Red Sox

Red Sox

Faithful readers may recall that I've already given up on 2020 and would like the Red Sox to trade any 24 players of their choice, as long as they're not named Xander Bogaerts or Rafael Devers.

The realist in me recognizes that management won't actually start any real purges until July, because what's the point of a $200 million payroll if you can't at least hallucinate a world where the roster contends?

While it would be nice to say the team's fatal flaw — zero starting pitching, Chris Sale inching towards doom — has magically healed, about the best slogan we can devise for the rotation doesn't exactly inspire confidence: E-Rod and Nate, the Rest Ain't Great.

That said, the Red Sox aren't competing in a vacuum. And it's worth mentioning that their primary division rival is crumbling like the outer turrets of a sandcastle.

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The Yankees are coming off a 103-win season and subsequent megabucks acquisition of Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole. If you stopped paying attention in December, they look unbeatable. But the last couple of weeks have seen them eroded by the incoming tide.

Two arms considered vital to their success — right-hander Luis Severino and left-hander James Paxton — carried over serious injuries from 2019 that still haven't healed. The former needs Tommy John surgery and is done for the year. The latter underwent back surgery and won't be available until May or more realistically June. That's on top of 18-game winner Domingo German, who still must serve 63 games of an 81-game suspension for violating the league's domestic violence policy last season. He won't be eligible to return until June.

 

Offensively, slugging MVP hopeful Aaron Judge was just diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib cage, an injury the team believes he suffered while diving for a ball last September. Manager Aaron Boone told reporters that surgery remains an option, and there's no telling how long Judge will be sidelined, continuing a concerning trend; since the start of 2018, Judge has missed 110 games.

Then there's Giancarlo Stanton, who's rapidly transforming into a $325 million albatross. He appeared in only 18 games last year and is probably out for Opening Day with a strained calf that is hastening his transition to full-time DH.

There's more! Center fielder Aaron Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery and will be sidelined until mid-summer. Catcher Gary Sanchez has battled a bad back all spring. The same goes for veteran reliever Chad Bettis, in camp on a minor-league deal.

That's a lot of talent on the shelf, and even if the Yankees return All-Stars like D.J. LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Aroldis Chapman — not to mention the arrival of Cole — we're still talking a pretty serious talent drain.

New York won't be resorting to multiple openers, and it possesses more quality depth than the Red Sox, but the rotation isn't the strength the team had projected. Cole-Severino-German-Paxton-Masahiro Tanaka, with J.A. Happ and Jordan Montgomery in swing roles, looked like the best rotation in the American League.

Now Cole will be followed by Tanaka, Happ, Montgomery, and maybe Jonathan Loaisiga. Tanaka owns a 4.34 ERA over the last three years, while Happ is 37, Montgomery is only a couple of years removed from Tommy John surgery, and Loaisiga remains unproven.

The Red Sox would kill for those four pitchers, given how thin they are beyond Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi, and they wish Sale could be an anchor like Cole, but that's not exactly a terrifying assemblage in New York, especially considering the offensive talent that remains in Boston.

It's worth noting that the Yankees thrived despite myriad injuries last year. They basically won without Severino and Stanton, they received unexpected contributions from secondary players like Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, and Mike Tauchman, and they even watched veterans like Brett Gardner and Zack Britton turn back the clock with bounce-back seasons.

A lot went right in the face of so much going wrong, and before we anoint the Yanks runaway division favorites, we should acknowledge that 2020 is already off to a challenging start.

Could this open a door for the Red Sox? Ehh, the Rays are more likely to benefit, but at least it gives Boston a chance to start strong and then convince chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to reinvest some of those Mookie-Price savings in this year's team.