The big news of the offseason was Giancarlo Stanton, who had just won the NL MVP, being traded to the New York Yankees.
The Yankees had just gotten to the ALCS in a surprising postseason run that was powered by the breakouts of Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Not to mention that the Bronx Bombers already had veteran talent like Sonny Gray, Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner and Aroldis Chapman.
So when Brian Cashman decided to make the move to bring in Stanton, it was an official announcement that the Evil Empire was back and ready to be World Series contenders again. The trade was a move to vault the Yankees ahead of teams like the Indians (who won 102 games), the Boston Red Sox (who beat the Yankees out for the AL East) and the Astros (who as we all know won the World Series).
Over the next week I’m going to be writing individual pieces on why each of these three teams can challenge the Yankees for AL supremacy, going through offseason acquisitions (or lack thereof) regression numbers, all of it.
Today let’s start with the Yankees division rivals, the Boston Red Sox. For the past two years the Red Sox were at the top of the AL east as the clear top dog, winning 93 games in both 2016 and 2017. However both times the Red Sox were bounced in the division series and left wondering how they could improve. After 2016 they added one of the best pitchers in the game in Chris Sale, who dominated with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. But it still wasn’t enough as the Red Sox offense crumbled without David Ortiz.
So now the Red Sox have once again added a star to their roster, this time in the form of slugger JD Martinez, who hit 45 homers last year while driving in 104 runs. That kind of production is exactly what Boston needs, as Martinez now provides protection in the lineup for star outfielders Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts, as well as Hanley Ramirez.
Now Martinez is no Stanton but he is still a superstar caliber hitter, one who the Red Sox sorely needed. The addition of Martinez doesn’t make the Boston lineup more dangerous than the Yankees, but it certainly closes the gap and allows the Red Sox to at least boast a lineup that is dangerous. Pair Martinez with Betts (who had a down year and is expected to bounce back) Benintendi, Ramirez and a full year of phenom Rafael Devers, and you get a whole lot of pop in the middle of that Red Sox lineup. This isn’t even to mention the important role players the Red Sox have in Xander Bogaerts, Sandy Leon, Brock Holt and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Elsewhere on the roster the Red Sox will now have a full season of David Price, who posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 starts and didn’t allow a run in two relief appearances against the Astros. Price will be a starter in 2018 and showed flashes of his old dominance in his abbreviated 2017. Price and Sale alone give the Red Sox a pretty good rotation, but that still doesn’t even account for Rick Porcello, who won the Cy Young award in 2016 before a tough 2017, Drew Pomeranz (who posted a 3.32 ERA last year) and Eduardo Rodriguez, who still has a ton of untapped potential.
All this to say that while the Yankees may have a nice rotation of Luis Severino Sonny Gray and Masashiro Tanaka, Boston’s counter of Sale Price and Porcello isn’t something to sneeze at.
Even if the rotation were to fail at times the Red Sox still boast one of the best closers in the game with Craig Kimbrel looming at the end of games, and behind him a now-healthy Carson Smith who claims a career 1.95 ERA as well as Tyler Thornburg who posted a 2.15 ERA in his last full season in 2016.
Now the Yankees also have their own formidable bullpen with Chapman closing their games plus Dellin Betances and David Robertson backing him up. This isn’t to say either bullpen is better than the other because both are fantastic but it’s more to show that the Red Sox are not without talent either.
As stated earlier the Yankees postseason run was fueled by breakouts from, among others, Luis Severino and Aarond Judge. Both players put up award-winning numbers, Severino coming in the top 3 for Cy Young and Judge coming runner up for MVP. However, while both are incredibly talented and are sure to continue being two of the top players at their position, it is unlikely that Judge hits 50+ homers again, or that Severino dominates exactly the way he did. Yes, there will be moments when both or either of those players changes a game for New York, but there is bound to be some regression. And of course the addition of Stanton will counteract some of that, but even Stanton isn’t likely to be an MVP again.
Meanwhile the Red Sox are counting on bouncebacks and improvements from the likes of Benintendi, Betts, Devers, Porcello and even Price.
This is not a prediction that the Red Sox will win the AL East and squash the Yankees, this is just saying that it’s a possibility and that the Yankees are not invincible despite what the Twittersphere may tell you. Regardless it is going to be a fun ride to watch so buckle in and watch these juggernauts battle it out all season.
(Photo Credit: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)