Are the Red Sox Giving Up on 2022?

I’ve started to write something about this Red Sox team for nearly a month now and just couldn’t bring myself to finish a full thought. I wanted to find answers or see the silver lining, but frankly it’s becoming an incredibly difficult team to watch, root for, or understand. It began with the embarrassing fails of extension talks with Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts in Spring Training and the mood hasn’t improved from there. On the field, it’s been even worse. From the early season disaster that is 2/3 of the lineup to the surprising overachieving of the pitching staff that is now shooting back to earth, it feels like this team is both in contention for every game they play and at the same time finding new and creative ways to take the L. Every time it seems like maybe they are turning a corner, the door swings back and slams them in the face. Now 31 games into the 2022 season and 11.5 games back in the AL East, 2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, some of the decision making appears as if Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox have given up on 2022 and are preparing for the future.

The early season offensive struggles overshadowed the strong performances from the pitching staff. At one point the Red Sox had one of the best bullpens in baseball statistically and were getting some solid starting pitching, but were losing low-scoring 1-run games thanks to the anemic lineup. Three of their starters (4 if you count Garrett Whitlock as a starter) have sub-3 ERAs and have started the season really strong. Arguably their #4 or #5 starter on opening day was Michael Wacha, who before his recent injury, was 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA allowing 4 earned runs and just 13 hits in 26 innings. Despite some shaky outings as of late, the Red Sox bullpen has actually been impressive on the season. Hansel Robles (2.70), Austin Davis (2.70), Ryan Brasier (2.45), Matt Strahm (2.70), Tyler Danish (2.35) all have sub-3 ERAs and have frankly overachieved. Thanks to the lack of offense, their outings have mostly been in high-pressure situations (1 or 2 run games), which is just not sustainable.

Lately, the glaring lack of a closer thanks to the Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock pitcher mismanagement has been a big problem. To be fair to Red Sox management, Houck didn’t exactly help the situation by not getting vaccinated and not being available for the Toronto series in Canada. Thanks to some starting depth and injury issues as well as his desire, the Red Sox are working to get Whitlock into a consistent starting role which leaves a massive hole on the back end of the bullpen that he could, and probably should, fill. If you know me at all, you know I love Matt Barnes, but at this point there is no reason he should be in the major league bullpen or throwing in major league games. Something is clearly wrong and continuing to send him out to the mound is certainly not helping. Not having your best arm, Whitlock, for clutch late game situations is proving to be a massive issue if the Red Sox plan to try and compete in 2022. If they are already looking forward to 2023, then the decision makes more sense.

The decision making around Tanner Houck is also incredibly confusing if you are trying to win in 2022. He was really strong to start the season as a rotation arm in 3 starts, then after the Toronto series when he was unavailable due to his vaccination status, it went downhill no thanks to his odd usage. He pitched out of the bullpen the day before the trip to Toronto and threw a solid 1.2 innings with 2 Ks in the loss to Tampa Bay. Then the day following the trip he pitched 3 innings (5th, 6th, and 7th) against the Orioles getting the win with 3 BBs and 4 Ks and then was not reinserted into the depleted rotation and not used until 5 games later. He came in as a reliever after a long layoff and gave up 7 runs in 3 innings against the Angels. After throwing 56 pitches, he started 3 days later and allowed 3 runs in 2.2 innings before being lifted after 39 pitches. The 25-year old came into this year as a starter and now the Red Sox can’t figure out what to do with him and are just throwing him into different situations seemingly at random. If they were looking toward success in 2022, they should be using him as a starter, especially when the rotation has as many injuries as it does. To push Houck aside a bit to get Whitlock starts doesn’t make sense in the short-term. I’m normally not a big “role” guy, but in this case, the Red Sox need to stop toying around with Houck and Whitlock and just make some decisions on roles.

I’ve spilled a lot of metaphorical ink in my rant about this team and I haven’t even touch the lineup yet. The offensive production is by far the most disappointing and embarrassing element of the 2022 Red Sox. After a strong offensive season in 2021, the Red Sox made a few moves that at very least should have kept the status quo of success, if not improve it. Swapping Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr.was a downgrade in the batters box, but the addition of Trevor Story at 2nd base was a big improvement in the everyday production. At least it should have been. As we sit here in mid-May, the Red Sox are averaging 3.45 runs per game, the 3rd worst in all of baseball only ahead of the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, and frankly that’s a bit inflated because they have scored 4.67 runs per game in their last 3 games thanks to dropping 9 runs on Tuesday. That’s a pretty stark contrast to their 4th best 5.14 runs per game last season and 4.87 runs per game in 2020. Looking even deeper, this is historically bad lineup production and the first time a Red Sox team has averaged under 4 runs per game since 2014 (3.91) and the lowest franchise mark since 1907. Yes, you read that right, the Red Sox team hasn’t scored under 3.5 runs per game since 1907 and that was the only year it happened since records started being kept in 1901.

