After reaching the ALCS in 2021, expectations were high for the Boston Red Sox going into the 2022 season. Sadly, those expectations were not met. They finished last in the AL East going 78-84 and left with some critical decisions to be made in the offseason.
Going into the offseason, the Red Sox’s two best players, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, were approaching important contract decisions. Bogaerts’ contract was up following the completion of the ‘22 season and Devers had a year left, but when you’re as talented as he is, it’s never too early to start thinking about your future.
Historically, the Red Sox have been good at keeping their star players. Stars of the past two decades, players like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, never left. However, after the Mookie Betts trade, which saw the Red Sox’s and one of baseball’s elite players leave because the team wasn’t willing to pay him, star departures are seemingly becoming a common occurrence.
Xander Bogaerts, the captain of the Red Sox and the heart and soul of the team for the past few seasons, accepted an 11 year/$280 million contract to move to San Diego and play for the Padres. Granted, the 11 years are a lot for a player in his 30s, but with an average annual value (AAV) of $25 million, the Red Sox ownership and front office really, and I mean really, dropped the ball.
Many would agree that shortstop is the most important position on a baseball team, but there aren’t that many elite shortstops in baseball. At least half the league is desperate for that player who can anchor their infield and produce at a high level at the plate. The Red Sox had that player in Xander Bogaerts, and they let him walk. That was strike one for a front office that needed to make a splash this offseason.
The Red Sox also lost two franchise pillars of the last couple of seasons in J.D. Martinez (1 year/$10 million with LAD) and Nathan Eovaldi (2 years/$34 million with TEX). The Martinez loss is understandable considering his age and production downturn in the second half of the season. Eovaldi is a different story. Eovaldi was the Red Sox's ace. With Chris Sale seemingly always battling injuries, Eovaldi had been the guy the team could count on when they needed a strong performance on the mound. And again, a $17 million AAV was feasible for the Sox. Strike two.
Red Sox Nation was getting restless. They saw their favorite players leave and nothing was being done about it. But with his back against the wall, GM Chaim Bloom finally came through. On January 4th, ESPN’s Jeff Passan announced that the Red Sox signed star third basemen Rafael Devers to a 10 year/$331 million contract. They lost Bogaerts, but they kept the younger and more talented player, giving the front office a guy to build around.
Another knock on the front office this offseason was their hesitancy to spend. They seemed as though they were waiting for the dominoes to fall instead of going out and getting the players they wanted. As a result, once Bogaerts left, so had most of the other star free agents. Instead of trying to fill that gap with one player, Bloom went out and got a bunch of solid, depth guys, the first being Japanese League star Masataka Yoshida. Bloom signed him to a 5 year/$90 million contract. Yoshida will most likely play RF and be a big addition to a Sox lineup that needs his ability to make contact after losing Bogaerts.
They also signed veterans Justin Turner, Adam Duvall, and Raimel Tapia to team-friendly deals, giving a team that lacked depth at times last year some very solid rotational players. Turner, although getting older, is a former all-star. Duvall has had a couple 30 home run seasons. And Tapia had one of his best seasons to date with the Blue Jays last year.
Bloom also traded for former Royals SS Adalberto Mondesi in order to make up for the absence of Trevor Story for the first half of the season. Mondesi, if healthy (and sadly, that’s a big “if”) is a great defender and electrifying baserunner who could be a difference maker considering the bigger bases and new limits on pick-off attempts.
The biggest improvement, however, came in the bullpen. The Sox had the 5th worst bullpen ERA last season so Bloom and co. went out and got proven arms to bolster that department. He signed Kenley Jansen (2 years/$32 million), one of the best relievers of the past decade, and Chris Martin (2 years/$17.5 million), who registered a sub-2.00 ERA last year with the Dodgers. This should at least catapult their bullpen into the top half of the league.
Ultimately, this organization is under a lot of pressure from a frustrated fanbase. They lost one of their best players following one of the more disappointing seasons in recent memory. Fans may hope that next season will make up for it. Unfortunately, it probably won’t. Granted, there is still time to make more moves before training camp (a good starting pitcher would be nice), but with the team as it is now, the 2023 season will most likely be a bridge year.
But fear not, with the talent coming up in the farm system, paired with a proven superstar like Rafael Devers and a solid core of MLB vets, the future is not as bleak as it seems.