It’s sad to say, but the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry will lose some of its competitive fire this year. In fact, it’s been gone for longer than we realize despite some iconic moments.
The Bucky Dent home run. Aaron Boone’s legendary AL pennant-clinching blast 25 years later. Boston reversing the curse in 2004 and subsequently winning four World Series this century compared to the Yankees’ one. Since we learned Boston stole signs en route to winning the World Series in 2018, the Red Sox have slowly faded into the background.
Two former franchise icons are gone. The front office hasn’t communicated a vision. And all while the AL East remains competitive and Boston has 13 games scheduled against the rival Yankees. They’ll also meet the Mets for an overall meaningless series at Fenway Park in July.
This isn’t to say the Red Sox are tanking. They made a few moves in the offseason and Alex Cora, despite being an admitted cheater, might actually be a decent manager. But if a team’s best hope is to overachieve, the problems extend beyond just one season.
Greatest Addition: Masataka Yoshida, who we’ve discussed before. Boston signed him away from NPB’s Orix Buffaloes for five years and $90 million, the highest ever for a position player coming from Japan. The numbers certainly justify it. Yoshida hit .326 with 135 home runs and a .957 OPS in seven years with Orix and never struck out more than 74 times in a season. His on-base percentage (OBP) in Japan was a respectable .419.
Yoshida should be Boston’s Opening Day left fielder in his quest to become just the fourth Japanese bat to make an impact in MLB. Remember, NPB uses a universal baseball while MLB juices, un-juices, and re-juices its balls six ways to Sunday on a year-to-year basis. Perhaps this is why rival executives think Yoshida is worth “less than half” of his deal. His 5-foot-8, 176 pound frame doesn’t scream “power hitter” either.
Yet, the upside is there and when it comes to these Red Sox? No risk, no reward.
Greatest Loss: Xander Bogaerts. Words can’t describe the collective shock among the baseball community when he signed his $280 million megadeal with the Padres. Even more shocking was Alex Speir of The Boston Globe reporting Boston’s offer didn’t even reach $200 million. And yet, as Jeff Passan says in the clip farther down, Boston seemed “floored” when Bogaerts signed with the Padres? Which is it?
Granted, the Red Sox have their reasons for letting Bogaerts walk, but he joins Mookie Betts as the latest former franchise icon to leave Beantown. He hit .292 with 156 home runs in ten years, made four All-Star teams, and will be incredibly hard to replace.
Greatest Strength: Marcelo Mayer. The 20-year-old hasn’t played above A-ball, where he hit .280 with 13 home runs and a .887 OPS last season. Yet, if he keeps climbing the ladder and becomes a star in MLB, letting Xander Bogaerts walk will look like a genius decision.
We all know how valuable franchise shortstops are, and Mayer has a high ceiling. Expect Boston to diligently watch his development in 2023. If he keeps improving along with fellow prospects Triston Casas and Brayan Bello, Boston could be a thorn in New York’s side again.
Greatest Weakness: The lack of a clear plan. Just what is Boston thinking headed into 2023? They weren’t willing to pay Bogaerts, but still considered Dansby Swanson. Then, they gave Rafael Devers a 10-year, $310 million deal even though he’s all bat and no glove. We already discussed Yoshida’s risk.
Goodbye, Nathan Eovaldi and J.D. Martinez. Hello, aging Corey Kluber, Kenley Jansen, and Justin Turner. Oh, and just so everyone remembers, Chris Sale is coming back from another injury and due $55 million over the next two years. And Trevor Story might miss the season with elbow surgery, the second of a six-year, $140 million deal.
Is Bloom just happy to wait for Mayer to debut and hope for the best? Does he just see this as weathering an injury storm? Whatever his reasons, Boston won’t contend in 2023.
Will the Yankees run through the Red Sox again? The answer is a resounding yes. New York did everything it could in the offseason to stay at the top of the AL East. Boston, on the other hand, engaged in a series of glorified lateral moves if not straight steps backward.
That isn’t to say the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is completely toothless. Fans will still pack both ballparks and boo or cheer to their hearts’ content, even though the first series isn’t until June.
But even so, these aren’t the Red Sox of years past, and neither the Yankees nor the rest of baseball need worry about them this year, and maybe the next too.
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