Following an up-and-down offseason that saw a number of key pieces depart the team for new destinations, many fans have tempered their expectations for the 2023 Boston Red Sox.
After losing stars Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez, in addition to a number of key contributors in Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill in free agency, many were quick to grade the Red Sox offseason as one of the worst among all 30 MLB teams. The Bogaerts departure especially struck a chord with fans as the shortstop had been a part of Boston’s farm system since the ripe age of 16. Perhaps the sting of losing Bogaerts seems strong after the Red Sox lost another homegrown superstar in Mookie Betts three offseasons ago.
Boston’s ownership was able to redeem themselves just a bit when they locked young third baseman Rafael Devers to a long-term contract, signaling to fans that the team was not about to let another homegrown star depart during the offseason. The team also made moves to acquire Masataka Yoshida, Justin Turner, Adam Duvall and Adalberto Mondesi over the winter months, though the consensus among baseball experts is that Boston’s losses during the offseason outweigh the additions that they made to their roster. I’m here to tell you that despite making moves that seem uninspiring now, there is reason to be optimistic about this Boston Red Sox team heading into the new season. No, that doesn’t mean you should expect the team to win the division or even make the playoffs in 2023, but there’s reason to believe the team will outperform their current projected finish of last-place in the American League East division.
Removing Bogaerts and Martinez from the lineup gives the impression that the Red Sox now boast a lineup lacking superstars, though the truth could not be any farther removed. The reality is that Boston will be returning its best hitter from the last few seasons in Devers, while the additions of Yoshida and Turner are sure to provide the team reality bats near the top of the lineup. While Bogaerts continued to be an on-base machine for Boston last year, Martinez was not the elite hitter than fans had grown accustomed to watching as he recorded his lowest home run and RBI totals since his last season as a Houston Astro way back in 2013. Turner actually drove in more runs than Martinez while swatting fewer homers for the Dodgers last season, and his numbers in each department are likely to increase after playing half of a season with the Green Monster out in left field at Fenway Park. The fact is that swapping Martinez for Turner is not a downgrade — some may consider it the opposite.
Yoshida, the Japanese phenom making his major league debut with the Red Sox this season, will be an on-base machine for Boston similar to the way Bogaerts was. While Bogaerts was known for his ability to put the bat on the ball, Yoshida will provide Boston an exceptional eye near the top of the lineup and more home run potential than the shortstop. The Red Sox will use Yoshida’s pop from the left side of the plate after raking in the bottom-third of MLB in total homers last season. Despite batting in the middle of the Red Sox lineup, Bogaerts did not tally RBI totals that you would typically expect from a middle-of-the-lineup-bat. Turner and Yoshida provide RBI potential, while a full season from rookie phenom Triston Casas is sure to boost the team’s run total. As the Red Sox’s top first base prospect, Casas is a legitimate power threat from the left side of the plate and should shore up the first base position after multiple inconsistent seasons at the position in Beantown. A rebound campaign from Kiké Hernandez and another solid season of Alex Verdugo should be enough offense to keep the lineup competitive on a routine basis.
The bullpen was a major cause of concern for Boston last season and the team appears to have upgraded the unit in the offseason. Chaim Bloom, the team’s president of baseball operations, got to work and signed veteran Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin to man the late innings of ball games, giving manager Alex Cora the luxury of knowing which guys will take on late-inning duties after having to mix and match his rotation of relievers for the past few years. A full season of a healthy Garrett Whitlock gives the team both a starting and reliever option, while guys like Tanner Houck and John Schreiber are good middle-inning players. Having more reliable arms in the pen should be a major asset for this team, especially given their question marks in the starting rotation.
The starting rotation is without question the biggest “what” that Boston has yet to answer. The loss of Eovaldi is a big hit to the rotation given his reliability over the last few seasons. Ace Chris Sale is finally healthy after missing the better part of the last two years, but whether he can return to his pre-injury form is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, when Sale is healthy and throwing the ball well, he is amongst the best starters in MLB. Corey Kluber will be the team’s Opening Day starter on Thursday against the Orioles after a strong showing in Spring Training, however, he possesses yet another injury risk and how many innings he can work through will be a major concern for management. After being signed last offseason, James Paxton will finally be making his Red Sox debut after he sat out last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, or ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction; his injury history is enough to make fans nervous whenever he takes the bump.
Boston will need arms like Brayan Bello and Kutter Crawford to step up if any of their top three arms suffer injuries or setbacks throughout the year. Nick Pivetta is sure to claim one of the final two spots in the rotation after proving to be a consistently average starter for the last couple of seasons, though the development of Bello particularly is vital when it comes to measuring the success of Boston’s rotation. He possesses an elite arsenal and should be a fun watch for fans this season, though expect a rough outing every now and then as he adjusts to facing Major League batters.
While the team may have lost many key pieces, they gained a number of talents that, if they produce, can lead Boston to a winning campaign. A lot will have to go right for the team — staying healthy, consistent, and having a few breakout performances will decide how good the Red Sox will be in 2023. As things stand now, the team has the ability to play good, entertaining baseball throughout the dog days of summer. They have the run-scoring pieces and arms to perform well, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen.