In only a few short weeks, trucks will be packed at Fenway Park destined for the team's spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla. Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers are due to report on Wed, Feb. 14, while the team's first full squad workout will take place on Mon, Feb. 19.
The trucks will noticeably not be "full throttle" as they make their way down Interstate 95, after early offseason promises from top Red Sox brass delivered underwhelming results.
Speaking at Winter Weekend last weekend, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy stated that the team's payroll would likely be lower in 2024 than it was in 2023. Boston's payroll last year sat at $225 million, while the 2024 payroll is currently projected at just over $180 million. Based on Kennedy's comments, it wouldn't be surprising if the team is still committed to shedding additional salary. The two most obvious candidates to offload toward that goal would be outfielder Masataka Yoshida and closer Kenley Jansen, the team's third and fifth highest contracts in 2024.
The Sox first competitive contest will be on Fri, Feb. 23 against Northeastern University. As that date approaches, it seems more and more likely that the current roster is the one that Boston will field when they take the field on opening night in Seattle. However, there are still some dominoes to fall in the MLB landscape (Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery anyone?), which could trigger a chain reaction.
All signs from Boston ownership and their front office indicate that subtraction is a much more likely avenue than addition. If the team is still taking calls, here are the three players who still have a chance to switch uniforms before heading south.
3. Jarren Duran
Jarren Duran had a breakout 2023 season, hitting .295 with a .346 OBP and swiping 24 bags. The 27-year-old manned the leadoff spot for much of the season before missing the last two months of the season to undergo turf toe surgery.
A toe injury isn't the most optimistic sign for a player that relies so much on his speed to be an impact player, but even if Duran is at full health, there should still be questions about how he will fare in 2024. If you take 2023 out of the equation, Duran is only hitting .219 with five home runs and 27 RBI in 311 at-bats. There were also a lot of questions about his ability to patrol center field in 2022, another aspect of his game that Duran improved on last season.
Will Duran's 2023 season prove to be more an aberration or a case of a player progressing into their potential with age and experience? Only time and a larger sample size will tell.
Trading Duran would be a textbook case of selling high, and the Red Sox should at least listen to offers to maximize his value now in the case that Duran regresses to his pre-2023 form.