BALTIMORE — The season is 75 percent over and what have the Red Sox accomplished?
Not much. They beat the Baltimore Orioles, 4-3, on Saturday but remain in last place in the American League East and out of realistic contention for a postseason spot.
The only fun left for Sox fans this season will be watching old friends Mookie Betts and Christian Vázquez in the postseason.
A better question at this point is what have the 60-61 Sox learned to this point? There are plenty of entries in that column.
Rafael Devers has shown he can play third base. His hard work has paid off and the Sox now have a better understanding of where he fits on the roster moving forward.
That the Sox haven’t taken this information and signed Devers to a long-term contract is borderline irresponsible. The Atlanta Braves have been aggressive in locking up their young stars and the Sox should be following that path.
Devers cannot become a free agent until after the 2023 season. But every day that passes without him signed long term is another day wasted.
The Sox have found a reliable reliever in John Schreiber. The righthander, claimed off waivers before last season, is already a good option in the eighth inning and could be a closer down the road.
His willingness to attack hitters and the emotion he shows on the mound speak to Schreiber’s competitive nature. The Sox could use a lot more of that.
But for now, limit his use. Schreiber has pitched 49 innings this season, 33⅓ more than his previous high in the majors. The Sox have turned Schreiber into a valuable asset and should be careful with him.
Matt Barnes has emerged from the woods of his career crisis and pitched four shutout innings in his last four outings with seven strikeouts. Since he’s signed for next season at $8.3 million, give him some high-leverage chances down the stretch to boost his confidence.
We’ve seen that Michael Wacha is a good fit with the Sox, posting a 2.28 earned run average in 15 starts. He worked into the sixth inning Saturday and didn’t allow a run a day after the Sox used five relievers.
Wacha works hard, is accountable to his teammates, and has earned the trust of the coaching staff.
Given his injury history, bringing back Nate Eovaldi on anything other than a short-term deal carries considerable risk. That makes it a priority to retain Wacha.
Garrett Whitlock, who got the save Saturday, needs his role defined.
He was a successful starter in the minors for the Yankees, then pitched in relief in 2021 after returning from Tommy John surgery.
Whitlock started this season in the bullpen, then made nine starts before going back to the bullpen. This issue should be settled before spring training.
The Sox have learned they need outfielders. Alex Verdugo is fine in left field. He’s a good hitter and average fielder who doesn’t hit a lot of home runs or steal many bases.
It’s a massive failure he was the best player they got back for Betts but that’s over with.
Other than Verdugo, who do they have in the outfield? Jarren Duran hasn’t shown he’s an everyday player at this point and he turns 26 next month. None of the prospects are close, either.
Kiké Hernández, who will be a free agent, is a good bounce-back candidate for next season. Beyond that, outfield is a gaping hole on the roster unless they bring back Tommy Pham for what would be his age-35 season.
Free agency is not the solution. Other than Aaron Judge, who the Yankees will never let sign with the Sox, the options are poor. Chaim Bloom will need to be creative.
It’s glaringly obvious the Sox need more muscle in the lineup. That a team playing home games at Fenway Park is 19th in the majors in home runs is astonishing.
It doesn’t matter at what position or whether it comes via trade or free agency, the Sox need some mashers. J.D. Martinez had a great run in Boston but he’s not part of the future.
The Sox also need to identify a front-line catcher.
Career backup Reese McGuire has impressed Alex Cora with his defensive skills since being acquired from the White Sox and is getting ample playing time. The Sox have had Ronaldo Hernandez and Connor Wong split time in Triple A.
It’s a long list of issues. That’s why they’re in last place.