BOSTON RED SOX
Owner: John William Henry II, worth $4 billion
World Series Titles: 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2018
Greatest Player: OF Ted Williams
Division: AL East
Payroll: 11th, $193,000,000
2022 Result: 78-84, 5th place
General Manager: Brian O’Halloran (Chief Baseball Officer is Chaim Bloom)
Manager: Alex Cora, 47; Record: 362-286, 1 World Series Title
Home Field: Fenway Park, Capacity: 37,731
Key Addition: OF Masataka Yoshida. It was a fairly disappointing offseason for the Boston Red Sox, but they made headlines with the international signing of Yoshida. Hailing from Japan, Yoshida isn’t anticipated to pack much of a punch (15-20 home runs), but can be penciled in atop the Boston lineup. His elite bat-to ball skills should keep him around a .300 batting average, but it will be the incredibly low strikeout rates that endear him to fans.
Key Loss: SS Xander Bogaerts. This offseason helped cement one thing in the minds of Red Sox fans: the Fenway group cares more about winning the profit margins than winning the American League East. Failing to re-sign Bogaerts, one of the league’s premier offensive infielders, leaves a titan-sized hole in their lineup. One the 5’11” Enrique Hernández likely won’t be able to fill.
Key Injury: SS Trevor Story. Story’s first year in Beantown didn’t go as planned, putting up league-average numbers after signing a massive contract. Now, elbow surgery has but a serious dent in his 2023 prospects. Whether he ends up at short or second is yet to be seen, but the Red Sox need a healthy, and hot, Story if they have any hopes of competing for a playoff spot.
Prospect Alert: SP Brayan Bello. If you’re willing to count Bello, who threw 57.1 innings in the bigs last year, as a prospect, then none is more important to Boston’s success in 2023. Bello didn’t get the results he’d hoped for, posting a 4.71 ERA, but his peripherals (3.80 xERA, 2.94 FIP) are encouraging. He doesn’t have a spot in the current rotation, but Boston literally does not have a starting pitcher without injury concerns. He’ll get another shot to limit runs within the confines of Fenway Park.
Scouting Report: It’s just really hard to get excited about the short-term future of this Red Sox team. Retaining Rafael Devers was the bare minimum, and their depth is acceptable. But how many bats in this lineup scare you? They project to have one 30-home run hitter and their defense doesn’t adequately compensate (though it is encouraging!). They don’t have the best lineup in the AL East, their bullpen is shaky, and 60% of their rotation will be at least 34 come Opening Day.
Frankly, the lineup resembles a team close to the cellar. Justin Turner is 38! Hernández is a utility man. Adalberto Mondesi and Reese McGuire are defensive substitutions masquerading as starters. They seem unprepared for an 162-game marathon.
Yet, their pitching has a chance to carry them. Staying healthy feels like a long shot, but if that’s possible, so is the notion of them playing to their true talent–which is actually pretty good! Chris Sale has some fastball kinks to iron out, but Corey Kluber, Nick Pivetta, and James Paxton could give you mid-rotation innings. Garrett Whitlock is probably their second best starter if they decide to keep him there, and while he doesn’t eat innings, he’s incredibly talented. I like the Kenley Jansen addition and am a fan of Tanner Houck, but the average age of their (projected) Opening Day staff is 32.2 years old. That’s not ideal.
Boston feels like a team destined to crumble, but I can’t rule out a once favorably-viewed front office from turning things around. Until ownership cares about beating the Yankees, however, their hands may be tied.
Over/Under Wins: 76, 5th place
BetBasics Best Bet: As their mediocre record might suggest, Boston’s betting statistics were pretty mediocre. They went 84-78 against the run line (spread) was 12th-best in baseball, but their margin of victory (both against the run line and straight up) resided in the bottom third of MLB.
I won’t be rushing to place many moneyline bets on Boston unless Whitlock gets underrated by the books, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made on the Red Sox. Despite their roster construction, divisions like the AL East have a tendency to misrepresent themselves to a certain extent. Three quality teams and five competent ones mean every divisional game is a coin flip, and one disproportionate divisional record could cause chaos.
For that reason, I think there is more value in betting the over on Boston’s projected wins (77.5). At DraftKings, that over line has -155 odds, compared to -105 on the under. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to search for value when betting futures, especially MLB win totals. So many games means so many things can differ from our expectations. Bet accordingly, rather than sticking strictly to single win total projection.
Interestingly enough, the Red Sox’s over went 77-77-8, good for exactly .500. Their average game was almost a full run over the line (0.7). I would anticipate some regression in this regard, and while the lines will shift lower with Boston’s lineup, I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself placing under bets more often than not.