2023 Concerns: Run Prevention vs. Offensive Upside

Something that I’ve struggled to fully articulate the past couple weeks, and one of the reasons why I’ve been so skeptical about this team, is that I don’t think this group of position players works together as a cohesive unit that will be particularly good at anything.

Run prevention was a huge issue for the Red Sox in 2022. That, along with a downright bad bullpen, is why they only won 78 games last year. Volatility of the players aside, my biggest concern with this roster is that I think the Red Sox are going to have to choose between prioritizing run prevention or having any semblance of a good offensive lineup, at least until Trevor Story comes back—which could be at the all-star break, in August, in September, or not until 2024… we just don’t know.

With Story sidelined, this team only has a few positive defenders: McGuire at C, Mondesi at SS, Kike (elite in CF, but only slightly above average as an infielder), Duvall (as a corner outfielder, but his range in CF at Fenway as a 34-year-old is a potential concern), and maybe Casas (positive signs, albeit a small sample size) at 1B.

With the current roster, and if everyone is healthy, the best defensive alignment the Red Sox could use to prioritize preventing runs would be:

C: McGuire
1B: Casas
2B: Arroyo
SS: Mondesi
3B: Devers
LF: Verdugo
CF: Hernandez
RF: Duvall
DH: Turner OR Yoshida

However, that alignment would mean that only two of Yoshida, Turner, and Verdugo could be worked into the lineup. That seems really weak offensively to me, especially when you consider the streakiness of Verdugo, the lack of contact of Duvall, the light-hitting and sky-high BABIP of McGuire, and the nonexistent plate discipline of Mondesi. Scoring runs with that lineup could be a huge issue.

With everyone healthy, the best defensive alignment the Red Sox could use to prioritize scoring runs would be:

C: McGuire
1B: Casas
2B: Arroyo
SS: Hernandez
3B: Devers
LF: Yoshida
CF: Duvall
RF: Verdugo
DH: Turner

But this alignment plays Yoshida (a poor defender) in LF, Verdugo in RF (his much weaker position), Duvall in CF (with two sub-par fielders next to him in the outfield), and Kike (an elite defensive CF) on the infield. It also takes the glove-first Mondesi out of the lineup, entirely. Preventing runs with that lineup could be a huge issue.

They can’t have it both ways. Any way I draw it up, the Red Sox are either going to have a sub-par offensive lineup or an average defense one until Trevor Story comes back, and that’s with everyone healthy.

I do understand there is a lot of versatility within the group to give Cora options to manage injuries, days off, etc. but playing your best defenders out of position isn’t a great answer if you need to get better at preventing runs across the board. Removing one of Yoshida, Verdugo, Turner, or Casas from a lineup that lost the production of Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, and (until mid-July at the very earliest) Trevor Story this offseason is also not a great answer if you want to score runs.

This seems like a major problem to me, and that’s why I think the roster construction this offseason has been very flawed.

  • If Duvall was going to be brought in, why are both Verdugo and Yoshida here?
  • If the front office believes in Verdugo and sees Yoshida as an offensive star, why sign Turner?
  • If they’re confident in Mondesi’s recovery and like his glove at SS, why was Duvall brought in, pushing Kike to the infield until Story returns?

I’m sure the answer to all of these questions is "for depth and options," which this team very much needs, but that doesn’t seem like a good allocation of resources to me... not when they’re trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold (thanks for staying over last year, Chaim!) and compete (we’ll see) this season.

That’s my problem with Bloom constructing a roster with as many volatile and injury-prone players as the Red Sox currently have, and that’s without even mentioning the pitching staff. This group is also going to rely heavily on Devers to be the main run producer in the lineup. Devers is one of the best hitters in the American League, so I'm confident in his abilities, but if god forbid he has to miss any significant time in 2023, the lineup will be pathetically weak.

I really hope they prove me wrong, but this position player group has "mediocre" written all over it from my perspective, and that's unacceptable when you consider that their current payroll is over $220 million. I am worried... Thank you for attending my TED talk.