While the Vegas betting houses are lining up to pick the Yankees in the AL East, the Red Sox have yet to come out of hibernation. What’s up with that?
It’s easy to forget that in the last seven seasons, the Boston Red Sox have been either all-good or all-bad as a team in the American League East. The team’s patchy record of finishes has them winning the division four times – while juxtaposed against finishing dead last three times over the same span. A valid question, then, would appear to be which Red Sox team are we going to get in 2019?
The New York Yankees have been preparing as though Armageddon is on the horizon, even to the extent of Hal Steinbrenner giving the okay to exceed the almighty luxury tax threshold. Fans recall Brian Cashman in the wake of the Victory Parade in Boston, with stealth and precision, snaring James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for a promising, but still unproven, Justus Sheffield.
With nary a peep from the Boston camp as yet, Cashman looks in the trash bin and uncovers Troy Tulowitzki to fill in at shortstop for injured Didi Gregorius at the major league minimum of $555,000, leaving the rest of the $21 million for the Blue Jays to pay.
At which point, someone nestles the Red Sox from hibernation and they re-sign Nathan Eovaldi to a four-year deal. Nose to nose in the same way the Yanks and Red Sox play on the field, Cashman inks Zack Britton to solidify the bullpen and follows that with bringing DJ LeMahieu on board to complete the job of finalizing an overhauled, but still very stable roster.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Greg Kimbrel, last year’s super closer for the team have been seemingly playing the game of – I hate you more – leaving the Red Sox without a closer for 2019 and Kimbrel blowing in the wind for a team to play with come April.
Can’t blame the Red Sox on this one with Kimbrel supposedly looking for 5-years and $125 million – as a closer? It also doesn’t help the Red Sox began the offseason over the luxury tax (screw it – let’s call it what it is – a salary cap) limit of $206 million in payroll. Now, and even without Kimbrel, that number according to Spotrac, has ballooned to $226 million, assuring the Red Sox of “contributing” to the bottom feeders in the league at the end of the season.
Ah, We Have A Problem Here
But the main reason why the Red Sox may be sitting this offseason out is what’s coming next. Both Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts are up for free agency at the end of this season. Add to the mix David Price, who is owed $125 million to complete his contract at the age of 36 in 2022, and suddenly the Red Sox look a bit more vulnerable than one might have thought.
And so a valid question may seem to be – do the Red Sox intend to pay a luxury tax forever? And is that why they have adopted a wait and see approach to the season coming up? To be fair, this is not “tanking” in the version we are accustomed to seeing in baseball today, with teams like the Tigers, Marlins, Royals, Blue Jays, and a few others hanging up the season even before it begins.
But are the roles of the Red Sox and Yankees now reversed, and it is the team in Boston content to be the underdogs pursuing the mighty Yankees? And if that’s so, have the Red Sox choreographed it that way?
Unlike other years (mentioned above), the Red Sox are not a last-place team in the AL East in 2019. But are they (quietly) in pursuit of where the Yankees wound up last season as a Wild Card (appeasing their fans), but with the sole strategic intention of regrouping for next year and seasons yet to come?
Never fear though, even if all of the above is true, it makes for a wildly fascinating “conjoining” of the two teams over the nineteen contests they will play against each other, even including the two games they’ll play in London.
All of which leaves me with this precarious thought – are the Yankees being “set up” by the Red Sox? It can’t get that sinister, can it?
Maybe the spin provided here by Jerry Remy helps…?