what we're going to do next year. We have a great core of players, young and hungry. The way they talk after each series, even the World Series, obviously the goal is to repeat."

Not only do the Red Sox have most of their key cogs coming back, but it's a core that is still very much in its prime. Betts is 26. So is Bogaerts. Bradley is 28. Andrew Benintendi (24) and Rafael Devers (22) are still babies.

Martinez is 31 with plenty of greatness still left in him. Entering his free-agent year, the 29-year-old Sale will be plenty motivated to have a monster season. David Price evolved wonderfully in 2018, mixing in his offspeed pitches, and he should be positioned nicely to have a strong age 33 season in '19. And in case you hadn't heard, Price also flipped the narrative that he can't win in the postseason.

Porcello, the man with the rubber arm, will be 30 when next season starts. Eduardo Rodriguez, who was strong when the Sox needed him to be in Game 4 of the World Series, will turn 26 in April.

Key role players Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez will also be back to provide depth to the lineup, and relievers Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier will be impact righties in the bullpen.

Cora's biggest challenge will be for his pitchers not to be affected by all they went through this past October.

"I was joking with Chris, and I said, 'Your first Spring Training start might be March 20.' And the season starts March 27," said Cora. "So, we'll talk about it. [Trainer] Brad [Pearson] knows we have to really take care of these guys, not only because of the month [of October], but the way we did it. We were very aggressive with them. That's an ongoing project already.

"We'll take care of them. We have to do it. I mean, you saw Houston. Houston played all the way to the end [last year], Nov. 1, and they came out of the gates hot, throwing the ball well. So we'll take a look at what other teams have done the past few years, and we'll map out our own plan."

 

Source: MLB | Ian Browne | November 6, 2018

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