Boston returns to postseason featuring rotation made up entirely of trade acquisitions
By Mike Rosenbaum
MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.
The Boston Red Sox are heading back to the postseason after winning their second American League East title in as many years. This time, however, the club is hoping for a bit more longevity in October compared to 2016, when the Red Sox were swept by the Indians in the Division Series.
The Sox moved into first place atop the East on Aug. 1 and never relinquished their lead in spite of an inconsistent second half. They finished with a 93-69 overall record, two games of the Wild Card-winning New York Yankees.
Pitching helped the Red Sox compensate for an underwhelming offense that finished 26th and 27th in slugging percentage and home runs, respectively. Led by offseason acquisition and Cy Young candidate Chris Sale, Boston's hurlers combined for a 3.70 ERA in 2017, the second-best mark in the American League behind Cleveland. They also finished third in the circuit in strikeouts and issued the second-fewest walks.
Anchored by closer Craig Kimbrel, Boston's dynamic bullpen played a major role in the staff's success by ranking second among AL clubs in ERA and third in WHIP and batting average against. With Boston seeking to win its first World Series since 2013, here's a look at how each player on the Red Sox's Division Series roster was initially acquired during his current stint with the club:
The Red Sox feature nine homegrown players on their projected ALDS roster, roughly the average for all eight postseason teams. Injuries limited Pedroia's playing time and sapped him of some power at the plate in 2017, but the 34-year-old second baseman still hit for average while reaching base at a high clip. Bogaerts also regressed some offensively, albeit while playing in at least 145 games at shortstop for the third time in as many years.
Vazquez, on the other hand, made strides at the plate, setting personal bests in most offensive categories while throwing out over 40 percent of attempted basestealers and appearing in a career-high number of games behind the plate.
The club's 2011 Draft continues to pay huge dividends in the form of Barnes, Bradley Jr. and Betts, who together combined for 9.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2017. Betts (6.4 WAR) accounted for more than half of their total, slashing .264/.344/.459 with 24 homers and 26 steals, while Bradley followed up his breakthrough 2016 campaign by registering a 2.8 WAR. What's more, both players ranked among the best defenders at their respective outfield positions.
Barnes, the No. 19 overall pick in 2011, has proved to be a valuable bullpen piece in the last two years, pacing Red Sox relievers with 21 holds this season after finishing tied for second a year ago. Workman, 29, returned to the Major Leagues this season for the first time since 2014, before his career was temporarily derailed by Tommy John surgery.
Benintendi, after bursting onto the scene late in 2016 en route to a standout performance in the ALDS, was as good as advertised in his rookie campaign. At age 23, he finished second on the club in OPS, stolen bases and RBIs, third in runs scored and hits and fourth in home runs, among qualifying players on the Red Sox.
Following a path similar to Benintendi's last year (and Bogaerts back in 2013), Devers raced through the Minors to make an earlier-than-expected big league debut in late July. The 20-year-old third baseman made an immediate impact with his bat, highlighted by a dramatic game-tying home run in the Bronx against Aroldis Chapman, and was anything but overmatched against the older competition, evidenced by his .284 average and 10 home runs in fewer than 60 games played.
The Red Sox's projected playoff rotation is comprised entirely of acquired starting pitchers in Sale, Porcello and Pomeranz. Sale, acquired from the White Sox in December for a prospect package including Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, made history in his first Red Sox campaign as he became the first American League pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1999 to record at least 300 strikeouts in a season. The left-hander finished as MLB's leader in strikeouts (308) and innings pitched (214 1/3) while also ranking fourth in WHIP (0.97) and fifth in opponents' average. He struck out at least 10 batters in 18 of his 32 starts.
One year removed from winning the AL Cy Young, Porcello logged over 200 innings but scuffled with an 11-17 record and a 4.65 ERA. Pomeranz fared better with a 17-6 record and a 3.32 ERA, and fellow lefty Rodriguez had enough flashes of excellence during the regular season to secure a spot in Boston's postseason bullpen.
That bullpen is headlined by Kimbrel, who racked up 35 saves in 39 chances while posting a 1.43 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP over 69 innings in his second season as Boston's closer. He topped all qualified AL relievers with 126 strikeouts and led the Majors with 16.43 strikeouts-per-nine. Meanwhile, Kelly excelled in his first campaign as a full-time reliever.
The 2017 non-waiver Trade Deadline saw the Red Sox add a quality late-inning arm in Reed, acquiring him from the Mets in exchange for a trio of Minor League right-handers. The club also dealt pitching prospects to land Nunez from the Giants, and then added more positional depth in August with the acquisition of Davis from Oakland ahead of the waiver deadline.
Ramirez's production dropped off in the third year of his four-year, $88 million pact, with the 33-year-old recording the lion's share of his at-bats as Boston's designated hitter. He still managed to swat 23 home runs on the season, but mustered just a .219 average and a .694 OPS in the second half. Moreland, on a one-year, $5.5 million deal, connected on 22 homers and 34 doubles as the Red Sox's primary first baseman.
Price is set to appear in his fifth straight postseason despite missing much of the regular season with left elbow problems. Signed to a seven-year, $217 million contract in December 2015 -- the most money ever guaranteed to a pitcher at the time -- Price logged 35 starts in the first year of his deal but made just 11 turns in '17. The 32-year-old southpaw was shifted to the bullpen down the stretch, after returning from the disabled list, and it's as a reliever that Price has the greatest impact potential in the postseason.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.