Boston Red Sox Season Preview: Can the Sox win the mighty AL East?

Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Folks, it has been one heck of an offseason for the MLB. We had the most exciting free agent class in recent history. We had a lockout that had us following union negotiations like it was Game 7 of the World Series. And after six long months, we have Boston Red Sox baseball.

The Boston Red Sox surpassed all expectations in 2021 by winning 92 games, which was good enough for second place in the American League East. They beat a small club from the Bronx called the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card game, as they lit up their ace Gerrit Cole, who didn’t even make it through the third inning.

They then proceeded to beat the 100 win, AL East Champion, Tampa Bay Rays in four games in the ALDS. Eventually they fell to the Houston Astros in six games in the ALCS, but they still came within two wins from a World Series appearence. For a rebuild year, I’ll take it.

As far as 2022 goes, what can we expect from the Sox?  Was last year a fluke? Can they repeat, or dare I say, grow as a team?

The Boston Red Sox are going to have to battle to make it out of the AL East

In some ways, the cards are stacked against the Red Sox and their hopes of making their second straight playoff appearence, simply because the AL East got much stronger. The Toronto Blue Jays added Matt Chapman and Kevin Gausman to their roster, and they have a unique form of home field advantage due to Canadian laws regarding COVID vaccinations.

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Elsewhere, the Rays are still the Rays; they can make a 90 win team out of nothing. The Yankees got rid of 125 strikeouts in trading Gary Sanchez, although they did fail to pull off a major free agent signing like they were expected to. And the Baltimore Orioles…well the Orioles have a new left field wall and they’re gonna try their hardest.

The Sox meanwhile have a bit of a new look to them. They lost Eduardo Rodriguez in free agency to the Detroit Tigers, and although I won’t use the word “lost” here, Martin Perez and Garrett Richards also are no longer with the team.

Instead, Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom signed 42 year old Rich Hill and former All Star Michael Wacha to replace them. Tanner Houck is expected to have an expanded role in the starting rotation, while Garrett Whitlock looks to be a long relief option on the back end of Wacha and Hill starts.

The Red Sox also signed James Paxton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. He will join the rotation towards the end of summer in a best case scenario. Meanwhhile, Chris Sale hopes to join the team in June as he recovers from a rib injury he suffered over the offseason.

Boston’s lineup endured a couple of pretty big shakeups, with the exit of Hunter Renfroe, who was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the lockout, being the biggest move of the bunch. In return, the Sox got old friend Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects.

JBJ slashed .163/.236/.261 in 2021. He is who he is. Offensively, he’s a downgrade from Renfroe, and isn’t expected to replace his production. On the defensive side, we all know what Jackie is capable of.

In the most exciting move of the offseason, the Red Sox signed Trevor Story to be Xander Bogaerts’ double play partner at second base. Story was a two time All Star and two time Silver Slugger winner with the Colorado Rockies, and is a major upgrade over the Jose Iglesias/Christian Arroyo platoon at second base.

On paper, the Sox ultimately got better but I’d be remiss to not ask questions surrounding this team. Will they extend Rafael Devers and Bogaerts, and if so, when will it happen? Is Matt Barnes still a serviceable closer? Is Story a product of Coors Field? Will we see a healthy Chris Sale and, what will he be? Who can play in Toronto, and what will the impact be? What in the world are we going to do with Bobby Dalbec now that Triston Casas appears set to reach the majors soon?

Next. Red Sox Rumors: Latest on Rafael Devers extension talks. dark

This is a better team than the one who went to the ALCS last year, but they aren’t without baggage. Ultimately, I think they overcome the majority of it.

My 2022 Boston Red Sox Prediction: 90-72, Second in the AL East, First in the American League Wild Card.

And once the playoffs start, just don’t let us win today.