The Red Sox face a crossroads after trading away the face of the franchise. How will they respond in 2020?
After winning the World Series in 2018, the Red Sox missed the playoffs in 2019 due to inconsistency and injuries. Wanting to get under the luxury tax and avoid losing him for nothing in free agency, the Red Sox shipped out the face of the franchise Mookie Betts as well as veteran David Price to the Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox received a promising young talent in Alex Verdugo, an intriguing prospect in Jeter Downs, and salary relief.
Without Mookie, Boston will struggle to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive AL. Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi both suffered from injuries and the rotation lost Price, as well as Rick Porcello. The bright spot in the rotation is Eduardo Rodriguez who broke out last season. He went 19-6, with a 3.81 ERA, and 213 strikeouts. He posted career highs in innings pitched, starts, wins, strikeouts, ERA, and WAR. Rodriguez will need help and a healthy Chris Sale will go a long way to fixing the rotation.
Alex Verdugo will need to live up to his potential to even justify this trade for Boston. 2019 was Verdugo’s first full season in the majors and he appeared in 106 games. The 23-year old hit .294, with 12 homers, 44 RBI’s, and he posted an OPS of .817. He suffered a back and oblique injury in August, that led to him missing the rest of the season and playoffs.
Boston Red Sox 2019 record: 84-78
Washington’s record vs. Boston last season: Didn’t play each other
Nationals to Watch
Who better to choose than the reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg. After all, Strasburg and the Nats would only face off against Boston this year if they both made it to the World Series. Strasburg proved in 2019 that he is made to pitch on the biggest stage. In the playoffs, Strasburg went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, and 47 strikeouts.
Last season the Red Sox offense ranked third in the league in batting average, 10th in homers, fifth in OPS, and third in OBS. Despite the production, the team faltered and missed the playoffs. This was mostly due to the pitching staff and bullpen. However, now the offense will be hard-pressed to find a replacement for Betts and will unlikely put up the same numbers as last season.
Against Strasburg, the current Boston offense is hitting .244, with two homers, eight RBI’s, and an OPS of .714 in 45 at-bats. It will be up to J.D. Martinez to put up numbers similar to his 2018 campaign in order to help replace Betts. In eight at-bats against Strasburg, Martinez is hitting .250 with a homer, two RBI’s, and an OPS of .958. The slugger will need to get to Strasburg early before the World Series MVP hits cruise control.
2020 Series Breakdown
Washington would only face off against Boston if they met up in the World Series. After trading away Betts, and Price, the Red Sox are significantly weaker than the Nats. While J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts all return, it won’t be enough to make up for the loss of a top-five player in the game.
Expect Washington’s pitching staff to just overpower a crippled Boston lineup.