Red Sox Rest of Season Outlook

It finally feels like the Red Sox season started last week with the combination of big wins against the Rays and Yankees and the offense firing on all cylinders. There’s no denying that Chris Sale laid another egg with his chance to sweep the Yankees, but let’s not overlook the fact that the Sox dominated the Yanks. In the first 3 games of the weekend series, they outscored them 38-13. The bats came alive, Mookie Betts is starting to round into his MVP form, and they got three very solid pitching performances out of their 3 thru 5 starters, Rick Porcello, Andrew Cashner, and Eduardo Rodriguez.

As we head into yet another huge week of games against the Rays, who are .5 games ahead of Boston in the wild card standings, another 4 game set against the Bronx Bombers, and the trade deadline on Wednesday, this is a crucial stretch in determining where this team will end up at the end of the season.

As we evaluate this team moving forward, I think it’s pretty clear they don’t need to make any additions to the offense. Most people know it’s been a bit of a disappointing year for Mookie and Andrew Benintendi, but it looks like both of their bats are finally waking up. We saw Mookie put on an electric performance last Friday night when he slammed 3 dingers and went 4 for 5. Benintendi has raised his average almost 20 points over the last week or so. If these 2 can stay hot and live up to their expectations, their offense is still as good as any team in the league. Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers are in the midst of career seasons and have carried this offense for the most of this year. JD Martinez continues to rake and his batting average is creeping back up close to .300. Couple all this with the return of Mitch Moreland platooning at 1st and Christian Vazquez in the middle of a career year offensively and their offense will continue to carry this team in the dog days of summer.

The starting rotation while inconsistent at times seems like it’s been moving forward after the trade for Andrew Cashner back on July 13th. Eduardo Rodriguez is tied for the AL lead in wins and looks to have settled in as the 3rd starter. David Price has been mostly consistent this year despite his inability to ignore the media (read up on his ongoing feud with Dennis Eckersley if you want to know more about that). Rick Porcello, while struggling mightily at times with his 5.55 ERA, continues to eat up innings per usual. Andrew Cashner looks like a serviceable 5th starter who can be used out of the bullpen if/when they get to the post-season.

This leaves one guy yet to be mentioned, Chris Sale. If the Red Sox end up missing the post-season, much of the blame should be pointed at Sale. His current record now sits at 5-10 with an ERA of 4.26. If he sat at 10-5 like an ace of his normal caliber, the Sox would be in the running to take another AL East crown. Personally, I still believe Sale can return to his dominant form in time for the playoffs and lead the pitching rotation in September and October. There are still positive signs that he can turn the corner. He’s 2nd in the AL in strikeouts which illustrates that he still has his swing and miss stuff. He’s  also 6th in the league in WHIP. If he can cut back on his HRs, and avoid the blow-up inning he seems to have every few starts, there’s no reason he can’t dominate like the past few seasons… it’s just a little scary to say this with the calendar about to flip to August.

Anybody who’s followed this team throughout the year knows adding an arm or preferably two to the bullpen is probably the key to making another run to a World Series. I look at the bullpen and hardly know who these guys are… and for good reason since they’ve been horrible for much of the season. The only guy I really believe in right now is Brandon Workman, who’s been very reliable with an ERA of 2.08 in 47.2 innings pitched. Other than Workman, it’s been a crapshoot as to what you’re going to see from the rest of the crew. I’m hopeful Matt Barnes is starting to turn a corner, as he hasn’t given up a run in July. They also just got Nathan Eovaldi back from the Injured List and have decided to put him in the bullpen (since the pickings are so slim out there). We all saw Eovaldi’s upside last October, so this move could work well in the long run. He’s been rusty so far in his 3 appearances since he was activated off the IL, throwing 2.2 innings and allowing 5 earned runs. But he hadn’t pitched since April 17th and hadn’t pitched out of the bullpen since last October, so some rust is to be expected.

The Sox still desperately need help in the ‘pen. The name they continue to be linked to is Edwin Diaz. Diaz is only 25 years old and is currently the closer for the Mets. New York traded for him in the offseason. He’s been a major disappointment to date with a 4.95 ERA and a WHIP close to 1.5. With that being said, a change in scenery could be good for Diaz. Last year he led the majors with 57 saves and had an ERA of 1.96. He constantly throws in the high 90’s and has a very effective slider. While he would still cost the Red Sox a top prospect, his down season may allow them to buy low on Edwin compared to last offseason when the Mets traded for him, coming off his 57 save season.

There are plenty of other options out there as well, such as veterans Greg Holland who recently got removed from the closer role with the D’Backs, Ken Giles who’s closed for the Blue Jays this year and has an ERA of 1.54, but hasn’t been in many high leverage situations (as the Jays are one of the worst teams in baseball), and Shane Greene who has been one of the best relievers in baseball to date and earned his first All-Star appearance with the Tigers (the worst team in baseball).

At the beginning of last week, there were some whispers that the Red Sox might be sellers at the trade deadline and take calls on studs Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Or at least look to deal an arm like Rick Porcello to a team who was looking for a veteran starter. Taking 2 of 3 from the Rays, along with the dominating series against the Yankees has helped remind everyone that this team still can return to the World Series and in no way, should the front office consider selling at the trade deadline.

Buckle up Sox fans it’s going to be a wild week/ last 2 months of the season. As old friend Kevin Millar used to say, “Cowboy Up!”


NBA Free Agency Winners and Losers

NBA Free Agency is winding down. It’s been arguably the most entertaining Free Agency period in league history. I figured it’s time to dig into the winner and losers of the last few weeks.


