Red Sox 2023 Roster Projection: Predicting Offseason Signings, Trades

How will Boston address its needs before Opening Day?

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November 28, 2022

The Boston Red Sox are nearing an inflection point.

Not only did they finish in last place in the American League East in 2022, one year after falling two wins shy of the World Series. Their roster also is littered with question marks, starting with Xander Bogaerts’ free agency and whether Boston will make good on its stated desire to re-sign the franchise shortstop.

It all makes for a fascinatingly unpredictable offseason, which is sure to evoke a feeling of uneasiness among many Red Sox fans. The decisions made by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and company over the next several months could have serious long-term ramifications, for better or worse.

So, what will the Red Sox’s roster look like in 2023? Let’s take our first crack at predicting Boston’s 26-man Opening Day squad, factoring in signings and trades the Red Sox could make to address their several needs.

Keep in mind we’re simply speculating. But now — right after Thanksgiving and before the Major League Baseball winter meetings — feels like a good time to start plotting a path forward as the Red Sox attempt to return to championship contention next season and beyond.

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Lineup
C- Reese McGuire
1B- Triston Casas
2B- Trevor Story
SS- Xander Bogaerts
3B- Rafael Devers
LF- Alex Verdugo
CF- Kiké Hernández
RF- Ian Happ
DH- Mitch Haniger

The Red Sox made it clear re-signing Xander Bogaerts is their top priority, and while they’ll undoubtedly face stiff competition in their effort to retain the four-time All-Star, let’s assume the sides eventually find common ground. If not, Boston could move Trevor Story to shortstop and tap into the second base market, where Jean Segura is the best name available in free agency. It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox splurging for one of the other three high-profile free agent shortstops (Carlos Correa, Trea Turner or Dansby Swanson) if they don’t re-sign Bogaerts, but it’s nevertheless an option.

The two names that otherwise jump out here: Ian Happ and Mitch Haniger.

Happ, a switch-hitting outfielder, is a trade candidate given he’s entering the final year of his contract with the rebuilding Chicago Cubs. The 28-year-old is coming off a very solid 2022 in which he earned an All-Star selection, won a Gold Glove and posted a career-best 3.5 fWAR. The Red Sox desperately need a jolt in the outfield, where they ranked 27th in fWAR last season, and Happ is an above-average hitter with good on-base skills and decent pop.

Haniger, a right-handed bat, represents a buy-low gamble in free agency. The soon-to-be-32-year-old has dealt with various injuries in his career, which contributed to a lackluster 2022, but he launched 39 home runs in 157 games in 2021 while ranking in the 82nd percentile in barrel rate. The Red Sox need to replace designated hitter J.D. Martinez, a free agent, in some way, shape or form. And with José Abreu, an ideal target, reportedly signing with the Houston Astros, Haniger is a decent fallback option who’s not a total liability in the outfield, either. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Haniger will land a three-year, $39 million contract this offseason.

The Red Sox could target a catcher, with old friend Christian Vázquez among those available in free agency. But the tandem of Reese McGuire and Connor Wong looked capable down the stretch last season. So, it shouldn’t be a focal point with so many other holes.

Bench
Connor Wong, C
Christian Arroyo, IF
Rob Refsnyder, OF
Eric Hosmer, 1B

Not a ton to add here. It’s mostly chalk. Eric Hosmer is an imperfect first-base compliment to Triston Casas, as they’re both left-handed hitters, so perhaps the Red Sox do something there. Otherwise, Rob Refsnyder, Christian Arroyo and, to a lesser extent, Connor Wong are good bets to secure reserve roles with Boston in 2023. Also, don’t sleep on Enmanuel Valdez — one of the prospects acquired from Houston in the Christian Vázquez trade — to push for a spot in spring training.

Rotation
Chris Sale, LHP
Kodai Senga, RHP
Garrett Whitlock, RHP
Brayan Bello, RHP
Nick Pivetta, RHP

Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Wacha and Rich Hill are free agents. Eovaldi, whom the Red Sox extended a qualifying offer, definitely is a candidate to re-sign with Boston, but it’s hardly a foregone conclusion. And Kodai Senga, while an unknown commodity, has a higher ceiling based on his ace-level performance in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. He’s the type of wild-card addition that could pay major dividends, with MLB Trade Rumors projecting a five-year, $75 million for Senga, who turns 30 in January.

The Red Sox likely will (and should) give Whitlock another look in the rotation, where he’ll join Chris Sale (assuming health), Brayan Bello (debuted in 2022) and Nick Pivetta (innings eater). James Paxton exercised his player option for 2023, so he, too, will factor into Boston’s plans. It’s hard to pinpoint Paxton’s immediate contributions given the amount of time he’s missed over the past few years, but the lefty could replace any of the aforementioned names based on how everything shakes out in spring training.

Bullpen
Taylor Rogers, LHP
Seth Lugo, RHP
Tanner Houck, RHP
Matt Barnes, RHP
John Schreiber, RHP
Josh Taylor, LHP
Joely Rodríguez, LHP

The Red Sox signed Joely Rodríguez last week in what could be a bargain for Boston, as there’s a lot to like about the veteran southpaw’s underlying metrics. There’s still work to be done in the bullpen, though, and we’re eyeing Taylor Rogers and Seth Lugo — two free agents — to provide a boost.

Rogers, who turns 32 in December, has ample ninth-inning experience, although the Red Sox wouldn’t necessarily need to deploy him like a traditional closer. The 4.76 ERA that Rogers posted in 2022 might be a turnoff for some, but a glimpse under the hood suggests there’s nothing to be too alarmed about and that he’s still a solid high-leverage reliever who strikes out a bunch, walks few and induces ground balls at an encouraging rate.

Lugo, who just turned 33, reportedly has drawn interest as a starter despite pitching exclusively as a reliever with the New York Mets over the last two seasons. The Red Sox could use him in high-leverage and/or multi-inning spots, with the option to plug him into the rotation if necessary. The right-hander has a five-pitch mix — including a curveball that ranked in the 99th percentile in spin rate in 2022 — that should play in any role.

Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images
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