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The Red Sox Ended 2023 with a Whimper and a Firing

Chris Sale pitches on the road for the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox could not maintain a promising midsummer run, slipping below .500 in September and changing PBOs in the process.

The Boston Red Sox had a second half to forget. With a winning record at the All-Star break, they appeared to be in the wild card race but promptly fell out of it. The Sox went only 30-41 in the second half, including a brutal 8-19 in September. Their final record of 78-84 is identical to 2022, and missing the playoffs again cost Chaim Bloom his job.

Concerningly, a long list of respected executives turned down the opportunity to interview for the position. Many were wary of how quickly ownership parted with GMs soon after winning the World Series. All that is in the past, though, as the Red Sox hired Chicago Cubs AGM Craig Breslow to be the new Chief Baseball Officer. Fans will certainly recognize him from a long career as a reliever, which included parts of five seasons in Boston and a ring in 2013. There has been little indication so far how he will approach the offseason, but the organization is hoping he can help the front office and the clubhouse get along as a former player himself.

In announcing the decision, team president Sam Kennedy touted the “resounding character references” from such luminaries as David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Brock Holt and David Ross, all of whom are former teammates. I can’t tell you about Breslow’s use of analytics or his ability to evaluate players, but Red Sox Nation listens to those voices. I can tell you that Breslow rose through Chicago’s ranks on the backs of his pitching development acumen, which the Sox could use to bolster their lackluster depth chart.

The State of the Roster

While the results on the field have been disappointing, Bloom actually left the organization in pretty good shape. They aren’t losing much in talent, as DH Justin Turner and OF Adam Duvall are the biggest names headed to the market, and corner bats are the easiest roles to fill. OF Masataka Yoshida, SS Trevor Story and 3B Rafael Devers are around for the long term, and rookies 1B Triston Casas and OF Wilyer Abreu look like core members. OF Alex Verdugo is hitting his stride, but the Sox have enough outfielders that they might trade him from a position of strength.

On the pitching side, the Red Sox have lots of interesting guys but little to rely on. SPs Brayan Bello and Chris Sale both had solid but underwhelming seasons. There are a number of backend starters who have pitched better in long relief, which creates quite the quandary for the coaching staff and front office. Starters are obviously more valuable, but players should be in the best position to succeed. SPs Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford, and Garrett Whitlock are probably better off in the bullpen. A permanent switch worked for RP Josh Winckowski this year.

The bullpen is already in a good position with single-inning relievers. RPs Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, and John Schreiber pitched about as well as expected. RP Brennan Bernardino was the notable breakout after pitching less than three innings in his career before 2023. With a few starters hopefully moving to the bullpen, the relief corps looks close to set for Spring Training.

Where to Upgrade

Even with a good amount of talent hanging around, this team finished with a losing record for a reason. The main goal this offseason must be to improve the run prevention unit that gave up the 10th-most runs this season. The Red Sox need some stability in the rotation, but mixing in upside would also be a positive. I think SP Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the best free agent pitcher available, would be a perfect fit for the large-market Sox with a compatriot already on the roster. Signing a groundball specialist to fill out the fifth starter role would also be wise.

The Red Sox also had a leaky defense this season, which includes a number of the everyday players. Bringing aboard a glove-first outfielder alongside OF Ceddanne Rafaela could push Yoshida into a more regular DH role. Second base has been a problem position for a few years now, so a one-year stopgap before the prospects arrive would be beneficial. INFs Enmanuel Valdez and Luis Urias deserve more opportunities, and the free agent class of second basemen is quite poor, so the front office might need to make an under-the-radar trade. Cs Connor Wong and Reese McGuire are a serviceable tandem but could also use more offense.

Fortunately for Breslow, Bloom did a great job building up the farm system, which has already started to bear fruit and will for years to come. Bloom’s apparatus drafted many position players in the early rounds, and some will likely debut next season. That includes top picks SS Marcelo Mayer and C Kyle Teel, so perhaps Breslow will not feel the need to upgrade up the middle.

Final Thoughts

The new regime faces the daunting task of turning around a franchise with an extremely demanding fanbase. Craig Breslow is of course aware of this, and he knows what it takes to perform at Fenway Park. The Red Sox might need to increase payroll to make the playoffs in 2024, but there is a clear path to contend next season. The key will be deciding which unproven players have what it takes to contribute, and which positions need help from the outside.

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