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Offseason-In-Review: Boston Red Sox

Boston brings aboard top free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez to highlight its winter

MLB: Spring Training-St. Louis Cardinals at Boston Red Sox Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Red Sox (93-69)

Additions: OF J.D. Martinez, 1B Mitch Moreland, IF/OF Eduardo Nunez

Subtractions: SP Doug Fister, RP Addison Reed, RP Fernando Abad, RP Blaine Boyer, RP Robbie Ross Jr., OF Rajai Davis, OF Chris B. Young, OF Allen Craig, IF Jhonny Peralta, IF Josh Rutledge

When it comes to their franchise, the Red Sox know the expectations are always high.

So, even after they went 93-69, won the AL East for the ninth time and made the playoffs for the 22nd time in their storied franchise’s history, the Sox didn’t achieve their goals of winning an AL pennant and capturing a World Series title in 2017 after losing to the Astros in four games in the ALCS.

When it came to the offseason, Red Sox didn’t make a ton of moves, but they made enough changes to make them a contender again in 2018.

The first was firing John Farrell as manager and hiring former Astros bench coach Alex Cora to lead the club in 2018. By hiring Cora, the Red Sox brought in somebody who understood the expectations, as Cora played for the team from 2005-08 and helped them win a World Series in 2007.

The big tasks that were ahead of Cora, Boston president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and company were to get a power bat and a quality setup man.

They accomplished the first task, as they signed top free-agent slugger J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million deal in February. The deal took longer than expected, as there was practically a four-month stalemate between the two parties. A big reason it took so long was that there was no reported offer for Martinez’s services other than a five-year, $125 million deal that the Red Sox had previously offered, making it unlikely that Boston was going to bid against itself despite Martinez having drawn interest from the Diamondbacks, Giants, Rockies, Blue Jays and Dodgers. Also, Dombrowski admitted at the beginning of February, when Martinez was frustrated with negotiations with the Red Sox, that the roster was “essentially complete” after they brought back first baseman Mitch Moreland on a two-year, $13 million contract.

Ultimately, the Red Sox missed having a big bat in the lineup after renowned hitter David Ortiz retired following the 2016 season. The Red Sox’s offense was down significantly across every major hitting category in 2017, making it imperative that they had to get someone who could put up similar numbers to Ortiz’s final season (38 homers, 127 RBI, 1.021 OPS). Martinez can be that man after slashing .303/.376/.690 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI with the Tigers and Diamondbacks. The 30-year-old’s astonishing display of power after Arizona acquired him at the trade deadline helped the club earn its first playoff berth since 2011.

Outside of the Martinez saga, the Red Sox brought back utility man Eduardo Nunez to play third base for the club. The 30-year-old Nunez had a solid season in 2017, posting a career-best .313/.341/.460 slash line while playing in 114 games for the Giants and the Red Sox, who acquired him at the non-waiver trade deadline to help them reach the postseason. Unfortunately, Nunez’s campaign ended in the ALDS when he suffered a knee injury.

Along with his hitting, Nunez offers a ton of versatility, as he can play both second base and third base as well as shortstop. His versatility can give Boston a ton of flexibility, especially early this season because Boston will be without All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia until mid-May as he recovers from knee surgery.

However, the Red Sox didn’t accomplish their second task of adding a quality setup man after Addison Reed bolted for free agency and signed a two-year, $16.75 million deal with the Twins. Instead, the Red Sox will probably turn to Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes to pitch ahead of closer Craig Kimbrel.

In addition, they didn’t add to their rotation, as they hope to get more out of their returning starters after David Price had an injury-filled 2017 campaign and Rick Porcello fell off dramatically from his AL Cy Young-winning season in 2016. However, they also have some off-the-field/injury concerns, as they are without Steven Wright to start the season because he was suspended 15 games for violating the league’s domestic-violence policy, Eduardo Rodriguez is not coming back until mid-April because he is recovering from offseason knee surgery, and Steven Pomeranz had suffered a mild flexor strain already this spring. If any of these players has any more setbacks, the Red Sox may have to address the staff through the trade deadline or free agency.

After all, the Red Sox have to not only try to get past the a loaded Astros squad to get to the World Series and win it for the first time since 2013, but also beat out the rival Yankees — a team that acquired NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and Neil Walker this offseason — and a tough Indians team that still has most of its core from its 2016 squad that reached the Fall Classic.