Examine Boston Red Sox's MLB futures odds after a very busy offseason keeping in mind that they may pull off an amazing feat in 2015: going from worst to first then back to worst & first again over a 4-yr span.
It's An Odd-Numbered Year, So ...
Everything seemed to go right for the 2013 Red Sox. After a terrible 69-93 season in 2012 under first-year manager Bobby Valentine, the Sox dumped Bobby V, "traded" for Manager John Farrell and added some key free-agent pieces for '13. It resulted in 97 wins, the team's first AL East title since 2007 as well as the Sox's first World Series crown since that '07 team.
Pretty much everyone expected a return to contention in 2014. After all, the only major loss was outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who took the rival Yankees' millions of dollars. But while the Sox didn't lose a ton off the world champions, GM Ben Cherington didn't add anyone of note, either. Instead, Boston went into the season hoping its veterans would continue to produce and stay healthy and that a handful of young kinds would produce.
It failed miserably.
The Sox had one of the worst defenses of a World Series title in baseball history in losing 91 games and dropping back into the American League East basement. David Ortiz had a big season, hitting 35 homers and knocking in 104. But injuries plagued second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and he hit only .278. Shane Victorino barely played due to injury. Touted prospects like shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. were disappointments. In the pitching staff, Jon Lester was excellent, but he was dealt at midseason to Oakland. John Lackey was quite good, but he was traded to St. Louis. Jake Peavy was terrible before being dealt to San Francisco. Clay Buchholz had a 5.34 ERA.
So instead of sitting on his hands and hoping for the best again for 2015, Cherington was a busy man this offseason.
Offense Better, but Pitching?
The Sox signed the two top free-agent position players in former Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez and Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval. "Kung Fu Panda" will stay at the hot corner while Ramirez will attempt to play left field for the first time in his career. Cherington couldn't lure Lester back as a free agent, so with a glut of outfielders Cherington dealt Yoenis Cespedes, who came over in the Lester trade, to Detroit for starting pitcher Rick Porcello. He also traded for Arizona pitcher Wade Miley and signed free-agent starter Justin Masterson. So only Buchholz remains from last year's Opening Day rotation.
Boston also made a major move this week, but one that likely won't pay dividends on the big-league level until at least 2016. The Sox won the bidding for prized 19-year-old Cuban Yoan Moncada, who might have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft had he been eligible. Baseball America already has listed him as the No. 10 overall prospect in the game. The Sox's financial commitment just to win the rights for Moncada is about $63 million. That's $31.5 million as a signing bonus and then a 100 percent penalty on that bonus for exceeding the team's allotment of international bonus money. Remember, too, that Boston signed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo last August to a $72.5 million deal. He's expected to start in center field. Castillo hit .333 with two homers and six RBIs in 36 at-bats with the big club last year.
Red Sox Futures Odds
Boston is the +200 favorite at sportsbooks to win the AL East, with Toronto close behind at +260. It obviously helps the Sox's cause (and Jays') that the Orioles and Rays appear to have taken steps back, while the Yankees are treading water and have the Alex Rodriguez distraction. The Sox have a wins total of 86, with both options at -115 on MLB odds. They are +800 to win the pennant and +1400 to win the World Series.
MLB Free Picks
Ramirez and Sandoval alone make the lineup much better. Presumably a full season of Castillo would too, but he's still an unknown. I don't see the Sox finishing 18th in runs again. The pitching staff is concerning as there is no true ace. Buchholz seems to alternate good years with bad (and injury-plagued) ones so maybe he'll bounce back. Porcello (15-13, 3.43) comes off his best season. As for Joe Kelly, Miley and Masterson to round out the rotation? Who knows. I don't think the Sox are overvalued to take a very winnable division (but lean Toronto for now). I would go 'over' the wins for this MLB pick. Boston isn't good enough to win the pennant right now, but one advantage of taking those odds now is they will get much shorter if the team trades for Philadelphia ace Cole Hamels.