Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora has tried everything to get his team going. Following a sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox and his teams’ fifth straight loss, Cora pledged to shave his beard. Superstition or not, the skipper recognized the sense of urgency that was necessary at this point in the season. It may have worked. In the five games since Cora shaved his beard, the Boston Red Sox have gone 3-2, winning only their second series of the season against the Texas Rangers.
The Red Sox have had a disappointing year, to say the least. Projected to finish tied at the top of the American League East, the team enters Monday night against the Houston Astros 13-21 and last place in the division.
The Red Sox have a chance to turn it around over the next two months. From now until June 27, the club has a long stretch of games in which they do not play their three top division rivals, the Blue Jays, Yankees, or Rays. This stretch could vault the team back into the AL East race and set them up to make up ground in their games against division opponents. But a poor performance could push the team into selling mode, which could have consequences far beyond this year.
Rebuild or Resurgence?
The Red Sox are not the first team with lofty expectations to get off to a rough start. The 2019 Nationals started out 19-31, then proceeded to perform as the best team in baseball for the rest of the season and win the World Series. The 2019 Nationals and 2022 Red Sox actually have a lot of similarities. They both struggled with injuries and limited starting pitching depth, and both teams had arguably the worst bullpen in baseball in the early season.
Unlike the Nationals though, the Sox do not seem to have solutions to their recurring problems. Chris Sale and James Paxton, who were supposed to come in and supplement the rotation, have both suffered setbacks and likely will not return until after the all-star break. The offense, which has struggled mightily all season, finally woken up lately, scoring seven-plus runs in three of their last five games. But the offense is still being carried by essentially three players. Outside of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and JD Martinez, the Red Sox do not have a single starter with an OPS+ above 75.
Cora cannot wave a magic wand and get the offense to start performing and the bullpen to stop blowing games. But if the Red Sox continue to struggle, with the team already 12 games back in the AL East race, they will likely to turn into sell mode by July.
Fan Favorites on the Block
The Red Sox have a lot of players that are on expiring deals and will reach free agency at the end of this year. Notably, J.D. Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Kiké Hernández would receive lots of interest from other teams and would likely get shipped off at the deadline.
But many players that Red Sox fans see as part of their future are also very much at risk. Xander Bogaerts has an opt-out at the end of the year that he is all but guaranteed to exercise, and he has already been connected to the Cardinals in trade talks. Trevor Story is signed under contract for the next six years, and Nick Yorke and Marcelo Mayer seem like the future of the Red Sox middle infield, even if they are years away. If the team continues to struggle, and an extension still is not signed, the franchise icon could be traded away in his tenth year.
Rafael Devers is a superstar and looks poised to be the central piece in the Red Sox future. But his future with the Red Sox may not be as stable as fans think. David Hamilton and Alex Binelas, two left-side infielders acquired in the Hunter Renfroe trade, are both dominating the minor leagues. The Red Sox were unable to sign Devers to an extension this past offseason and could try to capitalize on his enormous trade value to receive a great return.
Chaim Bloom has already shown willingness to trade franchise stars who want more money than the Red Sox offer. The Mookie Betts trade sparked immense outrage, but was completed anyway. Given the right deal, Bloom would probably pull the trigger on a Devers trade.
After a 7-1 win against the Rangers on Friday, Cora expressed relief that reverberated across Red Sox nation, “It was actually fun.” The offense finally broke out and followed it up with an 11-run performance the next day.
While it is only May, the Red Sox are in the middle of a pennant race against themselves. If they turn it around, the season is saved, and fans will be overjoyed to see Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez stay with the team. But, if these next 39 games do not pan out, no superstitions will be able to save the team from the outrage that will follow.
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