Boston Red Sox, MLB

Do the Red Sox have enough to stay in Wild Card contention?

The Boston Red Sox are coming off a tumultuous offseason that leaves them on the brink of a postseason berth moving forward.

During the offseason, most top market teams go out of their way to add so that they can contend for the upcoming season. And then there’s the offseason that the Red Sox endured.

From losing their manager to trading their best player, the offseason couldn’t get worse for the Red Sox. Even with all the movement in the front office, dugout, and on the field, there’s still a chance their team has what it takes to contend for the Wild Card in the American League.

The Red Sox struggled all throughout the 2019 season, finishing 84-78, good enough for third place in the AL East. The team experienced a serious makeover in the offseason with Alex Cora’s departure due to the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. Going into the 2020 season, new manager Ron Roenicke will try to right the ship with a questionable rotation from the start.

As I wrote recently, the Red Sox rotation is experiencing a real identity problem. Chris Sale will be out at least until the beginning of the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery in May. It was the rotation and bullpen led to the Red Sox finishing with the record they did more than anything else. Going into the 2020 season, this will remain the team’s Achilles’ heel.

Eduardo Rodriguez should be a sure thing for the Red Sox, taking over as their ace moving forward. He is followed by a few wild cards in Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez. Both pitchers could very well surprise this season, but at the same time would be preferred No. 4 and 5 starters instead of No. 2 and 3. They are going to need a lot of things to go right with their rotation and a possible move (or two) to sure up their pitching.

The bullpen lost the Red Sox more games than they won with a combined 31 blown saves last season. A lot of the same names return, with their best rotation in arm in Brandon Workman returning in the closer role this season. Workman was amongst the ultimate finds in all of baseball last year, going 10-1 with a 1.88 ERA and 16 saves in 71 and 2/3 innings.

After Workman comes the likes of Matt Barnes and Josh Taylor, both of who will fit right into the 7th and 8th inning roles for much of the season to lead to Workman. Barnes, who struggled in the closer role, found his previous form towards the end of last season to finish with solid numbers — including a 3.78 ERA. Taylor finished with a 3.04 in the 47 and 1/3 innings, solidifying himself as Boston’s best left-hander in the bullpen.

Rounding out the bullpen will be young lefty Darwinzon Hernandez, who has plenty of fans thinking he could become the closer in a few years time. Marcus Walden and Heath Hembree should be among the other key names to help and improve the bullpen from last season as well.

If the Red Sox want to return to the playoffs this season, it will have to be the lineup that does most of the heavy lifting like previous years. Of course, this time it will be without 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers just before spring training.

With Betts out, that leaves shortstop Xander Bogaerts, designated hitter J.D. Martinez, and third baseman Rafael Devers to lead the rest of the pack.

In Bogaerts, that have their unquestioned leader and someone who is coming off a career year. 2019 saw Bogaerts finish fifth in AL MVP voting due to his .309 batting average, 33 home runs, 117 RBIs, and .939 OPS. He will slot directly back into the three hole in the order.

Martinez will aim to continue his torrid pace since joining the Red Sox. After a 36 home run campaign for the team in 2019, his only improvement could be reaching that 40 home run plateau once again.

Devers, 23, was probably the team’s best overall hitter last season. A .311 batting average and .916 OPS is among the best numbers for the young third baseman who is only getting better. He could set himself as their franchise cornerstone with another dominant season in 2020.

The rest of the lineup includes newly-acquired Alex Verdugo who will have to pick up the slack of no longer having Betts. His outfield partners are long-time members of the team, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi. These six players should make up the core of the roster heading into this season.

The Red Sox’s best bet is to depend upon their offense while their pitching fill in the cracks throughout the season. Sharing a division with the Yankees and Rays, it seems like a big ask for the Sox to compete for the AL East title, but if things break right they should be able to hang in Wild Card contention. If so, they could find themselves back in the playoffs following a disappointing one-year layoff.

Next: Taking a look at every National League team’s DH situation

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