Just two years ago, the Red Sox were eliminating the Yankees from the playoffs on their way to a World Series title. This season, the Yankees are on track to get another shot at a championship as they’re the team to beat in the American League. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are the team to get beaten in the AL, as a patchwork pitching staff has left Boston with one of the worst records in baseball.
Even so, there are some interesting storylines surrounding the teams — it seems there always are — and we asked baseball reporters David Schoenfield and Alden Gonzalez to share their insight in advance of Sunday night’s game (7 ET, ESPN).
Alden Gonzalez: It’d be easy to just say the Yankees won 103 games last year despite getting 18 games from Stanton and 102 of 162 from Judge. But it would also be misguided, given that we can’t possibly expect them to once again make up for that loss of production in so many unexpected places. Still — I believe they can win a pennant even if Judge and Stanton are not at the height of their powers, especially in a year when the Houston Astros are so banged up.
Think about it this way: If your favorite team had a lineup that revolved around Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit, would you be happy? What if I told you it came with a rotation fronted by Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka? And a bullpen with Zack Britton, Chad Green and — eventually, one would think — Aroldis Chapman? See what I mean?
David Schoenfield: They do, especially with Urshela hitting well and giving all indications that last season was no fluke. Remember, this team just called up Clint Frazier, who slugged .489 last season, and Miguel Andujar is back at the alternate training site, unable to find any playing time even with Stanton and Judge out. The Yankees obviously need to get Sanchez (.104, 25 strikeouts in 54 plate appearances) and Torres (.161, just two extra-base hits in 65 PAs) going, but their “B” lineup is still stronger than a lot of teams’ “A” lineup.
Still, it’s frustrating to once again see the two big boys injured given how well both had been swinging the bat. But right now it’s also fair to ask: Who is New York’s competition? Charlie Morton is injured and Tyler Glasnow has struggled, so that Tampa Bay rotation — at the moment — doesn’t look so formidable. The Twins? Well, we all know the Twins can’t beat the Yankees in the postseason (they’ve lost 13 consecutive playoff games to the Yankees and 16 in a row overall). The Astros are a mess. The A’s have their own postseason ghosts to exorcise. So, yes, we might as will give that AL pennant to the Yankees (wink, wink).
With the trade deadline already approaching, what is the Yankees’ biggest need and will they be able to fill it?
Gonzalez: I hate to sound shortsighted, but that might depend entirely on what plays out over these next couple of weeks. Do Stanton and Judge get healthy? Does Chapman find his way back? Do starters Jordan Montgomery and James Paxton round into form? The circumstances of this season make it exceedingly difficult to pull off trades for big-name players, both because the expanded postseason will leave a lot of teams in contention by the end of August and because the lack of a minor league season will make it very difficult to evaluate the prospects that are fundamental to pulling off big-time trades.
Schoenfield: Yeah, don’t expect any blockbusters this trade deadline, and while another reliable starting pitcher would always be nice, there aren’t any obvious upgrades out there just yet. Trevor Bauer is the best pending free agent and the Reds aren’t playing well, but they’re also not going to be out of it on Aug. 31. So I don’t envision the Yankees doing much more than adding another bullpen arm. Tommy Kahnle is out with Tommy John surgery and he was a key guy. If they can replace him, that just gives them that much more depth to have a quick hook in the postseason with all starters not named Gerrit Cole.
Who should the Red Sox sell off at the trade deadline? Who will they deal?
Gonzalez: If you have already traded Mookie Betts, then nobody should be untouchable. So, yeah, dangle Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez and see what you get in the way of offers. Maybe the limited trade market prompts someone to blow them away, which might expedite was is clearly the beginning of a rebuild.
I’m sure they’ll try to trade J.D. Martinez, but his looming opt-out and the money left on his deal if he doesn’t opt out make that seemingly unlikely. In the end, they might merely trade a pending free agent such as Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Brandon Workman. It’s hard to justify any substantive changes, for any team, during such an unconventional season.
Schoenfield: Workman and Matt Barnes have value — Workman has been one of the best relievers over 2019 and 2020 and Barnes is a power arm who pitched well in the 2018 World Series run. Bradley and Pillar have value as good defensive outfielders, but the Red Sox might not get much for either one. Given the financial difficulties across the sport this season, teams won’t want to pick up much salary. Sure, Bradley will make a little over $2 million over the final month, which isn’t a whole lot, but is he really a difference-maker? If the Red Sox just want to dump $2 million they can probably trade him, but don’t expect much in return.
I’ll predict Workman, Barnes and Pillar.