Can the 2019 Boston Red Sox Repeat as Champions?

The 2019 Major League Baseball regular season begins on March 28th with renewed hope, excitement, and expectations for the new season. There’s one club in particular that will be defending its World Series title with aspirations of repeating as champions. The last time any team repeated as champions was the 1998-2000 New York Yankees.

The Red Sox began Spring Training with key question marks surrounding the team in itsworld series champions quest to repeat as World Series Champions. This team certainly has the capability to pull off such a remarkable feat. However, the reality is that the 2019 Boston Red Sox  have concerns that will be a major factor in their ability (or lack thereof) to repeat as World Series Champions.

1. Red Sox Bullpen

Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski took a gamble at the July 31st trade deadline by not adding any high quality relievers to the bullpen. It paid off, thanks to key starting pitchers  David Price and Nathan Eovaldi who pitched out of the bullpen. However, the Red Sox lost two major pieces of the bullpen to free angency in closers Craig Kimbrel  and Joe Kelly. The Red Sox as of now are planning to potentially use relief pitcher Matt Barnes as an option to close the 9th inning for the Red Sox. It remains to be seen if the bullpen will be able to duplicate last October’s success for the 2019 season.

2. Red Sox Starting Rotation

The Red Sox starting rotation is  one of the best in Major League Baseball when fully healthy. In 2017 and 2018, Chris Sale’s performance dipped in the second half of both seasons. Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Nathan Eovaldi pitched a high amount of innings last season. All eyes will be on the rotation to watch for any potential dip in performance as a result of the heavy workload.

3. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez

When the Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez in February 2018, no one could have predicted the full impact that Martinez would bring to the entire lineup. No hitter benefited more than Mookie Betts, who won the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player with a career season batting .346 with 32 HR and 80 RBIs. Martinez had a Triple Crown caliber season batting .330 with 43 HRs and 130 RBIs. It will be worth watching to see if both Betts and Martinez can continue their offensive success in 2019.

The sky is the limit for the 2019 Boston Red Sox. However, a lot will have to fall into place if the Red Sox are to successfully defend their World Series crown. It will be fascinating to watch this team beginning on Opening Day in Seattle, as the Red Sox seek to become the first to repeat as champions in nearly 20 years.

Transactions In The American League East

The MLB experiences the bulk of its roster turnover during the winter months. This off-season’s largest signing came in late February, when the Philadelphia Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a thirteen-year, $330 million dollar contract. In regards to transactions in the American League East, the most noteworthy deals came two off-seasons ago, when the Red Sox signed J.D. Martinez to a five-year, $110 million dollar contract, and when the Yankees acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

Although the American League East took a step back in terms of acquiring star-power this winter, there were plenty of deals that will affect the division in 2019. Here is a look at each team’s most notable move.

Boston Red Sox – re-signed first baseman Steve Pearce (one-year, $6.25 million)

Pearce came to the Red Sox in June 2018 in a trade with Toronto for a minor league infielder. He quickly became a fan favorite after a socking a home run over the Green Monster in his first Fenway at-bat. He went on to post a .901 OPS in 50 games for Boston. More importantly, he was a postseason standout and was awarded World Series MVP. In the Fall Classic, he hit three home runs, including two in the series-clinching Game 5. He is set to platoon with fellow first baseman Mitch Moreland. Pearce can also play the outfield. He logged 38 at-bats between left and right field and 64 more as a DH.

Other noteworthy moves: signed right-handed pitchers Erasmo Ramirez and Jenrry Mejia

New York Yankees – acquired starting pitcher James Paxton from Seattle Mariners in exchange for 3 minor leaguers.

This was the most notable transaction in the American League East division this off-season. Paxton threw just north of 160 innings in 2018 and started 28 games. Both were personal bests. He has always had trouble staying healthy, but when Paxton is on the mound, he is royally effective. He threw three complete games last season. One of them was a no-hitter in his native country, Canada. The southpaw joins a loaded starting staff in the Bronx, with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and C.C. Sabathia by his side. Paxton has his best chance at starting 30 games this year, especially considering how lethal his bullpen is behind him.

Other noteworthy moves: signed RP Adam Ottavino, re-signed SP J.A. Happ

Tampa Bay Rays – signed starting pitcher Charlie Morton (two-years, $30 million)

The 2017 World Series hero is a player, like Pearce, who is hitting his prime later than most. Entering his age-35 season, Morton was named an All-Star for the first time in 2018 and has posted a record of 29-10 in his last two seasons, to go along with an ERA in the mid-3s, a WHIP below 1.20, and 364 strikeouts.

