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2023 Offseason Outlook: Outfield

The Red Sox have retooled their outfield, part by choice and part by necessity.

Masataka Yoshida Boston Red Sox Press Conference Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Players On The Roster In 2023

The Red Sox have been busy this offseason, rebuilding their outfield out of need for upgrades and due to injury. Heading into the 2023 season, only Alex Verdugo remains as a holdover from 2022. Some of this, as I mentioned, is due to circumstance. Trevor Story’s UCL surgery means that he will be out until at least the All-Star break. Kiké Hernandez, a victim of his own versatility, now looks like he will be the team’s starting shortstop on opening day.

To replace Kiké in center field the team went out and acquired Adam Duvall on a one-year, seven million dollar contract. Duvall is a 34-year-old outfielder with experience in the corners as well as in center field. His right-handed bat is much needed, but comes with lots of swing and miss, he has a career 28.5 percent strikeout rate that has been trending up in recent years. On the plus side, he can play a solid center field and his bat comes with ample pop, he slammed 38 home runs as recently as 2021. With a career .289 OBP the Red Sox will be hoping that Duvall can be a better fielding, albeit slightly more volatile version of Hunter Renfroe.

The biggest outside splash made by Bloom and Co. was the acquisition of Masataka Yoshida. Yoshida comes to the Red Sox from Japan where he starred for the Orix Buffaloes of the NPB. At 5’8” and 176 lbs. he has a smaller frame but he comes with an impressive skill set. He makes a ton of contact, much of it hard contact, which resulted in a slash line of .327/.421/.539 during his seven-year, 762 game career in Japan. Projection systems love him and predict that he will adapt seamlessly to the MLB format. ATC, a projection system that uses many other projection systems to create its projection, has him down for a line of .285/.367/.451 with a 127 wRC+ and 15 home runs. If this is the case he will be well worth the five-year $90 contract and the additional posting fee that the Red Sox paid to acquire him.

Verdugo agreed to a $6.3 million dollar contract with the team in his second year of arbitration. With only one more year of control remaining in 2024 he will look to reestablish his value and live up to his potential with a big season in 2023. In addition the team has Rob Refsnyder, who played extremely well in limited time in 2022, and they recently signed both Greg Allen and Raimel Tapia to minor league contracts. Allen is right handed and Tapia is left handed, of the two players Tapia is more interesting and I could see him getting some play this year. Neither guy is someone you want to rely on everyday. Overall, this is a very deep group, but not an overly talented group.

Players In The Upper Minors With A Chance To Contribute In 2023

Jarren Duran is still in the Red Sox organization, for now. It feels like he could benefit greatly from a change of scenery and I would be surprised if he was not included as part of a trade before the season begins. Duran played so poorly both offensively and defensively in his time with the Red Sox last year and has a lot to prove to himself, the team, and the fans. His speed, his physicality, and his ability to adapt all make him an intriguing player despite his warts.

The player that represents the most exciting option in the upper minors is, without a doubt, Ceddanne Rafaela. Rafaela broke out in a big way last season, over 116 games, across High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland, he slashed .299/.342/.538 with 21 home runs and 28 steals. The best thing about Rafaela is his defense. Many evaluators believe that he has Gold Glove potential in center and would be well above average in the infield. Rafaela still chases too much and his 5’8” 150lb frame makes some question how much power he will be able to maintain at the MLB level.

The final prospect to mention is Wilyer Abreu, who was one of the two players acquired in the Christian Vazquez trade last year. Abreu was recently added to the 40-man roster and has an enticing power/speed combo. He would be clearly third in line behind Duran and Rafaela for playing time.

Options In Free Agency

At this point in the offseason there is virtually nothing left on the market worth pursuing. At the beginning of the offseason Aaron Judge was the big prize, one that never seemed very realistic for the Red Sox. Mitch Haniger was a name I liked for the Red Sox and Brandon Nimmo is highly regarded, however, an argument can be made that the Red Sox signed the third best outfielder on the market in Yoshida.

My Suggestion

I think that the Red Sox did a pretty good job addressing the outfield this past offseason. I like Yoshida and think he can be a very good player. I wasn’t in favor of trading Verdugo because I think he has another level. I would have liked to see Kiké stay in center field, but the team’s bungling of the Xander Bogaerts contract coupled with Story’s injury put them in this situation. This should be a pretty good outfield in 2023 albeit with middling defense and slightly above average offensive production. I don’t think they should add anything else to this group and I don’t think they will.