What will happen for the Red Sox in the coming year?
Considering what happened to the team in 2020, even in a pandemic-shortened season that produced a lot of silly results, it was very, very difficult for anyone to have predicted what would happen for the Boston Red Sox in 2021. If nothing else, the season once again reminded us that things are often not as they seem, and predicting baseball is a fool’s errand. The thing about me, though, is that I am a fool. And as a fool, I am going to try and make one prediction for each month in the coming calendar year. If I’m wrong, you get your money back.
David Ortiz is elected to the Hall of Fame
Considering that whole lockout which has ground baseball to a halt this month and that doesn’t appear to be on the verge of ending within the next week or two, it’s probably a safe bet that any January prediction shouldn’t have anything to do with current players. Fortunately, it’s starting to look like the lone Hall of Fame inductee this year could be David Ortiz, which makes for a convenient prediction here. This is all based on early ballots from Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame tracker, and there are still enough ballots not yet revealed that it’s hard to say with any certainty how the voting will go. That said, it seems Ortiz is getting enough support to have a decent chance of making it to Cooperstown on his first ballot. I’m feeling confident enough to make that the first of our 2022 predictions.
Red Sox sign Seiya Suzuki
No, it does not appear the players and league are at all close to agreeing to a new CBA at this point, but I am going to choose to take an optimistic tact. I am hoping that two sides feel the heat as we get into February and a delay to the start of the season, or perhaps even missed games altogether start to creep in. I’m going to say that the two sides strike a deal at some point in February, and shortly after the lockout ends the Red Sox make their splash in signing Seiya Suzuki. We’ve discussed his free agency already and he makes sense for so many reasons for this team. Let’s speak it into existence.
Xander Bogaerts signs an extension
I’m not going to go so far as to predict the terms, but while so much of our focus (mine included!) is on extending Rafael Devers, I think a new deal for Bogaerts will be what we get before this season begins. The star shortstop may not be at that position for too much longer, which is a consideration of the front office, but an extension should still be on the table. For one thing, he is the face of this franchise, winning a pair of World Series and playing a big role on and off the field for this team for a decade now. Additionally, on the field his bat plays even if he moves down the defensive spectrum. He’s the kind of player and person you want to keep in your organization for his entire career, and I think the team will recognize that and get a new deal done before Bogaerts can opt out at the end of the coming season.
Nathan Eovaldi starts on Opening Day
A two-fold prediction to be made here, one of which is pretty dumb and the other probably isn’t very bold. Opening Day this year is set for March 31, and for some reason it is at Fenway. I realize teams want to have Opening Day at home from time to time, but having a baseball game in Boston in the month of March seems ill-advised. I think it will be pushed back to April due to weather, and that Eovaldi will get that start. The latter probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, but for a roster that includes Chris Sale, perhaps it’s not a foregone conclusion.
Garrett Whitlock makes his first start, and stays in the rotation the rest of the season
As things stand right now, it’s still unclear as to what the team is planning on doing with Whitlock this season. Last season, he was electric in the bullpen, and the team undoubtedly needs help in the late innings. That said, the young righty has the repertoire and stuff to succeed as a starter, and long-term that is the more valuable role. I think he’ll need to wait for either injury or underperformance (or a combination of the two) to get that first chance to start, but once it comes — at some point in May per this prediction — I don’t think the Red Sox will find a reason to take him out of that role, regardless of health of other pitchers on the roster.
Matt Barnes leads the league in saves
With the draft moving out of June and into July, this was the most difficult prediction I had making, so I went bold. We talked about Barnes recently and noted how often he pitches well to start the season only to fall off as the second half comes around and the mileage on his arm builds up. I’m not sure the front office is going to do enough this winter to build around him in the bullpen, so I do think he will be the closer to start the year. I also think the Red Sox will win a good number of games, and due to a shaky bullpen and an offense-first roster in general, a lot of them will be close. Now, does this mean I think Barnes will put it together for the whole season? Probably not, no. But I think he’ll be the man in the bullpen in the first half yet again.
The Red Sox trade for Sean Murphy
The Oakland Athletics, whenever transactions start up again, are expected to be among the biggest sellers in baseball this winter, and I don’t expect that to end when the season starts. In a division with the upstart Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, and the perpetually disappointing but still talented Los Angeles Angels, I think the A’s are going to end up going for a big rebuild. Meanwhile, the question marks for Christian Vázquez’s offense are real, and my prediction is that he is not good enough to start for a contender by the midpoint of the season. I don’t think the Red Sox will feel good enough about their complementary talent at the position, so they’ll swing a big deal for Murphy to shore up the weakest spot in their lineup.
Triston Casas makes his debut
This one is pretty straight forward. Casas should start the coming season at Triple-A Worcester, putting him right on the doorstep of the majors. If Bobby Dalbec hadn’t lit the world on fire for much of the second half, I think the potential for an early Casas call-up would be there. But Dalbec did light the world on fire, so I think Casas will take the more traditional path. For the Red Sox, recent history has shown that they like to get their best prospects up in August. Now Casas doesn’t fit that mold entirely as some other recent top prospects began their debut year at Double-A, but I’m still going to say Dalbec gets enough run early that they stick with their traditional timeline.
Red Sox get one of three wildcard berths
Another double dipper on the prediction front. I think there will be an expansion of the postseason field in the new CBA, with an extra wildcard spot giving each league six teams in the postseason, with the top two getting a first-round bye and the wildcard rounds being a best-of-three played over a three-game span, all at the higher seed’s park. My way-to-early Red Sox prediction is that they lose out the division to the Toronto Blue Jays, but still win 91 games and make it into the postseason.
Red Sox lose in the Division Series
Pretty self-explanatory, I think. I don’t think the Red Sox are going to enter the season as the best team in baseball, but I can see them as a top five-to-10 team. That puts them in the Division Series range.
Red Sox sign Aaron Judge
Here’s my spicy prediction that almost certainly will not happen, but it’s fun to think about and there is a legitimate path to it happening. Judge, the best player on the New York Yankees, is a free agent at the end of the season. The Yankees have a lot of money tied up, and they will decide to let him go. For one, that will put the Red Sox in a spot to take a huge talent from their biggest rival while also shoring up their offense. Enrique Hernández will either walk in free agency or remain on the team to play second base, with Suzuki moving to center and Judge playing right.
Rafael Devers signs an extension
You didn’t think I was going to get through the whole year without having this happen, did you?