Looking at How the Red Sox’ World Series Odds Changed Over the Course of a Hectic Offseason

If Major League Baseball is to be played in 2020, the Red Sox currently stand as long-shots to capture their 10th World Series title this fall, or perhaps winter.

As recently as this past Tuesday, March 31st, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series this year stood at +3667, according to SportsBettingDime.com. In other words, if you bet $100 on the Sox to win the Fall Classic and they do, your total payout would be $3,767.

Compare that to the reigning American League East champion New York Yankees’ most recent odds of winning the 2020 World Series (+367), and it’s clear to see that the Red Sox are underdogs coming off a turbulent offseason to say the least.

Right around the time the offseason began after the Washington Nationals won their first World Series title, Boston’s odds of winning in 2020 stood at +1200 as of November 1st, which were good for the third-best in the American League.

Since that time though, the Sox’ chances of winning have gotten significantly worse, as one might expect with the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February, as well as the recent news that ace left-hander Chris Sale needed and underwent successful Tommy John surgery last month that will sideline the 31-year-old for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

With Betts at the top of the lineup and Price maintaining a top spot in the rotation, the Red Sox looked like a team that could still at least compete for a Wild Card spot this coming season even with injury concerns surrounding Sale.

Instead of Betts and Price, who served as important clubhouse leaders in recent years, reporting to Red Sox camp, the two were instead dealt to the Dodgers as part of an earlier-set goal put in place by Sox ownership to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold.

In his first offseason as Boston’s chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom did just that by packaging Price, who is owed $96 million over the next three years, and Betts, who will earn $27 million in his final year of salary arbitration, in the same deal.

The Red Sox will pay about half of what is owed to Price over the next three seasons, while Betts was already viewed as a potential trade candidate anyway since he seemed and still seems locked in on becoming a free agent for the fist time this winter.

Despite the financial flexibility gained in parting ways with Betts and Price, the competitive state of the club certainly didn’t get any better even with three controllable players coming back from Los Angeles.

Take these numbers for what they’re worth. On February 3rd, the day before the first, now-voided three-team trade between Boston, Los Angeles, and the Minnesota Twins was reported, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series stood at +2067.

Fast forward to February 10th, one day after Boston and Los Angeles agreed to terms on a new trade between just themselves, the Sox’ odds to win the World Series fell to +3433. They have only gotten worse since then, as previously mentioned.

Bloom was dealt a difficult hand as soon as he took over as the head of the Red Sox’ baseball operations department last October. As he said himself at the time the trade was made official in February, “Our biggest goal…is to put ourselves in position to compete and win sustainably for as many years as we can.”

The club will never admit it publicly, but as the oddsmakers and sportsbooks have indicated, trading two of their better players in Mookie Betts and David Price certainly hurt the Red Sox’ chances of competing in 2020 once baseball does finally return.

Ryan Weber Hurls Four Scoreless Innings as Red Sox Sneak Past Braves

In their first game under the lights this spring, the Red Sox won their second consecutive one-run contest, as they topped the Atlanta Braves by a final score of 2-1 on Monday to improve to 7-10-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his third start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, coming off three one-run (unearned) innings in his last time out against the Tigers last Monday.

Working the first four innings this time around, the right-hander stayed sharp as he kept the Braves off the scoreboard while yielding just one hit and zero walks to go along with four strikeouts on the evening.

That one hit was a two-out single off the bat of Freddie Freeman in the bottom half of the first. Outside of that, Weber retired the other 12 hitters he faced in order.

Finishing with a final pitch count of  60, the 29-year-old’s next outing should come sometime early next week depending on how many days of rest he gets.

In relief of Weber, Brandon Workman, in his third appearance of the spring, loaded the bases on the first three Braves he faced in the fifth, but he got out of it unscathed thanks to an unassisted double play from Jose Peraza and a strikeout of Shea Langeliers.

From there, Marcus Walden allowed Atlanta to score their first run of the night on one hit, one hit batsman, and one sacrifice fly in the sixth before tossing a clean seventh, and left-hander Jeffrey Springs fanned three while tossing scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings to close out the 2-1 win for his side.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Andrew Benintendi, Tzu-Wei Lin, Kevin Plawecki, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Lucroy (DH), Peraza, Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, and Jarren Duran was matched up against a familar foe in ex-Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez for Atlanta.

