The American League East-winning Red Sox are headed for the postseason, but designated hitter David Ortiz’s illustrious career is also nearing an end. Ortiz will play his final regular-season game Sunday, and despite his age (40), he has been the top hitter in Boston’s major league-best offense this year. With the offseason approaching, the Red Sox will soon need to find a replacement for Ortiz, which is something their pro scouting department has been working on since August, writes Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. “We’ll do all that coverage in August and September,” general manager Mike Hazen told Drellich. “You have a month-and-a-half to scout the major leagues before you switch gears (to prepare for the playoffs), and if you’re not advancing, then you do it for all September.” While the Red Sox are looking into free agent options to take over for Ortiz, they’ll also consider moving first baseman Hanley Ramirez to DH on at least a part-time basis, per Drellich. Ramirez has bounced back from a dreadful 2015, his first season with the BoSox, to post a .286/.360/.500 line with 29 home runs in 616 plate appearances this year. His time at first base has also gone better than last season’s disastrous experiment in left field, though advanced metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating still give him low marks.
A couple more notes on the Red Sox, who will face the Indians in the ALDS:
- Closer Craig Kimbrel has scuffled over the past week, but manager John Farrell said Saturday that he isn’t considering flipping him and red-hot setup man Koji Uehara for the playoffs. “At this moment, no,” Farrell told Scott Lauber of ESPN.com. The Red Sox will instead focus on fixing a flaw in Kimbrel’s delivery that has caused the longtime late-game ace to move “a little side-to-side,” per Farrell. “You get into some bad habits when you get a little rotational. I felt like tonight I was a little better,” said Kimbrel after taking the loss, 4-3, to Toronto on Saturday. Kimbrel walked a batter, threw a wild pitch and yielded the deciding run in the ninth inning. The 28-year-old has allowed at least one earned run in three of his previous four outings, but he hadn’t surrendered any in a 16-appearance streak that spanned from Aug. 13 to Sept. 22.
- Although catcher Christian Vazquez has totaled just eight at-bats since the All-Star break, the 26-year-old might crack the ALDS roster as Boston’s backup to Sandy Leon, per Chris Smith of MassLive.com. Of the Red Sox’s reserve backstop options (Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday are the others), Vazquez could stand the best chance of countering Cleveland’s base-stealing prowess. The Indians rank fourth in the majors in steals (134) and third in FanGraphs’ BsR metric, while the strong-armed Vasquez has thrown out 41 percent of baserunners between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket this season. Hanigan has helped prevent 7-of-25 runners from stealing this year, while Holaday has stymied a more impressive 8-of-22.