Alex Verdugo was a bright spot for the dismal Red Sox this season, but team president Sam Kennedy admitted Tuesday there is a lot of work to do in the offseason. John Amis/Associated Press

 

For the fourth time in nine years, the Red Sox are at another low point.

For all the success they’ve had since John Henry bought the franchise in 2002 – winning four championships since, the most in baseball – the Red Sox, with their last-place AL East finish in 2020, finished in the cellar for the fourth time since 2012, a stunning reality for one of the highest spending teams in baseball.

“I can tell you that it wasn’t by design,” Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said Tuesday.

And yet, the theme remains that the Red Sox have continued to alternate between the extremes, with two championships sandwiched by some of the most embarrassing seasons in franchise history. The Red Sox have to deal with this harsh reality: Just two years after probably their best season in franchise history, this 2020 team was mostly an unwatchable product.

“To me, relevancy speaks to competitiveness and we need to be competitive year in and year out,” Kennedy said. “Am I worried about not being competitive? Yes. Very worried. It keeps me up at night. I know it keeps these guys (Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom and General Manager Brian O’Halloran) up at night. We’re here to win championships. We want our fifth ring.”

The word Kennedy stressed during Tuesday’s 50-minute end-of-season press conference was consistency. Kennedy, by nature, portrays optimism even during the lowest of lows, but even he is aware that the Red Sox have lacked sustainable competitiveness over the last decade.

“As I look back over our 20 years here, we’ve had obviously disappointing seasons before. We’ve had some high highs and some championship wins,” Kennedy said in his opening remarks. “One thing that we’ve been lacking is consistency with our competitiveness, I think it’s important to acknowledge that. And that is clearly something that we’re working towards with Chaim Bloom at the top of our baseball operations department.”

As Kennedy said, Bloom and his team will be hard at work in what will be a critical winter, even if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affects how they can do business. But from Day 1, Bloom has always preached sustainability for the long haul, with no guarantees on when championship aspirations come to fruition. It’s part of the reason why he traded Mookie Betts in February.

Bloom was predictably vague in revealing specific goals or needs in his offseason agenda. Of course, pitching – after the Red Sox had the third-worst team ERA in baseball – will be at the top of the list. Bloom said regardless, building championship-level pitching depth is always something he’s looking for. It starts there.

But for Bloom, it’s all centered around that basic principle of “consistent and sustainable competitiveness.”

How close are the Red Sox? It may not have shown on the field this year, but they believe they’re making progress.

“I think we’ve made some progress,” O’Halloran said. “Obviously we’re not where we need to be yet and it’s a process that is never going to be over. We’re going to constantly be trying to add talent to the organization and continue to build and supplement the core and have a deep roster, as we talked about. But I do think we’ve made progress in the last year, primarily through trades but also adding through the draft in different ways. But more work to be done.”

THE 2021 SEASON will mark the final year of eight-year, $110-million contract of Dustin Pedroia, who did not attend spring training or spend a single day with the club during 2020.

Dustin Pedroia

The Red Sox need to make a decision about Dustin Pedroia, who in 2021 enters the final year of eight-year, $110-million contract. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

He appeared in just three games in 2018 and six games in 2019. He underwent a left knee cartilage restoration procedure Oct. 25, 2017. He had scar tissue removed during an arthroscopic surgery in late July 2018. He then underwent a left knee joint preservation procedure in August 2019.

The Red Sox must make a decision about Pedroia’s roster status heading into the 2020-21 offseason. Players on the 60-day injured list (including Pedroia) must be placed back on the 40-man roster after the World Series.

“Dustin is so important to this franchise and certainly we’ll be checking in,” GM Brian O’Halloran said. “We’ll be talking with him soon now that the season is completed and take it from there. We don’t have any particular plans but we’ll be engaging with Dustin soon.”

Boston has at least six minor leaguers – Jay Groome, Jerry Downs, Bryan Mata, Hudson Potts, Connor Seabold and Connor Wong – it must add to the 40-man roster to protect from Rule-5 Draft eligibility.

Should the Red Sox give Pedroia a roster spot this offseason and take one from someone who is more likely than him to contribute in 2021? A decision should be made before 40-man rosters are due.

“I don’t think that any one particular roster spot is something I would focus on as a problem and certainly not when it’s Dustin Pedroia,” O’Halloran said. “We’re going to talk to Dustin and he’s obviously going to have the most say in where things go from here. No. 1 is making sure he’s as healthy as he can be for the rest of his life, really. And certainly we want to talk to him and see how he’s feeling and see where he wants to go from here.”
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