What’s the point of having financial flexibility if you don’t use it, right?
Well at the conclusion of the 2022 season, the front office of the Boston Red Sox will come face to face with the fruits of a three-year endeavour to streamline payroll and age out of long-term contracts.
It feels to me like a pivotal moment in the tenure of CBO Chaim Bloom – we are finally going to see how this organisation runs. Free from the constraints of dead money being paid to players no longer with the club. Free from the vast majority of contracts issued by the previous front office. Free from a barren farm system and most importantly, free from excuses.
Bloom has so far thrived in the position of being a big market CBO making small market moves. Having a big payroll and convincing your fan base that you are not at the level you need to be is a nice trick, and the longer you can keep it up, the more it will help facilitate a team remodelled in your image, but it seems a bit extreme. This team could be losing the starting shortstop, designated hitter, catcher, backup catcher, three of the current starting rotation and three arms out of the bullpen. Am I the only one having sleepless nights about this? That is a lot of holes to fill and not exactly a sparkling upcoming free-agent class to do it from.
As the club moves into position (one that’s been carefully orchestrated), the Trevor Story signing could and should be the beginning of a slew of big market moves. If 2023 truly is the beginning of the next chapter for this franchise, it’s going to be another interesting year in the 617.
Bogaerts and Devers deals don’t get done.
It was reported that both Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers had discussions regarding contract extensions in recent days. Devers has two years of control remaining so there was never a sense of urgency to push that through, but with Bogaerts not getting done, the chances of Boston’s number two now leaving in free agency are high. The quotes that came out from the shortstop just prior to Opening Day are nothing short of depressing. When asked if there was any chance he signs a contract extension before Opening Day, the three-time All-Star responded ”No” which tells you everything you need to know about that situation.
Moving on from the X-Man will be a tough pill for Red Sox fans to swallow, especially since he’s a homegrown player who has endeared himself to the city (remind you of anyone?). But, with Trevor Story now signed for at least the next four years, the club has positioned itself well to cover the eventuality that the Aruban does indeed move on to pastures new.
What makes for another interesting dynamic is the fact that the two players are very close friends. Could getting Xander locked up have actually made signing Devers easier? I guess we will never know, but one thing I do know is that money talks, so if letting Xander go was always the plan and since Raffy’s come out and said all the right things, if you offer enough, the answer will undoubtedly be yes anyway.
Devers is a superstar, and if you can’t keep both, then you absolutely have to keep him.
Does anyone believe in this pitching staff?
When I say anyone, I mean anyone? Alex Cora spoke to Tony Massarotti’s 98.5 The Sports Hub podcast The Baseball Hour this week and the comments the Red Sox skipper made such as “the starters are ok” and ”the bullpen is behind” can’t have filled anyone with confidence.
The thing that worries me most about this current roster is by far the pitching staff as a whole, and besides Nathan Eovaldi, who made 2021 a statement year and solidified himself as a top of the rotation starter finishing fourth in Cy Young voting, the rest are just question marks. Chris Sale is out for the first two months and who knows what he will even look like when he returns, so you are entering the season with Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill… Excuse me if I don’t get too excited but how is that group supposed to carry a team into playoff contention?
Pivetta has a career ERA of 5.16 and if you’re slotting him in as your number two then I think this year could actually be a lot worse than some people realise. Of course he could have another career year, but that’s just the same as betting on any pitcher to have a breakout, there are nowhere near enough known quantities in this rotation, and it’s just a recipe for disaster. Garrett Whitlock needs to be used as either a starter or in the late innings and definitely not as a long bridge on the back of a short start. If they try that to begin the year, it will undoubtedly be gone by the time 1 May rolls around.
Let’s agree to not even talk about the bullpen? Entering the season with no closer again is an experiment that hasn’t worked for three straight years and when someone has the bright idea of installing a ninth-inning guy midway through the year, maybe we can revisit this.
Opening day has finally rolled around. The line-up will mash, the rotation will tread water and the bullpen will lead the league in blown saves. 87-75. Wildcard.
Cover photo by Billie Wiess
Richard Banks covers the Boston Red Sox for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @GloveIsLife