For years, the New York Yankees – Boston Red Sox rivalry has been the fiercest in Major League Baseball.
The Yankees have 27 World Championships, and the Red Sox have nine, including four since 2000 (2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018.)
The Bombers’ last triumph came in 2009.
The Red Sox have been rebuilding since 2019, a year after their last World Series win, as they finished 19 games behind the Yankees.
The 2020 campaign wasn’t much different, as Boston was last in the American League East division 16 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Yankees were second and advanced to the playoffs.
The question remains, though: Which is the best team for the 2021 season, the Yankees or Red Sox?
Yankees Look Like The Best Team In The American League
After months of baffling inactivity, the Yankees went to work in January and, after re-signing star infielder DJ LeMahieu (MLB-leading .364 average, 176 wRC+) proceeded to bring free agent pitcher Corey Kluber, plus fellow starter Jameson Taillon via trade.
They also added a couple of very important bullpen pieces in Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson, and ended up bringing back backup outfielder Brett Gardner.
The Yankees’ lineup is extremely dangerous, featuring stars such as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit, LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, and Gleyber Torres.
https://t.co/KPHxvZqUaT Gardner’s return means the top 16 #Yankees in ’20 PAs return, so the NYY are doubling down that last year they had the right positional group — and since Clint Frazier is now the starter over Gardner it is more the “right” positional group than ever
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) February 22, 2021
The rotation looks good, although not without injury risks: Gerrit Cole, Kluber, Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and Domingo German, plus Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and when he’s ready to return from injury, Luis Severino.
The bullpen was fairly mediocre in 2020, but with Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Zack Britton, Wilson, O’Day, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga, and other upside arms, it looks better in 2021.
All in all, no team in the American League can match the Yankees’ roster talent.
Boston Improved, But Are Still A Tier Below
The Red Sox haven’t been able to retain center fielder Jackie Bradley (.283/.364/.450, 7 home runs, 5 stolen bases in 2020) but they did bring some pieces.
They got talented reliever Adam Ottavino from the Yankees, coincidentally, and re-signed starter Martin Perez.
The #RedSox are picking up the remaining $8 million in Ottavino's contract in the first trade between the #Yankees and #RedSox since 2014.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 25, 2021
They also traded former top prospect Andrew Benintendi in exchange for fellow outfielder Franchy Cordero (.211/.286/.447 in limited action.)
Eduardo Rodriguez should be fully healthy from the start after dealing with a heart issue in 2020, and Chris Sale is expected back at some point around the All-Star break as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
As far as external free agents go, the Red Sox added starter Garrett Richards (4.03 ERA in 51.1 innings in 2020) and utility player Kike Hernandez (.230/.270/.410, 5 homers.)
Both are viewed as serviceable pieces, but far from difference-makers.
The lineup doesn’t quite match the Yankees’ one, but it has some talented pieces in Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Christian Vasquez, Bobby Dalbec, Cordero, and others.
The team offensive output will be greatly improved in the event of a rebound season from slugger JD Martinez, who slumped to a .213 average and .680 OPS (on base percentage plus slugging) last year.
The starting rotation isn’t particularly strong, especially if Sale doesn’t return to his pre-surgery level.
Nathan Eovaldi, Richards, Perez, and Rodriguez should have spots locked up, with an open competition for the fifth and last place in the rotation.
In conclusion, while Boston should, in theory, avoid a last-place finish this time around, they can’t quite compete with the Yankees’ resources and talent in 2021.NEXT: What Happened To Jonathan Papelbon? (Complete Story)