Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Boston Red Sox have catapulted themselves into the driver’s seat of the American League Wild Card race. Coming into play on Friday, the Red Sox are riding a seven-game win streak and lead the Yankees by two games for the first Wild Card spot. The Yankees come into Boston after sweeping the Rangers, looking to play catch up to the Red Sox. While this is undoubtedly the most important series of the season, there are other storylines that hover over the Red Sox roster as they push towards the postseason.
Red Sox Roster Acquisitions
For all of the criticism that Chaim Bloom received after the trade deadline, his in-season additions have made all the difference down the stretch. For starters, Kyle Schwarber has been incredible despite cooling off after his scorching start. Since being activated by the Red Sox, Schwarber is batting .297 with a .971 OPS and six home runs. He has shown the ability to get on base consistently while also playing serviceable defense in LF and 1B.
While not the splash that Schwarber was, Bloom also added two former Sox players for depth while the team was in the midst of a COVID outbreak. Even though these transactions were thought of as minor at the time, Travis Shaw and José Iglesias have turned into contributors in the final months of the regular season. Shaw, in limited playing time, has provided a spark off the bench, coming up with big hit after big hit. In his 21 games in Boston, he has three home runs and a .908 OPS and a 138 wRC+.
Iglesias is now a regular in the Sox lineup less than three weeks after being released by the fourth-place Angels. In 14 games, he has hit for a 1.074 OPS and 189 wRC+ while making key plays up the middle. Bloom also made two bullpen additions, Austin Davis and Hansel Robles. Those two have combined for a 0.00 ERA in 14 combined appearances in September after struggling in August.
You also can’t talk about post-deadline performances without discussing Bobby Dalbec. Much of the post-deadline discourse revolved around the lack of a move for a first baseman, especially after the Yankees traded for Anthony Rizzo. We can let the numbers speak for themselves in comparing those two:
Questions in the Infield
In large part to these key contributors, the Red Sox find themselves in a good spot heading into the postseason. However, the Red Sox roster still has plenty of questions before a potential one-game Wild Card and potential playoff series. For one, the aforementioned Iglesias will be ineligible for the postseason because he was acquired in September. While his play has propelled the Sox into the position they’re in today, his services will be unavailable in October. This in itself raises some questions as we head into the home stretch.
Should Alex Cora ride Iglesias’ hot bat or start to work in Christian Arroyo, who has shown he is the starting second baseman when healthy? While benching Iglesias may seem like a crazy idea, it’s imperative for Arroyo to get major league at-bats before October. If Arroyo can return to how he played in June and July, the Red Sox will be in good shape. However, that is a big “if” because Arroyo hasn’t shown the ability to stay on the field, only playing in 54 out of the teams 153 games this season.
Another big question that Alex Cora will be forced to address will be the outfield positions. The batting splits of JD Martinez have shown that he is more valuable when he is kept off the field. With Dalbec’s performance solidifying his postseason spot and keeping Schwarber off of first base, that leaves an outfield rotation of Schwarber, Hunter Renfroe, Kiké Hernández, and Alex Verdugo.
Renfore’s career season has guaranteed him a spot in right field for the postseason. The Red Sox cannot afford to keep Schwarber’s bat on the bench, so that would slot him into left field. That leaves Hernández and Verdugo battling for that centerfield position. Even though Verdugo has been one of the hottest hitters on the team in recent weeks, his shaky centerfield defense leaves a lot to be desired in an already rough defensive lineup. Hernández’ consistency at the top of the lineup and in the field makes him a lock to crack the lineup.
This does not mean that there will be no spot for Alex Verdugo in the postseason. As mentioned earlier, Christian Arroyo’s health could become a factor, forcing Hernández to second base and Verdugo into the lineup. Verdugo would also likely be used as a defensive replacement for Schwarber in late innings. Alex Cora also hasn’t been shy to use a pinch-hitter in key spots, another role that Verdugo can contribute in.
This has certainly been an up-and-down season, though they seem to be putting it together at the right time. But as we get closer to the postseason, Alex Cora and Chaim Bloom certainly have some decisions to make as they create this Red Sox roster for the postseason and hopefully a run for a 10th World Series title.
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Photo: (Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
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