It's that time of year again. The end of the NFL season, the Bruins and Celtics are making their playoff pushes for the spring months. Meanwhile the Red Sox truck has been loaded up and is heading down to Fort Myers, Florida and jetBlue Park at Fenway South where the Red Sox look to get geared up for the 2023 Major League Baseball season. Entering this season, (just like the other 29 franchises) have high hopes for the season and want to end the season as the last team standing and hoisting the Commissioner's Trophy at the end of October.
Spring Training 2023 will in fact start on time this year. No lockout, no delays, no adding three days to the end of the season. The MLB spring training and MLB schedule will start on time this year. With that being said however, the Red Sox are entering the 2023 season, similar to how they have entered each of the last three seasons, with a bunch of question marks. The offseason hasn't been a lot of fun for Sox fans, management and even ownership.
Ever since Chaim Bloom took over as the Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer back in October of 2019, it hasn't exactly been all sunshine and roses. Trading away superstar Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers for practically nothing. Small moves that haven't panned out, and not to mention two last place finishes in three seasons. To put icing on the cake, this offseason the Red Sox had two tasks, extend Rafael Devers and re-sign Xander Bogaerts. Well, the X-Man is gone. Bogaerts (pictured above) has found a new home in San Diego and is the newest Padres shortstop. Bogaerts signed an 11-year $280 million deal with the Friars on December 9th, 2022, roughly a month after he opted out of his contract with the Red Sox, a contract that he signed at the beginning of the 2019 season; a smart move by then Chief Baseball officer Dave Dombrowski. However, on January 11th, after signing a deal to avoid arbitration, the Red Sox were able to keep superstar third baseman Rafael Devers in Boston for a long time, basically equivalent to the time Bogaerts will be in San Diego. Devers extension is a 10-year $315.5 million deal; the contract will officially start at the beginning of the 2024 season.
The Red Sox did make some moves this offseason. They signed Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida to a 5-year $105.4 million deal on December 15th; currently Yoshida is ranked 87th by Baseball America out the 100 top prospects. One Red Sox beat-writer from the Boston Globe feels that is alarmingly low for the Red Sox' batter. Sadly, it is alarming and another gamble that Bloom needs to pray pays off.
Other notable moves that the Red Sox made this offseason; the Red Sox did sign former Dodgers close Kenley Jansen to a two-year deal, someone that should be able to solidify the closing role for the Red Sox, something that has been a revolving door since the 2019 season. They also added to the bullpen, signing Chris Martin to a two-year contract as well. Justin Turner, (long Time Dodger third baseman) is coming to Boston on a one-year deal with an option for a second as he will fill the DH hole that was once occupied by JD Martinez. Added Corey Kluber to the rotation on a one-year deal. In a notable move that again will have to pray that works out buy acquiring infielder Alberto Mondesi from the Kansas City Royals. However Mondesi might miss the start of the season he continues to recover from an ACL injury that he suffered early in the 2022 season. The Red Sox have also recently added Adam Duvall on a one-year deal. Trevor Story is expected to miss a majority if not the entire 2023 season due to having surgery on his throwing shoulder.
Another year, another year of questions in the starting rotation. With de-facto ACE each of the last three season Nathon Eovaldi now out of the picture as he signed a free agent deal with Texas, the Red Sox look to turn to Chris Sale (pictured right) to be the Sale that they gave up a boat load for back in the 2017 offseason in a trade with the Chicago White Sox. Sale has missed significant time over the course of the last four seasons in Boston. Missed the final month in a half of the 2019 season due to shoulder and elbow injuries. Missed the entire 2020 and majority of the 2021 season due to Tommy John surgery. Missed roughly the entire of 2022 season for a multitude of reasons. The first being a right rib stress fracture prior to the start of Spring Training. After battling that for the first three months of the year, Sale finally made his season debut on July 12th, just before the All-Star Break, figured the rotation could get on track. Wrong. The final day prior to the break, Sale had to depart his start after getting hit on pinkie finger, fracturing it after a comebacker him in said pitching hand. He was out indefinitely. On August 9th, his season would be over as he would have to get surgery on his right wrist as he got into an accident while riding his bike. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training.
In other rotation news, the Red Sox do plan on making Garrett Whitlock a starter this season after he was starter for part of last season then got primarily used out of the bullpen. Tanner Houck will be in the bullpen, most likely the long relief option for the Sox. Boston will also have a new duo of catchers as Conner Wong and Reese McGwire are expected to be the two with McGuire expected to get the majority of the starts.
Overall, the 2023 team doesn't look bad on paper, but that paper is also filled with a bunch of question marks every where. How will the line-up do with out the likes of Bogaerts and Martinez? Is Devers ready to assume the role as the 'Face of the Franchise? Can Chris Sale put together a healthy campaign? Will the rotation be affective? Will the bullpen be able to hold leads that will result in a win? Can this team compete? That is biggest question of them all.
Since 2012, the Boston Red Sox have finished at the bottom of the AL East 5 times. 2012, 2014, 2015, 2020 & 2022. All five seasons have one thing in common; an organizational reset, lead by none other than ownership. The gap years? The Dombrowski years where the Sox finished in first place three of the four years and won the World Series in 2018. Prior to 2012, under Theo Epstein, the Red Sox never had a losing season, their worst finish was third place which they only did three times.
The difference between the styles of Epstein and Dombrowski and Ben Cherrington and Bloom is simple. Epstein and Dombrowski weren't afraid to go all in. They went after guys who they saw would make the team better and put the team in the best spot to win and compete for a championship. Cherrington and Bloom, more conservative. Waiting it out, building the farm system (which isn't a bad thing) but not adding any significant value to the major league team and watching the team struggle to win games and compete; especially in a division like the AL East where it is constantly a dog fight. Granted, Cherrington did bring home a title, but still finished last in three of his four seasons. Bloom is on that trajectory now. The other question is and this probably the biggest question of them all; Is John Henry okay with this approach and will let Bloom do what he needs to? Or will Henry grow frustrated and get that competitive fire again and start to spend money again on free agents.
That we will have to see. After all John Henry isn't the most liked person to Red Sox fans right now. Getting booed in his own stadium during the Winter Classic as he watched his Pittsburgh Penguins get defeated by the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park on January 2nd. Plus, not too long ago at Red Sox Winter Weekend where he made some questionable quotes about the team and attempted to explain why raising ticket prices were necessary. Fair to say this, Chaim Bloom might not be on the hot seat in Henry's eyes, but he is certainly on the hot seat in eyes of Red Sox fans who want to see this team competing for championships year after year. If the seats at Fenway aren't getting filled this season, then Blooms seat will start to get warm.
Could the Sox have a big year and shut this blogger up? Of course they can and deep down I hope they do. However the expectations are low for this year's team and rightfully so as there are just simply too many questions that need to be answered or filled, and no one seems to have found the answer key yet.
Pitchers and catchers playing the World Baseball Classic this spring will report to their respected teams facilities on Monday February 13th with position players reporting that Thursday the 16th. As for the Red Sox; their pitcher's and catchers will report on February 15th with the rest of the team reporting by the 20th. The first spring training game for the Red Sox will take place on Friday February 24th against Northeastern University, the first Grapefruit League is the 25th against the Atlanta Braves.
Opening Day for the Red Sox and all of Major League Baseball will be Thursday March 31st, the Red Sox are scheduled to host the Baltimore Orioles.