Red Sox

Going, going, gone? Red Sox in danger of losing every single one of us by September

Going, going, gone? Red Sox in danger of losing every single one of us by September

NEW YORK - The will to care about the 2019 Red Sox is slipping away as inexorably as a toddler's last lead-lidded blink before bedtime.

However encouraged Red Sox fans felt last weekend after watching their team take five of six from the Rays and Yankees, they're in grave danger of tumbling over the precipice and into an abyss of apathy.

Friday night brought more misery in the form of a perfunctory 4-2 loss to the Yankees that included one inning of action and eight innings of inevitability. The Red Sox raced to a 2-0 lead, watched Eduardo Rodriguez give it right back with a first-inning grand slam and that was the end of that.

Like one of those videos of slow-motion destruction when a car loses its brakes on an icy hill and just casually drifts into every mailbox, tree, and Toyota Celica until slamming into a parked dump truck, it feels like the Red Sox have begun their slide to irrelevance and there's nothing we can do to stop it except watch and hope no one gets hurt.

The team's fifth loss in a row just reinforced the notion that when the story of this season is written -- not that anyone will necessarily care to read it -- the tipping point will end up being the July 31 trade deadline and the too-honest press conference Dave Dombrowski conducted in its actionless aftermath.

If the jaws of fans and media dropped when he admitted that the Red Sox weren't close enough to contention to sacrifice pieces of the future for short-term fixes, imagine the reaction of the players. They had basically just been told they were on their own.

The ensuing uneasiness caused manager Alex Cora to make a rare public misstep of his own, when he said he'd be calling a meeting to address the final two months and the challenge that awaits. The meeting was news to his players, who still knew nothing of it on Friday afternoon beyond what they'd read in the media, which led to Cora backtracking more purposefully than Danny Torrance in The Shining and sounding considerably frazzled in the process.

Asked whether he was joking or had changed his mind, Cora said, "All of the above," and then laughed uncomfortably. He tried to explain that he had misspoken and didn't mean to imply he had called a formal meeting, but PR damage done.

Not that it really matters. Now that we know with 1,000 percent certainty that help isn't coming, it's hard to envision the 180 that would be required to salvage their season. What you see is what you get, and what we've seen to this point is hardly worth getting excited about.

And so, we dutifully chronicle a march to futility, just as we did in lost-cause seasons like 2006 and 2010, when the Sox simply never kicked it into gear. Both of those seasons ended shy of the playoffs, and it's worth noting that the Red Sox are now closer to the eighth-place Angels in the wild-card chase (three games) than to the Rays, whom they trail by four games.

That is not a recipe for an action-packed stretch run, and that's bad news for the marketing folks who care about buzz and virality. With the Patriots beginning the defense of yet another Super Bowl title next month and the Celtics and Bruins preparing for training camp, the Red Sox are in danger of being swallowed whole. Eyeballs and attention must be constantly earned in this City of Champions, and if the Red Sox aren't careful, they'll just be playing out the string.

Last year's title has never felt so distant. It's a new year, and it's slipping through our fingers like the last sands of summer.


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Could Red Sox add another starter to fill out rotation? Here are their options

Could Red Sox add another starter to fill out rotation? Here are their options

As it stands now, the Boston Red Sox will enter the 2020 season with three starting pitchers.

That's not ideal, but it's the current reality after Thursday's news that Chris Sale will begin the year on the injured list.

So, how will the Red Sox fill out their rotation around Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and newcomer Martin Perez?

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Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom said earlier this month the team will look to add more pitching depth, and the Sale development obviously hasn't changed that stance.

Sale only is expected to miss about two weeks, so the Red Sox don't seem ready to make a reactionary signing. But considering they don't have a fifth starter anyway, adding another arm makes sense.

Which begs the question: Who's still out there?

Here's a list of starting pitchers who remain unsigned, sorted by age (via MLB.com).

Aaron Sanchez (27)
Danny Salazar (30)
Matt Harvey (31)
Andrew Cashner (33)
Clay Buchholz (35)
Marco Estrada (36)
Clayton Richard (36)
Jason Vargas (37)

Doesn't inspire much confidence, does it?

The good news is that these pitchers could be signed for relative bargains. The bad news is that only two are 30 years old or younger and none posted very inspiring stat lines in 2019.

In fact, Buchholz isn't a terrible option compared to the rest of the list: The former Red Sox hurler struggled with the Toronto Blue Jays last season but sported a 2.01 ERA over 16 starts with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018.

Given the dry free agent market, though, it's possible Boston could look to the trade market -- the club reportedly covets Cal Quantrill in trade talks with the San Diego Padres, although that deal seems unlikely -- or an internal solution.

Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez are candidates for the fifth starter slot, and Darwinzon Hernandez could be a potential option down the road, although the Red Sox don't view him as a starter at the moment.

Long story short: Unless the Sox want to part with more assets in a trade, they won't be slotting a quality pitcher into their rotation anytime soon.

MLB odds: Rafael Devers among favorites to lead league in hits

MLB odds: Rafael Devers among favorites to lead league in hits

The Boston Red Sox lost some important offensive production this offseason when they traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But they should still have plenty of offense firepower in the upcoming year.

Between Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, and Andrew Benintendi, the team should be able to field a productive, high-scoring unit.

And it's no surprise that one of the Sox' young stars is among the favorites to lead MLB in hits this season. Per DraftKings Sportsbook, Devers (+1300) has the fourth-best odds and trails only Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, and Whit Merrifield (all at +1200).

Devers ranked second in the league in hits last season. His mark of 201 base knocks trailed only Merriweather (206). Devers started the season rather slowly, too, so the it's well within the realm of possibility that he could generate more base knocks if he doesn't start with a slump.

This is especially possible given that Devers, 23, is so young yet already has two-and-a-half seasons of MLB experience. He may continue to improve ahead of his third full major league season. David Ortiz and Derek Jeter are among the stars that have voiced their confidence in Devers' abilities, so that would seemingly be a good sign for his upward trajectory.

Devers, 23, posted a .311 average, 32 homers, and 115 RBI for the Red Sox last season. He also played in 156 games, so he'll likely have to stay on the field often if he wants a chance to be the hits leader in 2020.