The Red Sox have finished in last place two years in a row and will eventually have a new president of baseball operations. Nobody in the organization should feel safe, including the players.
After a season of constant roster churn, the Sox have time to regroup and decide which players should return in 2024. Presumably the executive to be named later will have a say in this, as the decisions won’t be due until after the World Series.
Here’s a breakdown of the players on the 40-man roster (including those on the injured list), grouped by their contract status. Who should stay and who should go? Here’s one opinion.
Rafael Devers: Years from now, people likely will wonder why the Red Sox awarded their first $300 million contract to Devers and not Mookie Betts, but what’s done is done. He stays and he’ll be staying a while.
Kenley Jansen: An expensive closer on a last-place team is having a new hood ornament on a rusted-out pickup truck. Trade Jansen to a contender and make Tanner Houck the closer.
Chris Martin: At 37, Martin had the best season of his career. A cynic would suggest it’s the time to trade him before regression kicks in, but he should stay around for the second season of his contract.
Rob Refsnyder: A solid platoon outfielder (an .828 OPS against lefties) for $1.25 million next season is obviously a good deal.
Chris Sale: There is little choice but to keep Sale, who has one year and $27.5 million remaining on his deal, and hope he can make more than 20 starts.
Trevor Story: He has a .685 OPS over two years with the Sox, with four years and $100 million remaining. There’s certainly no trade value there.
Garrett Whitlock: The Sox did the right thing by signing him to a four-year, $18.75 million deal in April 2022. He posted a 4.26 ERA the last two seasons and was on the injured list five times. The team has little choice but to see it through.
Masataka Yoshida: He’s a good player, or a good contact hitter, to be more accurate. The Sox have to hope this season was one of necessary adjustments and that he’ll be better all-around in 2024.
Pending free agents
Adam Duvall: He had teammates sign a jersey to add to his collection at home. At 35, he’ll want to sign with a team with better playoff hopes.
Corey Kluber: Big swing and a miss from Chaim Bloom. Kluber, who turns 38 in April, has a 4.80 ERA since 2019. This may be it for him once the Sox decline his option.
Adalberto Mondesi: Rumor has it the Sox had a player by this name under contract. Pretty good chance they won’t next season.
James Paxton: He pitched well in June and July before breaking down. The Sox need more reliability from their rotation than Paxton can offer.
Joely Rodriguez: A journeyman lefty who will likely land somewhere else next season. Sox are likely to decline his option.
Justin Turner: He holds a $13.4 million option for 2024 along with a $6.7 million buyout if he goes to free agency. The easy call for Turner is to take the $6.7 million knowing he can easily land a contract for at least $10 million-$12 million. He will not lack for opportunities, but the Sox should fight to keep him.
Bobby Dalbec: Now 28, Dalbec hit .213 the last two seasons at the major-league level and struck out in 36 percent of his plate appearances. The best thing for all concerned would be to let him find a new team and start over.
Reese McGuire: He’s a classic capable backup catcher, and those are hard to find.
Nick Pivetta: The Sox will happily bring him back and let his role be decided over time as other decisions are made. He was arguably Bloom’s best acquisition the last four years.
John Schreiber: He has pitched well since being claimed off waivers from the Tigers prior to the 2021 season and should be back for 2024.
Luis Urías: Bloom’s only trade-deadline acquisition this season was a flop. He didn’t hit well and his defense was suspect.
Alex Verdugo: By the end of the season, the Sox were pinch-hitting for Verdugo against lefties, and his statistics show that he has been roughly a league-average hitter the last two seasons. It’s easy to say he should be traded, but his value has dropped. Better idea: Hope he’s motivated going into his free agent season and performs well. Then trade him in July.
Under team control
Easy decisions: There’s little question the Sox should retain Wilyer Abreu, Brennan Bernardino, Brayan Bello, Triston Casas, Jarren Duran, Kutter Crawford, David Hamilton, Houck, Zack Kelly, Chris Murphy, Ceddanne Rafaela, Enmanuel Valdez, Brandon Walter, Josh Winckowski, and Connor Wong.
Inexpensive contributors allow teams payroll and roster flexibility, and this group of players will be important as either trade chips or part of the mix next season.
Danger zone: Justin Garza, Logan Gillaspie, Joe Jacques, Mauricio Llovera, Wyatt Mills, Kaleb Ort, Pablo Reyes, Nick Robertson, and Zack Weiss.
These were rummage-sale acquisitions by Bloom, players who came cheaply because something they did appealed to the analytics staff. The results on the field told a different story. There may not be enough evidence to merit a spot on the 40-man roster.
Special case: Bryan Mata. Once a well-regarded prospect, his time may be over. Mata pitched only 27 innings this season and doesn’t appear close to being a major league contributor. He’ll get a chance to prove his worth in the Arizona Fall League.