It’s only been two years since the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series. But instead of building upon its impressive core, the club’s ownership instead dismantled things. Trading Mookie Betts this past offseason was the big blow, but the organization’s divestment from the team following 2018 started well before that.
Boston didn’t do anything to sustain or improve its team for its title defense last year. Perhaps the organization didn’t feel the need to do much following such a dominant 2018. Instead, things went south and the Sox finished at 84-78, third place in the division. Ownership canned Dave Dombrowski, who helped architect that 2018 club, in what felt like a rage quit move by John Henry.
The Sox then brought in Rays exec Chaim Bloom, which told us all we needed to know about where Boston was headed. Whereas Dombrowski’s goal was to win at all costs, Bloom’s installation was for the purposes of winning efficiently. Said another way: Bloom came in to oversee the dismantling of the roster, namely Betts, in order for the Sox to save some dough. It may work out in the long run, but it sure looks like Boston is in for a few lean years right now.
Their story so far
If you read the Orioles series preview, you’ll know that Boston dropped two of three to the Orioles to start the season. The series immediately exposed Boston’s incredibly thin pitching staff. Nate Eovaldi may have pitched well in Boston’s opening win, but just about everyone after was another story. The O’s scored seven runs off Boston pitching in each of the last two games of the series.
Things didn’t start off much better in Boston’s next series against the Mets. Once again, the team’s pitching was dreadful. The staff allowed 15 runs combined in the first two games, both losses. We knew the Red Sox probably weren’t going to be very good this year, but starting 1-4 and having things spiral out of control right away was a bit surprising given the team’s opponents.
Of course, sometimes the Mets can’t get out of their own way too. I’m all for some Mets schadenfreude, but it would have been nice to see them continue to clobber Red Sox’ pitching. Instead, as the series headed to Citi Field for the next two, Boston turned it around. Or should I say, the Mets bullpen did its usual: blow a lead for Jacob deGrom. Down 3-2 after six innings, the Red Sox knocked around Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson to ultimately win, 6-5. Boston then managed the series split with a 4-2 victory last night.
So, the Red Sox enter this weekend’s series at 3-4, two games behind the 4-1 first place Yankees. Boston shouldn’t be a threat to the Bombers this year (both PECOTA and Fangraphs have them finishing .500), but it’d be nice to knock them back on their tails this weekend after a salvaged series vs. the Mets.
- The oft-injured 2B Dustin Pedroia had a knee procedure last August. It’s hard to imagine when or if he’ll ever return.
- LHP Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery and will not return this year. He should be an option again mid-2021.
- LHP Eduardo Rodríguez is on the COVID-19 injured list. He’s dealing with myocarditis (inflammation around the heart), which was brought on by the coronavirus. Scary stuff, but it seems like he’ll be okay in the long run. It’s just not clear when he’ll return.
- Boston has two other players on the COVID-19 injured list: LHP Darwinzon Hernandez and LHP Josh Taylor. Their returns are unknown.
- RHP Collin McHugh opted out of the 2020 season.
Spotlight: Alex VerdugoEmbed from Getty Images
We’re pretty familiar with most of the Red Sox hitters to this point, but Alex Verdugo is a new face in Boston’s lineup. As you surely know, he was one of the players acquired in return for superstar Mookie Betts. Verdugo, 24, is Betts’s replacement. He’s got pretty big shoes to fill and frankly, he almost certainly can’t.
Verdugo’s already had big league success and was a well regarded prospect, but that’s not everything to him. As a minor leaguer in 2015, Verdugo was reportedly involved — or “at best” — present during sexual assault. The Dodgers covered up the incident as it didn’t become public until 2019. Sheryl Ring wrote about this a few months ago, and I suggest going there if you want more details. Since joining the Red Sox, Verdugo has denied the allegations and claims that he would have done something to stop it if he was present. He also said that he has regrets about what transpired with “certain events” that night. Hm. Believe what you want to believe, but this is not the guy I’d want to replace an icon like Betts with.
This is a really crappy thing for Red Sox fans to grapple with. Not only did the organization trade away the team’s best player and fan favorite, but in return, the team acquired someone of questionable character. We Yankees fans know the feeling with regard to Aroldis Chapman. It sucks. As long as we continue to stomach teams adding players like this, we can only hope for the survivors’ well-being and that people like Verdugo or Chapman show actual remorse and exhibit resolve to become better people.
For the stick to baseball crowd (who assuredly have either skipped to the comments section or closed out this page entirely): Los Angeles drafted Verdugo in the second round of the 2014 draft, and three years later, he debuted in the big leagues as a 21 year-old. In his three seasons out west, the lefty-swinging Verdugo hit .282/.335/.449 (107 OPS+) and accumulated 3.3 rWAR in 488 plate appearances. Most of those numbers stem from last year, when Verdugo played in 106 games and batted .294/.342/.475 (114 OPS+). Before exceeding rookie eligibility last year, Verdugo had been a top-100 prospect for a few years. He reached as high as 19th on Baseball Prospectus’s list in 2019, and 35th per Baseball America and MLB Pipeline as well.
Verdugo’s off to an OK start for Boston. He’s hit .333/.400/.333 (112 wRC+) in 20 plate appearances thus far. He’s most played right field to date, but he can play the other two outfield positions as needed.