Needless to say, there is room for improvement on offense. There have been occasional signs of life, but as fans we’re waiting for the big turn of momentum. Trevor Story finally hit his first HR of the season on Wednesday, which is a promising sign, but the Red Sox still couldn’t produce more than 3 runs and lost on a walkoff HR. Kike Hernandez is batting .161 on the season and frankly it looks even worse than the numbers and Bobby Dalbec is even worse sitting at .148 with 1 HR and 3 RBI in 28 games. It’s not just bad, it’s epically bad at this point and even if the offense turns it around and gets going, 9 games under-.500 is a massive hole to dig out from in the AL East. All this offseason there were questions about when Triston Casas gets his shot in the big leagues, but I’m not sure it’s even healthy for him to come up at this point. He’s probably better off in Worchester with a lineup that isn’t digging themselves a massive hole, at least until it’s clear that the season is over and they’re just playing for pride and 2023 (which is just around the corner).

With an eye towards 2023, this team has a lot of question marks, with Xander Bogaerts at the top of that list. We had hoped that this year would be a strong one and regardless of the future, Xander would help lead a deep run. If this season continues to roll downhill and it’s clear to management that Bogaerts is not likely to return next season, do the Red Sox trade him at the deadline to get some value back? After what seems like a completely demoralizing first stretch of the season, does that impact Bogaerts’ interest in signing in Boston long term? If Bogaerts leaves, what happens with Devers and his contract? I can’t believe I’m even suggesting it at this point, but 2022 seems to be a complete wash given the current play and the division. What is the future of this team and particularly the major pieces on this roster?

I would love to be proven wrong and everyday hope for the moment that turns the tides, but there is nothing right now to indicate that 2022 should be a focus and a massive winning streak is on it’s way. Underperformance is manageable in stretches, but 30+ games of it is debilitating. We’re approaching the 1/4 tent-pole on the season and so far, it’s just hard to watch and this team is hard to root for. I’m not sure I’m ready to throw in the 2022 towel just yet, but I’m getting pretty damn close.

Are the Red Sox the ‘Surprise’ AL East Team?

As opening day is finally upon us, just slightly later than expected, it’s time to take a deeper look at the Boston Red Sox and the AL East landscape. For much of the shortened free agency period, it felt like the Red Sox were just taking a back seat while their AL East competitors improved, significantly in some cases. The Red Sox appeared to be content with their roster until on March 20th it was announced they had reached an agreement with SS/2B Trevor Story. The addition is a significant one and solidifies the shift to a focus on improved team defense this year, while also adding some nice pop to the lineup. Let’s take a look at the Red Sox, who I believe are closer to being competitive in the AL East than others believe.

Roster In:

OF Jackie Bradley Jr.

SS/2B Trevor Story (FA)

RP Jake Diekman (FA)

RP Matt Strahm (FA)

RP Tyler Danish (FA)

RP Kutter Crawford (From minors)

SP Michael Wacha (FA)

SP Rich Hill (FA)

SP James Paxton (FA – 60-day IL)

Roster Out:

OF Hunter Renfroe

UTIL Marwin Gonzalez

OF Danny Santana

SS Jose Iglesias

SP Eduardo Rodriguez

SP Garrett Richards

SP Martin Perez

RP Adam Ottavino

RP Matt Andriese

What stands out to me when looking at the roster ins and outs over this offseason is just how stable the Red Sox lineup remained. In terms of the lineup, their biggest weakness in 2021 was defense. As much as fans liked Hunter Renfroe with his burst of power and occasional diving play in center, by almost all metrics he was a terrible defender. He was so bad in fact, that despite leading the league with 16 OF assists, and hitting 31 HRs he was ranked 181st (2nd to last) in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 2021 with a 2.4 and was ranked 172nd in defensive WAR with a -0.5 (i.e. an average defensive player would have been better defensively than he was). The addition of Jackie Bradley Jr. is surely a step down in offense, but that downgrade is compensated for by stellar defense. Jackie has the 24th highest active WAR in baseball and has proven in his career that despite being an extremely streaky hitter, his defense is consistently excellent and he’s a strong baserunner when he can find a way to get on.

In order to not see an offensive drop-off and continue to see defensive improvement this season, Chaim Bloom took a bold stance and signed SS/2B Trevor Story to a large contract. The addition immediately improves the defense at 2nd base (Story was 12th in defensive WAR in 2021) and adds a nice pop to the lineup offensively, not to mention legitimate speed on the bases. Story is a career .272 hitter with 158 HRs and 100 SBs in his 6 seasons with the Colorado Rockies (745 games). Even if there is a slight dip in production leaving the thin air of Denver, which I highly doubt will be significant, Story is coming to play in an almost perfectly-configured-for-his-swing Fenway Park for 81 games a season. No matter how you slice it, the defense and lineup improved over 2021.

