We are officially in a new year, but the Red Sox roster is still largely up in the air as the MLB offseason simply has not gotten going yet. Despite that, with 2021 now upon us I thought it would be fun to try and predict what the Opening Day roster was going to look like. I, apparently, was not alone in that idea as this has been done by Jake and Keaton on the podcast this morning, Chris Cotillo over at Masslive, and, in a bit of a different format, Chad Jennings at The Athletic.
Obviously much of this is a shot in the dark based on what I think the team will do in free agency before the start of the season. I’ll add some notes to the predictions, but note at the jump that for pretty much all of these free agents that you’ll see who aren’t currently on the roster you can reasonably replace them with any other options in that tier. I’m also just going to assume a 26-man roster to start the season. That is not set in stone yet, but for the purposes of this exercise that’s how we’ll run with it. For the position players, asterisks indicate players who will start the bulk of the time. Also, in case I haven’t been clear, this is what I think will happen not what I want to happen.
Christian Vázquez*, Kevin Plawecki
No surprises here. There had previously been some speculation about shopping Vázquez, but it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do right now. This is a very solid duo behind the plate, with the bigger question being who the third catcher is with Deivy Grullón now a Red. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a veteran signed to a minor-league deal at some point, but they wouldn’t be on the Opening Day roster unless there was an injury either way.
Bobby Dalbec*, Jason Kipnis*, Xander Bogaerts*, Rafael Devers*, Christian Arroyo, Mitch Moreland
Four of these names are essentially locks here in Dalbec, Bogaerts, Devers and Arroyo. The latter could even make his way to being a starter if the team decides to devote money elsewhere and leave second base alone. As you can see I don’t exactly see that happening, but Arroyo still makes the bench and would play a good amount of time anyway whether he’s the nominal starter or not.
As for the free agents, we’ll start with Kipnis. There are a lot of good second basemen available on the market this winter so this would qualify as a disappointment, but if they want to use that money for pitching and perhaps center field, I could see them grabbing someone like Kipnis who has major-league experience and has been good at points but would likely only command a contract of a few million dollars for one year. He could also form something close to a platoon with Arroyo, at least to start the year.
Then, over at first base, I found some room for a reunion with Mitch Moreland, with whom there is mutual respect between him and the organization. He is a perfect mentor/platoon partner with Dalbec, and if things go south with the latter Moreland could easily slide in and provide solid production in his stead. In this group, Michael Chavis finds himself on the outside looking in to start the year.
Andrew Benintendi*, Kevin Pillar*, Alex Verdugo*, Hunter Renfroe, J.D. Martinez*
We’ll start here with the new addition in Pillar, who obviously isn’t exactly new since he was in Boston for the first half last season. I do think Jackie Bradley Jr. is legitimately on the team’s radar, but I’m just not super confident it’s going to happen at this point. I think Bradley is going to have enough offers elsewhere and unless Boston blows him away I think he’ll try and opportunity to roam a new outfield. That leaves Boston in a tough spot at center field, and I think Pillar would be the consolation prize. It’s not an exciting move to be sure, but it’d likely be relatively cheap in terms of salary and, more importantly, just be a one-year commitment so they can reassess next winter as well. Again, Bradley is the top target, but I see them having to go to Plan B.
For the rest, well, there’s not much to say. I don’t see a trade happening involving either Benintendi or Martinez. It’s just hard to see teams matching the value it would take for Boston to make that move. Renfroe would likely platoon with Benintendi in this scenario and also get some at bats against righties with Pillar sitting and Verdugo sliding to center.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Jake Odorizzi, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Archer, Nick Pivetta
This stinks! I know! For a little peek behind the curtain, I did have Corey Kluber here originally but ultimately I think they are going to try and stay below the luxury tax threshold (they shouldn’t, but I think they will be right up against it) and it’s hard to make that work with both Odorizzi and Kluber. Ultimately I chose Odorizzi, who can be a multi-year piece and who they clearly like, as reported on Tuesday. So, I think Odorizzi is the “big” splash for the rotation.
Then from there, the other addition would be Archer, another former Ray. As I said at the top this can be used as a bit of a placeholder, as he is projected to sign for something in the one-year, $6-$8-ish million range. I would think that’s probably the range they’d be looking at for a second addition, and I think Kluber will exceed that by at least four or five million. I chose Archer partially because of the Rays connection as well as the perceived upside. I’m not personally a big Archer guy, but among those in this range he probably has the most potential longer-term upside. Taijuan Walker would be the other who could be argued for this spot.
For the rest, well, Chris Sale can’t be back fast enough because it physically hurt me to put Pivetta in here. For what it’s worth I think Tanner Houck starts the year in the minors if everyone was healthy, largely because he’s the only one among him, Pivetta, Matt Andriese and Garrett Whitlock who can be optioned. I do think Pivetta will pitch himself out of the rotation in relatively short order, but to start I think he’ll be there.
Alex Colomé, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Ryan Brasier, Josh Taylor, Carl Edwards Jr., Matt Andriese, Garrett Whitlock
I think I’d be on an island with this opinion, but I could get behind this group. That comes with the caveat that I’m higher on all of the returning players (Barnes, Hernandez, Brasier, Taylor) than most, besides maybe Hernandez. Colomé would be a solid back-end addition. He wouldn’t be my favorite option on the board, but he’s been connected to Boston and has the Rays connection. It makes sense. As for Edwards, I think they’ll add another guy who takes a minor-league deal with a salary around $1 or $2 million if they make the roster. They’d have a solid chance at doing so on this roster. Edwards has had some injury issues in recent years, but when healthy he’s been really good and would be a really interesting upside play at a cheap, relatively risk-free price.
Overall, this roster is... not that great. There’s a path here to contention if a whole lot goes right, but it wouldn’t be my baseline expectation. If this was indeed the roster to start the year I’d probably peg them for 75-80 wins and a likely sellers role at the deadline. And, to be clear, if all of this happened exactly as I outlined I’d retire and you’d never hear from me again. Going out Costanza style.