Because people naturally look for a fall guy in such instances, the question that was only simmering over the past few days has blown up today: should the Red Sox fire Terry Francona? It’s the subject of columns. And a survey. And I presume it’s going to be all over talk radio. But does it make any sense?
Not from where I’m sitting. Terry Francona didn’t injure Clay Buchholz, Diasuke Matsuzaka, Kevin Youkilis and — I’m guessing to an extent more than anyone has let on — Adrian Gonzalez. He didn’t cause Carl Crawford and John Lackey to take collective dumps all season and Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to do the same through much of September. He wasn’t the steadiest hand on the rudder with the bullpen down the stretch, but then again, no one down there gave him any reason for confidence.
A ton of stuff led to this Red Sox collapse. So many things that it’s easy to throw up your hands and say that, given the total failure, the guy who is in charge of everything — Terry Francona — should be held responsible. But I say that’s baloney. Maybe he cost a team a win here or there with a questionable decision, but tons of games were lost simply because a lot of highly-paid professionals didn’t do their jobs. Or were hurt. Or both. Blaming Francona may make you feel good for a little while, but I really don’t see how he’s even in the top five of blameworthy Boston Red Sox.
Now, Fredi Gonzalez on the other hand …
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.