Kicking off the scoring in the fourth, a leadoff walk drawn by Lucroy followed by a single from Peraza put runners at the corners with no outs for Marco Hernandez.

On the third pitch he saw from the Braves’ Hernandez, the Red Sox’ Hernandez laced a line-drive RBI single to the opposite field to drive in Lucroy from third and give Boston an early one-run edge.

Fast forward to the sixth, and it was the same part of the lineup getting things done once more, with Lucroy leading off with another walk against new Braves reliever Touki Toussaint, Jose Peraza advancing the pinch-running Kole Cottam to second on a single, and Hernandez taking a pitch off his left foot to fill the bases for Castillo.

Castillo nearly grounded into a double play, but because of a bad throw from short to second on the part of the Braves, he was credited with an RBI on a groundout that brought in Cottam from third.

That simple play made it a 2-0 game, and after Atlanta got one of their own in their half of the sixth, 2-1 would go on to be Monday’s final score at CoolToday Park.

Some observations from this win:

Andrew Benintendi went 1-for-3 with a double and two strikeouts out of the leadoff spot on Monday.

Tzu-Wei Lin returned to the Red Sox lineup on Monday and went 1-for-1 with a single and a sacrifice bunt.

Kevin Plawecki on Monday: 1-for-3 with a walk.

Jonathan Lucroy on Monday: 1-for-1 with two walks and a run scored.

Jose Peraza is looking pretty good at second base.

Through his first nine innings of work this spring, Ryan Weber has yet to surrender an earned run.

It was nice to see top prospect Triston Casas get some playing time at first base in this one, although he did strike out in his lone plate appearance.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s another afternoon game against the St. Louis Cardinals back at JetBlue Park on Tuesday.

Left-hander Brian Johnson will get the start for Boston, while right-hander Jack Flaherty will do the same for St. Louis.

Following Sunday’s roster cuts, Johnson remains one of the notable non-roster invites still in major-league camp. He is surely vying for a rotation or bullpen spot with Boston to begin the season.

Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, and Josh Taylor are among the Red Sox relievers expected to follow Johnson.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT. This game will not be televised.

 

Red Sox Fail to Muster Any Offense in 5-0 Loss to Astros

After falling to the Tigers on Wednesday, the Red Sox saw their losing streak grow to three games on Thursday following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros at JetBlue Park. They are now 4-8-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his first start and third overall appearance for Boston was Kyle Hart, coming off two scoreless innings of relief in his last time out against the Twins this past Friday.

Working the first three innings in this one, the left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both of those Astros runs came on one swing of the bat in the top half of the third, when after retiring six of the first nine hitters he faced, Hart yielded a one-out walk to Myles Straw and followed that up by serving up a two-run home run to Kyle Tucker.

That mistake gave Houston the only lead they would need, but Hart was able to rebound by getting the final two outs of the frame in order to end his outing on a more positive note.

As one of several candidates still vying for a spot in the Sox’ rotation, Hart, 27, will probably appear in another game sometime early next week.

In relief of Hart, Brandon Workman tossed a scoreless fourth inning and yielded one run on three hits and a sacrifice fly in the fifth before minor-leaguer Tom Windle came on and finished the inning for him.

From there, Marcus Walden sat down the only three hitters he faced in order in the sixth, left-hander Brian Johnson appeared to be on top of things in the seventh and eighth, but ended up being charged with two runs on three hits and a walk in the ninth before Konner Wade relieved him, allowed an inherited runner to score, and finished up the inning by getting Grae Kessinger to fly out to left.

All in all, Red Sox pitching combined to allow five earned runs on 12 hits, three walks, and 10 strikeouts over nine total innings pitched.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured plenty of regulars in Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Jose Peraza was matched up against Astros right-hander Josh James to begin things on Thursday.

Despite having all those regulars in the lineup though, the Boston bats could not muster much against James, or any other Houston pitcher they faced for that matter.

Five hits, only one of which went for extra base hits, one walk drawn, and one HBP. That’s it.

That lone extra base hit belonged to Michael Chavis, who doubled off James with one out in the second and was subsequently picked off by Garrett Stubbs at third on a failed stolen base attempt.

Other than that, the Sox sent three batters to hit in five of their nine trips to the plate on Thursday. Not much to write home about in what wound up being a 5-0 shutout loss.

