Posted on February 23, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
Ever since they won the 2018 World Series, the Boston Red Sox have been on a downward trajectory. They finished a disappointing 84-78 last season, putting them third place in the AL East and 19 games behind the rival Yankees. They also spent this past offseason trying to cut payroll rather than being aggressive in trying to improve the roster. There’s also an ongoing investigation hanging over their heads that caused manager Alex Cora to part ways with the organization over the winter. So where does that leave the Red Sox heading into 2020? With interim manager Ron Roenicke at the helm, is there enough talent to get back to the playoffs or will it be another mediocre season at Fenway Park?
Boston’s rotation will look considerably different than it did a year ago. Chris Sale is still the ace at the top of the rotation, but he’s now on the wrong side of 30 and coming off the worst season of his career. With David Price and Rick Porcello gone, both Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi will have to take on more prominent roles in the rotation. Rodriguez, to be fair, has won 32 games and posted a 3.81 ERA over the past two seasons, so the Red Sox don’t have to worry too much about him. However, Eovaldi had more elbow trouble last year, making just 12 starts and 11 relief appearances while posting a 5.99 ERA.
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For the final two spots in the rotation, the Red Sox are likely to look at Martin Perez and Hector Velazquez. Perez won 10 games last season but had an unimpressive 5.12 ERA. Velazquez, to his credit, has been a useful swing-man in Boston. But he’s not someone the Red Sox want in their rotation full time. Without many top prospects knocking on the door to the majors, the back-end of Boston’s rotation is an area of uncertainty heading into the season.
The Red Sox failed to adequately replace closer Craig Kimbrel last winter, and it showed. The good news is that Brandon Workman eventually emerged as a viable closer, going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 16 saves last year. The Red Sox also got solid showings from Matt Barnes, Marcus Walden, Josh Taylor, and Heath Hembree.
However, Taylor is unproven outside of last year while the rest have solid but unspectacular track records. The Red Sox should have strength in numbers in their bullpen, especially if Ryan Brasier can have a bounce-back season. But they don’t have the kind of lockdown, late-inning relievers that most championship-caliber teams have, which means the Boston bullpen might be average at best this year.
Offensively, the Red Sox ranked among the top-5 in the American League last season. But that was before they traded former MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. Alex Verdugo, who came over in the trade with Los Angeles, is a promising talent who will help. However, trading away Betts puts more pressure on J.D Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers to carry the lineup.
The Red Sox need Andrew Benintendi to have a bounce-back year to help make up for not having Betts. It’s also vital that catcher Christian Vazquez produce the way he did in 2019 when he hit a career-high 23 home runs and registered an OPS of .798. However, that was way off base with his career numbers. Other X-factors include the underachieving Jackie Bradley Jr. and Michael Chavis, who could see a lot of time at second base with Dustin Pedroia’s status up in the air.
After winning 84 games in 2019, the Red Sox have a projection of 85.5 wins for 2020. That total has dropped by three wins since they traded away Betts and Price. In fairness, the Red Sox have more than enough offensive talent on the roster to score runs without Betts. However, the rotation isn’t as deep as it’s been and there’s at least a little reason to worry about Sale and Eovaldi, who are both vital to the success of the rotation. Plus, the Boston bullpen appears to be nothing special. Look for the Red Sox to have another disappointing season, falling short of 85.5 wins and missing the playoffs for a second straight season.