We’re about six weeks from the first Red Sox players arriving at Fenway South to get a head start on spring training. Chaim Bloom has had three months to rebuild a last-place team.
That he has more time is good, because the Sox still look like no better than a fourth-place team in the deep American League East.
Here are the rotation candidates as it stands today: Brayan Bello, Tanner Houck, Corey Kluber, James Paxton, Nick Pivetta, Chris Sale, and Garrett Whitlock.
Sale has pitched 48⅓ major league innings over the last three seasons and Paxton 21⅔. Bello has made 11 career major league starts and Whitlock nine.
Sale hasn’t been an All-Star since 2018 and hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2017. He’s a prideful person who will be determined to prove the doubters wrong. But can his body back that up?
Paxton is a wild card. Bello has vast promise but needs more polish. The same is true with Whitlock, who is coming off hip surgery.
Houck has 20 career major league starts, but the Sox made it clear at the end of last season they would prefer him in the bullpen following his back surgery.
Pivetta has made 63 starts in the last two seasons, and he’ll happily take the ball every five days. He also had a 6.72 earned run average in 16 starts against divisional opponents last season.
Kluber, who agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal Wednesday, slots in as a third or fourth starter. He turns 37 in April.
There is a lot that could go right with this group and a lot that could go wrong, given their injury history. It would seem to make sense to bring Michael Wacha back as added depth, but the Sox have shown little interest in a reunion.
Kutter Crawford, Bryan Mata, Chris Murphy, Connor Seabold, Brandon Walter, and Josh Winckowski profile as depth starters who would open the year at Triple A.
That’s a much better group than in previous years but still unproven. Mata has the most upside, although that could be as a reliever.
Here is the projected lineup: Masataka Yoshida LF, Trevor Story SS, Rafael Devers 3B, Justin Turner DH, Triston Casas 1B, Alex Verdugo RF, Kiké Hernández CF, Christian Arroyo 2B, Reese McGuire C.
Devers, who likes to swing, seems sure to draw a lot of walks in this lineup. The Sox are counting on Yoshida to be a star and Turner to reverse five consecutive years of his OPS dropping.
The Sox badly need another middle infielder, given the injury concerns with Story and Arroyo. Jean Segura, Jurickson Profar, and Josh Harrison are free agent possibilities. A trade for somebody like Miami’s Joey Wendle would make a lot of sense.
Maybe Yoshida is Rookie of the Year. Maybe Casas is Joey Votto Jr. Maybe Story stays healthy and is an All-Star. Maybe Turner assumes a leadership role while driving in 90 runs. Maybe Hernández wins a Gold Glove in center. Maybe Verdugo finally decides he wants to be an impact player. Maybe all McGuire needed was a chance.
Or maybe Yoshida is just a guy, Casas strikes out a ton, Story can’t make the throws to stay at shortstop, Turner has a league-average OPS and 12 homers, Hernández should be a utility player, Verdugo continues to decline, and McGuire is just a journeyman.
Here is the bench: Connor Wong C, Bobby Dalbec INF, Rob Refsynder OF, and somebody who presumably will win a job in spring training. The best candidates are Jarren Duran and 24-year-old utility player Enmanuel Valdez.
There’s work to be done here, let’s put it that way.
Here is the bullpen: RHP Kenley Jansen is the closer, with Houck, RHP Matt Barnes, LHP Joely Rodriguez, RHP Chris Martin, and RHP John Schreiber the setup men. They need another lefty, which likely means another chance for Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor.
Righthanders Wyatt Mills and Zack Kelly could be helpful, and presumably one or two of the starter candidates will fall into the bullpen as long relievers.
The bullpen looks like a legitimate strength, although you wonder why the Sox felt it necessary to sign Jansen for $16 million a year instead of using that money to improve the lineup.
Bloom said the Red Sox wanted to add as many as eight or nine players. That Xander Bogaerts wasn’t one of them makes this offseason a failure.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the coming season will be. Bloom still has time to improve the roster. He has said several times that the trade market is an avenue the Sox will pursue.