This past weekend the book closed on the 2020 Boston Red Sox who played a shortened 60-game season and finished with a 24-36 record. Boston finished in dead-last in the AL East and trailed the first-place Tampa Bay Rays by 16.0 games. This was the first last-place finish by the Red Sox since 2015 and their worst games-back finish since 2014 when they finished 25 games back of first place in a 162-game season.
Boston’s .400 winning percentage when scaled out to a 162-game season would have resulted in a 64.8 win season which would have been their fewest wins in a single 162 game season since 1965 when Boston won 62 games. The .400 winning percentage is the worst the franchise has posted since 1907 when the then Boston Americans posted a .396 winning percentage in a 155 game season.
Overall this was a tough season to gauge for the Red Sox who had to fire Alex Cora just prior to Spring Training and installed Ron Roenicke as their manager. Roenicke for his role in the 2020 season was fired by Boston on Sunday ahead of their final game of the season. It was a tough spot for Roenicke though. Newcomer Chaim Bloom was tasked with trading away Mookie Betts and in the process sent former CY Young winner David Price with him.
Objectively speaking this Boston Red Sox team was the least talented roster they have put together since the 2014 season when the team did little to spice up a reigning World Series champion team that was clearly a one-hit-wonder. It is easy to look at the 2020 season and pick out the negatives, so let’s break that down first.
- Jackie Bradley Jr.: JBJ is likely gone with it very unlikely John Henry gives Bloom enough money to pay the centerfielder. JBJ had a good season hitting .283 in 217 at-bats.
- Alex Verdugo: He’s no Mookie Betts but he still hit .308 which was a team-high average. Solid first year for the 24-year-old.
- Xander Bogaerts: Bogearts was the best all-around hitter for the Red Sox posting a .300 average and a team-high .867 OPS and hitting 11 home runs and driving in 28 RBIs. Bogaerts is still a super-star.
- Christian Vazquez: The 29-year-old hit .283 as the catcher’s offense continues to be steadily above average. Credit to Dave Dombrowski on the great contract.
- Bobby Dalbec: Dalbec only had 80 at-bats but hitting .263 is a tad higher than I thought he could do at the Major League Level hit 8 homers and drove in 16 RBIs. Strong start for Dalbec who still needs to learn how to control himself at the plate. 39 strikeouts is worrisome. OPS of .959 is good though…
- Kevin Plawecki: .341 average for a back-up catcher in 82 at-bats is elite. Scaled out that doesn’t happen again but that is a solid signing by Bloom
- Martin Perez: While a 4.50 ERA isn’t anything to write home about it is right on par with what Perez is. He started a team-high 12 games and had a team-high 62 innings thrown. The 29-year-old was reliable when the rest of the rotation wasn’t. Boston has a $6.25M option for 2021 which they should use unless the COVID-19 impact drops the value on starting pitching.
- Nathan Eovaldi: The 30-year-old was injured for a chunk of the season but had a 4-2 record and a 3.72 ERA in 48.1 innings of work. Boston asked him to be the ACE which he in theory was. A solid year for Evoaldi but still isn’t worth that $17M price tag Boston is stuck with for two more seasons. I would look to trade out of the contract if Boston isn’t looking to be back in the playoffs for next year.
- Phillips Valdez: The 28-year-old finally broke into the majors and he posted a 3.26 ERA in 30.1 innings and was the most consistent reliever in the bullpen. Another win in the Bloom column.
- Tanner Houck: Yes he only had three starts but posting a 3-0 record and striking out 21 batters in his first 17 big league innings is commendable. The 24-year-old should be a solid candidate to be in Boston’s starting rotation to start the 2021 season.
- Darwinzon Hernandez: COVID delayed the start of the 23-year-old’s season but in seven outings he allowed two earned runs in 8.1 innings of work. He also struck out 13 batters. Very limited action but in 2020 it’s something. Interested to see if Boston tries to stretch Hernandez back out for a run at being a starter in 2021.
- Nick Pivetta: Like Houck and Hernandez Pivetta had very limited action with Boston in 2020. The 27-year-old posted a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings of work allowing two earned runs and posting a 2-0 record. Another solid candidate to make the 2021 rotation.
- Andrew Benintendi: Benny played in just 14 games this season and landed on the 60-day-IL. In that limited action, the 25-year-old hit a measly .103 in 39 at-bats and had an OPS of .442. The outfielder really needed a bounce-back year after a mediocre 2019 campaign in-which he hit .255 in 541 at-bats. Injuries are tough but it’s hard to optimistic about Benintendi for the moment. Tough to sell low here but if there was a real minor league season and he was healthy I wouldn’t have been shocked to see him in Triple-A.
- Rafael Devers: Devers after having an MVP type of season in 2019 with a .311 average and 32 homers with 115 RBIs the 23-year-old slumped in 2020. In 57 games Devers hit .263 and hit 11 homers while driving in 43 RBIs. OPS was also significantly down. Defensively Devers hasn’t gotten any better either, would have liked to see Bobby Dalbec get some action at the hot corner towards the end as well. Devers should be fine long-term but this is certainly a buzz-kill. Maybe a switch to first-base is a good idea.
- Michael Chavis: We knew Chavis had pop and would strike-out a ton, he did just that in 2020. Chavis struck out 50 times in 146 at-bats and hit .212 with 5 homers and 19 RBIs. Just not good enough to be an everyday player has to be more disciplined.
- J.D. Martinez: Martinez is an excuse train, hit .213 in 211 at-bats and hit just 7 homers, and drove in 27 RBIs. Boston is likely hoping he doesn’t opt-in for next year but it’s hard to see a team ponying up to pay the 32-year-old more money.
- Colten Brewer, Chris Mazza, Zack Godley, Jeffery Springs, Josh Osich, Dylan Covey, Mike Kickham, Marcus Walden, Kyle Hart: All of these pitchers contributed to why the 2020 Red Sox finished the way they did. Just yikes.
There are always positives with the negatives and the 2020 Boston Red Sox are no different. Losing Chris Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez for the season is brutal. The upside is that helped the Red Sox lose more games and en-route earn a top-five pick in the upcoming draft. In a year without fans in the stands, the Red Sox were able to get away with their worst-performing team in the 21st century. They will need to rebound in 2021 but it doesn’t seem like ownership is willing to pony up and bring in a big free agent. That means Bloom will have to work his magic thru the draft, develop current talent, and hit on lower free agent signings or trades.
Starting with bringing in a capable big-league manager is a start, the sooner the better as the Red Sox need to build a solid foundation. Hopefully it is Alex Cora or a similar type of manager as the 2021 Red Sox will need a steady hand at the wheel.
But to be fair, it is only up from here.