With the recent signing of JD Martinez, where do the Red Sox stand in the AL East pecking order?
After months of speculation, the Boston Red Sox finalized the signing of slugging outfielder JD Martinez to a front loaded five year deal worth around $110 million. Even before free agency started, the consensus in the industry was that the Red Sox needed to put forth their best possible effort when it came to courting Martinez. Much of that speculation stemmed from two numbers: 241 and 168. Those represent that amount of homeruns hit by the rival New York Yankees and the Red Sox, respectively. The Yankees paced the league in home runs last season, yet went out and added Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning MVP and MLB home run champ. Meanwhile on the other side of the rivalry, the Red Sox finished 27th in the league in home runs and while their counterparts in the Bronx added even more firepower, the Red Sox were stagnant until last week. The signing of Martinez adds a much needed influx of power to the Sox lineup, as Martinez led the league in slugging percentage over the second half of the season, finishing with 45 home runs.
The signing checks off numerous boxes, but does it push the Red Sox closer to the division favorite Yankees? Offensively, the Red Sox pack one of the deepest lineups in baseball, yet they still trailed the Yankees in nearly every major offensive category. While Martinez shores up noticeable weaknesses, his addition does not suddenly make the offense an area of relative strength. The Yankees lineup still has a significant advantage.
Both starting pitching rotations are also among the game’s best. Flame-throwing Yankee ace Luis Severino has become one of the best young starters in the game, Japanese expat Masahiro Tanaka has shown glimpses of the talent that led to his record setting performances in Japan, and trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray has long been a heralded talent. That threesome may not be able to touch the pure talent of the Red Sox rotation that stretches four deep with all-star caliber starters: Chris Sale, one of the preeminent starters in the league, former Cy Young award winners David Price and Rick Porcello, and breakout star Drew Pomeranz. Advantage Red Sox.
The bullpen battle is a little more contested. Both the Red Sox and Yankees boast an elite shut down closer in Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman, respectively. Kimbrel is historically the more dominant of the two, putting up five of the greatest seasons by a closer in recent history. For perspective, during those five seasons, Kimbrel averaged 44 saves and a miniscule 1.47 ERA. Chapman is no slouch as the hardest throwing pitcher who ever lived has deep October experience, despite his inconsistencies. The rest of the bullpens extend deep with experience. The Red Sox return Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg back into the fold and the Yankees counter with David Robertson and Dellin Betances, who would be closers on many teams. The bullpens reach a draw.
The X-Factor in this rivalry for the AL East crown are the managers, a pair of rookies, who have immense baseball experience. Fresh off of helping the Houston Astros win the World Series, Alex Cora returns to Boston in an effort to return the franchise to late October baseball. Cora has been a part of multiple Major League World Series, including the 2007 title with the Red Sox, proving his mettle and experience in the most important of games. On the other hand, the Yankees turned to a franchise legend to replace Joe Girardi: Aaron Boone. Red Sox fans cringe at the mention of Boone for his famous series-winning, walk off homerun in the 2003 ALCS to eliminate the Red Sox and continue the Yankee reign over the AL. But Boone has his own laundry list of experience to bring the hallowed franchise their 28th title.
Mark your calendars for April 10, as the storied rivalry will begin again at Fenway Park.