Playing nine innings while trying to get to the bottom of whether Triston Casas, Boog Powell, or Moose Skowron is/was the first first baseman in MLB history to wear nail polish …
1. It’s probably an overstatement to suggest that Chaim Bloom’s future with the Red Sox directly correlates with Masataka Yoshida’s performance as a Major League Baseball rookie. This team has more variables, more players who theoretically could recapture old glory or flop like the 1996 version of Kevin Mitchell than any in recent Red Sox history.
But there’s no doubt about it: Bloom needs Yoshida to be, at the least, an above-average offensive player with patience and some pop, and it needs to happen immediately.
The Red Sox’ willingness to spend more than $105 million (including the posting fee) to land Yoshida blew away all other potential suitors, and they did so within hours of Xander Bogaerts’s departure. Yoshida was Bloom’s priority, and he’s the most intriguing player on the roster because of it.
I’m looking forward to watching him. He’d better be good.
2. Of all of the veteran question marks in the starting rotation, I’m most confident that Chris Sale will be a valuable contributor, with Corey Kluber some distance behind him, and James Paxton a great distance behind Kluber.
Sale looked like himself for his [checks notes] 5⅔ innings of MLB action last season before he suffered more freakish accidents than a secondary character in “Final Destination.” I’m convinced he will pitch like an ace again, at least until he falls through an open manhole or a rogue coyote blows him up with Acme dynamite or something.
3. Paxton hasn’t pitched in a major league game since recording four outs on April 6, 2021, with the Mariners. His recovery from Tommy John surgery has been arduous, and anything the Sox get from the big lefty is a bonus.
But Kluber is an interesting case. The two-time Cy Young Award winner (two more than Sale) was slightly below average for the Rays last season, finishing with a 4.34 ERA and 84 adjusted ERA in 164 innings. His strikeouts per 9 innings fell to a career-low 7.6. But his walk rate (1.2 per 9) was the best in the American League and the best of his career.
If he can take on a similar workload for the Sox as a strike-throwing, middle-of-the-rotation starter, that’s a valuable pitcher.
4. It probably ended up this way more by desperation than design, but it is alarming how poor the Red Sox outfield defense could be. Descriptions of Yoshida’s defense make me think he’s going to give us Mike Greenwell flashbacks. Adam Duvall is a competent center fielder but better in right. And the right fielder, Alex Verdugo, isn’t even much of a left fielder.
The Red Sox’ best defensive outfielder, Kiké Hernández, is playing shortstop because Trevor Story’s elbow gave out and the team’s supposed interest in retaining Bogaerts was feigned.
The Red Sox have had so many highlight-making outfield trios in their history. This will not be among them.
5. It’s a failing of the organization (and multiple general managers) that the Red Sox have not developed an above-average starting pitcher since Clay Buchholz. (Some might say Jon Lester, but as maddening as Buchholz could be, he was magnificent for stretches.)
Here’s to Brayan Bello ending that drought. He has the best stuff of any Red Sox pitching prospect in years if not decades, and his competitiveness, confidence, and capacity for learning are also pluses.
He might go through some growing pains … but he also might end up being the most fun thing about the 2023 Red Sox.
6. Nice to see the name of 2012 Red Sox BABIP legend Pedro Ciriaco pop up among the team’s organizational moves this week. The former infielder was hired as a Dominican Summer League instructor, presumably specializing in Hitting ‘Em Where They Ain’t.
Ciriaco was one of the few rays of sunshine in ’12, becoming something of a fan favorite with his knack for delivering a seeing-eye single whenever the Sox needed one. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was .352 that season — including .414 in July and .388 in August.
It wasn’t sustainable, but the Summer of Ciriaco sure was fun while it lasted.
7. I know there’s some fear that Rafael Devers might end up being pitched around, but I’m not especially worried about that affecting his production. He’s the type of elite hitter who will crush any mistake thrown his way.
If Yoshida (presuming his on-base skills translate) and Justin Turner (why does he remind me of Carney Lansford?) hit ahead of him, Devers should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs, even more so if Duvall, who presumably will hit behind him, can come close to replicating his production of 2021, when he drove in 113 runs.
8. Though the bullpen would really be something if the brain trust had decided to keep Garrett Whitlock in a relief role, the additions of Chris Martin and Kenley Jansen should give Alex Cora a depth of quality options that he didn’t often have last year — especially if John Schreiber can repeat his unexpectedly excellent season.
The 28-year-old’s fuel tank hit empty at the end, but he still finished with a 2.22 ERA and 2.7 bWAR, second only to Devers among returning Red Sox.
9. And so we’ve reached the self-promotional part of the program. It was the privilege of my career to edit “The Boston Globe Story of the Red Sox,” a thorough collection of the paper’s finest Red Sox coverage through the team’s entire history.
Published by Black Dog & Leventhal, the book is 432 pages and includes hundreds of articles by the likes of Peter Gammons, Bob Ryan, Ray Fitzgerald, Leigh Montville, Dan Shaughnessy, and many, many other familiar bylines. The book launches March 7 but is available for pre-order now.