CBS Sports Ranks Red Sox Number 1 in MLB Power Rankings

One of the main reasons I was able to look past the Red Sox having to pay the luxury tax is the organization’s executives seemed to think last season was worth the cost and remained committed to largely keeping the team together. It appears as though baseball pundits agree with those tactics as Matt Synder over at CBS Sports put the Red Sox on top of his MLB power rankings list for the 2019 season.

Now there were some caveats that went along with the list, mainly that there are still big name free agents out there (like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado) who could change things around depending on where they sign. This is significant since the Yankees and Dodgers are ranked number two and three on the list respectively and both are heavily rumored to be in the mix for Harper and Machado.

Furthermore, you can’t ignore Boston’s bullpen situation. They definitely have to replace Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel could potentially be leaving as well — though there’s discussion about how this might result in Kimbrel signing with Boston late in the offseason after he’s forced to realize his contract demands are too high (kinda like J.D. Martinez last season). With that in mind, Synder wrote that if the Red Sox “don’t add anything to the bullpen, they probably don’t stay here to start next season.”

After the Yankees and Dodgers, the top 10 on the list is rounded out by the Astros, Cubs, Indians, Braves, Nationals, Cardinals, and Rays. It’s worth noting that this means three teams from the AL East (Red Sox, Yankees, Rays) are in the top 10 and could make the pennant race there very interesting. Synder also left the Brewers and Rockies out of the top 10, which means he thinks they’ll fall short of their 2018 playoff runs next year.

Of course, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt as power rankings lists are fun to watch and take a lot of information into account but are no substitute for how the season actually plays out. Just ask any Washington fan, for instance, as prominent pundits have projected the Nationals as World Series champs several times but they’ve yet to make it out of the first round (when they even make it to the playoffs). Even considering that, I still prefer seeing Boston at the top of the list instead of the bottom.

Joe Kelly Signs With LA Dodgers

Joe Kelly will forever be in the hearts of Red Sox fans as he struck out the side in the eighth inning during the World Series clincher this year. He’s also gained some lighthearted attention for his national anthem standoff with Scott Van Slyke of the Dodgers when he was with the Cardinals. But he’s no longer going to be in Boston as he’s signed a three year contract with the Dodgers worth $25 million.

When Kelly first came to the Red Sox back in 2014 he was used as a starter, but transitioned over to the bullpen starting in 2017. Since that move, he’s been able to use a knuckle curve and low spin rate fastball to keep batters on their toes and limiting homeruns by having a lot of folks only hit grounders.

While he’s produced decent numbers during the regular season (he had a .5 WAR with 68 strikeouts over 65.2 innings and a 1.355 WHIP in 2018), it’s the postseason that likely allowed him to get a large contract. He only gave up two runs during the 2018 championship run (both in the ALCS and only one was earned) and eight hits in 11.1 innings. He also struck out 13 of the 44 batters he faced during the postseason, with 10 of those strikeouts coming during the World Series.

There are plenty of reasons why players decide to sign with a new team, especially after their current one just won the World Series. It appears as though length of contract was a big one for Kelly as he’s said the Dodgers were the only team to offer him a three year deal and that’s where he ended up going. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that his offseason home is 45 minutes away from Dodgers Stadium and the move would put him with another historic organization that’s a World Series contender.

It’s never fun for fans to see someone like Kelly leave the organization — especially after role he played in the playoffs — but most folks understand his decision to leave and wish him well. The obvious result of Kelly’s departure, however, is that Boston will need to find someone to replace him — something that could become even more complicated if Craig Kimbrel ends up leaving town.

Adam Ottavino spent last year with the Colorado Rockies and is one potential pickup for Boston. He’s produced decent numbers and definitely has a lot of confidence as he recently said he “would strike Babe Ruth out every time.” The quote was given in the middle of a discussion about how Ottavino thinks the game’s changed over the years and Ruth might not do as well in general, but it still says a lot about his confidence.

David Robertson is another potential relief pitcher the Red Sox could go after. He spent last year with the New York Yankees and had 91 strike outs over 69.2 innings while holding batters to a .183 average and a 1.033 WHIP. Plus, he could potentially come at a bargain price as he’s serving as his own agent.

There are a few other names out there to consider, but the clear message is Kelly’s departure isn’t devastating for Boston’s chances in 2019. They’ll simply have to act decisively and make sure to secure someone who can produce.