After a disappointing 2022 run for the Boston Red Sox, this past offseason has been an absolute rollercoaster. Going into this year, the Fenway faithful seem to be very divided about the direction of the team. On one hand, fans are agitated at Chaim Bloom and the Sox’s front office for letting one of their most beloved players go in Xander Bogaerts, and one of their best hitters over the past few seasons in J.D. Martinez, among others. On the other side, fans are eager to see what this next chapter in the organization looks like. They spent over $176 million in free agency, and locked up their future superstar in Rafael Devers, with a 10 year, $313 million extension. While it seems that expectations are low for this season, this team really reminds me of their 2021 squad. In 2021, they weren’t expected to be above a .500% winning percentage, yet they were two wins away from making the World Series. Let’s break down the 2023 Red Sox roster and see if this team can prove everyone wrong.
Boston no longer has their threatening heart of the order in Bogaerts-Martinez-Devers, but who’s going to step up outside of their star third baseman? Masataka Yoshida comes over from Japan, and projections say he could have an amazing first season in the Bigs. Other new additions to the offense include Dodger veteran Justin Turner and outfielder Adam Duvall. Turner’s swing is perfect for Fenway Park, and Duvall is an easy 30 home run candidate. Top first baseman prospect Triston Casas is entering his first full MLB season, and I expect a big year for him with his power from the left side.
A few players are looking to rebound from down seasons as well, including Alex Verdugo and Kike Hernandez. While Verdugo didn’t have a bad season in 2022 (.732 OPS), he and manager Alex Cora know he can perform better. Kike dealt with injuries like many Red Soxs last season, but he hopes for similar results to his breakout 2021 campaign. At the bottom of the order, Christian Arroyo is getting a full time starter role after a couple years as a backup, his main issue is health. Reese McGuire is the starting catcher, and he had a strong second half in Boston after being traded at the deadline (.877 OPS). The Soxs are praying that Trevor Story returns sooner rather than later as he deals with an elbow injury. If Boston is in contention by August, Story’s bat will be a huge upgrade. Lastly, they traded for injury prone second baseman Adalberto Mondesi. While he’s only played 50 games the past two seasons, his athleticism and defense really intrigues me.
The most concerning part of this roster heading into 2023 seems to be the starting rotation. It’s obvious that the health of Chris Sale is the biggest x-factor to how this rotation performs. It’s hard to rely on someone who’s pitched 48.1 innings the past three seasons, and is now 34 years old. However, 25-30 starts from Sale this season will be ideal, and his stuff is still good enough to be the ace. It definitely doesn’t help that three of their starters are already dealing with injuries, that being Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, and James Paxton.
Once 23 year old Bello comes back, I expect him to be the #2 in this rotation. While his 4.71 ERA last season doesn’t look great, his last six starts tell the real story with a 2.59 ERA. Whitlock has the skill set to be a starter, and he should perform now that he has a definite role, unlike last season. Paxton is a massive wildcard as he hasn’t pitched in the past two years, but at least he provides depth. Corey Kluber is the only new starter, and he’ll afford stability in the bottom of the rotation. Nick Pivetta is as inconsistently as they come, so hopefully he’s the #5 starter or even a long reliever once everyone is healthy. For now, Tanner Houck and Kutter Crawford round out the current rotation. Hopefully Houck moves to the bullpen eventually with his nasty slider, and Crawford had some quality starts against good teams last season.
Speaking of the bullpen, it’s easily the most improved part of this team compared to last season. The Soxs definitely have one of the best pens in the American League, with veteran Kenley Jansen coming over to be the main closer. Jansen saved 41 games last season, which gives them their first reliable 9th inning option since Craig Kimbrel. They also signed Chris Martin, who was dominant in the 2nd half of last season (1.67 ERA), lefty Joely Rodriguez, and traded for another lefty in soft thrower Richard Bleier. John Schreiber is coming off an incredible season in 2022 with a 2.22 ERA, he’ll be the main setup guy to Jansen.
My main issue with the Soxs this season isn’t their roster, but rather the fierce AL East division they’re playing in. The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays all made the playoffs last season, and the Orioles have a ton of young talent. It would be a disaster if Boston finished last in their division for the second season in a row, so they’ll need to be competitive unlike last season when they finished 26-50 in-division. Luckily with the new MLB schedule, they will play less games against their division or more games against the National League. With that being said, I’m definitely more optimistic than most Red Sox fans this season. While injuries are already becoming a concern, I can see this team making some noise if they get healthy. I have faith in many players on this roster, new and old, and maybe this team could even flirt with a playoff appearance. I’m truly all in with the 2023 Red Sox, and I hope they prove the doubters wrong this season.