Some observations from this defeat:

This game was not televised, so I really do not have much to add here, but I will say that the Red Sox went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position on Thursday.

Xander Bogaerts in his first start at shortstop this spring: 0-for-2 with another pair of strikeouts.

Out of the 31 players the Astros sent from West Palm Beach for this contest, none were on the team in 2017, so from what I heard on the radio, there didn’t appear to be too many boos from the crowd at JetBlue Park.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head to North Port to take on the Atlanta Braves at their new spring training facility on Friday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is set to get the start for Boston, while Atlanta has yet to name a starter.

Rodriguez impressed in his spring debut against the Yankees last Saturday, fanning six over three scoreless innings at Fort Myers.

Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, and R.J. Alvarez are among the Sox pitchers who will follow Rodriguez.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST on ESPN.

Red Sox Add Collin McHugh on One-Year Deal, Designate Hector Velazquez for Assignment

The Red Sox have agreed to a one-year major-league deal with right-hander Collin McHugh. To make room for McHugh on the 40-man roster, fellow right-hander Hector Velazquez was designated for assignment. The club made the transaction official earlier Thursday.

McHugh, 32, had spent the previous six seasons with the Astros, and most recently posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 35 appearances (eight starts) and 74 2/3 innings pitched in an injury-shortened 2019 campaign.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, McHugh will earn a base salary of $600,000 in 2020, “though performance bonuses related to innings and active days could drive that higher.”

He probably won’t be ready for the start of the season after just recently being cleared to throw following an offseason tenex procedure that alleviated an elbow concern, but once he is up to speed, McHugh is a solid piece to fill out the Sox’ starting rotation in the wake of the concerns surrounding left-hander Chris Sale.

As for Velazquez, the 31-year-old was a potential candidate to take one of those rotation spots, but will now likely begin the year with Triple-A Pawtucket if he does clear waivers.

 

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Collin McHugh

It’s pretty late to do being one of these with spring training well underway and less than a month ago until Opening Day, but with the news that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting pitching help.

With the news of Sale starting the year on the shelf, in addition to trading David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the month, the Sox’ starting rotation only has three established starting pitchers at the moment in Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

Guys like Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez could fill in in either the No. 4 or No. 5 spots, and it also appears likely that an opener or two could be used, but that shouldn’t stop chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from looking at external options as well.

Obviously, with it being the last day of February and all, the free-agent market has essentially been thinned out, but there is still one intriguing name out there in former Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the 32-year-old has “recently been given the go-ahead to begin throwing after a [non-surgical] tenex procedure alleviated an elbow concern” and “nearly every team has checked in” on him thanks to his versatility.

Appearing in 35 games, eight of which were starts, for Houston last year, McHugh posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 74 2/3 total innings of work while dealing with ongoing right elbow discomfort.

His days of pitching anywhere between 150 to 200 innings in a season are probably behind him and he likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2020 season if he were to sign soon, but there are still plenty of things working in McHugh’s favor.

First off, there’s the versatility piece I mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s just me, but I could see McHugh starting, serving as an opener, or working in relief once he gets up to speed with whatever club he signs with this year.

Second, he probably won’t be demanding much as a free agent. A one-year deal for cheap or even a minor-league deal could get it done. That way, if things didn’t work out, it would not be all that costly to cut ties.

Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox now have a little more than $13 million in payroll flexibility to work with before reaching that $208 million luxury tax threshold they got under by dealing Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles.

McHugh would surely not command more than 25% of that $13 million as a free agent, so the rewards in this case would far outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

Outside of McHugh, free agent starting pitchers who remain unsigned include old friends Clay Buccholz and Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Clayton Richard, and Marco Estrada.

Connor Wong Crushes Grand Slam as Red Sox Blow out Orioles

In a game that was not televised, the Red Sox improved to 2-2-1 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday afternoon with a 12-4 win over a split Baltimore Orioles squad at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, one of the many names vying for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation with just over a month to go until Opening Day.

Tossing two innings on Tuesday, the right-hander kept the O’s off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Baltimore hits came consecutively with two outs in the top of the first, but Weber was able to settle down and get Pat Valaika to fly out to center before retiring the side in order in the second.

In relief of Weber, left-hander Mike Kickham had a tough showing, as he surrendered one run in the third and three more, one of which was unearned, in the fourth due to a wild pitch and passed ball that got through Connor Wong behind the plate.