The concern, as with most years in recent memory, is the pitching staff for the Red Sox. Do they have enough arms? Can the starting pitching compete with the other AL East lineups? Will Chris Sale ever be Chris Sale again? What does the backend of the bullpen look like? And so on.

There were some notable departures this offseason that definitely left a bit of a hole in the rotation. Eduardo Rodriguez left for the Detroit Tigers in search of a change of scenery and despite my constant frustration with him, he occasionally had stretches of solid pitching for the Red Sox. The Red Sox lost some additional backend of the rotation depth in Martin Perez and with the injury to Chris Sale, the rotation looks mighty thin to begin the season. It’s shaping up to have Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Michael Wacha, and Rich Hill, with Garrett Whitlock in a multi-inning relief role or a rotation sub. Overall, Houck should be getting better in now his 2nd full season in the majors, Wacha is pretty similar to Martin Perez but with more upside and Rich Hill with his sub-4 career ERA as your #5 starter isn’t terrible. Not to mention that Chris Sale and James Paxton should be returning from injuries around mid-season. Call me naïve, but I think there is a potential for this rotation to be more than serviceable barring additional injuries with the offense this team puts out there each and every day. In general, this lineup should produce 5+ runs a game (5.12/game last season), so all you need from your pitching staff is to allow 5 or fewer runs and you’ll win most nights.

The other pitching area of concern is the bullpen. The absolute freefall of Matt Barnes last year became a glaring problem at the closer spot. Supposedly, he found a mechanical issue that is being corrected this spring and if that’s true and he returns to form, that solidifies the backend of the bullpen. Losing Adam Ottavino hurts, but the additions of Jake Diekman as a lefty and a more experienced Garrett Whitlock in a longer-relief role (for now), should be stable. Home grown Kutter Crawford (2017 Red Sox draft pick) has emerged in Spring Training and will have a shot in the majors after just a cup of coffee last year. The addition of free agents Tyler Danish and Matt Strahm are added to the returnees Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier, Hirokazu Sawamura, Austin Davis and Phillips Valdez (to start the year). It’s hard to evaluate a bullpen without seeing them in action and in what roles they will be used, but I think the Red Sox have enough arms in the majors and AAA to mix-and-match a solid group. They have more lefty support than in the past and I believe Sawamura in his 2nd year with the Red Sox will be more comfortable and hopefully cut back on the walks while maintaining a 3ish ERA. He could become a high-leverage reliever for Alex Cora. I’m not sure as a group they are better than last year as of today, but I don’t think they got significantly worse.

Overall, I feel like the defense and lineup improved over 2021 while the starting rotation and bullpen still leave much to be desired. That being said, I genuinely believe there is enough talent in the pitching pool to match or potentially exceed last year’s production if you’re willing to be patient and wait for it all to settle out as the season wears on. There are some young arms (Houck, Whitlock, Crawford) who hopefully will take the next step in development this year and a few new veteran faces (Hill, Wacha, Diekman) to help them along. Yes, others in the league made splashy moves and got better, but I think the Red Sox methodically and somewhat under-the-radar got better (besides the splashy Story signing). They were 2 games from the World Series last year with a fairly similar roster, so there wasn’t the pressure for Bloom to blow it up and start over (like some other teams felt). He addressed the defense and 2nd base need and time will tell if his pitching additions were smart or a bust. If they turn out to be smart, I can’t rule out another nice playoff run in 2022. If they turn out to be busts, the offense will only carry this team so far and they may be fighting for the 3rd Wild Card come September.

AL East Prediction

  1. Toronto Blue Jays – 91-71
  2. Boston Red Sox – 88-74
  3. New York Yankees – 87-75
  4. Tampa Bay Rays – 86-76
  5. Baltimore Orioles – 60-102

Overall, I think this is finally the year the Blue Jays sit atop the AL East. They are stacked top-to-bottom and as long as they stay healthy, their offense can compete with anyone while their starting rotation continues to look daunting. I also believe that this is the season the Tampa Bay Rays fall back a bit. They have been overachieving for so long, eventually their small budget will begin to show and they will settle down in the division. Ultimately though, I think the top 4 in the division will be within 5-8 games of each other, so a win here or there in April or May could make the difference down the stretch. With a 3rd Wild Card this year, it could be a race for 3 or even 4 AL East teams to get into the playoffs. The only thing I know for certain? The Baltimore Orioles will be out of contention by the All-Star break (if not long before).