Other noteworthy moves: signed OF Avisail Garcia, traded for C Mike Zunino

Toronto Blue Jays – signed starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (one-year, $3 million)

This signing was one of the sneakier ones and occurred earlier this month. Buchholz, who is a two-time All-Star, has spent the bulk of his career with the Red Sox. He left Boston, after nine years with the club, in late 2016 when he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He started only two games for Philadelphia due to an elbow injury. He returned to action last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks and put together his best season since 2013. In sixteen games he started in 2018, he threw one complete game, accumulated a 2.01 ERA, and limited hitters to a 1.03 WHIP.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker, signed right-handed pitchers David Phelps and Bud Norris

Baltimore Orioles – signed shortstop Alcides Escobar (Minor League contract)

The Orioles made close to zero notable transactions this off-season. Although this was the least, most notable transaction in the American League East, this deal makes sense in several ways. Before acquiring Escobar, the Orioles were projected to start rookie shortstop Richie Martin, who has never played an inning in the majors. Still, Martin may outplay the veteran and earn the starting nod, but at least the O’s now have some insurance at the position. Escobar is durable (nine-straight seasons of at least 530 plate appearances) and has experience playing with an exceptional team (Royals 2014-’15). Bringing those qualities to a rebuilding team in need of leadership will fare well.

Other noteworthy moves: signed starting pitcher Nate Karns. 

Is Manny Machado the Missing Piece?

Red Sox fans know that July 31st is always an important date on the baseball calendar. It is the non-waiver trade deadline. The big prize this year will presumably be Baltimore Orioles shortstop Manny Machado. Machado is having his usual MVP caliber year hitting over .300, with more than 50 runs batted in at the halfway point. He will be a free agent this offseason and will inevitably demand a big payday. The Orioles are already 29.5 games back and will likely look to get assets for their current star this summer.

Orioles general manager Dan Duquette wants a current promising major leaguer in anyMachado package. Usually, the Red Sox have a lot of assets and clout at their disposal during this time of year, enough to make a generous offer for such a player. However, most of those prospects have been either promoted or traded. Top prospects Michael Chavis, unfortunately, is suspended for PEDs and Jason Groome is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Therefore, the main pieces in any deal would probably be from the big league club.

With young star players such as Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi seemingly off the table, the logical name becomes Red Sox third baseman, Rafael Devers. Devers gives the Orioles some young pop, the talent now and for the future. Meanwhile, Machado, who has third base experience, could slide to the hot corner and not only improve the offense, but the defense. He’s a gold-glover at that position, meanwhile, Devers currently leads the position in errors.

Manny Machado Could Be the Missing Championship Piece

The problem with Machado is the impending free agency. Devers is under team control and the Red Sox will be risking taking on the free-agent to be and him not signing long-term with the team. However, that risk may be worth it considering how much he would improve the team this season. Dombrowski would want to have an initial talk with Machado about a framework of an extension, before dealing Devers. Devers is too good to let go for a rental.

The other caveat, of course, is Machado’s recent disdain for the Red Sox organization. Last year he was involved in the Red Sox-Orioles second base, year-long confrontation with Pedroia. This could be an issue. Many thought Machado went in too strong at second and Pedroia wasn’t happy. That caused a back and forth between the teams, with pitchers throwing at different batters, causing Machado to say “I’ve lost respect for that organization”. Now that seems to be a distant memory. The Orioles are almost irrelevant and Machado probably wants a shot at playing for a title. Also, Alex Cora is now at the helm for the Red Sox, not John Farrell. This could change Machado’s thoughts on the franchise.

Where Is The American League Competition?

As the calendar turns to June, a third of the baseball season will have been played. Looking at the standings, it might as well end now. The American League’s best two teams may play in the east division. Those teams of course are the Red Sox and Yankees, as their historic rivalry has been renewed. The consensus other two potential A.L. World Series threats, Astros and Indians, seemingly already have their divisions locked up. Where is the rest of the A.L. competition?

The central division Indians are one game above .500 but have a 6.5 game lead on the Leaguesecond place Twins. The east division third place Rays, are already double digit games behind the Yankees and Red Sox. The lone somewhat competitive division is the west. Although it does seem to already be a lock that the Astros will win another division title, thanks in large part to their dominant pitching staff, at least the Angels and Mariners remain competitive.

The Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, and Astros, are going to run away with the American League.

Shohei Ohtani and his “Babe Ruthian” like play has sent shockwaves to the west division. Ohtani has given the Angels a much needed facelift. He has also been someone to take pressure off Mike Trout, as they try and keep up with the Astros. The Mariners and Angels look like they are going to be fighting all season for the final wild card spot. That seems to be the only playoff race.

Part of what has made baseball so great, especially recently in the last decade, has been the parody throughout the league. Low market teams such as the Kansas City Royals or Tampa Bay Rays, have reigned supreme in the A.L., both getting to the World Series in the last decade. Other sports such as the NBA seem very predictable. Fans, media members and experts, even from as early as the preseason, can pretty much pencil the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, due to the league’s collection of top end talent.

The American League Seems To Be Top Heavy.

The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry is the best in sports, but while they continue to thrive and deliver an impressive payroll, other low end markets such as the Chicago White Sox, are forced to “rebuild”. In other words, forced to trade their established stars for prospects. This way teams can have more team control on promising players for longer and pay them less. The Chicago White Sox are currently in the process of this rebuild. They currently have just 15 wins almost a third of the season through. Obviously with less wins, come less fans. It seems that these lower market teams, like Chicago, have completely empty ballparks and declining intrigue.

Teams who do not have money due to lack of revenue, can not spend on established stars, therefore can’t keep up with the stalwarts of the top markets. This is leading towards a top heavy league.

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Rays Not The Same Without Evan Longoria

The Boston Red Sox opened the 2018 season at Tampa Bay by taking 3-of-4 games against the Rays. While the Rays were paying tribute to the 1998 inaugural team, they were doing so without Evan Longoria.

The Rays were one franchise before Longoria and a completely different one during his decade long tenure at Tropicana Field. In Tampa Bay’s first 10 years in MLB, they were known as the Devil Rays and their lone highlight was Wade Boggs hitting a home runs for his 3,000 hit.

Longoria made his MLB debut in 2008. The Rays, dropped the “Devil” and clinched their first winning season, division title, and World Series appearance. The Rays were on the other side of the Red Sox’s 2011 “chicken and beer” collapse. Their last playoff appearance was a ALDS loss to the Red Sox in 2013 but they were close to returning last year.

Longoria is a career .270 hitter who led the Rays with 261 career home runs and 892 RBI. He was traded to the San Francisco Giants for Denard Span and a crop of prospects. Span hit a clutch 3-run RBI triple to cap off a 6-run eighth inning, leading the Rays to a 6-4, come from behind, Opening Day win.

The Rays also shed a lot of their power by trading Corey Dickerson to Pittsburgh and letting Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda walk in free agency. They will once again look to rely on pitching and defense. The Rays lost three straight games against the Red Sox despite holding them to three runs or less each game.

Longoria, meanwhile, went hitless in his first series with the Giants. But that hardly makes the trade a big victory for Tampa Bay.

Red Sox-Rays Is An Underrated Rivalry

The Rays began in 1998 but it seemed like it didn’t take long for the franchise to choose Boston as their rival.

The two teams were initially linked when legendary third baseman Wade Boggs christened the franchise’s arrival to MLB in 1998 and capped his Hall of Fame career with a home run as his 3,000 career hit in 1999. He wears a Red Sox cap in his HOF plaque but originally wanted a Rays cap.

The battles truly began in 2000, when Pedro Martinez beaned Gerald Williams and started a brawl. The Rays were in the midst of their first winning season in 2008 and established themselves as a legit contender in a fight that had Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp dodge a punch thrown by Rays pitcher James Shields like he was in the Matrix. Their most recent scuffle came in 2014, when David Price was still the Tampa Bay ace. Price joined the Red Sox in 2016 and patched things up with David Ortiz.

The Rays and Red Sox will face off at the Boston home opener in Fenway Park this afternoon.

 

C. C. Sabathia’s Red Sox Criticism is Idiotic

C. C. Sabathia looks like he is limping to the finish line of his career, both literally and figuratively. Apparently, the former Cy Young winner doesn’t exactly like when teams exploit that. Sabathia’s Red Sox criticism came after a Thursday night win at Yankee Stadium. Is it warranted or just plain stupid? Well, that answer is pretty easy.

Sabathia was frustrated that the Red Sox tried to force him to field his position by bunting Sabathia's Red Sox Criticismon a regular basis. The strategy led to a throwing error by Sabathia in the first inning but not much else. He ended up going six innings while surrendering only a single run, ending his team’s losing streak. So, in the end, it really didn’t matter, did it? Apparently it did in the postgame.

Sabathia ripped the Red Sox for their bunting extravaganza. Supposedly it’s one of those many unwritten rules that nobody understands but is supposed to abide by. A similar situation happened a few years ago with an injured Matt Garza stating the same case. I can’t believe I have to explain this but I guess I do. If a guy can’t handle his position, you exploit that. Why do guys take an extra base off Jacoby Ellsbury? Because he throws like a little girl. Why did the Red Sox run all over Miguel Montero this week? Because he is physically unable to throw out a baserunner. It’s just what you do.

Sabathia’s Red Sox Criticism Reminiscent of 2004

I can’t help but be reminded of the Bloody Sock Game Six of the 2004 ALCS. A battered Curt Schilling was limping on and off the field to the Yankee Stadium mound. Schilling dominated the Yankees, only allowing one run on four hits in seven innings. New York was up in arms, pleading the Yankees to bunt. The next morning, the sports talk shows were flooded with that same question. Now, 13 years later, it’s a problem. When their guy gets exploited, it’s an issue.

If anything, Sabathia should be thanking the Red Sox. When he faces Boston, it’s like 2008 C. C. Sabathia all over again. In four starts against the Red Sox this year, he’s 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings pitched. He should be thanking them for keeping his career alive at age 37.

So, Carsten (that’s what his friends call him): Get. Over. It. We should be used to the men in pinstripes whining and making excuses by now but it’s still frustrating. Just because you share pants with Vince Wilfork doesn’t mean teams can’t find a way to get on base against you. Take that crap somewhere else. Take some advice from Jim Rice and lose a few pounds if you don’t want teams to bunt on you.

So, short answer, his criticisms are absurdly idiotic. Then again, what else should we expect?