It is easy to be a pessimist when it comes to the 2020 Red Sox. They cut payroll over the off-season by trading away a franchise player in Mookie Betts and a top of the rotation arm in David Price. But there is reason to be hopeful when it comes to this season.
Betts’ bat will be missed in the Red Sox lineup, but Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez are all returning and will most likely hit 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in the lineup. All three men hit over .300, slugged over 30 home runs, and drove in over 100 RBIs last season.
Boston no longer has Betts hitting lead-off, but Andrew Benintendi could be a suitable replacement. He does not have Betts’ power, but Benintendi has looked great as a lead-off hitter in Spring Training so far, as he is currently hitting .500 in eight at-bats with a home run while leading off the inning.
Health was an issue with Moreland last season. But if he can stay healthy he will be a big-time RBI-getter in the middle of the lineup. Fans may be concerned about Moreland’s health, but the first baseman played in 149 games in 2017 and 124 games in 2018. Last season should not be a red flag for Moreland, as he has been relatively healthy for the majority of his 10-year career.
There will also be reinforcements for the Red Sox lineup, as Alex Verdugo will make his Boston debut a few weeks into the season and Bobby Dalbec, who belted 27 home runs in the minors last year, should get called up possibly around June or July.
Last season the Red Sox ranked 4th in the MLB in total runs scored. 2020 should be no different, as this lineup is full of players who will give you competitive at-bats.
There is some alarm with the pitching considering Chris Sale will be out for at least the first month of the season, and maybe more depending on how his arm feels in the next coming weeks, but the Red Sox roster is built to get by this.
Nathan Eovaldi has looked great out of the gate and could very well be the Ace of the Red Sox staff this season. Eduardo Rodriguez is slotted behind him, and he proved to be more than serviceable last year. 2020 will determine if E-Rod has what it takes to be an ace of the staff, and the good news is he has been trending towards that development the past two seasons.
There is a fall-off after the first two spots in the rotation, with newly-signed Martin Perez scheduled to be the third starter in Sale’s absence. Perez is a wild-card, but he could prove to be a great under-the-radar acquisition. Just this week Boston signed Collin McHugh to a one-year deal, and he very well could be the 4th starter depending on Sale’s availability.
Manager Ron Roenicke will likely implement the opener and bullpening strategy that Chaim Bloom’s Rays used so successfully in Tampa Bay. Perez and McHugh could be guys that may not start the game, but rather come into the game in the 2nd inning to pitch a bulk of the game.
Boston will have several guys in the bullpen who can pitch multiple innings, so while they may not have a 5 starter rotation, they will be fully equipped to handle a 162-game season. Tampa Bay had the second best team ERA in baseball last season, so this strategy is capable of working when handled correctly.
One name to watch is Tanner Houck, as he could be thrust into the starting rotation after moving up to AAA last season. Pawtucket used him mostly out of the bullpen, as he had the chance to get called up to the majors as a reliever last year. Houck could be a May or June call-up candidate.
Boston is not the only team suffering from a lack of a starting rotation. The New York Yankees have also been hit by a wave of injuries, but no one in the Bronx is screaming that the sky is falling.
New York just inked Gerrit Cole to a $324 million deal, and the rest of the rotation features J.A. Happ, who is 37 and coming off a rocky 2019 season, and Masahiro Tanaka, who had a below average 2019 season.
The 2020 Yankees are built very similarly to the 2019 Red Sox in the sense that they have a lot of money tied up into the starting rotation with no depth behind the starters. New York currently has $99 million invested in five starting pitchers. Last season, the Red Sox faltered once starters went down to injury, and the same thing could happen to the Yankees this season.
While Boston may not have a starting rotation full of flashy names like most other teams, they do have a lot of depth options that will be able to step up if any more injuries do arise. A lack of depth gave Boston trouble last year, and they addressed those issues by adding guys to the bullpen that can go multiple innings.
Featured image via Matt Stone/Boston Herald