It has seemingly become increasingly difficult for a team to retain the World Series, with no team having won two in succession since the Yankees’ hat-trick at the start of the new millennium. In fact, it is now a decade since a champion has made it as far as the World Series – the 2009 Phillies, beaten by the Yankees, came the closest to retaining as champions in the last decade.

However, there are some very good signs that the Red Sox can become that team in the year ahead. Sure, it’s going to be difficult, as it always is, but by and large the Sox have kept the most important elements of the team together. Those problems will come further down the line, and the Red Sox have a whole host of contract headaches to worry about next season, including those of Xander Bogaerts and Chris Sale.

Closer position needs filled

Joe Kelly will be missed, as too will Ian Kinsler, but the Red Sox only really need to get a closer – or two – to replace Craig Kimbrel, who is unlikely to re-sign, and they are set. Of course, fans always want more, but there aren’t many areas of the Red Sox line up that really need an upgrade.

You could argue that the Sox haven’t got an elite catcher, yet the rotation of Blake Swihart, Sandy Leon and Christian Velasquez seemed to work out well last season. Dave Dombrowski might trade one of those in the coming weeks, possibly leaving the door open for Swihart to improve with more game time.

Regardless, we are just talking about tweaks here, small adjustments in the team that might help Boston engine run a little smoother in 2019. Indeed, while this team won 119 games over the course of 2018, there is a sense some of the younger players – Rafael Devers, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jnr and, even, Bogaerts – have even more room for improvement. A frightening prospect surely for some of the Red Sox’ rivals.

AL Pennant incredibly tough

As mentioned though, retaining a World Series is tough and 2019 will be no different. Even getting through to the World Series will be an incredible achievement, such is the strength in the American League. That shows up in the odds for the ALCS winner were bookies are split between the Astros, Yankees and Sox. William Hill, for example, ties the Yankees and Astros as the 3/1 favorites for the AL Pennant, with the Red Sox just a shade lower at 11/4. Incidentally, the Indians are 13/2, but the bookies rate nobody else outside that quartet. The A’s, for example, are next best at 16/1.

The odds are just as tightly packed for the World Series winner, with Unibet tying the trio of the Sox, Yankees and Astros at 6/1. The Dodgers and Cubs represent the best of the National League hopes, coming in at 7/1 and 11/1 respectively. Objectively, it’s a tough pick for any team, so check out these latest free bet offers from top bookmakers to use on the new MLB season.

Still room for growth with Sox

For the Red Sox, however, there should be a decent sense of continuity coming into the new season. Perhaps the likes of J.D Martinez and Mookie Betts are not likely to repeat what was a career season, but last season the Sox held that ability of players picking up the slack for each other time and time again.

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There is certainly a bit of work for Alex Cora to do over the next few months. Despite those 119 wins, the Red Sox weren’t perfect, especially with a stretched bullpen at times. But they were the best team in baseball, not even breaking a sweat at times in the postseason. Many thought the Astros would retain last season, perhaps the Red Sox are a little better placed to do in 2019.


View the original article on Last Word On Baseball: Sox Just Need Tweaks to Retain in 2019