Over the course of this week the editors will be previewing the Yankees' AL East opponents for the upcoming season. First up is the Boston Red Sox, who are certainly a trendy pick for a rebound team. Can they actually put all the pieces together and perform better than they did a year ago?
What they did last year:
The Red Sox were bad last year. Really bad. Terrible. The additions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez couldn't keep the team out of the AL East cellar with a 78-84 record. A main concern for Boston was their pitching staff, which was comprised of too many guys with FIPs near or above 4.00 and Clay Buchholz. Only Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts managed to finish the season with an fWAR greater than 4.
Who they lost:
Wade Miley was shipped off to Seattle in a trade, but other teams might miss him more than the Red Sox do. Everyone else remains at least somewhat familiar.
Who they gained:
Well Pablo Sandoval seems to have gained plenty of something, no matter what kind of lies the team wants to try to feed us. The big and obvious addition here is David Price. He's no stranger to the division, and the Yankees are going to see plenty of him with the unbalanced schedule guaranteeing plenty of those beloved Yankee/Red Sox match ups. Feel the excitement.
Carson Smith was the player the team got in return for Miley from the Mariners. He had an amazing year for Seattle, but has already dealt with injury this spring. Alongside Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen, Boston should have a pretty strong group of relievers to close out games.
You might say that the team gained a first baseman in Ramirez, who will be departing left field after being disastrous there. The thing is that first base isn't just the stick anyone there position that Moneyball told us it was. We've seen plenty of fairly unathletic guys try to make it there only to flail around and watch balls wander into the outfield. Will Hanley be better than that? Who knows.
Betts and Bogaerts give the Red Sox two prospects who haven't crumbled under the pressure of their hype...yet. Perhaps they won't! Both players were a bright spot on a team that needed all the silver linings it could get in 2015. There's little reason not to expect them to perform similarly in 2016 if they are healthy.
Price is obviously a huge acquisition for a rotation that featured a whole lot of bad. Can he do enough to soften the blow of his lesser rotation mates? Probably, but no one is sure how much one player can do. Boston's other high-dollar players in Sandoval and Ramirez will need to perform like they are at least close to worth what they are being paid if the Red Sox want to get anywhere.
The David Ortiz Retirement Tour is going to be a constant topic of media conversation this year. Hopefully the Yankees return the favor of the "honor" Boston gave Mariano Rivera by playing a highlight reel of all of Ortiz's outbursts and whiffs as a goodbye present.
The Red Sox might be the least predictable team in the division. Talent is there for them to do well, certainly. However, the team has shown that talent alone isn't always enough. If everything goes right for them, sure, they could win the division. If it doesn't...well, you remember last year.
It's really impossible to truly gauge what the Red Sox will do because it's impossible to determine how all of their moving parts will come together. Maybe they find a way to scrape it all together in Ortiz's final season, but holding your breath would be dangerous. Betting on the Red Sox, even when it seems like everything should be fine, just isn't wise.