Derrik gave us his projections for the 2023 Red Sox offense and pitching staff just after the trade deadline, and his knowledge of and patience for tracking baseball accounting dwarfs my own. Still, someone who talks as much trash as I do about the fans that don’t believe in Chaim Bloom has to at least have the guts to make his own predictions, right? So I thought I’d take my own stab at sketching out how I think the Red Sox will look in 2023.

 

Nerdist Background

I love making lineups.

When I lived at my grandparents’ house at the age of ten or twelve or however old I was then, I’d play baseball (tennis ball/taped up whiffle ball bat-style) by myself just about every day in the summer. A row of hedges separated their backyard from that of the next door neighbor, an incredibly sweet old lady named Louisa.

Those hedges made for a child’s perfect facsimile of Fenway’s outfield wall, with an abnormally tall hedge where the green monster would be and a huge pine tree on the opposite side to play the part of Pesky’s Pole. The corner of Grandma’s house was first base, a maple (I think?) tree on the opposite side of the yard was third, and a big flower pot (bereft of flowers for some reason) smack dab in the middle posed as second. Home plate was my glove, which I’d place in front of the biggest tree in the yard, about 120 feet from the hedges.

I can’t count how many times I pelted Louisa’s house with my endless supply of tennis balls from Store 24. Her shutters and siding were covered in more tiny dents than the actual green monster, yet she’d always just smile and wave from her window whenever I’d casually stroll into her backyard and trample through her flower beds for my ball. 

In retrospect, these solitary backyard MLB simulation games were incredibly meticulous, if not a little sad. I was by myself, so I’d take turns batting for each team. The field was filled with more ghosts, both playing the field and running the bases, than an entire season of Are You Afraid of the Dark? A fly ball to where an outfielder would theoretically be positioned was an out. A grounder in the hole was a single. If there was a man on first, a ground ball halfway between second and third was a 6-4-3 double play. A grounder that hit the flower pot at second base, however, was a single up the middle (this pre-dated the shift, mind you). 

And before you ask, yes … I absolutely took the range of the fielders on each team into consideration. Gappers were an extreme rarity whenever the Mariners were in the field.

Whenever the real life Red Sox would play a team I hadn’t seen in awhile, I’d copy their starting lineup into a spiral notebook for the next time I wanted to play as them. The Texas Rangers, with Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Dean Palmer, and Kevin Reimer (I just liked the way his name sounded) were a personal favorite. All that team did was hit homers, so playing as the Rangers was a fun excuse to just aim high and swing hard. 

After a couple years, I had filled up that whole notebook with the lineups of virtually every team in baseball. Aunts and uncles would stop by frequently to see Grandma and Grampa, and occasionally I’d leave that notebook on the TV tray in the breezeway. I cringed every time I walked in to see someone flipping through it, hoping the discovery wouldn’t lead to a phone call to my mom’s office telling her that I needed to get out more and start interacting with actual people. 

Luckily (or perhaps unfortunately), that call never came and my compulsion for making lineups stuck with me through adulthood. Thus, here is my take on how I’d like to see the Red Sox lineup look in 2023. 

Roster 

First, let’s look at the major roster moves I hope to see the Red Sox make to help the batting order take shape. 

  • Rafael Devers is the centerpiece of the Boston Red Sox offense, and he will be re-signed this offseason. I’d personally like to see Bloom hand-deliver Raffy a briefcase full of unmarked, non-sequential bills like a concerned father making a ransom drop. That would at least begin to show Devers just how important he is to the organization’s future. I think he’ll get a 10-year/$350 million contract. The Red Sox will not only pay him that money, they will thank him for the opportunity to do so.  
  • Xander Bogaerts has made it clear that he wants to stay in Boston, and I see a 55% chance of that actually happening. Darth Boras would have to come down a bit on his asking price, and X using his annual September surge to win a batting title, after cratering all summer when the Sox needed him most, will certainly not help that. But I’m choosing to believe in X’s humanity and goodwill. Is that naïve of me? Um, yeah. But that’s the good thing about being a columnist rather than a reporter. I get to be a human being.  
  • They already re-signed Kike Hernandez, but I wanted to mention it here because I, like the rest of Boston, desperately wanted this to happen. A gold glove-caliber centerfielder with the versatility to play anywhere on the infield in a pinch is well worth his 1-year/$10 million deal to prove his worth following the hip injury that killed his 2022 campaign. I think his days as a leadoff hitter are done, however, due to Alex Verdugo’s evolution into a disciplined hitter who is committed to hitting line drives to left field. 
  • Mitch Haniger murdered baseballs throughout 2021 (39 HRs, 100 RBI, .804 OPS), but he’s been hampered by injuries throughout the rest of his career, which will keep his price down in free agency. That’s as Chaim a signing as you’ll ever see, am I right? I got the Sox signing Haniger for an incentive-laden deal to play DH 60% of the time and RF 40% of the time in order to keep his health in check. Call it 1-year/$13 million with $2 million bonus escalators for 75 and 125-games played, along with a 2-year/$35 million club option thereafter. 
  • I think Emmanuel Valdez will be a breakout Red Sox star in 2023. Acquired in the Christian Vazquez deadline trade, he mauled minor league pitching for 28 HR, 105 RBI, and a .960 OPS this season, including 7 HR, 28 RBI, and a .804 OPS in 30 games at AAA Worcester. I have him starting out in a platoon role with Tommy Pham next year, but he’ll have carved out an every day spot in the batting order by the All Star break. 
  • I’ve said all along that JD Martinez was the crucial cog of the 2018 championship lineup (even more than Mookie Betts). He’s one of the best free agent pickups in Red Sox history, but we all understand that now is the time to move on. Thanks for the memories, JD. Love ya, mean it … but we’ll see you on the other side. 

Lineup

Like the proud lineup nerd that I am, I’ve plotted out two different batting orders: one versus righthanded pitching, and one versus lefties.

vs RHP:

  • Alex Verdugo RF
  • Xander Bogaerts SS
  • Rafael Devers 3B
  • Mitch Haniger DH
  • Trevor Story 2B
  • Triston Casas 1B
  • Kike Hernandez CF
  • Emmanuel Valdez LF
  • Reese McGuire C

vs LHP

  • Tommy Pham LF
  • Xander Bogaerts SS
  • Rafael Devers 3B
  • Mitch Haniger DH
  • Trevor Story 2B
  • Alex Verdugo RF
  • Kike Hernandez CF
  • Eric Hosmer 1B
  • Connor Wong C

Bench

  • Tommy Pham OF
  • Christian Arroyo IF
  • Eric Hosmer 1B
  • Connor Wong C
  • Jarren Duran OF

The first thing that will surely pop out at you is the potentially shaky outfield defense, which is a legitimate concern. But the last time the Red Sox made a deal to shore up the outfield defense, it came at an ungodly loss of offense. Thus, I’m banking on the players (specifically Alex Verdugo) and coaches working tirelessly to up their defensive game this winter. 

Bear in mind, I was accurate with precisely zero of my predictions for the 2022 Red Sox team in the Reloading column I wrote at the end of 2021. I’m hoping that Chaim Bloom’s moves this offseason will still be creative, but that he’ll be much more freewheeling with the checkbook now that Dave Dombrowski’s blunders (except the Chris Sale extension) are now off the books. Even with over $70 million being shed from the payroll, re-signing both Devers and Bogaerts, along with inking Haniger and some pitchers, would mean that Red Sox ownership has agreed to exceed the luxury tax threshold by a significant amount. 

Will that really happen?

A nerd can dream. 

By Luke

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