Red Sox Make Big Splash in Free Agency

After sitting back and watching everyone else in the division get better, the Red Sox jumped into the big-name free agent pool and made a big splash. The Red Sox signed SS Trevor Story to play 2B and instantly the defense and lineup improved. The righty was not the top free agent in a loaded infield class, but he’s a guy who will have an impact on day one and is locked in long term (6 or 7 years). This is by far the biggest contract Chaim Bloom has signed as Red Sox GM (by about $125 million) and it’s clear he felt this team needed a big bat and improved defense to be competitive this season. Here we go!

Story spent his whole career in Colorado, which can produce some odd home/road splits which will raise some eyebrows. The thin air allows the ball to travel further than other places, but there has been some research lately that the impact of the splits in Colorado is not as significant as it once was thought. Regardless of the impact of a thin air bump, Story has a ton of power and some speed. He is a career .272 hitter with 158 HRs and 100 stolen bases in 6 seasons. Last year was a bit of an off-year for him, with a lower average (.251), but he was still able to blast 24 HRs in 142 games. His swing should fit Fenway Park very well, with most of his power to left field. He definitely has opposite field power as well, but looking at his spray chart from last year tells the story. A shorter distance to the wall at Fenway should lead to a bump in extra base hits putting dents in the monster and homeruns onto Lansdowne St. Additionally, he now has a strong group of hitters around him in the lineup, so should get some better pitches to hit.

Chart from Baseball Savant

The one unknown is that Story has not played 2B in the majors in his career (and just a little in the minors), but as a talented defensive SS, he should be able to pick it up over time and settle in there. Fans should be prepared for some shaky moments early on considering it’s a fairly significant shift to change sides of the diamond and get comfortable with double play throws, especially with a super-compressed Spring Training and now an even shorter runway to get in defensive reps. That being said, once he settles in, the infield defense, especially range, will be significantly improved over a year ago.

The contract locks Story in for 6 years, with a 4th year opt-out, and a potential 7th year add-on. The 29 year old provides some insurance for if/when Xander Bogaerts decides to test free agency and potentially move on, but until then, the Red Sox may have the best infield in baseball. The defense up the middle is A+ (especially when you think of Jackie Bradley Jr. in center) and all 4 infielders (assuming Bobby Dalbec at 1B) can hit for power. This certainly makes the Red Sox lineup a lot more feared top to bottom and hopefully covers the pitching staff a bit if they aren’t quite as strong without a healthy Sale (or just in general).

Now that they have made the big lineup/defensive splash, it’s time for Bloom to bring in an outfielder to round out the offense and a starter to solidify the rotation. If he does that, this team might be in the playoff hunt, even with the new power throughout the AL East.

Sale’s Injury Puts the Red Sox in a World of Hurt

As Spring Training is back in full swing and players are working to get ready after a delayed start, news is flowing like fine wine. This player is looking good, this player won’t switch positions, this player is ready for a breakout. The one piece of news that no one wants to hear: this player has an injury. The news quickly spread on Wednesday morning that Chris Sale has a stress-fracture in his rib. The ace starter who is coming off of Tommy John surgery is now on the shelf again and will not be ready for opening day. That is not the news Red Sox fans wanted to hear.

The initial report is that the fracture has been healing and isn’t expected to be a long-term issue, but when Chaim Bloom says “We’re still trying to get a read on it. He’s doing much better than he was a week ago, but we have to get him rotating and throwing and then build him up. Again, we’re talking weeks, not days before he’s throwing again,” there is cause for concern. In an already shortened and compressed Spring Training, the loss of any time for a pitcher is significant, especially one who is going to need to build up his strength and stamina already coming off of major surgery. This isn’t an injury that will allow Sale to begin pitching, just with limited capacity, it’s going to prevent him from twisting and throwing, which is pretty important for a, oh I don’t know, pitcher.

The other component is the uncertainty of bone healing and timing. For some, a bone could heal fairly quickly and be back to 100% and for others it could take quite a bit of time to fully heal. As much as Bloom indicated it’s healing and moving in the right direction, I have serious concerns and hesitations when it comes to Sale’s ultimate return timeline. My gut is that we won’t see a full strength, up-to-speed Sale now until mid-season at the earliest, which is a massive concern as the Yankees and Blue Jays (especially) are stacking their lineups and improving significantly. The Red Sox have brought in some pitching depth this offseason so far, but with more games compressed in fewer days, losing a major piece of the rotation puts them at a large disadvantage.

Coming into the season I expected Sale to need time to build up and expected pitch and innings limits in April and perhaps the beginning of May, but now that timeline is pushed at least a month or (hopefully not) two. There is no doubt this is an early blow to the Red Sox rotation.

