It took the Boston Red Sox 86 long and painful years to break the Curse of the Bambino. But once the demons were exorcised, the floodgates opened and the championship parades kept pouring in. Boston has won four titles this century (2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018), the most of any team in baseball.
In 2018, Boston set a new club record by going 108-54 en route to their latest World Series title. But nothing has gone their way since. The Sox went a disappointing 84-78 last season, finishing in 3rd place in the division and missing out on a Wild Card spot by 12 games. It broke a streak of three consecutive postseason appearances.
No team has had a more tumultuous and disappointing offseason than Boston.
First, the Red Sox lost manager Alex Cora, who was suspended by MLB for his involvement in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal. Then the Sox made the biggest blockbuster trade of the offseason, sending away their best and most beloved player, 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, to the Dodgers along with veteran lefty David Price in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and a pair of prospects. If that wasn't bad enough, Boston will also be without ace Chris Sale. The seven-time All-Star will miss the entire 2020 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Sox have done very little to improve the roster or replace the key contributors they lost. Boston's only noteworthy moves were signing outfielder Kevin Pillar, infielder Jose Peraza and southpaw Martin Perez.
The Sox also hired a new top executive in Chaim Bloom. The former Rays mastermind takes over as Chief Baseball Officer and has been tasked with shedding payroll and rebuilding the farm system, which was left decimated by former GM Dave Dombrowski. Ron Roenicke, Cora's former bench coach, is the new manager.
If there's one thing Boston can lean on in 2020 it's their offensive firepower. Despite losing Betts, the Red Sox still have one the fiercest lineups in baseball, led by the talented trio of Xander Bogaerts (.309, 33 homers, 117 RBIs in 2019), J.D. Martinez (.304, 36 homers, 105 RBIs) and young stud Rafael Devers (.311, 32 homers, 115 RBIs).
Here is the projected starting lineup:
1. Andrew Benintendi OF
2. Rafael Devers 3B
3. Xander Bogaerts SS
4. J.D. Martinez DH
5. Mitch Moreland 1B
6. Michael Chavis 2B
7. Alex Verdugo OF
8. Christian Vazquez C
9. Jackie Bradley Jr OF
Boston's Achilles' heel in 2020 is its paper-thin starting rotation. With Price traded and Sale injured, the starting five lacks serious talent and depth. Presumed ace Eduardo Rodriguez (19-6, 3.81 ERA) recently tested positive for coronavirus. If he misses extended time Boston is in serious trouble.
Here is the projected starting five:
1. Eduardo Rodriguez
2. Nathan Eovaldi
3. Martin Perez
4. Ryan Weber
5. Brian Johnson
In the bullpen, the Sox have Brandon Workman (1.88 ERA, 16 saves) as the closer. Matt Barnes is the primary setup man.
With so many defections, so few reinforcements and a porous starting rotation, expectations are lower than usual for the Sox. But what do the oddsmakers think?
At BetMGM, the Red Sox win total is 31.5. This translates to 85.1 wins when compared to a 162-game season. What's most interesting is the juice on the win total. The over is + 105 while the under is -125. This heavy under juice signals a combination of sharp action and house liability on the Sox winning 31 or fewer games this season.
FanGraphs, one of the most respected sites for advanced baseball analytics, projects Boston going 31-29, which would eke out the under win total by a half game.
Don't expect postseason baseball at Fenway Park this summer and fall. The Red Sox are a -264 favorite to miss the playoffs and + 215 to make the playoffs. This translates to a 72.5% implied probability that Boston misses the postseason.
The Red Sox are + 1000 to win the AL East, giving them the 3rd-best odds behind the Yankees (-323) and Rays (+ 330). The Jays are + 3500 and the Orioles + 8000.
Boston is + 1800 to win the American League and + 3500 to win the World Series.
In terms of player props and futures, Bogaerts and Devers are both + 3500 to win AL MVP. Martinez is + 5000.
Martinez has the 3rd-best odds to lead the AL in batting average at + 800, trailing only Mike Trout (+ 550) and Jose Altuve (+ 700). Bogarts is + 1400 and Devers + 1800.
Devers has the 3rd-best odds to lead the AL in hits at + 800. Bogaerts is + 1000 and Martinez + 1400. Devers is + 700 to lead the AL in runs, with Bogaerts + 1000 and Martinez + 2000.
Martinez's over/under home runs is 14.5 (over -110, under -120) and RBIs 41.5 (over -110, under -120). Devers' over/under homers in 12.5 (over -110, under -120) and RBI's 33.5 (-115 both sides).
Workman has the 7th-best odds to lead the AL in saves are + 900.