2018 Boston Red Sox: Change for sake of change?

Next man up: The Red Sox drafted Michael Chavis 26th in the first round in 2014 and for three years he played like the first pick of the 26th round, overpowered at the plate and rarely showing his. Last year Chavis homered 31 times — six more than he had in his first three seasons combined — and put up a .910 OPS, ending at AA. His numbers slumped after his promotion — his average fell from .318 at Class A to .250 at AA, his on-base from .388 to .310, his OPS from 1.029 to .802 — but even his AA numbers were better than his first three seasons in the low minors. Chavis was drafted and has played almost exclusively third base, but with Hanley Ramirez in the final year of a four-year contract, let’s see if he doesn’t cross the infield.

What he said: Red Sox manager Alex Cora, with the addition of J.D. Martinez, on distributing at-bats:”We’ll talk about it and I think everybody’s going to be fine. We’ll find plenty of at-bats for everybody …” What he meant: “Hanley (Ramirez) will get hurt before too much longer.”

Three reasons it will be a good year: 1. The Red Sox were last in the AL in home runs in 2017 and 27th in MLB. J.D. Martinez, who hit 45 of them last year, should help. Martinez hit 29 in 62 games after his trade to the Diamondbacks; that’s five more than any Red Sox player hit in the entire season. In the seven regular-season games Martinez has played at Fenway, he’s hitting .444, though he has yet to homer. 2. The Red Sox were fourth in pitching last year, and that’s with their highest-paid pitcher, David Price, only pitching 74.2 innings, 2016 All-Star Steven Wright making only five starts and Carson Smith returning in September for eight relief appearances. Even more impressively, it’s with Kyle Kendrick (12.96 ERA) making two starts. Price and Smith are healthy to start 2016, and Wright says he soon will be, though he has a 15-game suspension to serve first. 3. The Red Sox added a Hall of Famer this offseason — Tony La Russa joined the front office as a vice presidmt/special assistant. Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski and La Russa worked together with the White Sox more than 30 years ago — they share the distinction of having been fired by Ken Harrelson, which is an endorsement all its own. As if Red Sox haters didn’t have enough reason to hate the Red Sox.

Three reasons it won’t: 1. Who follows Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith and fills the role of Red Sox pitcher who won’t pitch much in 2018? Carson Smith has only pitched 9.1 innings the last two seasons since the Red Sox traded for him and Tyler Thornburg didn’t pitch at all in 2017 after the Red Sox traded Travis Shaw, who hit 31 homers, for him. Fortunately, the Red Sox didn’t make a major deal for a reliever this offseason. Still, there are some early candidates to follow Thornburg and Smith. Both Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez are likely to start the season on the DL. And so is Thornburg, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery. 2. Dustin Pedroia had offseason knee surgery and might miss the first third of the season. Pedroia hit .293 and had a .369 on-base percentage last year, but he had only 26 extra-base hits and slugged just .392. This year will be the third in the last four Pedroia has been unable to play a full season — he played in 105 games last season and 93 in 2015. The Red Sox re-signed Eduardo Nunez, and Pedroia’s injury will allow him the play regularly, but Pedroia is a better defender than Nunez, even as rehabs his knee. Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy: “With Dustin Pedroia sidelined for the start of the season, you’ll be looking at a lot of Hanley Ramirez, Eduardo Nunez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers on a regular basis. How’d you like to be a ground-ball pitcher (hello, Rick Porcello) with this crew behind you?” 3. The Red Sox won’t have John Farrell to blame this season. Farrell was fired after five seasons last fall, finishing first three times, finishing last twice, winning the World Series in his first year and being routed in the first round his last two. Farrell was blamed for a lack of communication and a lack of joy last season, and credited with very little, even as the Red Sox won a division title in a year the Yankees were the better team. The Red Sox hired Alex Cora to replace Farrell, and there’s lots of talk about how Cora is the right manager for the team, how he’ll connect all the different departments of a modern organization, how he’s “changed the culture,” as a Globe headline trumpeted this week. You don’t hear much about how Cora cursed out an Astros broadcaster and manager A.J. Hinch when Hinch tried to mediate the argument two months before the Red Sox hired him. Cora, according to NBC sports.com: “Between (Hurricane) Harvey and (Irma), it was a combination of a lot of emotions on a personal level. We’re flying everywhere, man, and then the team, we weren’t playing good. I learned that we can be — honestly, honestly, on a personal standpoint, I learned that boys are boys, and it’s a family and you’re going to have your good days and your bad days.” Maybe Cora is right, and that’s all it was. Maybe he’ll win more games than Farrell’s Red Sox did last year, finish ahead of the Yankees and win in the playoffs. And maybe all the praise for his managing style is premature, seeing as he hasn’t yet managed one MLB game that counts.

Team song: Sheryl Crow: A Change Would do you Good

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