Red Sox Could Soon Overtake Struggling Yankees As AL East Favorites

Jon LesterThings have really been looking up for the inconsistent Boston Red Sox in recent days, at least in terms of how they compare to the New York Yankees.

For one, the Sox beat the Yankees to the punch by resigning shortstop Stephen Drew. You can bet that New York would have been very interested in Drew after June 5 when draft pick compensation was no longer required to sign him.

Shortstop is still the least of the Yankees’ problems, although Derek Jeter’s farewell season has largely been a struggle. Injuries have devastated the New York rotation and have sidelined one of the team’s best hitters. The Yankees remain +220 AL East favorites on baseball odds at Bovada, but aren’t likely to stay atop that list long. The Sox are second at +240.

The Yankees lost starting pitcher Ivan Nova, their projected No. 4 starter, for the season in late April, yet another casualty of the epidemic of Tommy John surgeries that are hitting teams all over baseball this year. Michael Pineda (2-2, 1.83 ERA) had been a huge surprise for the Bombers early in the season. Then he was suspended for using pine tar against the Red Sox (again), only to get hurt while working out during that suspension. He’s not likely to return until mid-June from a Grade 1 muscle strain.

The biggest injury is to New York’s biggest pitcher, CC Sabathia. This week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Sabathia is going to be out until at least July 1 after an injection to repair cartilage damage in his knee. Cashman admitted that timetable might be optimistic. Sabathia has a degenerative condition in his knee, so it’s fair to question if he will ever be the ace he once was. Sabathia is just 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA this season.

Currently the New York rotation is the incomparable Masahiro Tanaka, likely both the AL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young favorite, 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda and three guys who shouldn’t be in there: David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley. Expect New York to be active in trade talks ahead of the July 31 deadline.

The Chicago Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija is one name often mentioned, and he’s very available. The New York farm system is nowhere near as stacked as Boston’s, so Cubs boss Theo Epstein is likely to find a better offer than what the Yankees might give. Perhaps the Red Sox could get involved in the bidding as well.

Meanwhile, the Yankees lineup is also currently missing a key piece in outfielder Carlos Beltran, who has a bone spur in his right elbow that causes sharp pain when he swings. He recently saw Dr. James Andrews, which is never a good thing. Beltran is going to try to play through the injury — he can be activated off the disabled list on May 28 — with help of cortisone injections, but if it’s too painful he will have surgery and miss 2-3 months.

The Yankees have a tough schedule upcoming, with trips to the White Sox and Cardinals, a home series against the A’s, and a 10-game trip that concludes at Oakland, which has the best run differential in baseball. Now is the time for the Sox to take advantage of New York’s issues.

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