The Boston Red Sox are not the team that won the World Series two years ago, though a shortened season makes anything possible. The target on their backs may not be as large as the one the Houston Astros face, but Boston was also caught up in the sign-stealing scandal in the offseason, and manager Alex Cora was fired as a result.
It is weird to consider the Red Sox as a team in rebuilding mode, given what they have accomplished in the last 20 years as perennial contenders and four-time World Series Champions. But when you trade a franchise player along with a star pitcher and have a new general manager and manager, rebuilding may be exactly what Boston is doing.
Life in the AL East is never easy, and Boston is predicted by the sportsbooks to finish third in the division behind the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. If you are new to sports betting, please check out our MLB betting hub page to get started
Boston Red Sox 2019 Results
Last season, the Boston Red Sox went 84-78, an admirable season for most teams, but not when fans in New England are coming off watching a 108-win team that won the World Series. The hated Yankees finished ahead of the Red Sox by 19 games, and Boston finished 12 games behind Tampa Bay.
Boston started slow with a 12-15 May but got back into contention with a strong summer run that included a 15-10 July. The Red Sox closed the gap on the Yankees to eight games with a July 25-28 series win against the Bronx Bombers.
However, the next week pretty much ended their playoff hopes, with eight straight losses to the Yankees and Rays dropping Boston to 59-55 and 14.5 games back on Aug. 4. From there, the Red Sox limped to the finish with an 11-15 September.
The usual cozy confines of Fenway Park were not so nice, as Boston finished 38-43 in front of Red Sox Nation. The Red Sox also hurt themselves head-to-head with AL East rivals, going 5-14 against the Yankees and 7-12 against the Rays.
Things took a bizarre turn from Sept. 1 on as general manager Dave Dombrowski was let go. Then the Sox fired Cora before MLB announced its punishment for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Boston was embroiled in its own scandal involving the 2018 World Series and video footage. Boston was punished in April with the loss of a second-round draft pick, a monetary fine, and the banishment of their replay operator through 2021.
The biggest addition in the offseason was hiring Chaim Bloom as the chief baseball officer, or general manager. A veteran member of the Rays’ front office, Bloom specializes in savvy, cost-effective moves, which is new to Boston.
Bloom installed bench coach Ron Roenicke as interim manager. Roenicke was the Brewers manager from 2011-15 and took Milwaukee to a National League Championship Series appearance in his first season in charge.
The big blockbuster for Bloom in the offseason first hit a medical snag but was eventually finalized as Boston added prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong, along with established outfielder Alex Verdugo in a three-way deal with the Dodgers and Twins, which saw mega-star Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price go to LA.
Verdugo, 23, hit .294 in 106 games with the Dodgers last season while clubbing 12 homers and 22 doubles.
Boston added right-handed pitcher Martin Perez in free agency. As for position players, the Red Sox added outfielder Kevin Pillar and infielder Jose Peraza, while catcher Jonathan Lucroy signed a minor-league deal.
Well, this clearly starts and ends with the three-team trade, as 2018 AL MVP Betts and five-time All-Star pitcher Price went from the Red Sox to the Dodgers. The move helped Boston get under the luxury tax, but it is impossible to replace Betts.
Last season, Betts produced a .295/.391/.524 line with 29 homers, 80 RBI, 40 doubles and 16 steals while winning his fourth-straight Gold Glove.
Price went 7-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 22 starts, down from his 16-7 campaign in 2018 that covered 30 starts. Boston got what it wanted out of Price when they signed him in December 2015, as he won 46 games in 98 starts over four seasons and picked up another three postseason wins.
Boston will be without former ace Chris Sale in 2020. Coming off a career-worst 4.40 ERA, Sale was injured during spring training and had Tommy John surgery at the end of March.
This would have been the first season in a five-year, $145 million extension Sale signed after the 2018 World Series.
Also gone from the 2019 Red Sox are pitcher Rick Porcello and infielder Brock Holt. Porcello was second on the Red Sox with 14 wins, but had a 5.52 ERA and 12 losses in 32 starts. Holt was limited to 87 games in 2019 as he hit .297 with three homers and 31 RBI.
With Price and Sale hurting and Porcello struggling last season, lefty Eduardo Rodriguez established himself as the ace. At age 26, Rodriguez went 19-6 in 34 starts with a 3.81 ERA while striking out 213 batters over 203 1/3 innings. Rodriguez finished third in the AL in wins and sixth in the Cy Young race.
The bad news for the Red Sox is Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19, and won’t be ready until early August.
Boston hopes right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi reverts to his 2018 form after posting a 5.99 ERA in 12 starts and 23 appearances. The 33-year-old had a 3.81 ERA in 21 starts between Boston and Tampa Bay in 2018 while logging 111 innings.
Perez is reliable, as the righty has logged at least 165 innings and won at least 10 games in three of the last four seasons. Last year, he helped Minnesota to the AL Central title with a 10-7 record in 29 starts but posted a 5.12 ERA.
