Every now and then, especially in the last 20 years, the Boston Red Sox stumble through an underwhelming season. And, with almost 100 percent certainty, they bounce back with a solid season.
A last-place finish in 2022 is not a doom-worthy event. Only one year removed from an ALCS appearance, 2022 might have bounced a little differently with some better health here, consistent pitching there, and definitely more power.
Forecasting 2023 in complete fashion is a little bit in the future, with plenty of 2022 playoff action to finish and the offseason to truly begin. Until then, it’s best to look at the road map for Boston to return to winning baseball and the playoffs next season.
Boston Red Sox: Mix of veterans and youth
It’s been well-documented the Boston Red Sox sorely needed a slugger in 2022. The two they traded/didn’t re-sign after 2021 combined to hit 75 home runs for their new teams, and even having just one on this year’s roster would have helped Boston tremendously.
The Red Sox don’t need to break the bank in bringing in a slugger this offseason. Blending veteran talent and the young players already on the roster should provide a blueprint for what is needed in ’23.
This involves re-signing Xander Bogaerts and locking up Rafael Devers with a long-term deal. These two, coupled with a healthy Trevor Story, could form quite the trio. Story displayed his power in stretches in ’22 and can almost be like adding a new powerful bat for the team.
Building around these three is a good place to start. Add in Alex Verdugo duplicating his success this season and the versatility of Kiké Hernandez, the Red Sox have plenty of veterans to build around.
The youth of the Red Sox was given plenty of at-bats in 2022, and the one players who continues to draw the most excitement is Triston Casas. First baseman of the future, Casas hit five home runs in 76 at-bats with the big-league club but did struggle with a .197 batting average.
More at-bats in the spring will only help Casas, and as long as he can avoid the Bobby Dalbec pitfalls, first base will be his for a long while.
There is also getting Connor Wong more at-bats, though he might not be ready for full-time duty behind the plate. Pairing him with Reese McGuire (or bringing back Christian Vazquez) will serve Boston best in 2023.
Vazquez is one of many in the free agent class that Boston could have an eye on. The big name is Aaron Judge but on the hitting side, there isn’t a whole lot of eye-catching players that fit the power void. Josh Bell might be an interesting one, especially if J.D. Martinez isn’t brought back.
Joey Gallo could be an option, too, but both of those players would likely have to choose to move away from the full-time positional player role.
Hitters are needed, and some will make their way to Boston. Free agency, however, might be best served for the Red Sox with a primary focus on the pitchers.
Healthy rotation, bullpen holes for Boston Red Sox
A same mix of combining veterans and youth make up a potential rotation for the Red Sox in 2023. There are plenty of intriguing options to add to the mix for Boston if the situation arises, players like Carlos Rodon, Noah Syndergaard, and Andrew Heaney to name a few.
Closer to home, Boston has some decisions to make involving Michael Wacha and Nathan Eovaldi. Bringing both back would be ideal. For me, that would involve Wacha being in the rotation. He was the ace of this team, going 11-2 and deserves to be rewarded.
Eovaldi, if he could be convinced, might be best served in the role of closer.
This is not say Eovaldi doesn’t still bring quality stuff to the rotation. But plenty of starting pitchers have made the transition to closer/relief pitcher, and this might be a perfect opportunity to do exactly that.
Defined roles in the bullpen are a must for the Red Sox. And, if that closer possibility doesn’t play out for Eovaldi and the Red Sox, developing Tanner Houck in that role during spring training is an option, too. Boston has some good players in the bullpen. Defining roles and filling in the gaps are part of the offseason focus.
Health played a major role in Boston’s success and failure among the starting rotation in 2022. A lot of pitchers gained experience for the Red Sox, with the team at one point trotting out four rookie pitchers to make starts.
A combination of Chris Sale, Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, and either Wacha or Eovaldi, plus Nick Pivetta (or a free agent signee) would make for a steady rotation in ’23. As long as improvement from the young players continues and health holds strong, I can rally around these players entering next season.
The same road map of mixing veterans and youth has served the Red Sox well in the past. A big splash or two is always a nice way to complete the puzzle. Pieces are already in place for Boston to find success, so going wild in the free agent market not needed. Adding another starter and bullpen specialists should be the focus, with one slugger on the agenda, too.
The Boston Red Sox are in a position to not have to tear the team apart. They are not too far off the road, so let the map lead the way.