OOTP 17 - Return to the Diamond

Baseball is one of those games that I fell in love with as a child and never let go. A rainy evening stuck in a hotel in Boston was all it took for me to decide that America's pastime was the game for me. The Red Sox completed the package.

Having played OOTP (Out Of The Park) for a number of years now I am pretty certain that it has surpassed even Football Manager in terms of the detail it goes into for a sports management simulation. Only great restraint has seen me hold off from buying this years edition until the trade deadline had passed. Rather than a bog standard review for the game I am going to do something a little different this year. Following on from the popularity of my Football Manager series with Charlton I plan on seeing just how far I can take the Boston Red Sox.

Recent years have not been kind to the Red Sox, after a rag tag group of players came together to win it all in 2013 the team has spiraled on a downards trajectory. In real life Dave Dombrowski has been brought in to change their fortunes, but in complete contrast to Dave, who prefers to trade prospects for big league players, I like to develop players from the minor leagues up to their full potential. Of course I may make a big trade or two along the way for that "can't miss" player, but for the majority of the time I will be looking to develop the next stars to grace Fenway Park.

Considering the team's recent fortunes the goals I have been set are suitably dialed down. Kicking it off with "Don't suck completely" would suggest that they don't expect much of a Red Sox team that should be aiming for a lot more. The 4 year goal is to reach the playoffs which is something that I think is very easily achieved with the increased wildcard places, but I am not sure I agree with signing 40 year old Koji to a contract extension... I will wait and see how his season plays out first.

The final goal is to upgrade in left field, currently manned by a couple of utility players who are decent if not spectacular. I think my early, personal, goal will be to offload some of the dead weight contracts and maybe pick up a left fielder at the deadline if one hasn't developed in the minors by that time.

The batting and fielding starting roster for the Red Sox is particularly strong. Castillo and Sandoval will be 2 players that I look to offload as soon as possible and I will probably let Hanigan walk at the end of the year if Swihart and Vazquez are ready to take over the catcher role fulltime.

On the pitching side of the roster things are looking a bit more dire. Price is the star of the rotation, Porcello can hopefully step up and we can only hope that Barnes can transition to a starting role in the majors. Kelly and Buchholz are just an accident waiting to happen and they will need to be replaced as soon as possible. In real life Steven Wright stepped up big time for the Red Sox this year but it seems unlikely that he will do that in the game as his stats seem to set him up as a very below average player, destined only to fill in the gaps on the roster.

In the 'pen Kimbrel, Uehara and Tazawa are the only reliable options and I will look to make some additions. Carson Smith should come off the DL early in the season and provide a boost there and hopefully E-Rod can do the same for the rotation.

I decided that I wanted to offload Rusney Castillo early on, he hadn't lived up to his early promise and his big contract was eating up a lot of room in the budget. Down in the minors was another failed acquisition by the former GM Ben Cherington called Allen Craig and I was surprised when Houston were more than happy to take both off my hands. What was even more surprising was the wealth of prospects they were willing to give me for the two players. It is possible that none of these prospects will pan out but considering that the two players I was giving up had no future in Boston it only made sense to roll the dice and hope that one player proves to be worthwhile on the other side of the trade, even if only as a piece in another trade.

Pablo "Kung-fu Panda" Sandoval was next on my list to move on. Weight issues had dogged his solitary season in Boston and a poor return on his large contract meant he just had to go. Atlanta were interested in taking him on but they were not offering anywhere near as much value as Houston were. I had to throw in Buchholz, who himself has been dogged by injuries and inconsistency during his time in Boston, which wasn't a great loss but it did mean that the addition of Teheran was cancelled out and that my rotation had not really moved forward. Lin was blocked by the wonderful Xander Bogaerts in Boston and didn't project to hit any where near his level and was a prospect that it didn't hurt to give up. In return we received Atlanta's starting pitcher prospect Aaron Blair who would be ready to ply his trade at Triple A and if he impressed step up to the Boston rotation this season. Tyler Flowers ended up being a throw in that I had to take so that they would take on the combined contracts of Sandoval and Buchholz.

Over in the world of international amateurs there appeared to be a wealth of talent waiting to be picked up. Any amateur is a massive gamble to pick up and they are just as likely to be a bust as a success. I targeted a few players with some decent tools, according to my head of scouting, and reasonable signing demands. It will be interesting to see how they develop over the years and if even one or two of them make it eventually it will be money well spent.

Finally I adjusted my scouting and player development budgets to make sure that I was getting the most out of my minor league system. over 15m invested in each this season should put me in the upper echelons of the league and hopefully it will help my prospects reach their potential.

With everything done my rosters looked like this for opening day. There were a couple of free agents that I had been targeting but we managed to get neither across the line before the season began.

With David Price taking the mound on Opening Day and a strong starting lineup I had hoped that we would win our opening game of the season...

But it was not to be.

A shaky start from Price was enough to undermine the team who, although they out hit their opponent, could not string enough hits together to score any runs. Price did recover after the first two innings but the damage was already done. In the 8th inning Noe Ramirez came in and proceeded to fall apart. Hopefully he can find some form of consistency as I will need a few relievers to push on this season as I cannot be overly reliant on Taz, Koji and Kimbrel.

Next time we will see how the month of April develops and whether or not any further additions make it to the team.

All the best.



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