Despite last place finishes in the American League East 3 of the last 4 years, the Boston Red Sox continued to be one of the most aggressive teams in free agency. The club struck early, picking up ace David Price on a mega-deal, and trading away four prospects for Craig Kimbrel.
When you consider the Red Sox only won 78 games last season, adding a starter the caliber of Price and a closer with tremendous history in Kimbrel, you can’t help to think the Red Sox have the talent to contend. With that said, there is good reason for fans to be optimistic. The team may have disappointed, but individual players made big strides.
Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts fulfilled theor promise and emerged as stars, while Eduardo Rodriguez proved he could handle the job in a big league rotation. David Ortiz remained a steady and productive force despite his age, while Blake Swihart and Jackie Bradley Jr. showed flashes of perhaps things to come at the end of the season.
Then, there’s some veterans with successful pasts Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and Rick Porcello. Each player experienced incredible lows during their first seasons in Boston, but it’s a pretty good bet that none of them can be that bad again, right?
The Red Sox are counting on it. Even modest improvements from those players, combined with the continued development of the Red Sox very talented young core could lead this club back to the playoffs. Especially with such key acquisitions made during the offseason.
The Pluses: Adding David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith
The Minuses Losing Wade Miley, Rich Hill
Clearly the Red Sox gain much more than they lose, picking up an ace in anyone’s rotation in Price, a tremendous closer in Kimbrel, but perhaps the sleeper of the group, Carson Smith, not a household name, but a guy who was simply fantastic last season and averaged a 32.4% strikeout rate.
Losing Miley will only hurt in a sense that he was an innings eater who could be counted on to stay in the rotation, Rich Hill was absolutely phenomenal in 4 late season starts, but it is hard to imagine he could replicate anything close to that going forward.
Player To Watch Blake Swihart
The highly rated prospect was rushed a bit last season to the big club, and initially struggled. But as the season progressed vver the second half of the season, Swihart hit .303/.353/.452 over 168 plate appearances. While that’s a small sample, there’s some proof he altered his approach. Swihart started using the whole field more, and not just pulling the ball. He also cut down on his ground balls, hitting more line drives and elevating the ball more. Perhaps these are signs of things to come.
The Best Outlook:
When you look at the potential starting lineup, it is an intriguing mix of you talent and aging stars. Considering the young core continues to shine, and the veterans are able to replicate the past for a season, this appears to be a team that will score runs. Combine that with a staff led by Price and Buchholz, whom we believe is one of the keys here and this team could easily win 90 to 95 games.
Age and injury catch up to the veterans and the team that looked so good on paper has the ability to be a middle of the pack team. We do not foresee the Red Sox being an also ran in any case scenario, as there is simply too much talent. Worst case scenario in our opinion would be 3rd place in the AL East.