With rumors that the Yankees want to bring in Gerrit Cole, this could throw a wrench in the Red Sox 2020 plans and force their hand to start a rebuild.
With a report from Jeff Passan of ESPN that Gerrit Cole is the Yankees number one priority, it could transform them into an unstoppable force in 2020. With a dominant bullpen and carrying over a powerful lineup for 2020, the Yankees could fill the one hole on their team with the addition of Cole. The Red Sox may have no chance to win the World Series in 2020.
At the end of the day, the priority of the Red Sox should be winning another World Series, not winning the Wild Card only to be eliminated in the ALDS. Is it possible for the Red Sox to make the World Series if the Yankees upgrade their starting rotation? To put it simply, no.
The Yankees posted 103 wins in 2019 with nearly every player landing on the Injured List. If they can remain the slightest bit healthy in 2020 they will have a record similar to the 2018 Red Sox. However, they aren’t off to a good start as their center fielder Aaron Hicks will miss the entirety of the 2020 season.
Despite that, I am skeptical the Red Sox can post a win total anywhere near that amount. While the Yankees rotation is often thought of as atrocious, it could be MUCH better than the Red Sox rotation in 2020. Hypothetically, if they sign Cole, the Yankees have a three-headed monster in their rotation – Cole, Luis Severino, and James Paxton. Masahiro Tanaka as a fourth starter is also nothing to scoff at.
The Red Sox have lots of question marks in their rotation – Chris Sale may never pitch like an ace again, David Price‘s best years are half a decade back, Nathan Eovaldi‘s injury history is well-known, and Eduardo Rodriguez may not be able to replicate his 2019.
In 2018 when the Red Sox and Yankees went head-to-head in the postseason, Boston’s main advantage was that they had the much superior starting rotation. If the two clubs were to meet in 2020, the Red Sox may not have as much of an edge as they did in 2018.
The Yankees would have Paxton and Cole while Boston’s only starting rotation alteration would be SUBTRACTING Rick Porcello (although, based on 2019 that might be a good thing). The Yankees still have a definitively better bullpen and the offense is pretty equal on both sides.
So, if the Yankees were to spend more than $200 million and acquire Cole, it doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox to try and make a return to the postseason. In 2019, I think that the Red Sox were the sixth-best team in the American League. They would have lost to the Astros, Yankees, Rays, Twins, and Athletics.
With a healthy starting rotation, the Red Sox are probably the third or fourth-best team in the American League. I think the Rays or Twins will fall off, but one will remain better than Boston, while the Astros and Yankees will still be able to dominate. So if the Red Sox only have a slight chance at winning the World Series in 2020 if the Yankees sign Cole, then what should they do? The answer is to reload for 2021.
As it currently stands, there are two dominant teams in the American League in Houston and New York. Both are set to take severe hits after the 2020 season. The Yanks are going to be losing Paxton, Tanaka, J.A. Happ (he does have a vesting option for 2021), and D.J. Lemahieu to free agency.
Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will get substantial pay raises as they will be entering their second years of arbitration. If they both put up solid seasons, they should make close to $20 million as Judge will make about $6.4 million in 2020 and Sanchez will make about $5.6 million in 2020, both per MLB Trade Rumors.
Notable Astros players entering free agency after 2020 are George Springer, Yuli Gurriel, and Michael Brantley. Also, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Carlos Correa, and Roberto Osuna will all be entering their final seasons after the 2020 season. That is a huge part of the Astros team that will be lost in just two free-agent classes.
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For both the Yankees and Astros, it is very unlikely either will be able to keep their teams together after the 2020 season, especially if the Yankees sign Cole to a long-term contract. Therefore, if the Red Sox sacrifice the 2020 season and come back strong in 2021, they could be successful. With both teams set to be significantly weaker, the Red Sox could make a World Series push then.
The Yankees offseason will have a great impact on the Red Sox in the upcoming 2020 season. If Chaim Bloom realizes he can’t put out the best team in baseball, then he may pull the plug and come back in one or two years.
A trade that would reflect this kind of thinking would be trading Mookie and a starter (Sale, Price, or Eovaldi) in a package deal. After failing in 2020, the Red Sox could re-sign Betts in the following offseason as they would then be free of a bad contract and would have to deal with a weaker version of the Yankees and Astros.
Overall, the Red Sox are in an interesting position this offseason. If the Yankees can bring in a top-shelf starting pitcher such as Cole, the Red Sox will have a tough time beating them in 2020. The most effective strategy could be to re-tool the team and prepare to duel for the World Series in the 2021 season.