In 1519 the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in central America, and legend has it that upon making landfall he ordered his males to burn their ships.
The message to his troops was easy. There’s no going again. Their solely alternative now — combat or die.
Through its inaction this offseason Red Sox possession has opted for the same strategy. In the face of widespread fan anger and industry-wide bewilderment the membership has chosen to press on with out reinforcements into what ought to stay an extremely hostile AL East. Ownership has successfully challenged the returning gamers to step up or face the implications, apparently unconcerned concerning the self-inflicted injury that could be sustained alongside the best way.
If 2010 was infamously the membership’s bridge 12 months, then 2024 may go down as its burned bridge 12 months.
Maybe some late assist may nonetheless be coming. Maybe a ship carrying Jordan Montgomery or another affect participant may seem over the horizon simply earlier than Opening Day. There have been rumors in latest days of doable trades involving Kenley Jansen and Jarren Duran, however with pitchers and catchers set to report on Wednesday, that is who the Red Sox are — not less than for now.
They’re going to should make it work, in some way.
That being the case, there are nonetheless vital questions that must be settled over the subsequent two months in Fort Myers. Who will comprise the beginning rotation? Who among the many membership’s bevy of depth arms will in the end land a spot within the huge league bullpen? How may the membership’s outfield and bench shake out? Here’s our first crack at projecting Boston’s eventual 26-man roster, with the plain caveat that issues may change dramatically if the Red Sox do in the end make some late strikes within the coming weeks.
Connor Wong, Reese McGuire
The Red Sox have gone to nice lengths to enhance their catching depth within the higher minors, however on the huge league stage followers shouldn’t discover something too completely different from final 12 months. Connor Wong ought to stay the highest possibility behind the plate after a stable first full season as a starter, and Reese McGuire tasks as the first backup and because the left-handed hitting various ought to the matchup name for it.
There’s no purpose to count on Boston to hold a 3rd catcher on the energetic roster, but when Wong or McGuire get harm at any level the primary man up can be Tyler Heineman, who was not too long ago acquired from the New York Mets and is on the 40-man roster. He ought to primarily play at Triple-A, and the Red Sox additionally introduced in fellow veterans Roberto Pérez and Mark Kolozsvary on minor league offers. That group must be way more dependable than Jorge Alfaro, Ronaldo Hernandez and Caleb Hamilton, all of whom are actually with completely different organizations, although ideally none will see important time in Boston.
Fans might surprise if there’s any likelihood high prospect Kyle Teel may issue into the equation, and to that I’d say don’t get your hopes up. Teel was solely drafted final July and has simply 26 skilled video games beneath his belt, together with 9 at Double-A. He’ll begin the season in Portland and will conceivably transfer as much as Triple-A by the summer time, however it’s unlikely he’ll be an element within the majors this 12 months, particularly not out of spring coaching.
Rafael Devers, Trevor Story, Vaughn Grissom, Triston Casas, Pablo Reyes, Bobby Dalbec
The beginning infield is successfully set in stone. Rafael Devers will play third base, Trevor Story will play shortstop, Vaughn Grissom will play second and Triston Casas will play first. Devers, Story and Casas are arguably Boston’s three finest place gamers and the membership can be relying on them to paved the way, and Grissom can be a captivating wild card getting his first actual shot at constant taking part in time within the majors.
Still solely 23 years previous, Grissom posted monster numbers in Triple-A final 12 months and has proven he can compete within the restricted alternatives he had in Atlanta. If he proves himself to be a dependable starter — or higher but, an actual affect participant — it might have big ramifications for each the membership’s short- and long-term future.
How the bench shakes out is much less vital than how the projected starters carry out, however these can be among the extra hotly contested spots up for grabs. Utility males Pablo Reyes and Romy Gonzalez must be the favorites for the primary infield reserve spot, they’re each extra versatile than prospects Enmanuel Valdez and David Hamilton, and whereas Gonzalez has newer outfield expertise Reyes acquitted himself properly at Fenway Park final season.
And Bobby Dalbec? While his departure has appeared inevitable for almost two years now, the Red Sox don’t actually have every other right-handed hitting nook infielders who can adequately again up Devers and Casas. Unless that adjustments he’ll have a greater likelihood of constructing the crew than most followers in all probability notice.
Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran, Wilyer Abreu, Tyler O’Neill, Rob Refsnyder
All 5 of those guys ought to see common taking part in time, however the place and the way a lot stays an open query. With Justin Turner gone the expectation is Masataka Yoshida will transfer into extra of an on a regular basis designated hitter position, permitting the two-time Gold Glove winner Tyler O’Neill to start out in left area. Jarren Duran ought to solidify his place because the beginning heart fielder — assuming he isn’t traded — and rookie Wilyer Abreu has a large open lane to lock down the beginning proper area job.
Rob Refsnyder, clearly, will retain his spot as a lefty-killer off the bench.
The actual query right here is whether or not this stays the group. The Red Sox may conceivably nonetheless add one other bat, and as of this writing Adam Duvall stays unsigned. If the membership had been to deliver him again or purchase one other right-handed hitter like him it might go a good distance in direction of enhancing the lineup, however it might additionally muddy the image right here within the outfield and probably power some robust choices.
