The Red Sox (72-77) enter Friday’s game against the Yankees in last place in the American League East, 19 games behind their division-leading rivals. They are on track to finish in the cellar for the second time in three years, and based on their big-league roster and farm system, they’ll be heavy favorites to land in last again next year unless they make major changes this offseason.
Boston’s pitching staff ranks 24th in the majors in ERA (4.45) and its bullpen has 27 blown saves in 62 opportunities, one of the worst ratios in baseball. The Red Sox defense ranks 25th out of 30 teams, according to FanGraphs.
Suffice to say, if you can’t pitch and play defense, you won’t be popping champagne at season’s end and playing meaningful games in October. The Red Sox need to prioritize those areas this winter. Their to-do list also includes dealing with a likely opt out by Xander Bogaerts, addressing Rafael Devers’ unsettled contract situation and engaging in negotiations with their impending free agents.
The Red Sox need to have one of their most aggressive offseasons in years. They have the financial might to play “checkbook baseball” and the front office to make bold trades. But it’s time for fewer “value” moves and more big-market “tidal-wave” transactions.
Let’s look at each position, assess the needs and suggest some moves they could make this offseason to get back on track.
Building a more competitive rotation must be an offseason focus even if it requires the Red Sox to play checkbook baseball. But first, they have a lot to sort through.
Chris Sale, 33, is expected to be back to full strength by spring training, but how much can they count on the seven-time All-Star (who hasn’t pitched more than 43 innings in a season since 2019)?
Nathan Eovaldi (32 years old), Michael Wacha (31) and Rich Hill (42) will be free agents. The Red Sox should do their best to re-sign Eovaldi, but — after he’s questioned the front office moves that led to the departures of Kevin Plawecki, Kyle Schwarber and Hunter Renfroe — is the feeling mutual? “Absolutely,” Eovaldi recently said. “I love being here.” But we’ll see how it plays out.
Landing Wacha on a one-year, $7 million deal was one of Boston’s best moves last offseason. He’s posted a 2.70 ERA and a 1.058 WHIP in 21 starts, and been among the top value free-agent signings of the year. However, because of a career track record that includes five of 10 seasons with an ERA above 4.10, and only one strong season in his last four, it would be too risky to reward his strong platform season with a contract of more than two years. (Also of note: His 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings this season are a career-low and his FIP is 3.64.) Bringing back Wacha makes sense, but only for the right contract.