The 2016 MLB season is officially under way, and with the Boston Red Sox set to open up the season against the Indians in Cleveland, here is a preview of what to expect.
The biggest acquisition of the offseason for the Red Sox, and arguably the entire MLB, was the signing of free agent pitcher David Price to a 7 year, $217 million deal. Did the Red Sox overpay for Price? Probably. Does that mean it wasn’t a great move? Absolutely not. The Red Sox desperately needed an ace and David Price is as good as it gets. Price went 18-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 225 strikeouts over 220 innings pitched between Detroit and Toronto last year on his way to a 2nd place finish in Cy Young voting. He has experience pitching in the AL East with both Tampa Bay and Toronto, and should be a reliable force at the top of the rotation this season. The other major acquisition for the Red Sox was the trade for closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel had 4 straight seasons of 40+ saves for the Atlanta Braves from 2011-2014 before finishing with 39 saves and a 2.58 ERA for San Diego last year. However, the Red Sox did have to give up Javier Guerra, Logan Allen, Carlos Asuaje, and most notably Manuel Margot in return.
The Red Sox also made two other moves worth noting this offseason. The first was signing outfielder Chris Young to a 2-year $13 million contract. Young hit 14 HR, 42 RBI, and batted .252 in 356 plate appearances last season for the Yankees. The 31 year old veteran will primarily be coming off the bench this season, and is a low-risk high reward signing by the Red Sox given his friendly contract. Second, Boston traded Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro to the Seattle Mariners for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias. Some experts think this may have been the Red Sox best move value-wise. Wade Miley is a mediocre starting pitcher who was never going to be better than a #4 or #5 starter in Boston. Meanwhile, Carson Smith showed signs last year that indicate he has the potential to become an elite relief pitcher over the next five years.
One of the biggest story lines going into this year is David Ortiz’s final season with the Red Sox before retirement. The DH will go down as one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, and continues to get the job done even as he turned 40 in the offseason. Ortiz hit 30 HR with 103 RBI at age 37, 35 HR with 104 RBI at age 38, and 37 HR with 108 RBI at age 39. There’s no signs of him slowing down so another 30 HR / 100 RBI season is within reason for Ortiz in 2016. As far as the rest of the lineup, Betts and Boegarts are the young stars who have the potential to break out and become All-Stars. The Red Sox lone 2015 All-Star, Brock Holt, will provide value in all different positions this season and should see a fair amount of playing time especially if others in the lineup struggle. Dustin Pedroia is a veteran at second base, but can still get the job done if he stays healthy this year.
The corner infielders will have a different look in 2016, as Hanley Ramirez shifts to first base and Pablo Sandoval begins the season on the bench in favor of Travis Shaw at third. Shaw has shown high potential during the playing time he got last year, and Sandoval is too much of a liability on offense and defense to be on the field for 9 innings. Early reports of Hanley at first base are leaning positive, and his offensive potential is never in doubt. The Sox young catcher Blake Swihart will be behind the plate and also has high upside given he remains healthy this year. Rounding out the lineup is outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. JBJ is one of the premier defensive outfielders in the MLB but must still prove himself offensively this season if he wants to keep his job.
There’s no doubt that David Price will be a big factor as the Sox #1 starter this season, but question marks in the rotation still remain beyond Price. Although he will begin the season on the DL, Eduardo Rodriguez has the potential to be a solid #2 starter behind Price. Rodriguez showed flashes of greatness as a rookie last season as he went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA. The Red Sox had high expectations for Rick Porcello last year after acquiring him and signing him to a big extension. However, his season was a disaster and there will certainly be pressure on him to bounce back this year. Some of that pressure may be relieved a little now that he is not expected to pitch at the top of the rotation.
Joe Kelly was in a similar spot after being acquired in the John Lackey trade in 2014. However, a disappointing 2015 season saw him sent down to the minors before being called up and showing some improvement by winning 8 straight starts under interim coach Torey Lovullo. Finally there is the question of Clay Buccholz, whose expectations this year have been the exact same almost every year. If healthy, Buccholz has ace-like stuff and can even be a number 1. The problem is that we are far enough along in his career that an injury at some point during the season seems almost inevitable. Will this finally be the year he gets traded?
This team has been hard to understand the last couple of years. They certainly have the talent and big names to be one of the best teams in the league, but have finished the last two seasons in last place. Vegas has the over/under for wins this year at 85.5, which I think is reasonable given the ups and downs of the last few seasons. My official prediction is that the Red Sox will go 88-74 and clinch an AL wild card berth.
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