MLB win totals 2020: Red Sox among five teams that will go under projection

MLB win totals 2020: Red Sox among five teams that will go under projection

With spring training workouts underway, it's time to peer into our Major League Baseball crystal ball for 2020.

Boston Red Sox fans may not like what they see.

Westgate Superbook updated its projected win totals for all 30 clubs last Monday after the Red Sox (finally) traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

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Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom admitted this trade makes his team worse in 2020, and Westgate's win totals reflect that: Boston now is projected to win 85.5 games, down from 87.5 prior to the Betts deal.

But can the Red Sox even reach that lowered bar? And which other teams are trending down, as well? Below are Westgate's win totals for five MLB teams, and why we're taking the UNDER on each total.

Boston Red Sox: UNDER 85.5

The Red Sox won 84 games last season with Betts and Price on the roster. Pitching was the primary source of their struggles, and they've done nothing to alleviate those concerns after losing Price and Rick Porcello, who combined to make 54 starts last season. The rotation will be thin even if Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi all stay healthy. If anyone gets hurt, we could be in for some long games at Fenway Park -- because Boston's 18th-ranked bullpen from 2019 remains virtually unchanged, as well.

Tampa Bay Rays: UNDER 89.5

As usual, the Rays project to be a Wild Card contender with strong pitching and a decent lineup of scrappy overachievers. But there's a lot riding on the health of top arms Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow, who both dealt with arm injuries last season. If those issues crop up in 2020, Tampa Bay could have difficulty competing against the Red Sox and loaded New York Yankees in the AL East.

Washington Nationals: UNDER 90.5

I'm buying into the World Series hangover storyline, especially for a Nationals team playing in a sneaky competitive National League East, where the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets all are projected to win north of 85 games. Losing Anthony Rendon also doesn't help Washington's cause. The defending champs finish just over .500 while battling the Mets and Phillies for a Wild Card spot.

Texas Rangers: UNDER 79.5

Corey Kluber's addition helped boost Texas' win total, but the 33-year-old threw just 35 2/3 innings last season and isn't a sure bet to return to All-Star form. I'm also not convinced 34-year-old Todd Frazier will improve an offense that ranked 17th in the majors in batting average (.248) last season. Texas will make some early-season noise before fading to the middle of the AL pack.

Pittsburgh Pirates: UNDER 69.5

Pittsburgh's hire of ex-Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington signals a full-on rebuild for a club that won 69 games last season. There's little talent on this roster outside slugger Josh Bell and pitchers Chris Archer and Jamie Musgrove, and there's a very good chance the Pirates finish in the NL cellar.

Why 2019 Nationals shouldn't be used to justify Red Sox' Mookie Betts trade

Why 2019 Nationals shouldn't be used to justify Red Sox' Mookie Betts trade

The Washington Nationals won the World Series in 2019 despite losing their best position player, star outfielder Bryce Harper, in free agency the previous offseason.

Could a similar situation unfold in Boston this season after the Red Sox traded their best player and former American League MVP winner Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers last week? Red Sox chairman Tom Werner quickly brought up the Nationals after being asked Monday if he thought his team could have competed for a title in 2020 with Betts on the roster.

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"Yes, but I also believe this team can compete for a championship with the pieces that we have," Werner told reporters at spring training. "You're all smart, so you also know the Washington Nationals won a championship without Bryce Harper. I understand what (Red Sox chief baseball officer) Chaim (Bloom) said -- that he feels in some ways we're not as strong without Mookie and of course that makes sense. But we haven't seen how this season plays out yet. I'm optimistic that we'll be very competitive."

There are a few key differences between the Nationals and the situation the Red Sox currently find themselves in.

First of all, Betts is a far better player than Harper. Since 2016, Harper has zero seasons with a WAR (wins above replacement) above five. Betts has an average WAR of 8.4 over the same span. Betts is an elite offensive player and one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. He's a rare five-tool player. The Nationals had a young star in Juan Soto ready to replace Harper's production at the plate. The Red Sox don't have that kind of player to fill in for Betts this year.

The Nationals also had a top player in the final year of his contract last season in Anthony Rendon, but they kept him through the trade deadline. Rendon ultimately left to sign with the Los Angeles Angels, but not before he played a pivotal role in Washington winning the World Series. The Red Sox, conversely, gave up on Betts before seeing how well the team would perform in his walk year.

However, the main difference between the 2019 Nationals and 2020 Red Sox is pitching.

Washington used the money that would've gone to Harper to sign Patrick Corbin, who was arguably the top starting pitcher on the free agent market after the 2018 campaign. Corbin teamed with two of the best starters in baseball, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, to form a strong 1-2-3 in the Nationals' rotation. The Red Sox rotation is far worse. Chris Sale hasn't been able to consistently stay healthy since the team acquired him in 2016. Rick Porcello is wildly inconsistent from year to year, and Eduardo Rodriguez has not proven he can perform at a high level in consecutive seasons. And we cannot forget that David Price was shipped off to Los Angeles as part of the Betts trade with the Dodgers.

Boston's offense should still be one of the AL's best in 2020, even without Betts. There's plenty of talent in the Red Sox lineup, as J.D. Martinez pointed out Monday. The problem for the Red Sox in 2020 will be pitching, and it's why the chances of seeing a 2019 Nationals-like miracle in Boston this season are slim.

Tomase: What Sox ownership should've said about Betts trade

MLB Rumors: Alex Cora warned Nationals about Astros' sign-stealing before 2019 World Series

MLB Rumors: Alex Cora warned Nationals about Astros' sign-stealing before 2019 World Series

The Houston Astros' illegal sign-stealing methods were brought to the Washington Nationals' attention prior to the 2019 World Series, thanks to Alex Cora.

The former Boston Red Sox manager reached out to Nationals skipper Dave Martinez to warn him about Houston's sign-stealing, according to Barry Svrluga and Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. Cora was involved in the Astros' sign-stealing operation while serving as the team's bench coach in 2017.

Svrluga and Sheinin also note several Los Angeles Dodgers players warned Nationals infielder Brian Dozier -- who played with L.A. in 2018 -- about Houston's sign-stealing.

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On top of that, Nationals ace Max Scherzer asked former Astros reliever Tony Sipp if Washington should be concerned about the Astros, even with no runners on base. Sipp said yes.

In other words, the Astros' sign-stealing wasn't much of well-kept secret in MLB before the bombshell report from The Athletic dropped in December.

The fallout from the report has resulted in the firings of Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Former Astros player Carlos Beltran stepped down from his new position as New York Mets manager, and Cora mutually agreed to part ways with the Red Sox.

On Tuesday, it was announced Ron Roenicke will replace Cora as Boston's interim manager.