Even Anthony Rizzo thought Anthony Rizzo would end up back in Boston ahead of the MLB trade deadline.
"I’d have friends texting me, ‘Do we need to dust off our Red Sox stuff?’ " Rizzo said Wednesday, via The Boston Globe's Alex Speier. "That was the biggest rumor out there a couple days before the trade deadline."
The veteran first baseman began his professional baseball career with the Red Sox before joining the Cubs, and considering Boston needed help at the position, a reunion seemed possible. Instead, the Red Sox traded for injured Washington Nationals outfielder Kyle Schwarber and two middle relievers while Rizzo landed with the rival New York Yankees.
The Sox have paid the price ever since: They've won just 30% of their games since July 29, while New York has gone 16-5 in that span to surge past Boston in the American League East standings.
But what if Chaim Bloom and Co. had gone for it at the trade deadline by adding Rizzo and Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who reportedly was on their radar as well?
Our partners at Strat-O-Matic ran the numbers to find out. Below is a projection of the Red Sox' 2021 season with Rizzo and Scherzer joining the club on July 30, as well as complete stats for both acquisitions from July 30 onward.
American League East Standings
Here's Strat-O-Matic's projection of the final AL East standings if the Red Sox had landed Rizzo and Scherzer instead of Schwarber:
So, yeah. Big difference.
The Yankees were 7.5 games back of the Red Sox on real-life deadline day, and instead of mounting a historic comeback, they fade to fourth place in this simulation. Meanwhile, Boston holds off a strong Tampa Bay Rays team to win the division for the first time since 2021.
Anthony Rizzo's stats with Red Sox
Rizzo doesn't record many hits with Boston in Strat-O-Matic's simulation, but he makes them count. The 32-year-old slugger hits seven of his nine Red Sox home runs in August to give the club a power boost at the position. He also draws 19 walks to raise his on-base percentage north of .300.
While these numbers may seem underwhelming, they're still an improvement at the first base position, where Bobby Dalbec is batting .229 with a .278 on-base percentage and .710 OPS through 100 games. Rizzo is a major defensive upgrade as well with four Gold Gloves to his name.
Max Scherzer's stats with Red Sox
Scherzer sported a 2.76 ERA in Washington, and that number climbs in the offensively-loaded AL East. But the three-time Cy Young Award-winner holds his own, averaging nearly seven innings per start with the Red Sox while racking up a ridiculous 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
A quartet of Scherzer, Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez could have done some serious damage, and even though Scherzer posts a losing record with Boston in this simulation, the Red Sox' finish atop the AL East suggests he made a big impact on the staff.
Red Sox' postseason results
|World Series||Brewers||4-3 L|
Projected as a middling team at best after a disastrous 2020 campaign, the 2021 Red Sox flatten the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros in the American League to advance to their fifth World Series this century. But in a surprising upset, the Milwaukee Brewers defeat Boston in seven games to capture their first championship in franchise history.
Neither Rizzo nor Scherzer lights the world on fire in this simulation. But they didn't need to. The Red Sox were the second-best team in the AL at the trade deadline, and the acquisition of two All-Stars was a morale boost that helped Alex Cora's overachieving club maintain its momentum from a strong first half to come within one game of a World Series title.
The real-life Red Sox still have time to right the ship after being swept by the Yankees in New York, but if they can't, it's worth wondering whether the front office squandered an opportunity at the deadline.