The Boston Red Sox have experienced a great deal of variance over the last decade-plus. Between multiple championships and last-place finishes, the team and their fans have seen it all of late. Recent seasons, including 2022, were no exception. One year after making it to the ALCS, the Red Sox finished below .500 and in last place in the AL East. They have retooled a bit for 2023, but not it may not change their fortunes all that much.
Boston Red Sox
2022 Record: 78 - 84 (5th AL East)
2023 FanGraphs projection: 83-79 (4th AL East)
As mentioned, 2022 was a major disappointment for the Sox, and one that came rather quickly, too. Near the end of June, FanGraphs had them with playoff odds over 80 percent, but a month later, they had fallen all the way to 19. By the time September rolled around, they had fallen completely out of contention. They were a bit of a forgotten point in a division that featured two of baseball’s best teams, as well as pair of young surging squads. 78 wins is a high number for a last place team, and it’s very possible they could surpass that number this year, even if they seem to be a bit stuck in the middle as things stand.
The pitching was a real dark spot for this squad last year. Michael Wacha was good (but likely overperformed), while Brayan Bello broke out in the rotation and John Schreiber did so in the pen, on the bright side. But, the staff as a whole was an issue for Boston. They were bottom-10 as a team in fWAR for pitchers, and had the seventh-worst ERA in all of baseball, which included an alarming 4.66 mark among their relievers. It wasn’t all bad, but the pitching staff didn’t hold up their end of the bargain in ‘22.
On the offensive side, Boston was a fairly middle of the road unit, with a 102 team wRC+. Of course, they had two stars at the top in Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, with the latter departing for sunnier skies in San Diego this offseason. Those two posted a 140 and 134 wRC+, respectively, and the lineup was mostly underwhelming beyond that. Boston fans saw league average performances from Trevor Story and Alex Verdugo, a relatively disappointing year from JD Martinez, and a near-career worst campaign from Enrique Hernández.
Projections have them pegged for a solid record, but one that fits the construction of their roster: fine, but not top of the line, particularly within this division. That is perhaps their greatest boundary, the fact that they share a division with Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles, four other teams that have at least a shot at playing meaningful games down the stretch. This is not a bad team, but a decent one with tough circumstances.
Despite their not-super-inspiring outlook, they have added some big league pieces to the roster for 2023. They signed a handful of notable pitchers, each of which is closer to 40-years-old than 30. Corey Kluber is coming off a solid 164-inning season after throwing just 116.2 over the previous three, and has already been tabbed as the Opening Day starter. Meanwhile, Richard Bleier, Kenley Jansen, and Chris Martin should help stabilize what was a shaky ‘pen last year.
Also, the Red Sox look to add back some form of Chris Sale to the fold. He is not a real addition, but he seems to be in good health, and hasn’t thrown 150 innings since 2018. If he can be anything close to what he has been at his best, it’ll be a major boost for the Sox.
They continued the influx of veterans in their lineup to match the pitching staff, as they brought in Justin Turner and Adam Duvall. Turner, at age-38, was still largely himself in ‘22, and has been mostly rock solid ever since his surprising breakout began in L.A. While Duvall is not a flashy addition, he plays good defense and hits for power.
The biggest addition, however, comes in the form of Masataka Yoshida, who looks like a stud. World Baseball Classic watchers have already seen what he can do with the bat:
Projections love this guy too, as ZiPS has him pegged for a very impressive 137 wRC+ in his first year stateside. These adjustments can take time, but he could soon become one of Boston’s best hitters.
In the big picture for this lineup, their two superstars took divergent paths, as Bogaerts, who’s one of the league’s better and more consistent players, left for San Diego, while Devers locked down for the long haul in Boston with a 10-year extension. Their other big bat, Story, had elbow surgery earlier this year, and will miss a significant chunk of the 2023 season.
The Red Sox are respectable enough ball club, with a star centerpiece in place for a while in Devers. This offseason, they surrounded him with aging veterans, who can still contribute on the mound and at the plate, but likely won’t be enough to push them over. They play in a division with two of the best teams in baseball, and two others who can very realistically compete. Despite a solid-enough roster and above average projections, it’s very possible they once again find selves in this division’s basement.
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