Chaim Bloom Impact Apparent with Latest Rankings

When the Red Sox decided to hire Chaim Bloom as their new GM, they made a choice about the future. The minor league system had been depleted and was one of the worst in baseball under the previous leadership. The ownership wanted to reverse that pattern and build the system back up, while hopefully still putting a competitive product on the field. After a rough and odd 2020, the Red Sox were very competitive in 2021, reaching the ALCS while also taking care of the minor league system. In MLB’s system rankings released in December, the Red Sox jumped 12 spots, to the 12th best system in baseball.

The 12 spot jump from preseason to now was the largest of any team and is a true testament to Bloom and his staff. Bloom didn’t make the big trade deadline moves many wanted despite feeling the pressure to complete for a title this year. Instead, he made a few moves that didn’t dramatically impact the work being done to build the future pipeline within the organization. He proved that you can be competitive at the highest level while also focusing on the future. The breakout of Tristan Casas and Jaren Duran have boosted the system’s depth and have given the Red Sox something they haven’t had in awhile: prospect talent close to being major-league ready.

Assuming the 2022 season gets underway, it will be a pivotal campaign for the Red Sox. The rapid growth of prospects in the system is great, but the big question for me is whether they continue the upward trajectory or plateau after such a rapid rise? If the top 10 prospects continue to grow, then Bloom will either have some MLB talent to fill out the roster or some really strong trade bait to keep the Red Sox competitive at the trade deadline and even use the assets as needed to make a deep run into October. No matter how you look at the growth it is a positive rebuild from the Dave Dombrowski era of selling out for a title.

As I look at the top 25 prospects in the Red Sox system, the thing that jumps out at me is the middle infield depth at the top. The top pick this past year and the #1 or #2 rated prospect in the system (depending on the list), SS Marcelo Mayer, is an interesting unknown with such little professional experience. He was a high schooler when drafted #4 and many believed at the time of the draft that he had #1 talent. The left-handed bat is only 19 and will need to develop for a few years before having a look at the top level, but could be a huge asset in the infield in the future if he pans out. Both SS/2B Jeter Downs, who is closer to MLB ready, and 2B Nick Yorke provide some interesting future options in the infield as well, whether they end up at SS, 2B, or even 3B eventually. With some uncertainty around the future of Xander Bogaerts and his contract along with a long-term hole at 2nd base, this group could be critical to the future for the Red Sox.

The other obvious prospect to keep an eye on is 1B Triston Casas. He rose rapidly later in 2021 and proved he can play against solid competition by crushing the ball playing for Team USA at the Olympics. I wrote more about him in August, so don’t want to rehash my love for him, but by all accounts, he is close to MLB ready and could provide a nice left-handed power bat in the lineup. With Bobby Dalbec as a strong righty bat, a Casas/Dalbec platoon at first could be an incredibly powerful young tandem. While one starts, the other could get a few looks at 3B (both have experience at the hot corner), DH, or provide a strong pinch-hitter off the bench late in games. If Dalbec has a stretch during the season where he is struggling like in 2021, Casas can step in and carry the load.

Overall, Bloom has to be happy with the impressive turnaround of the Red Sox prospect system from a liability to an asset. The job is obviously not done, it never ends, but the upward trajectory of the system is exciting.

Top 5 People Responsible for Red Sox Postseason Run

Just 9 days ago, the Boston Red Sox were playing their final game of the regular season unsure of whether they would be in the postseason picture. They were guaranteed at least a tie-breaker game to determine who made the AL Wild Card game, but everything was up in the air and it appeared as if this just wasn’t their year to make a deep run. A victory in game 162 sent the Red Sox into the postseason for the first time in a few years and at the time, that alone felt like it was an accomplishment worth celebrating. A little over a week later and the Boston Red Sox are headed to the ALCS on Friday.

How did the Red Sox even get to this point? Predictions were all around 80 wins for this team with the postseason not really in the picture and now they will be 1 of just 4 teams still playing baseball into October. It took guts, instinct, and a bit of luck, but the Red Sox are 4 wins away from making the World Series when no one gave them a shot before the season. Let’s look at the top 5 People responsible for this improbable run.

1. Alex Cora

There are plenty of fans who devalue coaching when a team has success, but there is no denying the impact Alex Cora has had on the 2021 Red Sox. Not every decision he makes works, but they are all driven by analytics and instinct and the vast majority are correct in retrospect. After Game 4 of the ALDS, he is now 4-0 in elimination games in the postseason and 15-4 overall as a manager in the postseason (7-2 at home). That’s not a coincidence. He’s willing to make the aggressive moves early and often if he thinks, and the numbers show, an advantage. Cora will pull a starter in the 2nd inning or make a substitution in the first half of the game, if it could give his team and advantage or he sees something he doesn’t like. He doesn’t shy away  from the decisions when the don’t work, he sticks to the process and his plan.

