Boston Red Sox are still a World Series contender despite weird offseason

Josh Taylor #38 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Josh Taylor #38 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox have had a weird offseason. With the MLB lockout still underway, it’s safe to say that every team has had a weird offseason. But even before the lockout began, the Red Sox made a flurry of interesting moves that left fans collectively scratching their heads.

Their initial free agency splurge came on three pitchers that all have question marks surrounding them. Michael Wacha (one year, $7 million deal) hasn’t been a good pitcher for three or four years now. James Paxton (one year, $10 million deal) might not even pitch this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. And Rich Hill (one year, $5 million deal) is going to be 42 by the time the season starts, and there’s no telling if his arm will hold up for a full season.

Things were made even worse when the front office, spearheaded by Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, decided it was a good idea to trade away one of their starting outfielders in Hunter Renfroe to the Milwaukee Brewers. The package in return, which was a pair of prospects and light hitting outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., underwhelmed to say the least.

Despite the confusing moves to kick off the offseason, the Red Sox are still in a very good place. Much of the core of their 2021 team that made an unexpected run to the ALCS last season will be returning, and if Bloom can make a couple of positive moves when the lockout ends, the Sox could end up being very good. Whether you like it or not, the Boston Red Sox are here to stay, and they are certainly still a World Series contender for the 2022 season.

The Boston Red Sox are in a good spot, but they still need a solid finish to their offseason work

Not much was expected of the Sox last season, but they turned things around after a horrid 2019 season pretty quickly. They finished second in an extremely competitive American League East division, and managed to send their top two division rivals, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, on vacation for the offseason. Losing to the Houston Astros in the Championship round was nothing to be ashamed about.

Fresh off their deep postseason run, many fans expected a busy offseason from Boston’s front office to try to push this team over the top and get them back to the World Series. Yet, as mentioned earlier, their initial moves to kick off the offseason left something to be desired. It felt as if they may have even gotten worse despite the front office’s best intentions.

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But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this team still has an extremely good roster on paper, and they will almost certainly add to it once the lockout ends. There are still a couple of positions that need to be addressed, but for the most part, the Boston Red Sox are in pretty good shape.

Their lineup will once again be led by the ever dangerous trio of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez. With hitters like Alex Verdugo and Kike Hernandez offering support to these guys, that’s a very solid top half of a lineup. Boston still needs to add another outfielder and maybe another infielder to fill out their bench, but this lineup is going to be very good.

Rumors are swirling that Seiya Suzuki may have a contract in place with the Red Sox, which would be a huge victory for Boston. Suzuki has dominated the Nippon Baseball League in Japan for the past few years, and if he can translate that high level of play to the MLB, Boston’s lineup would instantly become ten times more dangerous.

There are still some issues that will need to be dealt with between now and the start of the season. It remains to be seen whether Bobby Dalbec and Christian Arroyo will be the starting first base/second base combo when the season starts. Both showed promise last season, but Bloom may be looking for upgrades at both spots. If the Suzuki rumors proves to be false, a pursuit of former Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman could be in the picture.

As for the starting rotation, things appear to be in pretty good shape, despite losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Detroit Tigers. Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi form a deadly top duo, assuming Sale can rediscover his pre-Tommy John surgery form. Behind them is Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck, both of whom turned into absolute weapons for the team in the postseason. Hill will probably be the fifth starter, while Wacha will head to the bullpen.

The bullpen is easily the biggest area of need at this point for the Boston Red Sox. They really don’t have a closer unless they turn things over to Garrett Whitlock, which I think is their best option. Matt Barnes showed nothing to make anyone think he should be the closer to start the season, and setup man Adam Ottavino is a free agent who doesn’t appear super likely to return.

If manager Alex Cora plays things right, he has the backbone of a solid bullpen. Whitlock should be the closer, and any talk of making him a starter is foolish. Ryan Brasier and Hirokazu Sawamura have shown the ability to be solid setup men, although they do need to be more consistent. Josh Taylor has turned into a solid lefty specialist, and maybe Barnes can start off in a middle innings role and work his way back into action.

Despite that, it’s clear that a couple of arms in the back of the bullpen are still necessary. Much of what happens depends on what the team decides to do with Whitlock, and their pre-lockout moves suggest they could envision him being the closer for the upcoming season. If that’s the case, I’d invest in another setup man and a middle innings guy.

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A deeper look shows that the Boston Red Sox are still going to be good in 2022, even if they were to do nothing between now and the start of the season, but that’s not going to happen. Moves are going to be made once the lockout ends, and this team is realistically another big bat and a couple of relievers away from truly being one of the best teams in baseball.

Until then, they will remain lurking as a World Series candidate, but don’t be surprised if they emerge from the pack as one of the best teams in the league.