After standing pat, Red Sox will try to hold off Yankees
BOSTON (AP) — The New York Yankees, Boston’s biggest rival, added NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to a lineup that already included fellow 50 home run-hitter and AL Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge.
The Houston Astros added Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that was already good enough to win the World Series (knocking the Red Sox out of the playoffs along the way).
And what did Boston do to improve this offseason, knowing that its top competition has only gotten better?
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made it his goal this offseason to add power to a lineup that was last in the AL in homers in 2017. But while several potential free agents remain on an unprecedentedly slow market, the only move Boston has made to fill that hole is re-signing first baseman Mitch Moreland.
And it’s not just a slugger.
The Red Sox haven’t really changed much of anything this winter.
Dombrowski and new manager Alex Cora like to point out that the team won 93 games last year and a second straight AL East title.
But the competition has improved.
Here are some things the Red Sox will be looking for in spring training:
Cora takes over for John Farrell, who was fired despite winning the 2013 World Series and two straight AL East championships — the first back-to-back division titles in franchise history.
Cora, 42, is the youngest Red Sox manager in decades, a member of their 2007 championship team and a former teammate of two players on the current roster: Moreland and second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Dombrowski is hoping a new voice in the dugout will better connect with young stars like outfielders Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr.
YOUNGSTERS TO WATCH
Third baseman Rafael Devers hit .284 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs in 58 games as a 20-year-old; a full season from him is the best hope for a power boost. Sam Travis could contribute as a right-hand bat in a platoon or off the bench after batting .381 (in 48 plate appearances) against lefties last season.
The outfield of Bradley, Betts and Benintendi, plus shortstop Xander Bogaerts and catcher Christian Vazquez are all under 27.
There won’t be a lot of competition at Red Sox camp, with an everyday lineup that is set one through nine. That could change with an injury, a trade to bring in a cleanup hitter or a late signing. The team has confirmed it has made an offer to Diamondbacks outfielder J.D. Martinez, one of the more than 100 free agents still looking for a job at the start of February.
For now, though, it will be Moreland playing first and Hanley Ramirez at designated hitter.
There are at least six pitchers looking for a spot in the rotation, with David Price coming back from an elbow injury that left him in the bullpen last postseason. Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright are working their way back from knee injuries; Rodriguez is unlikely to be ready on opening day.
That leaves Chris Sale, Price, Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello looking for a fifth.
Cora will also be looking for someone to play second base until Pedroia returns from a knee injury, probably around mid-May. The top contenders are Marco Hernandez and re-signed utilityman Brock Holtz.
Despite a roster that is remarkably unchanged, the Red Sox are hoping for improvement from some of their high-priced returning players.
Chief among those is Price, who made just 11 starts last season. Ramirez, who batted .242 with 23 homers and 62 RBIs in 2017, is just one season removed from producing a .286 average with 30 homers and 111 RBIs. A healthy Pedroia could also be a boost.
“I get it. You see the numbers. The power was down,” Cora said last month, reminding reporters of the 93 wins in 2017. “I am confident with what we have right now.”
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