Offseason outlook for the Boston Red Sox

Offseason outlook for the Boston Red Sox

Once a hire is made at the start of the season, the front office must complete several formalities. Both Corey Kluber and Joely Rodriguez will have fewer opportunities in 2023 after injury-riddled seasons. Justin Turner has decided to retire after another great season at the plate.
$13.4 million is a respectable salary for a player his age, but the $6.7 million buyout means he only has to make $6.7 million in free agency. The Sox will miss the bat, but may need a designated hitter for other players.

How aggressive the Sox will be in 2024 is an open question that won’t be answered until a front office deal is finalized. According to the Court’s Baseball Agreement, the club’s payroll was in the league’s top five for most of the last century, but has since dropped to 12th in 2023.
Perhaps they will approve additional costs once what will recover the costs.
But it wouldn’t be surprising if the new manager took a year to slow down and evaluate the franchise, which is the typical approach.
Including projected arbitration salaries, Roster Resource estimates the club’s 2024 salary cap at about $167 million and its competitive balance sheet at $187 million.
Depth defenseman Luis Urias will shave millions off that number, but the club isn’t far off its $181 million payroll this year.
The base cap for next year is $237 million, which means there’s a little more cap room on the CBT side, but it’s unclear if the club plans to spend up to that cap or more.

There is uncertainty about the roster, especially in the pitching department. Chris Sale had a somewhat encouraging season in 2023, as his 102 2/3 innings and 20 starts were more than his 2020-2022 totals.
However, the result was an annual average of 4.30 points, below the previous level.
He might do better next year once he gets over his troubles, but he turns 35 in March.

Nick Pivetta had a 6.30 ERA in his first eight starts and was sent to the bullpen in May.
From there, he was able to turn things around, posting a 3.16 ERA and finishing the rotation with a 4.04 ERA.
Brian Bello made 13 appearances in 2022 but extended his auditions into 2023 with solid but unremarkable results.
He posted a 4.24 ERA with a respectable 19.8% strikeout rate, but rarely walked and faced tough pitches.

Cutter Crawford has posted a 4.04 ERA this year with some good peripherals, but his consistency is uncertain as he has never been popular at the highest level. Tanner Hook has shown some potential, but injuries have consistently kept him in the 100-120 inning range. The same goes for Garrett Whitlock.
Although he hasn’t hit 100 since 2018.
Having six half-decent starting pitchers isn’t a terrible situation, but not much is set in stone, especially long term.
Sale is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, and Pivetta has just one season of arbitration left. It wouldn’t be surprising for the Sox to add someone here, but depending on where they want to place their salary cap, it might not be the best name on the market. Pitchers like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery and Aaron Nola are slated to sign nine-figure contracts, but the Sox also have players like Sonny Gray and longtime friend Eduardo Rodriguez.
You might want to keep an eye on them.
Alongside him are experienced competitors in the ring such as Marcus Stroman, Jack Flaherty or Lucas Giolito.

Veterans Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin each have one year left on their contracts. Josh Winkowski, Jon Schreiber and Brennan Bernardino have all shown varying levels of promise and should have an inside track to landing clubhouse jobs next year.
There’s still plenty of room to add free agents, but the investment here is likely to be modest, as Jansen and Martin give the club strong options with heavy debt. On the other hand, if the new front office decides that 2024 will be some sort of evaluation year, either Jansen or Martin could end up on the trade block.

From a player’s perspective, the catcher position is probably the most open. The Sox offered Connor Wong and Reese McGuire plenty of pitch in 2023, but neither kept the job.
Each of them had a WRC of 78 with average figures on the field. Wong was great in the running game, but poor in blocking and framing, and McGuire was mediocre overall.

