Boston Red Sox Season Preview


Christopher Evans

Red Sox starters Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi warm up their arms during a spring training workout in Jetblue Park located in Fort Myers, Florida.

Chris Carr, Contributing Writer

Following a last-place finish in 2020, the Boston Red Sox had one of the most drastic turnarounds in baseball last year. The Red Sox came just two wins shy of reaching the World Series following an impressive 92-70 regular season and playoff victories versus two division rivals in the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. The Red Sox are looking to return to their winning ways in 2021. But, with some significant departures in the offseason, their momentum won’t be easy to carry over into the upcoming season.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, for Boston, the good things came in the forms of Kyle Schwarber, Eduardo Rodgriguez, and Garrett Richards among others that signed deals elsewhere this past offseason.
While some pieces from the magical season are gone, the core of the Red Sox remains stable offensively, and they added some talent in the offseason. However, pitching and defense are major question marks for a team with extremely high expectations heading into the regular season.
To start, the Red Sox are a very similar team offensively compared to last season. 1st baseman Bobby Dalbec returns and looks to clean up his “home-run or miss” routine at the plate heading into his sophomore season. While rumors swirled around during the trade deadline and offseason that the Red Sox were looking to upgrade at the 1st base position, it seems like the Red Sox are committed to helping Dalbec improve his plate discipline, at least until the top organizational prospect Triston Casas is called up. On the left side of the infield, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers return as the best shortstop and third baseman duo in baseball, but both could work on healing their occasional defensive struggles. Also, Christian Vasquez is back behind the plate and looking to make the most of his contract year in hopes of earning a pay-day next offseason.
Moving onto the outfield, the speedy Kike Hernandez will now take on a full-time role in the outfield, likely in the center, where he thrived during the postseason. Also, Alex Verdugo remains a solid all-around player who returns in the right field and aims to continue his hot-hitting streak from the second half of last season. If a fill-in player is needed in the outfield, the Sox can turn to Jarren Duran, a quick outfielder who will look to be consistent at the plate in his first full season, or J.D. Martinez, a veteran and four-time all-star who will start at DH but also has some outfield ability.
The Red Sox also added Jackie Bradley Jr. and Trevor Story in the offseason and both project to be day one starters in the field. JBJ returns to Boston in the outfield after spending a year with the Milwaukee Brewers. While he is widely regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, Bradley Jr. is coming off of his worst year at the plate in his career but looking to return to his all-star form back in Boston. The Red Sox acquired JBJ in a trade before the lockout that sent Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee. Renfroe paired along with Kyle Schwarber in the outfield last season, but the Red Sox moved on from both players in hopes of repairing their defense while sacrificing some power at the plate. While it is not clear who will play wherein the outfield, all 3 of Boston’s outfielders are capable two-way players that add flexibility to the position. Furthermore, as one of the best remaining players on the market, Trevor Story signed a massive 6-year 140 million dollar contract with the Red Sox 2 weeks ago. The story had been a top-tier shortstop in Colorado but many fans question whether he will be able to replicate his success at the plate in Boston considering he played at a very favorable ballpark in Coors Field given the dimensions and elevation. Defensively, Story is a big, strong middle infielder that will be transitioning from shortstop to second base which will hopefully solve his throwing error problem in the past.
Moving onto the pitching staff, the Red Sox made some key additions this offseason. To begin, in the rotation Rich Hill returns to Boston after spending a successful 2021 season with the Mets where New York fans saw a healthy amount of curveballs from the 42-year old southpaw. Another addition came in the form of Michael Wacha, a veteran right-hander who should provide stability in the bottom of the rotation as an innings-eater. Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck return as the middle of the rotation pitchers, and both draw some similarities. Both pitchers are in their mid to late 20s, and base the name of the game for both pitchers is velocity. While they can be inconsistent at times, both are high-ceiling pitchers with the potential to become a dangerous duo. Next, at the top of the rotation is Nathan Eovaldi, an elite veteran starter who is coming off of his best year yet. However, two big question marks in the rotation are James Paxton and Chris Sale. Both are reliable arms when healthy, but both pitchers recovered from Tommy John surgeries with unknown recovery timelines. If and when they can become fully healthy during the season, this rotation will improve immensely, but for now, Paxton and Sale are two major X-factors that remain sidelined.
In the bullpen, most of the names from last year remain the same except for Jake Diekman and Matt Strahm, two new guys from the west coast who are in their 30s and looking to provide stability to a shaky group of relievers. Those two veterans will join the likes of Josh Taylor, Hansel Robles, Austin Davis, Ryan Braiser, Hirozaku Sawamura, Garrett Whitlock, and Matt Barnes among others in the bullpen. This group of relievers is mostly a mixed bag of guys while very few sure things. It is a veteran group of players with up and down careers to this point but some young arms such as Phillips Valdez and Kutter Crawford raise the ceiling of this group. All of these arms will have to compete while seeking to make the most out of their spring training appearances in hopes of earning valuable innings during the regular season.
Overall, the Red Sox look like a major question mark on the paper. They had some key players leave during the offseason and failed to make a “splash” in free agency until very recently, they are still dealing with nagging injuries mostly within the key arms in their pitching staff, and they play in the toughest and most competitive division in baseball. However, I have faith in general manager Chaim Bloom and manager Alex Cora to return this team to winning form just as they did last year when absolutely no one saw it coming.