There was no more prime example of his impact than the 2021 ALDS. He was forced to pull his starters after 1 2/3 and 1 inning in the first two games of the series, and used a combined 10 relievers in those games in order to split and come back to Boston with a tied series, which was a triumph. He leaned on rookie Tanner Houck and long-reliever/starter Nick Pivetta in crucial spots and his confidence in them drove them to perform at their best. He pulled pitchers earlier than the couch-coaches would have liked, and for the most part, he was right. I don’t think I can overstate Cora’s impact in the postseason, especially this year.

2. Nicholas Juan Carlo Pivetta

Without a doubt, Nick Pivetta is my new favorite Canadian. His performance in the ALDS is nothing less than heroic and he single-handedly saved the Red Sox in game 3.  In game 1, Pivetta was tapped in the 3rd inning to eat innings and he did just that. He went 4 2/3 and allowed 3 runs on 4 hits with 4 Ks, which was just what the Sox needed. The offense didn’t score, so they were going to lose no matter what, but Pivetta saved Cora from having to use everyone out of the bullpen. Thanks to that performance, Cora only needed to use Garrett Richards for 1/3 inning, Josh Taylor for 1/3 inning, and Adam Ottavino for 1 inning, which was critical given the pitching demand in every other game.

Then, just 3 days after throwing 73 pitches in relief, Nick Pivetta had a Nate Eovaldi-type extra innings performance that led to the series turning point. As the 7th pitcher out of the bullpen, Pivetta came into a 4-4 game in the top of the 10th in game 3, looking to just hold the tie until the Red Sox could find some postseason magic, and boy did he. He ended up going 4 innings, allowed just 3 hits and 0 runs, while striking out 7. Holding the game through the bottom of the 13th allowed Christian Vazquez to be the hero and walk-off with a massive win. Pivetta was mentally and physically dominant, despite throwing 140 pitches over 3 days, and his performance fired up his teammates. The Red Sox need him to carry the momentum into the ALCS, where he is likely to move back into his familiar starter role.

3. Chaim Bloom

You could argue that Chaim Bloom deserves to be even higher than #3 and isn’t getting nearly enough credit for this Red Sox run. He made several under-the-radar moves in the offseason that didn’t get a lot of attention at the time, but have really paid dividends. Just taking a glance at his moves, several of them ended up on this very top 5 list. Bloom’s biggest offensive signings Kike Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe have had a massive impact on this team’s success to the tune of 51 HRs and 156 RBIs and have combined for 16 hits and 2 HRs in 5 postseason games this year. If you add in the pitching moves, claiming of Garrett Whitlock and trading for Adam Ottavino, who both have been crucial to getting the team this far. If you add in the Nick Pivetta trade in August 2020, that’s an impressive record.

Maybe even more critically was Bloom’s trade deadline signings in 2021. Most people, myself included, questioned the inactivity at the deadline. The notable moves Bloom made were to bring in Kyle Schwarber and Hansel Robles. I’ll include Jose Iglesias in this group even though he claimed him off waivers after the deadline. Schwarber has been a steady and important piece for the Red Sox, getting Bobby Dalbec back on track, drawing walks, and hitting bombs. In 41 regular season games, Schwarber hit .291 with 7 HRs and 33 BBs, including some big walks and hits as the Red Sox pushed for the postseason. Until game 4 of the ALDS, Robles hadn’t allowed an earned run in 17 appearances, including 2 innings in the postseason, a surprising level of success for someone who wasn’t highly regarded. The Iglesias signing is a big reason the Red Sox even made the postseason, as he hit .356 in 23 games since coming to Boston as Christian Arroyo was battling COVID and unable to play.

After letting Jackie Bradley Jr. go and trading Andrew Benintendi, it was doom and gloom in Boston, but Bloom managed to improve the roster and depth, somehow making this a better team without those guys. Bloom deserves a ton of credit for putting the right guys on the roster to make a postseason run.

4. Garrett Whitlock

There is no more important piece of the bullpen or better story on the Red Sox than Garrett Whitlock. After being drafted by the New York Yankees in 2017 in the 18th round, the Alabama-Birmingham product moved to A ball in 2018 and moved up to AA by the end of the season and started 2019 in AA. In 14 starts, he had a 3.07 ERA and 57 Ks until disaster struck and he underwent Tommy John surgery in July that would end his 2019 campaign and because of his recovery and the global pandemic that shut down minor league baseball, all of his 2020 season. In December of 2020, the annual rule-5 draft took place and thanks to Bloom’s acumen, the Red Sox selected Whitlock in the 4th round. Any player not on a 40-man roster can be drafted, but they are immediately added to the selector’s 40 man roster which is not usually a spot for many AA players.

