Red Sox 2022 Roster Projection: Key Free Agent Signings Give Alex Cora Flexibility

Time to add?

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We’re knee-deep in Red Sox offseason previews and storylines here at NESN.com. Last week, it was an internal look at the organization, and this week, we broke down potential external options and candidates.

Now, it’s time to put it all together and give the ol’ college try at trying to project the 2022 Opening Day roster for the Red Sox.

Easier said than done, right? Trying to make such predictions are even more difficult this year. For starters, it’s still uncertain what the economic landscape of baseball will look like when the 2022 season begins. A lockout feels more inevitable by the day, and this could be an offseason of massive financial change within the sport. That affects players and teams, which obviously affects potential player movement.

The second piece of this difficult puzzle is where things stand with the Red Sox. Boston’s rebuild feels maybe a year early, and as money comes off the books as the farm system is rebuilt, there might be a little more room for roster alteration. Or, as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom put it recently, the Sox are more likely to add this winter after a couple of painful offseasons that saw players going out of Boston.

And now, (one possible version of) the 2022 Red Sox.

STARTING NINE

C: Christian Vazquez
1B: Bobby Dalbec
2B: Marcus Semien
3B: Rafael Devers
SS: Xander Bogaerts
LF: Alex Verdugo
CF: Kike Hernandez
RF: Hunter Renfroe
DH: J.D. Martinez

— We already made the case for the Red Sox signing Marcus Semien, so it only makes sense to include him here. Christian Arroyo had a fine 2021 season, but if you can get Semien — an MVP finalist — you do it. That’s especially true when you can put him at second base for this season and you’ve got Xander Bogaerts insurance if the shortstop opts out.

— Semien doesn’t come cheap, though, thus eliminating the chance for a Kyle Schwarber reunion. That puts the pressure on Bobby Dalbec, who gets a chance to build on a strong second half at first.

BENCH (4)

Kevin Plawecki
Christian Arroyo
Tim Locastro
Jose Iglesias

— The biggest standout here, it seems, is the return of Jose Iglesias, who really impressed after being added late in the season. He can play shortstop and second base, of course, and even has some experience at third base.

— Tim Locastro was a recent waiver addition from the Yankees. He may or may not make the roster, but if he does, he adds a speed element the club didn’t really have last season.

STARTING ROTATION (5)

Chris Sale
Nathan Eovaldi
Anthony DeSclafani
Nick Pivetta
Garrett Whitlock

— Ultimately, the Sox go with a hybrid approach here, promoting from within (Garrett Whitlock) and signing an external option (Anthony DeSclafani). Originally, we had free agent Steven Matz penciled in, but a reportedly healthy market seems to decrease that likelihood. Instead, it’s DeSclafani, about whom no one is really talking, which makes him a nice little stealth option for Bloom. He had a career year for the Giants, but he already proved to be a solid mid-rotation piece during his time with the Reds. Don’t rule out a trade, as there are a handful of teams potentially looking to unload controlled pitching for prospects. For the sake of this experiment, though, it’s much easier to predict a relatively low-cost signing like DeSclafani instead of predicting some sort of trade.

— As for Whitlock, it would surprise no one to see him start the season in the bullpen, perhaps even as the closer. That, however, feels like a waste of his talent and keeps him from his ceiling. He looks like he has the arsenal of a big league starter, and now that he’s another year removed from Tommy John surgery, Boston should feel better about him shouldering the starter’s workload.

BULLPEN (8)

RHP Matt Barnes (closer)
RHP Ryan Brasier
LHP Josh Taylor
LHP Austin Davis
LHP Darwinzon Hernandez
RHP Hirokazu Sawamura
RHP Tanner Houck
RHP Corey Knebel (projected free agent signing)

— The key to the entire bullpen is Barnes. Between a COVID stint and the ensuing ineffectiveness, his rough second half coincided with a dip in production for the entire relief corps. Assuming he’s healthy — and back pitching at something resembling an All-Star level — it really allows the Sox to balance out the bullpen.

— We’ve got Houck in the bullpen, at least to start the season. The ability to use him for multiple innings a couple of times per week is valuable. It wouldn’t be shocking if he and Whitlock switched roles in this scenario, though.

— After signing Semien and DeSclafani, maybe expecting a Corey Knebel signing is a little much. Then again, the injury concerns could drive down the price, turning this into a lower-risk, higher-reward move that has defined Bloom’s tenure.

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