Playoff Baseball Should Return to Boston in No Time
When the Chicago Cubs defeated the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday for their first postseason series win ever at Wrigley Field, it was difficult to not wonder what could’ve been. The Cubs poached Theo Epstein from the Red Sox at the end of the 2011 season, naming him president of baseball operations. It was a time when the Red Sox were in great turmoil, as the supposed “best team ever” skidded to the finish line with a 7-20 record that September, narrowly missing out on the playoffs.
Four years later, the Cubs seem poised for a World Series run while the Red Sox seek to retool after yet another last-place finish. The Cubs have had their share of last-place finishes under Epstein, too, but they were by design. Epstein tore down the Cubs’ foundation, building them into a title contender from the ground up. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have spent more than $670 million over the last four seasons, and all it’s gotten them is a spot in the cellar of the AL East in three of the last four years.
The lone exception, of course, was 2013. The Red Sox experienced a worst-to-first turnaround, and captured their eighth championship in franchise history. But that club, which was largely comprised of holdovers from the Epstein era and veteran free agent signings, didn’t have any staying power.
But this Red Sox team—the one that played at a 90-win pace over their final 48 games—does. Finally, another winning era of Red Sox baseball appears to be on the horizon.
Much like the Cubs, the Red Sox have a plethora of dynamic young players, ranging from Mookie Betts to Blake Swihart. Xander Bogaerts led all shortstops in hitting, and Jackie Bradley Jr. batted .294 with a .980 OPS from August 9 onward. New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has his options open this winter, and if his history is any indication, he probably won’t be afraid to be bold.
A team with a stacked farm system and nearly unlimited financial flexibility can do pretty much anything. Dombrowski said at his press conference Tuesday that acquiring a bonafide No. 1 starter is his primary goal this offseason, outside of praying Hanley Ramirez can play first base.
It’s a plan that mirrors what the Cubs have done over the last couple of years. Epstein hoarded his young bats, and went outside the organization to acquire a frontline starter. The Cubs traded for Jake Arrieta in 2013, and inked old friend Jon Lester to a $155 million deal last winter.
Now, the Cubs lucked out with Arrieta. He was toiling away in Baltimore, and Chicago only surrendered journeyman hurler Scott Feldman to land him. If the Red Sox are going to acquire their next ace on the trade market, they’ll almost certainly have to give up a bit more.
But that’s OK. The Red Sox have prospects to deal and money to spend. The possibilities are endless.
The Cubs promise to be postseason mainstays for at least the next half decade, and the Red Sox aren’t far behind.