For the Red Sox it was an exciting 2021 campaign that fell short. They exceeded expectations by making it all the way to the American League Championship Series, losing in six games to the Houston Astros.
Unfortunately for Boston it’s been a very quiet offseason, but a lot of talent still remains both on their roster and in the free agent pool; whenever the lockout finally ends. It’s incumbent on the Red Sox to show that last year was not a fluke, and that they’re here to stay as a competitor in the AL East.
The Current roster
As it stands, the Red Sox’s only significant big league acquisitions have been starting pitchers James Paxton and Michael Wacha, who were both signed to one year deals with Boston this offseason. The former won’t be returning until at least the 2nd half of the 2022 regular season and Michael Wacha isn’t even listed on the current depth chart right now.
They’ve lost Eduardo Rodriguez who was signed by the Detroit Tigers to a five year deal back in November. However, all-star starter Chris Sale will be ready for opening day for the first time since the beginning of the 2019 season.
Sale had a subpar 2019 and missed out on all of 2020, but made nine regular season starts in 2021, and put up impressive numbers as he went 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA. His control was not nearly as good as usual, but it’s undeniably a huge bonus for the Red Sox to have Sale back in the rotation. Now he’s just gotta stay healthy.
The offensive side is where the Red Sox really shine. Slugging all-stars J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts are all back for 2022 and ready to slam some homers. Those three are the lifeblood of the Red Sox batting order and Boston’s success on offense is dependent on their staying in the lineup.
They’ll also be bringing back outfielder Kiké Hernandez who shined in the 2021 postseason, hitting .408 with 5 homers and 9 RBI in 11 games. Hernandez established himself as a critical piece of the Red Sox’s lineup and a member of a strong outfield that includes Jackie Bradley Jr. and Alex Verdugo.
Boston also has a strong bullpen with pieces like Garrett Whitlock and Matt Barnes.
Where Boston fits into AL East
The American League East was hands-down the most competitive division in baseball last season.
Every team except for the Baltimore Orioles finished with over 90 regular wins.
The good news for the Red Sox is that the only team who has really bolstered their team of those four is the Toronto Blue Jays who added pitchers Kevin Gausman and Yimi Garcia and extended Jose Berrios who they acquired at the 2021 trade deadline.
The Yankees have been virtually silent this offseason and have missed out on every big ticket free agent thus far, with rumblings about signing Freddie Freeman still floating around.
Last year’s AL East champs, the Tampa Bay Rays extended star rookie infielder Wander Franco to a massive 11 year deal and signed starter Corey Kluber to a one year deal.
All of these teams will still be vying for top dog in the AL East, and for the Red Sox, pitching will be key this season. The offense will be strong as usual, but the Red Sox’s success will depend on strong starting pitching and a clutch bullpen performance.
Once the lockout ends, the Red Sox should absolutely be in the market for a couple pitchers. Kenley Jansen and Carlos Rodon are both viable options, the ladder of which could be a great southpaw to bolster Boston’s rotation.
The moves that the Red Sox and Yankees make in the free agency pool will have a huge impact on the AL East as the season ramps up, and both teams have been underwhelming this offseason.
Either way the AL East will be a dogfight with four teams all vying for both the division crown and playoff spots as the MLB has changed its playoff format.