LA Clippers: The biggest winner of free agency, in my opinion, is the LA Clippers. They go from a fringe playoff team to arguably the favorites to win it all next season, with the addition of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. For anyone who wants to give them grief for the haul they gave up to get PG-13, you need to realize this wasn’t a trade just for George. It was the only way they were getting Kawhi. Essentially, they were trading for both players. They now have arguably the 2 top defensive wings in the NBA. Pair them with the re-signed stud defensive point guard Patrick Beverly and the Clippers have a chance to be the best defensive team in the NBA. They didn’t lose the best 6th man in the league (i.e. Lou Williams), or their Most Improved Finalist, Trez Harrell, in the trade for Kawhi. This should be a very scary team next season.

Brooklyn Nets:

Image result for kevin durant kyrie irving

Photo Credit: The Spun

Anytime you land Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the offseason, you have to feel good about yourself. Let me set the record clear now as a Celtics fan. Over the last week I’ve heard a lot of Celtics fans calling sports talk radio saying, “Kyrie will request a trade in 2 years, I’m not afraid of the Nets. Kevin Durant will never be the same player coming off his injury”. These people are what I like to call frauds. Had the Celtics re-signed Kyrie after everything that occurred this past season and he brought KD to Boston, fans would be going crazy with excitement and for good reason. Is there a chance Kyrie’s ego acts up and causes issues? Of course, but he’s still a top 12 player in the league and at 27 years old he still has his best basketball ahead of him. Is there a chance Durant is never 100% of what he once was? Once again, of course but he’s such an amazing shooter that even if he comes back at 90% of what he was, he’s still probably a top 5 player in the NBA. Nets fans should be feeling very good right now

Philadelphia 76ers: This one might surprise people a little considering they lost Jimmy Butler and JJ Reddick, two key players from last season. In my opinion, Reddick was one of the most underrated players in the league last year. Butler was the best player for the 6ers at times in the playoffs last year. With that said, I think the additions of Al Horford (man that burns as a Celtics fan) and Josh Richardson will help the 6ers take a huge leap on the defensive end of the court next season. Most people know how versatile Horford is on both ends of the court. He should be an absolutely phenomenal fit next to Embiid in the front court. JJ Reddick is a much better shooter than Josh Richardson, but Richardson is the better all-around player. For those who haven’t seen Richardson play the last 2 years, he’s looked very good. He’s also a big upgrade over Reddick defensively. He can handle the ball at PG when Simmons is out of the game and can still shoot and score the ball a little. Combine these additions with the re-signing of Tobias Harris (who will be able to take a little more control offensively with Jimmy Butler gone) and I think the 6ers should be the favorites out of the East.

Honorable Mentions: Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz


Toronto Raptors: Pretty easy one here. You lose arguably the best player in the league and are left with no back-up plan, you get put in the losers column. Had Kawhi returned, I don’t think any team in the East had added enough to unseat the Raptors as the favorite. Instead, Kawhi has bolted and you’re now left with a core around an aging Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry, along with up-and coming star Pascal Siakam. The Raptors ceiling at this point is an exit in the second round… and their floor might be getting bounced quickly out of the first round. Had they not just won it all, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see them shopping around Lowry and Gasol to start to re-tool. All in all, I don’t feel that bad for Raptors fans nor fault them for going all in on Kawhi for one year. Clearly their plan worked and I think they made Kawhi’s decision to leave, much more difficult than anyone could have imagined. No one will forget their special season.

Houston Rockets: Image result for chris paul james harden

Photo Credit: Uproxx

Let me preface this by saying that if they can find a way to get Russell Westbrook, then they would be removed from the losers column. That doesn’t mean I would love the move.  We heard chat that the Rockets really wanted Jimmy Butler, and they were also linked to Celtics first team all-defensive guard Marcus Smart in trade rumors. After reports came out that there’s a huge rift between James Harden and Chris Paul (although they’ve denied it) it appeared to become clear that something needed to change with this team. Couple that with the fact that their nemesis the Golden State Warriors lost Kevin Durant and will be without Klay Thompson for much of next year, the Rockets had a chance to mix things up a little and maybe go into next season as favorites in the West. Instead their challenging salary cap situation and inability to get creative with it has pretty much left them with the same team. I think it’s been proven by now that the Mike D’Antoni ISO ball system doesn’t really work come playoff time.

New York Knicks:

Image result for sad knicks fans

Photo Credit: NY Post

Why not save the best for last? Boy oh boy, I have to say there’s actually a part of me that feels bad for Knicks fans. Before the lottery back in May, fans were dreaming about the potential of Zion Williams, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all coming to New York next season. Fast forward a month and a half later and the Knicks went 0-3 in securing these players. Obviously, the lottery was out of their hands and no one can blame them for not getting Zion. Kyrie and KD on the other hand, that’s a tough hit losing them to the other team across town, the Brooklyn Nets, a team with no tradition, history, or superstars. It has to burn big-time for Knicks fans. They’re now left with no kind of back-up plan other than letting their young players Kevin Knox, Mitch Robinson, and RJ Barrett develop. These guys are good young players, but won’t make the Knicks serious title contenders anytime soon. The Free Agency class next year is very weak, so there are no superstars they can try and lure. Even if they attempt to trade a package of their young core for a superstar in the next 6-12 months (should one become available), they won’t be able to pair that guy with anyone. It’s a tough time to be a Knicks fan. On the bright side, at least they didn’t go overspend on second tier FA’s like Tobias Harris, Boogie Cousins, or Nik Vucevic. For now, all the Knicks and their fans can do is stay patient and hope their young guys develop into something special.

Honorable Mentions: Charlotte Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves