In order to get farther in the postseason, Boston went out and traded for one of the best pitchers in baseball, Chris Sale. Then another of their top starters, David Price, had an injury scare recently. Though (for now) he’s avoiding surgery, he’s likely going to start the year on the DL.
So that leaves Boston’s rotation much as it was a year ago, with an acquired ace (not two). The key for that rotation really is this: Is Rick Porcello going to be as good as he was last year, when he won the A.L. Cy Young Award? (And yes, that award really should have gone to Justin Verlander.) If not, Boston’s starting pitching could struggle. At least Red Sox fans will no longer have to wonder if Clay Buchholz is healthy, because he’s been traded to the Phillies. Instead, Boston fans can wonder if Drew Pomeranz is going to be healthy.
It just wouldn’t be Red Sox baseball if there weren’t some angst involved.
Offensively, Boston’s top prospect, Andrew Benintendi, will move into left field full time. He hit pretty well in 34 games near the end of last season: .295/.359/.476 in 105 at-bats, with two home runs. His minor-league numbers suggest mid-range power with a high batting average.
The Red Sox will be trying former Ranger Mitch Moreland at first base. Moreland can hit some home runs (22 last year in 460 at-bats), but his BA was way down in 2016 (.233) and his defensive reputation isn’t borne out by advanced metrics.
And, Boston hopes the half season Sandy Leon put up at catcher (.310/.369/.476, seven HR in 78 games) wasn’t a mirage.
Craig Kimbrel again anchors a strong bullpen which was bolstered by the addition of Tyler Thornburg from the Brewers.
Oh, and the Bosox are going to try to salvage whatever’s left of Pablo Sandoval, who played in just three games last year before going down with an injury. If Sandoval returns to the way he played with the Giants, that’s a huge boost for the Red Sox offense. Do not count on this happening.
Former Cubs outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Junior Lake are in Red Sox camp, looking for a shot to make the roster as fifth outfielders. (Chances: slim.)
The Cubs and Red Sox last played three years ago, a three-game set that the Cubs swept, and Jake Arrieta nearly threw a perfect game. Both teams struggled that year; the Cubs, on their way up, lost 89 games and the Red Sox, beset by injuries, lost 91. Both teams should be World Series contenders this season.
The Cubs will be at Fenway Park April 28-29-30.