The different huge query within the outfield, and arguably for the crew as an entire, is how Ceddanne Rafaela elements into the equation. Rafaela is a flexible defender who can play each heart area and shortstop at a excessive stage and he’s a probably game-breaking power on the basepaths. He can be eligible for Prospect Promotion Incentive rewards, so if the Red Sox put him on the Opening Day roster and he wound up spending 172 days within the majors and contended for a serious award, Boston could possibly be in line to earn a excessive draft choose.
Even with all of that being the case, Rafaela’s offensive strategy nonetheless wants work and he may profit extra from common taking part in time at Triple-A than as a utility man getting inconsistent at-bats off the bench within the majors.
Starting rotation (5)
Brayan Bello, Lucas Giolito, Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford, Garrett Whitlock
When final season ended the widespread expectation was the Red Sox would add a number of beginning pitchers to bolster their rotation. They did signal one, including right-hander Lucas Giolito, however then additionally traded away Chris Sale in alternate for Vaughn Grissom. That successfully leaves Boston again the place it began, counting on a younger and unproven group who weren’t in a position to persistently get the job executed in 2023.
That being stated, there’s some purpose for optimism.
Outside of his weird tendency to wrestle in day video games, Brayan Bello loved a terrific first full season within the majors and must be nicely positioned to take one other step ahead. Giolito had a chaotic and ugly second half final 12 months, however he’s been a constant workhorse all through his profession and obtained off to a robust begin final 12 months earlier than issues went off the rails.
Nick Pivetta has been inconsistent all through his Red Sox profession however emerged as some of the dominant arms in baseball down the stretch. He was considered one of solely 5 pitchers in MLB who recorded greater than 100 strikeouts within the second half — regardless of half of his outings coming in reduction — and he’s additionally getting into a contract 12 months. Kutter Crawford quietly emerged as considered one of Boston’s most dependable starters, and with a full offseason to arrange for the position he must be higher geared up to pitch deep into video games.
Those 4 all have upside, and the membership clearly hopes that new pitching coach Andrew Bailey may help them every attain their full potential. The similar is true for Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck, each younger and proficient arms who must be the prime contenders for the final rotation spot. Picking between the 2 is principally a toss up, so for our functions we’ll go along with Whitlock, who the Red Sox are closely invested in seeing succeed as a starter and will get another likelihood to show he can do the job.
Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, John Schreiber, Brennan Bernardino, Tanner Houck, Josh Winckowski, Cooper Criswell, Justin Slaten
There has been lots of noise recently that the Red Sox might try and commerce Kenley Jansen, the logic being that paying a better $16 million isn’t one of the best use of sources for a possible last-place crew and that the cash freed up could possibly be used to handle different wants.
The concept that the Red Sox must shed extra payroll once they’re already greater than $35 million beneath the primary luxurious tax threshold is fairly pathetic, however that appears to be the fact of the place the crew is true now.
If Jansen goes then issues clearly develop into way more unsure, however so long as he’s right here the bullpen really appears to be like principally set. Jansen can be the nearer, Chris Martin the highest set-up man, Brennan Bernardino the highest lefty and John Schreiber, Josh Winckowski and whichever of Whitlock and Houck isn’t within the rotation the primary high-leverage arms.
Rookie Justin Slaten ought to earn a spot as nicely. As a Rule 5 choose he should spend the season on the energetic roster or be provided again to the Texas Rangers. Considering that the Red Sox instantly traded for him after the Mets chosen him within the Rule 5 Draft, and contemplating his eye-popping strikeout numbers and overpowering stuff, he’ll seemingly get each alternative to show himself.
That leaves an entire bunch of arms battling for the final spot.
Cooper Criswell is considered one of solely two huge league free brokers the Red Sox have signed and he’s ostensibly set to compete for a rotation spot together with Whitlock, Houck and Winckowski. Isaiah Campbell and Greg Weissert each have stable monitor information within the huge leagues already and had been introduced on this winter as a part of offseason trades. Zack Kelly made the crew out of camp final 12 months and fought his means again after lacking a lot of the season because of elbow surgical procedure. Lefties Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter and Joe Jacques all noticed motion final season, with Murphy particularly having fun with a superb two-month run following his debut.
Regardless of who makes the crew out of camp, all of these guys ought to play a job this season, even when they discover themselves bouncing up and down from Triple-A relying on the membership’s wants any given day.
One one who can’t say the identical is Bryan Mata.
Formerly Boston’s high pitching prospect, Mata is coming off a dreadful 2023 season marked by damage and inconsistency and is now out of minor league choices. He should make the massive league roster out of camp or be positioned on waivers, which might almost certainly result in his being misplaced to a different membership.
After failing to pan out as a starter Mata is being moved to the bullpen, the place the membership hopes his overpowering stuff may probably play higher. Mata is undeniably proficient and will develop into an actual weapon if he’s in a position to put all of it collectively — and perhaps he’ll as soon as he begins working with Bailey and director of pitching Justin Willard. But make no mistake, Mata is pitching for his Red Sox profession this spring and if he can’t show he belongs then his time with the group will seemingly attain its finish.