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A way too early prediction for the Opening Day roster

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Although a lot of the work has been done.

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Red Sox Media Availability Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

We have no idea when, and based on what has been made public essentially no progress has been achieved, but eventually this lockout will end and baseball will resume. When that happens, we can expect a frenzy of activity as teams try to get their rosters set for camp and then the regular season. For the Boston Red Sox, they did a fair amount of work leading up to the lockout, but they still figure to have a handful of moves left up their sleeve to finish off the roster. Because there is nothing better to do at the moment, let’s make an early prediction for what the Opening Day roster is going to look like.

Catcher

Christian Vázquez, Kevin Plawecki

There’s not really too much to say here, as I see the team just running it back for one more year before next offseason, which sets up to be a very interesting one behind the plate. I did think about making a bold decision about a Vázquez trade and another acquisition since the team was reportedly connected to former Pirate Jacob Stallings earlier in the winter, but I decided against it. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but ultimately they have too many other priorities right now and there just aren’t enough quality catchers who will be available to make a deal make sense.

Infield

Bobby Dalbec, Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, José Iglesias, Brad Miller

In an ideal world, I would like to see the Red Sox make more of a splash here at second base, which has been a problem for them for years since Dustin Pedroia hasn’t been able to play anymore. I just don’t see it in the cards this year. Like catcher, I think the infield will be fascinating next winter between a potential first base competition between Dalbec and Triston Casas, potential position changes for Bogaerts and Devers, and likely another year of uncertainty at second base. But for this year, I think they just add depth to their bench. We’ve talked about why Iglesias makes sense as a bench piece here.

Miller is the one new name on this list, and the logic is pretty simple. Dalbec will be given the first base job to run with to start the year, but it’s still not a bad idea to have a veteran behind him, and making it a left-handed bat to complement the right-handed Dalbec would be logical. Former Red Sox like Mitch Moreland and Travis Shaw were considered, but Miller is the better hitter at this point, particularly against righties. On top of that, he can cover multiple other positions in a pinch, making appearances at second base, third base, right field, and left field for the Philadelphia Phillies last season.

Outfield

Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernández, Seiya Suzuki, J.D Martinez, Jackie Bradley Jr.

This is where I think most of us expect the team to make a splash after the lockout is lifted. Heading into the offseason it seemed like this would be one of the areas with the least amount of activity, but trading away Hunter Renfroe means they have to make some kind of other move. Bradley will have a role on this team, but in reality the Red Sox were taking on his contract to grab better prospects in the deal. After performing as one of the worst hitters in all of baseball last season, he’ll need to earn his plate appearances and will start the year as a defensive-minded fourth outfielder.

As for the starters here, I’m intrigued by the idea that the Red Sox could trade Martinez this winter after the NL potentially adds the DH in the new collective bargaining agreement. In that scenario, they could then turn around and sign Kyle Schwarber along with another outfielder, maybe Suzuki or someone a tier lower. Ultimately, though, I don’t think they’d get enough for Martinez in that universe to justify that series of moves, and this would allow them to maybe keep the DH spot open for Devers if it comes to that. So, instead my big move here was Suzuki, who we’ve talked about a bunch here as the best option.

Red Sox practice Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

Starting rotation

Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, Rich Hill, Nick Pivetta, Michael Wacha

I went chalk here, though I don’t think that’s a total given. I’ll start with the order, though, even if that’s mostly chalk too. Given the names here, I wouldn’t be totally shocked if Sale got the Opening Day nod, but it should go to Eovaldi. The latter was arguably the biggest reason for the team’s surprise success last year, and he got deserved Cy Young votes out of it. From there, Sale would obviously be number two based on his entire career, and Hill would get a slight edge over Pivetta both for 2021 performance and longer-term track record. That just leaves Wacha, who I think will start the year in the rotation, but could certainly be beaten out by one of the young guns and be relegated to a long relief role.

Bullpen

Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Hansel Robles, Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier, Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, Hirokazu Sawamura

This is not a bullpen in which I would have a ton of confidence going into the season, so I hope I’m way off base with this one. The two best relievers here in my mind, Whitlock and Houck, are likely both going to head into next season more as starting depth than focusing on relief. In fact, it wouldn’t totally surprise me, in the improbable event everyone is healthy coming out of camp, if one of those two started in the minors, though ultimately I believe their talent would win out in that scenario.

Aside from those two, it’s a lot of hoping for 90th percentile outcomes for intriguing but inconsistent players. They’d need Barnes to be first half Barnes, and Kelly to stay recent Dodgers Kelly. I got the impression both Bloom and Cora were fans of Robles, and I don’t think his market will be all that intimidating, so a reunion there makes sense too. For the last spot I went back and forth between Sawamura and Darwinzon Hernandez, but went with the former even with that leaving them one lefty. If you asked me again tomorrow I might have a different answer, and if we’re being honest some sort of injury would almost certainly open up the roster for Hernandez (or Austin Davis) to get a spot.