Right-handed pitcher Ryan Weber is in position to take a rotation spot after making three starts last season. Overall, he was 2-4 with a 5.09 ERA in 18 appearances.
The final slot likely goes to lefty Brian Johnson, who made seven starts last season while going 1-3 with a 6.02 ERA in 21 games.
Brandon Workman established himself as the Red Sox closer in 2019, going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 16 saves in a team-leading 73 appearances. The righty struck out 104 and walked 45 in 71 2/3 innings.
Righties Matt Barnes and Marcus Walden were solid set-up men. Barnes went 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 70 appearances, while Walden was 9-2 with a 3.81 ERA in 70 games. The two combined to save six games, and struck out 186 batters in 142 innings.
The lefty spots in the bullpen are up in the air after Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez both missed most of camp with COVID-19. Taylor pitched 52 times in 2019 with a 2-2 record and a 3.04 ERA. Hernandez pitched 29 times and posted a 4.45 ERA but struck out 57 batters in 30 innings.
Replacing Betts is no easy task, but the rest of the Boston lineup returns intact. The likely batting order looks like: LF Andrew Benintendi, 3B Rafael Devers, SS Xander Bogaerts, DH J.D. Martinez, 1B Mitch Moreland, 2B Michael Chavis, RF Alex Verdugo, C Christian Vazquez and CF Jackie Bradley Jr.
Against lefties, you’ll often see Chavis move over to first base while Peraza plays second. Meanwhile, Pillar can fill in at all three outfield positions, and Lucroy will get some time behind the plate while also playing first base.
This lineup can mash, especially on the left side of the field and at designated hitter. Martinez hit .304/.383/.557 with 36 homers, 33 doubles and 105 RBI last season and is one of the best.
Bogaerts is a perennial All-Star and hit .309/.384/.555. As a 26-year-old, the shortstop had 52 doubles, 33 homers, 117 RBI and 110 runs scored while finishing fifth in the AL MVP race.
Not to be outdone, Devers hit .311/.361/.555 at third base. The 23-year-old had an AL-best 54 doubles to go along with 32 homers, 115 RBI and 129 runs scored.
Moreland hit .252/.328/.507 in 2019 with 19 homers and 58 RBI while playing in 91 games. Playing in a platoon with Holt, Chavis hit 18 homers and drove in 58 while batting .254/.322/.444.
The outfield outside of Betts did have a bit of a 2019 slump. Bradley Jr. hit .225/.317/.421 with 21 homers and 62 RBI while adding 28 doubles.
Benintendi hit .266/.343/.774 with 13 homers, 68 RBI and 40 doubles. The homers, RBI and slash lines were all career-lows for the 26-year-old.
Vazquez was the sixth player to hit at least 20 homers in this lineup last year as he finished with 23 to go with 72 RBI. The backstop hit .276/.320/.477 and added 26 doubles.
Boston Red Sox’ Three Key Players
If the Red Sox are going to contend for a Wild-Card spot or the AL East title, they have to get 8-to-10 quality starts from Eovaldi. He’s produced before, winning 14 games for the Yankees in 2015 and posting a sub-4.00 ERA in 2018.
Last season was a breakout campaign for Devers. This year, he can make the next jump.
In his third MLB season, Devers led the AL in doubles and total bases. His home runs jumped from 21 to 30, and his RBI total nearly doubled from 66 to 115.
The other key player is next to Devers on the infield with 27-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts. He also made the jump last season as a top five MVP finalist, a Silver Slugger and an All-Star while notching career-highs in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, walks, total bases and slugging percentage.
A Gold Glove is likely in his future, too, as the slick-fielding shortstop has 23 errors in the last two seasons.
Boston Red Sox Schedule Breakdown
The Red Sox will play 40 games against their AL East rivals while playing 20 games against the NL East.That means they have 10 games each against the AL favorite NY Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. They will also play six games against the defending NL East champion Atlanta Braves and three against last year’s World Series Champion, the Washington Nationals.
The Red Sox actually play seven games at Yankee Stadium before they finally play host to their rivals Sept. 18-20. The schedule also has them playing seven of the 10 games against the Rays in Tampa.
Boston will play Baltimore and Toronto a combined 13 times at home, and if it is to contend, the Red Sox will need to take advantage of that part of the schedule.
On the interleague side, the Red Sox don’t travel to Washington, as they play the Nationals in Boston. They will not play host to Miami but play Philadelphia, Atlanta and the New York Mets home and home.
According to BetUS.com, the Red Sox are in the middle of the pack in the American League to win the World Series with a moneyline of +2500, the same as the Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians. Those odds put the Red Sox behind the Yankees (+350), Astros (+550), Twins (+1300), Rays (+1600) and A’s (+2400)
The 2019 season was a tough one for Red Sox fans after the glory of 2018, and 2020 is likely to provide more rebuilding. But with Bloom in charge and some bright young talent in the lineup, it may not be too long before Boston is back as a perennial contender.