Whitlock was drafted and added to the Red Sox 40-man roster and no one even noticed. He had missed the previous season and a half and hadn’t risen above AA yet in the Yankees system. By any angle, it seemed like Whitlock was a guy you stash at AAA and hope he pans out to be something in the future and if not, you release him to open up a 40-man roster spot. After impressing in Spring Training, the Red Sox had no choice but to give him a major-league roster spot for opening day and they never looked back. Whitlock had a spectacular rookie season, pitching 73.1 innings in 46 appearances and ending the regular season with a 1.96 ERA with 81 Ks and an 8-4 record. He emerged as high-leverage reliever as the year progressed and after allowing a solo HR in the AL Wild Card game, didn’t allow a hit against the Rays in 3.1 innings over 2 appearances. This is not the last we will see of Whitlock in a critical late-game situation this postseason.

5.  Kike “Mr. Postseason” Hernandez

All year long, Kike Hernandez has been a great player for the Red Sox. He had a career year and accumulated 127 hits in 134 games this season, including 20 HRs (1 shy of his career high) and 60 RBIs (4 shy of his career high). He primarily spent time at 2B and CF this year, with several games at SS mixed in and provided Alex Cora with flexibility and a top-of-the-lineup bat. While Kike is not known as a big hitter, he knows how to get himself in good positions and not try to do too much in the batters box, but that’s not why he’s on this list. His experience and postseason performance is why he’s #5 on this list.

Coming into the 2021 season, Hernandez had a whopping 58 games of postseason experience at the age of 30 (less than 2 months since turning 30). That’s no doubt one reason he was signed and that certainly paid dividends thus far. Through 5 postseason games, Kike has a .435 average with 10 hits and 2 HRs, including 5 of those hits in game 2 of the ALDS alone. Looking ahead to the ALCS, the Red Sox will need continued production out of Kike in the 2-hole, because it lengthens the lineup and makes the offense even scarier and more difficult to pitch against. With the on-base machine of Schwarber leading off followed by Kike 2nd, if they get on base, the next 5 bats in the lineup can absolutely crush the ball (Devers, Bogaerts, Martinez, Verdugo and Renfroe) and they can get to a starting pitcher and hang a crooked number in a hurry.

Honorable Mention: Tanner Houck

You know it’s been an incredible run when a guy like Tanner Houck doesn’t make the top 5. Houck has been absolutely crucial to the Red Sox down the stretch and has been dominant as a long-man out of the bullpen this postseason. He’ll likely play a key role of the Red Sox are to upset the Astros in the ALCS. For more on Houck, read here.


There are obviously a ton of reasons why the Red Sox are playing the Houston Astros on Friday in the ALCS and these were just a handful of the people that made that possible. There are still a ton of storylines to write in the 2021 postseason and we’ll see how the wind blows when things get underway on Friday. 

Is this Rock Bottom for the Red Sox?

The first 3 and a half months of the MLB season were incredibly fun to watch. The Red Sox were surprising just about everyone and winning games in every way possible. They led the league in come-from-behind wins and it seemed that they were never out of contention regardless of score or inning. In the 6 weeks since the All-Star break, things have gone from ok, to bad, to awful in rapid succession and the current series with the Tampa Bay Rays may be rock bottom. In the middle of losing their 2nd straight game to the division leading Rays, SS Xander Bogaerts was pulled from the game due to a positive COVID test result becoming the 6th player to go down with the virus in a few short days.

On Wednesday, we learned that there was a 7th positive test result, and likely not the last, in INF Yairo Munoz. Munoz was already a replacement for Christian Arroyo who contracted COVID. At the rate in which the Red Sox are forced to call up players from the WooSox, it would be best to just park a bus outside the WooSox locker room and keep the engine running for when, inevitably, the next player lands on the COVID-IL.

While many of the players contracting COVID were vaccinated, according to Chaim Bloom the “majority”, the outbreak shines a bright light on the fact that the Red Sox are 1 of 6 teams under the 85% vaccinated threshold in the MLB. No one can force anyone to get vaccinated, but the low rate reflects really poorly on the team’s leadership, whether fair or not. It’s raises a ton of red flags and concerns around Alex Cora, Chaim Bloom, and the other leaders in the clubhouse, players and coaches. I don’t know who is or is not vaccinated on the roster, nor do I need to, but this outbreak situation is rock bottom for an already pathetic-looking team.