Considering his playing experience with LA and his former prospect sheen, Verdugo should develop into a solid piece for the Red Sox. Barring a trade or something along similar lines, he’ll be in Boston through the 2024 season. Just don’t expect him to ever blossom into anything like Mookie.
Here’s the Roster Resource projected lineup along with each starters’ small sample size performance to date:
- Andrew Benintendi, LF (.095/.321/.143, 55 wRC+)
- J.D. Martinez, DH (.241/.333/.345, 85 wRC+)
- Rafael Devers, 3B (.192/.222/.346, 18 wRC+)
- Xander Bogaerts, SS (.182/.217/.318, 45 wRC+)
- Mitch Moreland, 1B (.357/.357/.857, 228 wRC+)
- Christian Vázquez, C (.421/.450/1.105, 315 wRC+)
- Alex Verdugo, RF (.333/.400/.333, 112 wRC+)
- Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (.400/.455/.500, 168 wRC+)
- José Peraza, 2B (.276/.300/.345, 79 wRC+)
Vázquez is tearing the cover off the ball and his wRC+ is second to none other than Giancarlo Stanton (323). As you can see, a handful of Sox are in slumps to start the year. Devers, Bogaerts, and Benintendi in particular.
The typical lineup as shown above may be different this weekend since the Yankees have two lefties starting. Moreland may sit in favor of Michael Chavis. Benintendi could be dropped in the order. JBJ could be spelled by Kevin Pillar. Other bench options include Kevin Plawecki and infielders Tzu-Wei Lin and Jonathan Araúz.
Somehow, Weber is Boston’s third starter. On Sunday, he pitched like he didn’t belong in any rotation, let alone third starter. He allowed 9 base runners in 3 2/3 innings and surrendered 6 runs. To the Orioles, mind you.
Weber, who’s bounced around multiple organizations since he was drafted in 2009, actually had some success against the Yankees last year. He allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings vs. the Bombers across three appearances in 2019. That said, if you clicked the link to his batter vs. pitcher stats above, you’ll notice that Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit are absent. That won’t be the case tonight.
Tonight is Jordan Montgomery’s season debut. He was supposed to start earlier this week before the Phillies series was postponed. Instead, tonight marks a challenge for the young lefty as Boston has a couple of very tough right-handed power bats. Monty looked really good in camp and carved up a good Mets lineup a couple of weeks ago, but this will be a test against (still) one of the game’s better offenses.
This is how desperate Boston is for pitching. Godley, who the Sox claimed on waivers just as the season got underway, is now a part of the rotation. Godley actually pitched well in his lone appearance for the Red Sox this season. In Monday’s loss to the Mets, the righty entered in relief and delivered four shutout innings. He also struck out seven.
For the Yankees: I didn’t think we’d see Masahiro Tanaka back this early. Not after taking a 112 mph line drive to the head during Summer Camp. It’s good to see Tanaka ready so soon, but he’s not out of the woods yet. We know that all too well from Clint Frazier’s struggle with concussion symptoms.
This is also Tanaka’s first start of his contract year, by the way. Hopefully, it’s more of the same we’ve grown used to in New York. He’s had a terrific career in pinstripes (3.75 ERA, 3.88 FIP) and is playoff tested (1.76 ERA in 46 innings). Do it again Masa and come back for more next year.
Sunday, 7:08 p.m. EDT: TBD/Bullpen Game vs. LHP James Paxton (vs. Red Sox)
Manager Ron Roenicke hasn’t announced who will start Sunday, though it’s expected to be a bullpen game. The Red Sox have done one bullpen game thus far this season and started lefty Josh Osich, so perhaps that’s in store again here.
All eyes will be on The Big Maple’s second start. He was downright awful last weekend and there’s some reason for concern. Will he regain his velocity? Will his mechanics, namely his arm slot, look off? Time isn’t on Paxton’s side to figure these things out given the short season. Hopefully the extra couple of days rest makes a difference. Seeing a redux of this would make me happy:
RHP: Brandon Workman (Closer), Matthew Barnes, Heath Hembree, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Colten Brewer, Marcus Walden, Phillips Valdez, Chris Mazza
LHP: Josh Osich, Jeffrey Springs, Matt Hall
If your first thought was: “who are these people?”, you’re not alone. You’re probably familiar with Workman and Barnes, and maybe Hembree, Brasier, and Walden, but that’s about it. Workman’s actually pretty darn good: he posted a 1.88 ERA and 2.46 FIP in 71 2/3 innings last season. The problem? He, along with Boston’s other top relievers, may not be available to start this series against the Yankees:
Sox bullpen will be a little gassed heading into Yankee Stadium.— Tom Caron (@TomCaron) July 31, 2020
-Barnes has worked 2 straight nights, 52 pitches total
-Hembree 2 straight nights, 27 total
-Workman 3 straight nights, 46 total with 2 outs in 9th.
*rubs hands* This has slugfest potential, folks. Boston will have to trout out it’s lesser relievers this weekend and the Yankees have to capitalize on that opportunity.
Is it too much to ask for another sweep? I at least expect the Yankees to win the first two against Weber and Godley. I really don’t know what to expect from Paxton on Sunday after what we saw against the Nationals. If he’s bad again, the Yankees may have to climb out of a big hole early. Let’s hope not. It’s time to bury Boston before they have any chance to get their hopes up this season.