Right now, neither we the fans nor the Red Sox players care about awards. For good reason, too. Ask Mookie Betts about his MVP candidacy or Alex Cora about his Manager of the Year chances and both will have the same response. “My concern right now is advancing in October.” Obviously. But, well, the amount of focus we put into the Red Sox’ chances has no effect on those actual chances. There’s only so much we can say to make ourselves crazy before the ALDS actually begins — and we will do plenty of that — but right now, let’s look back and forward a little bit. Of the major MLB awards — Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP — the Red Sox have legitimate candidates in all but one of those categories. Let’s take a look at who could earn some hardware for their 2018’s.
- Xander Bogaerts is not a lock to win this award for shortstops, as there are so many great players at this position in the American League. However, he’s helped by a down year from Carlos Correa as well as the fact that Manny Machado was traded about halfway through the year. Francisco Lindor and Didi Gregorius had great years for their respective clubs, but Bogaerts does hold the lead among non-Machado AL shortstops in wRC+, minimum 400 plate appearances. It’s a close battle between Bogaerts and Lindor, but I think the latter will get this because of a 165-plate appearance edge and the resulting sexier counting stats. I wouldn’t be surprised by either result, though.
- Mookie Betts is a lock for one of the Silver Sluggers. Once upon a time, Andrew Benintendi would have been in competition for one of these at left field, but MLB has changed their format. Now, the award goes to three outfielders rather than going to a left, center and right fielder. There may be an outside chance at Benintendi getting the third outfield selection — Betts and Mike Trout are locks for the first two — but I would bet against it.
- J.D. Martinez is going to win the DH Silver Slugger. There’s really no point in discussing this much because it is obvious. Khris Davis had a great year for Oakland, but nobody was close to JDM.
- Sandy León has gotten more and more ire from the fan base of late, but that is entirely because of his performance at the plate. There is certainly an argument that his defense doesn’t make up for that lack of production on offense, but the defense is great. He doesn’t have the playing time of some of his competitors, but he has the narrative on his side with Red Sox pitchers talking him up all year, and the advanced stats are very pro-León. Ultimately, I think someone with more playing time like Mike Zunino or Yan Gomes will win, but León certainly has a chance.
- Mitch Moreland has a Gold Glove in his past and he’s played good defense this year again. He hasn’t played enough or well enough to get this, though. I felt he was worth mentioning, but I don’t think he has a real chance.
- Ian Kinsler was brought in, first and foremost, to shore up the Red Sox’ defense at second base. They couldn’t have gotten very many better American League second basemen to fill that role. There is some momentum for Brock Holt to play second in the postseason, but it’s worth considerig Kinsler’s defense is just that much better. By DRS — far from the only measure here, but it’s in my opinion the best defensive metric insofar as there are any good ones over a one-year sample — he ranks second to Rougned Odor. Kinsler may be the favorite here.
- The Red Sox could feasibly sweep the outfield Gold Gloves, though I wouldn’t expect it. Mookie Betts, just like with the Silver Slugger, is a lock. He’s always a lock here. Jackie Bradley Jr., meanwhile, has always been elite but he should finally get his first Gold Glove this winter. This 2018 season has had the right combination of narrative and absence from his major competitors (Byron Buxton and Kevin Kiermaier) and at this point I’d be surprised if he didn’t win it this year. Benintendi has some narrative on his side, and I think playing so many games at Fenway hurts his defensive metrics, but he’s probably not going to win. Nor should he, if we’re being honest.
Manager of the Year
- This is a really interesting debate to me, and it’s also one that usually ends up with people trying to act like an authority when they really aren’t. So, I’m not going to argue too strongly on this one, because I think a lot of the importance from this award relies on being around teams and seeing how a manager manages the people. All I can comment on from the outside is the narrative side of things. Generally, this award goes to a manager who leads his team to a much better season than the preseason pundits predicted. That would mean Bob Melvin in Oakland or even Kevin Cash in Tampa Bay this year. Either of those would be fine selections. However, Alex Cora took a team that most predicted to be a wildcard and had them on a historic pace all year. I’d pick him. I’m also super biased.
- David Price has been really good this year, but he hasn’t been Cy Young good. The Red Sox have but one candidate for this award, and it’s Chris Sale. For most of the year, he was the prohibitive favorite, but then he missed most of August and didn’t pitch full games in September. As a result, he finished with just 158 innings on the year, not even qualifying for the ERA title. One would think that would disqualify him — it probably will, functionally speaking — but he still has a solid case. His rate stats are the best of his incredible career, and he’s still second in baseball in fWAR while ranking sixth in bWAR and tenth in WARP. I think I’d vote for Snell, and I wouldn’t argue too hard with someone who’d say they’d vote for Verlander, but Sale is probably a top-three or four candidate which is pretty incredible all things considered.
- The Red Sox have two guys who are going to be part of the MVP conversation, though there’s really only one answer here. That being said, J.D. Martinez deserves his mentioning in these conversations. I certainly wouldn’t vote for him on my theoretical ballot — I may not even have him in my top five — but he’s been amazing. The slugger has been everything the Red Sox could have asked for and more. He’s been a massive part of their lineup and was their most productive hitter at times this year. As many hoped he’d be, Martinez was indeed the missing ingredient. Between that and his well-documented style of studying and swing mechanics that he’s brought to the rest of the lineup, the narrative is certainly on his side. The fact that he doesn’t play defense much, and when he does it’s not good, ultimately hurts him here, but his season has been wonderful even if he’s not a top-tier MVP candidate.
- Mookie Betts, on the other hand, should be a lock for the MVP this year. It’s really hard to articulate just how great Betts has been this season. He’s been the second-best hitter in baseball behind Mike Trout (by wRC+), and he’s done it while playing some of the best defense in all of baseball and also providing elite value on the bases. This was one of the best overall seasons in recent baseball history, and if he doesn’t win this year it will be an even bigger travesty than Jacoby Ellsbury not winning in 2011.
So, by my count, the Red Sox should definitely have, at the very least, the MVP, two Gold Glovers and two Silver Sluggers. Beyond that, they have a good chance at the Manager of the Year, two more Gold Glovers and one more Silver Slugger while also having an outside chance at a Cy Young winner. Pretty good year.