Hunter Haworth had to come on to try and clean Kickham’s mess up with two outs in the fourth, and he did just that by getting Anthony Santander to ground out to third.

From there, lefty Brian Johnson worked his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean fifth to eventually earn his first win of the spring, while Domingo Tapia and Denyi Reyes combined for four scoreless frames of work to close this thing out with a final score of 12-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured a healthy number of regulars like Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, J.D. Martinez, and Mitch Moreland was matched up against Orioles right-hander Tom Eshelman to start things out on Tuesday.

Eshelman may not have given up any runs over the course of his brief two-inning start, but he gave up plenty of hard contact, including a line-drive one-out single off the bat of Vazquez in the first.

Two innings later, it was Vazquez coming through again, as he drove in Benintendi all the way from first on a hard-hit double to left off Orioles reliever Zac Lowther for his side’s first run of the day. 1-1.

In the fourth, the Boston bats once again responded to Baltimore, as they countered three more O’s tallies with three of their own on a two-run home run off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. and RBI single off the bat of Tommy Joseph to plate Bobby Dalbec from second.

Both of those knocks came off Lowther, and they pulled the Sox back even with the Orioles at four runs a piece.

Fortunately, that stalemate did not last long at all, with the first five hitters who came to the plate in the fifth all reaching off Hunter Cervenka on two singles, two walks, and one HBP to make it a 6-4 contest.

Marco Hernandez added on to that with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Pillar re-loaded the bases with an infield single off new O’s reliever Zach Muckenhirn, and that brought Connor Wong to the plate with the chance to redeem himself after making a few defensive mistakes the inning prior.

On the third pitch he saw from Muckenhirn, Wong did just that, as the 23-year-old crushed a grand slam over the fence in right-center field for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

That gave the Sox a commanding 11-4 advantage, and after Nick Longhi scored on a fielding error in the same inning, 12-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Because this game was not televised, I really do not have much to add here. Kevin Pillar went 2-for-2 with a double off the bench and Mitch Moreland hit a triple. Both of those things are nice to see.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Bradenton to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this spring.

Left-hander Martin Perez will make his Red Sox debut for Boston, while right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Perez is essentially a lock to be the No. 4 starter this year, so I’m looking forward to see how his first outing goes even if it is just an exhibition game. He is no stranger to the Grapefruit League either.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT at LECOM Park. This game won’t be on NESN, but it will be on the Pirates’ network, so if you have MLB.TV, you are in luck.

 

Red Sox Used Video Room Illegally in 2018, per Report

The Red Sox reportedly used their video replay room illegally during the 2018 season, according to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal.

According to one source who was with the Red Sox during the 2018 season, the club, under new manager Alex Cora, employed a system where, “A staff member in the Red Sox’s video replay room would tell a player the current sign sequence. The player would return to the dugout, delivering the message on foot, rather than through a wearable device or a phone.” Then, “Someone in the [Red Sox’] dugout would relay the information to the baserunner, leaving the runner with two easy steps: Watch the catcher’s signs and, with body movements, tell the hitter what’s coming.”

The baserunner, either on first or second base in this case, would step off the bag with either his left or right foot to let the hitter at the plate know what type of pitch was coming.

If the opposition managed to change up their signs in the middle of a game, the Red Sox would send a player from the dugout to the video replay room to decipher the new signals. A process that surely did not take all that long, as Boston’s video room is just a few feet away from the dugout entrance.

Rosenthal does note that Major League Baseball began to implement in-game, in-person video security at the start of the 2018 postseason play, and club sources did say that, “this system did not appear to be effective or even viable,” that October, when the Red Sox went on to win the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games.

Despite that though, one Red Sox source did tell The Athletic that the team had video monitors in their “back pocket,” meaning they could still act if they could still turn to the video if they felt inclined to do so.

This news comes nearly two months after Drellich and Rosenthal reported that three major-league managers, including Cora, were a part of the league’s investigation into the Astros stealing signs in 2017.

At that time, Cora served as Houston’s bench coach under AJ Hinch, and the third-year manager did not comment about the ongoing investigation at the Winter Meetings in San Diego last month.

As things stand right now, it seems as though this drama could drag out for quite some time. Stay tuned if more information becomes available in the meantime.