The Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals will square off for just one series during the 2014 regular season, meeting up for three games in St. Louis from Aug. 5-7, but they will get a chance to meet on Wednesday in Grapefruit League action.
Spring training results obviously don't mean much, but this will be our first chance to see a matchup of last year's World Series teams. That begs the question, could we be headed for a World Series rematch in 2014?
The last time there was a World Series rematch was when the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees met up in 1977 and 1978, with the Yankees coming out on top both times.
In these days of free agency and consistent roster turnover, sustained success becomes harder and harder, but there is at least an outside chance that we could be in for a World Series rematch in 2014.
As of March 5, Vegas Insider had the Cardinals at 9/1 to win it all and the reigning champion Red Sox at 15/1, with the Los Angeles Dodgers the early favorites at 11/2.
So let's take a closer look at both teams and the competition they're stacked up against in their respective leagues to see just how realistic a World Series rematch looks.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals led the National League with 97 wins last season, and after knocking out the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games in the NLDS, they won their fourth NL pennant in the past 10 years.
There were not many holes on the Cardinals' roster entering the offseason, with the biggest being a lack of offensive production at the shortstop position. That was quickly solved by the signing of Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million deal before Thanksgiving even rolled around.
The team also dealt third baseman David Freese to the Los Angeles Angels for speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos, and signed veteran Mark Ellis to a one-year deal to provide some depth in the infield.
With that, here is a look at how the Cardinals' Opening Day roster could look:
|Projected St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day Roster|
|STARTING LINEUP||STARTING ROTATION|
|3B Matt Carpenter||RHP Adam Wainwright|
|CF Peter Bourjos||RHP Shelby Miller|
|LF Matt Holliday||RHP Michael Wacha|
|RF Allen Craig||RHP Lance Lynn|
|1B Matt Adams||RHP Joe Kelly|
|C Yadier Molina||BULLPEN|
|SS Jhonny Peralta||RHP Angel Castro|
|2B Kolten Wong||RHP Pat Neshek|
|BENCH||LHP Randy Choate|
|C Tony Cruz||RHP Seth Maness|
|2B Mark Ellis||LHP Kevin Siegrist|
|IF Daniel Descalso||RHP Carlos Martinez|
|OF Jon Jay||RHP Trevor Rosenthal|
|OF Shane Robinson|
The team ranked first in the NL and third in MLB with 783 runs scored last season, and their .330 batting average with runners in scoring position was a full 48 points higher than any other team.
That lineup should be among the best in the league once again, and the loss of Carlos Beltran should be more than offset by Matt Adams and Kolten Wong moving into the starting lineup, as well as the impending arrival of top prospect Oscar Taveras.
On the pitching side of things, Adam Wainwright gives the team a bona fide staff ace, and the rotation should only be better with another year of experience from Shelby Miller and a full season of Michael Wacha.
The bullpen is also loaded with talented young arms, and there is plenty of depth should injury strike both in the rotation and bullpen.
Top to bottom, the Cardinals have as complete a roster as any in baseball, and they drew the top spot in my latest preseason power rankings at the start of spring training.
The Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants all enter the season with legitimate postseason aspirations, but the Cardinals' biggest competition looks as though it will be the Los Angeles Dodgers, once again.
It was not nearly as busy an offseason for the Dodgers this time around, but their roster is still loaded, and full seasons from Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig should make their lineup that much better.
The performance of veterans Dan Haren and Paul Maholm at the back of the rotation, the play of rookie second baseman Alex Guerrero and the health of Matt Kemp are all potential question marks for the team, but they should be a tough draw once again, regardless.
Boston Red Sox
Just a year removed from a disastrous 93-loss season, the Boston Red Sox managed to do a complete 180 in 2013, as they paced the American League with 97 wins and closed things out with their third World Series title in the past 10 years.
The team parted ways with Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in free agency, and last year's starting shortstop Stephen Drew remains on the free-agent market as well. Veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster will also miss the 2014 season as he tries to get healthy.
It wasn't all losses this winter, though, as the team signed A.J. Pierzynski to replace Saltalamacchia behind the plate, bolstered their bullpen with the additions of Edward Mujica and Burke Badenhop and added some rotational depth by signing Chris Capuano.
The projected Opening Day roster shakes out as follows:
|Projected Boston Red Sox Opening Day Roster|
|STARTING LINEUP||STARTING ROTATION|
|RF Shane Victorino||LHP Jon Lester|
|LF Daniel Nava||RHP John Lackey|
|2B Dustin Pedroia||RHP Clay Buchholz|
|DH David Ortiz||RHP Jake Peavy|
|1B Mike Napoli||LHP Felix Doubront|
|SS Xander Bogaerts||BULLPEN|
|C A.J. Pierzynski||LHP Chris Capuano|
|3B Will Middlebrooks||RHP Burke Badenhop|
|CF Jackie Bradley||LHP Andrew Miller|
|BENCH||LHP Craig Breslow|
|C David Ross||RHP Junichi Tazawa|
|1B/OF Mike Carp||RHP Edward Mujica|
|IF Jonathan Herrera||RHP Koji Uehara|
|OF Jonny Gomes|
What was the highest-scoring offense in baseball last season will turn over two key spots in shortstop and center field to a pair of rookies in Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., respectively.
That may be viewed as a weakness by some, but Bogaerts has the tools to make a huge impact as a rookie, and should Bradley falter the team did take a flier on Grady Sizemore and, if nothing else, they could shift around the alignment and slot Jonny Gomes in the starting lineup.
On the mound, the rotation is solid top to bottom provided they are able to stay healthy, which could be an issue given some of the guys' ages and injury histories. That said, they are loaded with rotational depth at the minor league level, and Capuano provides them with a solid sixth starter.
Top prospects like Anthony Ranaudo, Matt Barnes and Henry Owens are pushing ever closer to the big leagues, while Allen Webster and Brandon Workman both saw the majors last year.
The bullpen is improved and will not have to suffer through the ninth-inning uncertainty that plagued them for the first couple months of last season before Koji Uehara stepped into the job.
There were some key changes, and an awful lot went right for them last season, but there is no reason to think the Red Sox can't be right in the thick of things once again in 2014. They checked in at No. 5 on my preseason power rankings.
With the New York Yankees reloading this offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays looking strong once again, the Baltimore Orioles making some big additions at the final hour and a talented Toronto Blue Jays roster looking to bounce back, the AL East is going to be tough as always.
Beyond that, the Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers all look like serious title contenders, while the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels have the talent to be competitive as well.
The Detroit Tigers are my pick as the top team in the American League entering the season, despite their decision to trade Prince Fielder and Doug Fister this offseason. They have gotten faster on the bases, better defensively and still boast arguably the best rotation in the AL with Drew Smyly stepping in for Fister.
Protecting Miguel Cabrera in the lineup and the performance of top prospects Nick Castellanos as the everyday third baseman are X-factors, but the bullpen is much stronger with the addition of Joe Nathan, and overall this team looks just as good as, if not better than, the 2013 version.
After winning their respective pennants in 2013, the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox both look strong heading into the 2014 season,
Anything can happen over the course of the season, and there is a reason we have not seen a World Series rematch since 1978. Still, these two teams look to have as good chance as any to be playing in the Fall Classic come October.
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