While the free agent options aren’t all that exciting, it would be wise to invest in the veteran, non-tendered McGuire. Mitch Garver and Tom Murphy have strong bats but have struggled to stay healthy.
Austin Hedges and Martin Maldonado have high reputations as defenders and team leaders, but both are terrible hitters.
Gary Sanchez may be the best of them all, but half a season in San Diego was strong enough to earn him a two-year contract. The trade route could include unproven options like Joey Barth or Ivan Herrera.
With half the field ready, Rafael Devers called for third base.
His defense is weak at the hot corner, so he may have to move to first base at some point, but his offense is very good and he has 10 years left on his contract.
When it comes time to go up top, it can be a bit difficult as Tristan Casas seems to have settled into that position. He hit 29 home runs in his first 159 major league games and has a 14.9% walk rate, but his glove skills aren’t great either, so he and Devers could co-exist in -a day through special hitting keys. But for now, it seems reasonable to expect them to stay in opposing corners.

The midrange is getting much better and the investment in Trevor Story has yet to pay off. He was league average in 2022, had elbow surgery over the winter, and then didn’t return to the big leagues until August 2023.
The results were disappointing.
He struck out 32.7 percent of his plate appearances, but didn’t.
He makes a big impact when he puts the ball in play.
His WRC of 48 was one of the 10 worst in the majors, and he had at least 160 plate appearances with a roster mostly surrounded by catchers and bench players.
With four years left on his contract, the club can only hope Story works out.
As for his doubles partner, that is also a question.
The club took risks on several relievers, including Urias, Yu Chang, Pablo Reyes, Hoy Park and Cristian Arroyo.
Only Reyes and Urias remain in the group. The latter is unlikely to be tendered after a rough season, while Reyes is best suited for a bench/depth role.
David Hamilton and Emmanuel Valdes are available as depth options.

The club could certainly find help in the midfield, but the options are thin there as well. Whit Merrifield, Adam Frazier and Amed Rosario are more prolific second basemen than the Sox right now, but they all had very special seasons.

Outfielder Jarren Duran had a breakout season in 2023, posting a .346 on-base percentage and 24 stolen bases.
Even if he ends the season with foot surgery, he needs to at least solidify as a center fielder and become a strong player in the platoon.
Alex Verdugo had another decent season with league average offense and strong defense.
But he feels he’s in the right zone, and with a projected salary of $9.2 million in his final arbitration season, he stands out as a potential trade candidate. Masataka Yoshida has shown encouraging signs with his strong contact approach, posting a 109 wRC in his first MLB season.
The defense has been as poor as expected, but the Sox can be comfortable using a smaller left fielder and a designated hitter spot to minimize the impact of glovework.
Having three bad players competing for the designated hitter spot in Yoshida, Devers and Casas isn’t ideal long term, but we’re halfway there for now.
Rob Refsnyder serves as shortstop.

Younger options could dominate time in the field this year, as Villere Abreu and Seddanna Rafaela have appeared in 28 Big League games this year.
Abreu was better in this regard, but the sample is too small to draw general conclusions.
Considered by some to be a top 100 talent, Roman Anthony could reach Double-A and put a 2024 debut on the board. Miguel Blais is a highly touted prospect, but he still has a long way to go.

With catcher Kyle Thiel selected 14th overall in the latest draft, there might be some hope that Farm can provide help at other positions as well. Shortstop Marcelo Mayer is a consensus top-100 player, and second baseman Nick York is also on that list.
Those three have each reached the Double-A level in 2023 and won’t be far from advancing to the majors.
Despite all the uncertainties, there’s a lot to like about this Boston club.
They went 78-84 with a -4 streak in the toughest division in the league.
Little improvement is needed to be in play-off contention.

Maybe the new deal will take a year to focus more on young players like Duran, Rafaela, Abreu, Anthony, Thiel, Mayer and York.
With potential free agents like Sale, Jansen, Martin, Pivetta and Verdugo, there will be a lot of money on the cards after 2024.
Perhaps some of those players will transfer this winter, freeing up roster space for younger players.
Help is needed at catcher and infield, but there are no clear-cut solutions in free agency, and the Sox have potential long-term solutions in the pipeline.

All things considered, the ship is not in bad shape.
But now, it’s unclear who’s responsible, what route they’ll take, or how quickly they can get there.
There is a lot of fog on the horizon, but it will clear soon.


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