The Boston Red Sox had a rough offseason, to say the least. Superstar Mookie Betts and David Price were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects. Beloved utility player Brock Holt was not resigned and signed with Milwaukee Brewers. Manager Alex Cora was let go because of his possible involvement with the Houston Astros cheating scandal. The Red Sox have a sign-stealing scandal of their own as well but the investigation has not concluded yet. Now that the offseason is over and Spring Training is underway, the focus can return to the product on the field.
Strong AL East
The AL East is stronger than it has been in a few years. The New York Yankees have the best team in baseball with their rotation led by new signing Gerrit Cole. The Yanks also boast a lineup with sluggers like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton. Judge and Stanton are out for opening day but they should be healthy soon after. The Yankees should have over 100 wins and an AL East title by the end of the season.
The Tampa Bay Rays have a competitive team that could scare anyone. They have a good rotation with ace Blake Snell leading it and a lineup headed with Hunter Renfroe, Kevin Kiermaier, and Brandon Lowe. The Rays have the pieces to make a run at the wild card, but they will probably fall short to keep up with the Yankees.
The Toronto Blue Jays are interesting. They just signed Hyun-Jin Ryu from the Dodgers as their ace. They also signed Japanese league star Shun Yamaguchi to help the rotation. The Jays have three of the top prospects in the MLB with Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Bo Bichette in the lineup. They also added veteran first baseman Travis Shaw to help the lineup out. The Blue Jays could either have 90 wins or 70, it will be interesting to see how they do. As a side note, the Baltimore Orioles will only be contending for the top pick in the draft, not the division.
Still A Top Lineup
Even though the Red Sox lost Mookie Betts, the lineup is still very good. They still have two really good power bats in J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers. A good leadoff hitter in Andrew Benintendi, if he can put last season behind him. They also have solid hitters like Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vasquez, Michael Chavis, and Alex Verdugo, who came to the Sox in the Mookie trade. The big wild card in the lineup is Jackie Bradley Jr., one of the streakiest hitters in baseball. The lineup is good, and probably one of the best in baseball even without Betts.
The lineup alone can keep the Red Sox in the conversation once September comes around. But the biggest question mark is the pitching staff. The hitting can put up runs, but the pitching staff may give up too many the way it is right now.
Questions With The Pitching Staff
Losing David Price put the pitching rotation in a tough position. Chris Sale is already out for opening day, as he has pneumonia and a flexor strain in his left elbow. As of right now, Eduardo Rodriguez is at the top of the depth chart with Nathan Eovaldi behind him at the two spot. Rodriguez is a solid pitcher, he went 19-6 with a 3.81 ERA last season. General manager Chaim Bloom has talked about running bullpen games, which he did last season as GM of the Tampa Bay Rays. But as of right now, The Red Sox only have three healthy starters, which is a major issue.
The Sox still don’t have a reliable closer. Since the Red Sox let Craig Kimbrel go in 2018, nobody has stepped up in that closer role. Boston led the league in blown saves with 27 and Brandon Workman led the team in saves with only 16. He is listed as the closer right now and had an impressive record last season, going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA coming out of the bullpen in 73 games last season. But Workman isn’t a closer, he is a good reliever. The lack of a closer was crucial last season and with no real closer this season, it could be the same story.
In the bullpen, it is unclear who will be there come opening day. Darwinzon Hernandez, Ryan Weber, Heath Hembree, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier are just a few names that probably will be there. Also, 23-year-old reliever Tanner Houck is most likely going to make his Red Sox debut this season with the state of the bullpen. Houck has pitched five innings in Spring Training so far and has not allowed a run and boasting a WHIP of 1.20.
What Is the Expectation?
The expectation for the Red Sox is to compete for a playoff spot. It would be a shock if they made it further than the ALDS. The lineup can do damage, but the pitching staff has too many question marks to make a run at the World Series this year. Of course, the hope around Boston is that the team would surpass 100 wins and compete with the Yankees for the division title, but it is just not realistic this season. If Boston kept Betts, Price, and Holt, the expectation would be a lot different. However, John Henry and Chaim Bloom thought it would be best if they left, leaving Red Sox fans upset.