It’s safe to say this season has been nothing short of a disaster.
Some of us were maybe overly optimistic before a pitch was even thrown. But there was reason for at least some hope at the time. For the first time in three seasons, the Red Sox would have a legitimate closer to bolster their bullpen rather than relying on a closer by committee. While the signing of Masataka Yoshida was still being debated, he was putting on a show at the World Baseball Classic. With the additions of Justin Turner and Adam Duvall, the lineup hopefully would have more balance and pop. Granted, there was also reason for concern. Trevor Story needed surgery…again, and wasn’t properly replaced. I’ll be honest that I was optimistic Kiké Hernandez could fill the job for now. He had been playing spectacular defense in the outfield and even if his batting ceiling was half of what his spectacular 2021 postseason looked like, things would be alright. The starting rotation was still perilously thin and improperly addressed, with Chris Sale sidelined, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha not retained, and Corey Kluber signed, going so far to be the Opening Day starter. So what would prevail, the optimism or the cynicism that surrounded the team?
Maybe it was a sign when Adam Duvall—-who started the season scorching hot—went down with a wrist injury in Detroit three weeks into the season. But hey, Jarred Duran was able to come into his own as an everyday center fielder! Yeah, but then Kiké Hernandez completely imploded both with the glove and with the bat. Christian Arroyo and Yu Chang both went down, leaving the anemic middle infield even more starved for talent. Pablo Reyes came in and did a very solid job holding down the fort with Enmanuel Valdez, but neither guy should have ever been relied upon as every-day starters. That’s not to mention the complete disappearance of Adalberto Mondesi, who was acquired for Josh Taylor. His injuries were always mysterious and keeping him off the field.
Chris Martin and Kelley Jansen both had what I would call successful seasons, though! Yes, Martin started out rough and Jansen was inconsistent at times, but both brought stability to the back end of the bullpen. That is, when the Sox could get to use them. Nothing was consistent on the mound. The best thing that came out of the season on the bump by FAR was the emergence of Brayan Bello as a strong starter. You can’t just throw Bello out five days a week. Corey Kluber? Both terrible and injury-riddled. Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck both also suffered from the injury bug. How many times did we have to suffer through a bullpen game from the likes of Chris Murphy, Josh Winckowski, and Kaleb Ort? How about Ryan Brasier continuing to stink, getting released, then unleashing his super saiyan mode in Los Angeles? Frustrating, to say the least, as much as unpredictable at the time. Again, were there positives? Sure, Brennan Bernardino was a good find, and Nick Pivetta had a long stretch of being seemingly unstoppable as a bulk pitcher after a one or two inning opener. Even still, therein lies the rub that the rotation was never properly reinforced forcing at least two bullpen games a week for the better part of a month and a half. If that isn’t critically taxing on arms not designed for that workload, I don’t know what else is.
It felt like for every up, there were three downs. My optimism this season was certainly misguided. The countdown to finally finish this miserable season is almost at its end. So where does this team go?
There’s a lot at stake about the direction of the Boston Red Sox in the next five months. How does the front office get shaped? We now know Chaim Bloom won’t be at the helm, and time will tell how that decision pans out, because it’s just as dependent as who comes into his seat. Do they go with potential from other big-markets like Brandon Gomes from the Dodgers or Sam Fuld from the Phillies? Do they really want to test the fanbase’s patience pulling from the small market pool again? How about Kim Ng, one of the most experienced potential candidates out there? What ownership does here is maybe more important than anything that happens on the roster.
They need someone willing to go bold, spend and take risks, do things it felt like Bloom would never let happen because of whatever internal analytics be deemed to be worthy of deity-like status. That’s not to say analytics aren’t important, but when there’s a clear need, why was it never addressed? There’s a ton of exciting potential in free agency this winter. Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto are going to send this market into an absolute spiral of inflation, two of the most incredible talents baseball has seen—-one with MLB experience (and many, many personal accolades) and one without. Even getting one won’t fix the rotation as a whole, so how do you bolster it? Trade for talent with your glut of prospects? Is there anyone else worth signing?
How about fixing the defense? Without a doubt, the Red Sox team defense was one of the worst in baseball in 2023. Do you shift Story back to second base and get a shortstop? Do you get a second baseman to hold you over until Marcelo Mayer is ready? Do you make Rafael Devers a perma-DH and get a third baseman? The only constant in this situation seems to be Triston Casas, who exploded onto the scene after April. The outfield still has questions too. Is Alex Verdugo going to be a Red Sox? Do you make Masataka Yoshida the DH instead? Are Jarren Duran/Ceddanne Rafaela/Wilyer Abreu ready for the big time consistently? It’s up to Duran to prove his 2023 wasn’t a fluke and Rafaela/Abreu to live up to their potential.
How do you build an efficient bullpen around one more year of Kenley Jansen? How do you make sure you have his successor? There are clearly way more questions to ask than answers, but the amount of answers also about to an absolute headache for a new head of baseball operation, with whatever title they come with. Let’s hope they have the confident, guile and backing cough cough FSG GIVE THEM MONEY cough cough.
We deserve a 2024 Red Sox that reflects the answers to all the frustrations this fan base has had the last three season. Let’s hope we all can get to February in one piece until then.
What do you want to see happen? What’s your top priority? Who do you want to see join the club, both in the front office and on the field?