3 Major Questions Surrounding the Boston Red Sox as Spring Training Begins

Sep 20, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Masataka Yoshida (7) celebrates with Rob Refsnyder (30)
Sep 20, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Masataka Yoshida (7) celebrates with Rob Refsnyder (30) / Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
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It doesn’t feel too long ago that the Texas Rangers were putting the finishing touches on their historic World Series run, but we’re already back to the best time of the year. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training earlier this week, with many position players joining them. Meaningful baseball is just over a month away.

The Red Sox enter this spring with a young roster, a slashed payroll, and a broken promise to have a “full-throttle” offseason. They’ve been disappointing in recent years, posting back-to-back 78-84 campaigns and just one playoff appearance since 2018. In response, the Red Sox made wholesale changes this offseason, firing Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom as well as several members of the coaching staff. The message at the beginning of the offseason was clear: mediocrity, for the Red Sox, is unacceptable.

But the message seemed to come and go with little in the way of action; in fact, the roster probably got worse. Through a series of moves, ownership made it clear that cost-cutting was the priority. Chris Sale was traded for youngster Vaughn Grissom while key players such as Justin Turner, James Paxton, and Adam Duvall walked in free agency. Alex Verdugo was also dealt in a rare move with the Yankees. The only major-league additions of note outside of Grissom were struggling starter Lucas Giolito and the injury-prone outfielder Tyler O’Neill. 

What’s resulted is a thin, youthful roster that’s naturally full of questions; who will make the team, where will they play, and how well will they play there? These are my three biggest questions as we get ever-closer to what promises to be an unpredictable season.

3. Who is the Every Day Designated Hitter?

The designated hitter spot has been the subject of much speculation this offseason, and continues to be now.

Justin Turner’s departure has left a void in the lineup, and nobody’s quite sure who to fill it. The preeminent thinking is that second-year man Masataka Yoshida will take the majority of the ABs, and Alex Cora seems to agree. However, there are two issues: Yoshida’s offensive production last year was barely above average, and how often he’ll be needed to play in the outfield is uncertain.

The opening day outfield projects to be some combination of Tyler O’Neill, Jarren Duran, Wilyer Abreu, and Ceddanne Rafaela, but you can’t exactly pencil any of those three into a full season. O’Neill is an injury magnet, and the other three are relatively unproven.

If Yoshida is called into outfield duty to replace one of those four, who slots into the DH spot?

There are plenty of options, but none of them are particularly appealing. Trevor Story is a candidate to shift to DH against LHP - Pablo Reyes hit well off left-handers last season, and he can capably defend at shortstop. Bobby Dalbec fits the profile as a power bat with no defensive home, but he’s failed to impress in any stint at the big-league level. Enmanuel Valdez is a capable hitter, but doesn’t scream “DH”... his numbers are slightly worse than Yoshida’s in far fewer plate appearances. Rob Refsnyder is a capable bat against lefties, but lacks the sort of power you'd want from a DH.

Cora will stick with Yoshida until he can't any longer, but who might fill in for him is a mystery.