Recently, even when it kept getting worse, I believed hope was still alive and this team could sneak into the playoffs and maybe make a run if the stars aligned perfectly. After all, they still have a really strong record and are technically in a playoff spot if the season ended today. After watching the last few games and seeing player after player go down with COVID and be out for likely at least 10+ days, I’m not sure sneaking into the 2nd wild card is even the most likely scenario anymore. Alex Cora looks dejected and admitted he was “exhausted” the other day and the team is reflecting that energy.

I learned a long time ago to never say never when it comes to sports, but this is the lowest I’ve felt about this Red Sox team all season. It’s hard to find the joy in each game and as more and more of the WooSox roster gets called up the the majors, it’s hard to see this team legitimately competing in the crucial short-term stretch. I hope I’m wrong, but I think this is rock bottom for the 2021 season.

Chaim Bloom: Trade Deadline Success?

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline just 2+ days away, it’s worth looking at Chaim Bloom’s history with trades this time of year. Beginning with Bloom’s promotion to Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations (2nd in command) in late 2016, he has been quite active leading up to the deadline. Overall, he has a decent track record of success over the past 4 years, even when the Rays were sellers in 2018. Although he wasn’t the only one calling the shots during his time in Tampa, he was a major voice in the decision-making. What will the 2021 trade deadline bring for Bloom and the Red Sox?

Let’s look, year-by-year, at the deals Bloom has made leading up to the trade deadline.

2017 – Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays made some small acquisitions in 2017, including bolstering their bullpen and attempting to improve at 1B.

Acquired

Traded Away

Analysis: This was a decent deadline with P Chaz Roe and P Sergio Romo having extremely strong remainders to 2017 despite the Rays missing the playoffs (Roe – 9 appearances – 8.2 IP, 1.04 ERA, 12 Ks, 3 BBs and Romo – 25 appearances – 30.2 IP, 1.47 ERA, 28 Ks, 7 BBs). While neither repeated their miniscule ERAs going forward, Roe is still with the team and Romo had a good 2018 before heading to the Miami Marlins. 1B Lucas Duda and P Dan Jennings were mostly irrelevant the remainder of 2017 before leaving the Rays. P Drew Smith has had minimal impact for the New York Mets since making his debut in 2018 and 1B Casey Gillaspie, at 28, has not risen above AA.

2018 – Tampa Bay Rays

This was a classic seller-minded trade deadline for the Rays. With more than a half-dozen transactions, they completely re-made their roster, mostly by trading away their pitching rotation.

Acquired

Traded Away

Analysis: While the Rays certainly traded away some serious assets at the deadline, it wasn’t a complete blow-up and restart. They traded away some big pitching names in Archer and Eovaldi but acquired a few players with some big upside. The biggest future impacts came from P Tyler Glasnow, OF Austin Meadows, and OF Tommy Pham. All three had a major impact in clinching the 2019 2nd Wild Card spot and beating the Oakland Athletics in the ALWC game and Glasnow and Meadows were on the 2020 roster that reached the World Series. P Jalen Beeks was performing well in 2020 before needing Tommy John surgery in August 2020. Since the trade, Archer’s ERA has grown from 3.70 to 4.92 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which is a check in Bloom’s column.

2019 – Tampa Bay Rays

In his last year with the Rays, the trade deadline was much quieter for Bloom than 2018.

Acquired

Traded Away

Analysis: Overall this is a decent trade deadline. While 1B Jesus Aguilar was only on the roster for the remainder of 2019 before heading to Miami, P Nick Anderson and P Trevor Richards are still with the Rays. Anderson had a strong 2020 before ending up with an elbow tear and has yet to appear in 2021. Richards is 4-1 with a 3.72 ERA in 27 games (38.2 IP) for the Rays this year. OF Jesus Sanchez has been solid for the Marlins, but Stanek (HOU), Kolarek (OAK), and Faria (MIL) haven’t been anything to write home about.  

2020 – Boston Red Sox

In his first year at the Red Sox helm, it was one of the oddest seasons in MLB history. The shortened year, sign-stealing scandal leading to the firing of Alex Cora, and the COVID pandemic, it was difficult to truly judge Bloom’s effectiveness at the deadline.

Acquired

Traded Away

Analysis: The 2020 deadline was an opportunity for Bloom to begin rebuilding the farm system that was cleaned out by his predecessor Dave Dombrowski. Bloom brought in 4 prospects: P Connor Seabold (#6 prospect), OF Jeisson Rosario (#24 prospect), 3B Hudson Potts (#26 prospect), and Jacob Wallace (#48 prospect – was #28, but the UConn product has struggled in 2021). Along with the prospects, Bloom brought in P Nick Pivetta, who has had a solid impact on the AL East leading 2021 Red Sox. While it was sad to see 1B Mitch Moreland go and frankly, they could use him right now, overall it was successful deadline for Bloom.

*As of July 2021, rankings by SoxProspects.com