The 2022 season was a huge disappointment for the Red Sox, finishing in last place with a record of 78-84. After 2015, the last full season where they finished in last place, the Red Sox went on a run of three straight division titles, including winning the World Series in 2018.

I may be way too optimistic about the 2023 Red Sox, but I believe there is a way for them to have a good season and reach the playoffs. However, several things would need to happen in order to make that a reality.


A Marcus Semien-esque Resurgence from Trevor Story

Aside from a torrid two weeks in May, Trevor Story didn’t have a great offensive 2021 at the plate, which began with a bevy of off-field distractions and included an unlucky hand injury after being hit by a pitch in the Tampa Bay house of Red Sox horrors. If the Red Sox are going to be good in 2023, Trevor Story might be the most vital piece, since he is now the best right handed hitter in a lefty heavy lineup. Another former shortstop-turned-second baseman who had a renaissance was Marcus Semien in Toronto after his rough 2020 with the Oakland A’s. If you can get the Story that had a 123 OPS+ from 2018-20, you now have a very productive bat who also brings value on the defensive side of the game, even with a potential move back to shortstop. That would be an all star caliber year from Trevor Story, and if he can stay healthy I believe that he has a solid shot at bouncing back. 


Chris Sale Stays Healthy

Right now, the big question for the Red Sox pitching staff is the rotation, which is where I’m making my biggest leap of optimism. I believe that Chris Sale will finally have a healthy year and be a big piece to the rotation puzzle. Now I’m not saying that he will win the Cy Young or anything, but I still think he has a little bit left in the tank if he can stay on the field. Plus, Sale is the vocal leader of the team. Everyone remembers him yelling at the team in the dugout during game four of the 2018 World Series, shortly after which the Red Sox never trailed again. Having him around, rather than rehabbing in Florida, should help a lot.


High Upside in the Rotation

After Sale comes the upside. I’m banking on the trio of Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck to be reliable in the back end of the rotation. Yes, I’m saying that both Whitlock and Houck will be in the rotation in 2023. The Red Sox could still add one more starter, and Nathan Eovaldi makes sense as an added piece, since the qualifying offer the Sox gave him probably isn’t helping his market at all. A rotation with Sale and Eovaldi as solid veteran presences to mix with the youthful trio of Bello, Whitlock, and Houck would have massive upside, and moving Houck back to the rotation wouldn’t leave the bullpen shorthanded considering the arms the Sox have brought in during the offseason.


James Paxton Becoming a Reliable Reliever

You can never have enough pitching, especially in the bullpen, and I think an interesting bullpen option is James Paxton. Last year, Matt Moore had a coming out party at 33 years old in his first year as a full-time reliever with the Rangers, posting a 1.95 ERA in 63 appearances (74 innings) after posting a 5.22 ERA, mostly as a starting pitcher, from 2014 to 2021. Paxton has never had an ERA over 4.00 in a full season, and has never pitched out of the pen in his MLB career. However, there are question marks over whether Paxton can stay healthy over the course of a full season, and moving to the pen should help keep him healthy. In one more parallel to Matt Moore’s breakout year in 2022, Paxton would be having his bullpen resurgence in his age 33 season.


Figure Out the Bullpen Picture

Moving onto the rest of the bullpen, the Sox already have a solid quartet of Matt Barnes, Chris Martin, John Schreiber, and Kenley Jansen. To round out the pen, there are options such as Joelys Rodriguez, Zach Kelly, Franklin German, Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier, and any other relievers who the Sox might acquire the rest of this offseason. Last but not least is Nick Pivetta. As inconsistent as he can be in the rotation, Pivetta could be used in the bullpen in 2023 while making the occasional spot start when needed, although he could potentially be dealt preseason for other pieces.


Plug the Hole Up the Middle

With the departure of Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox still have a hole in their lineup even after agreeing to a deal with Justin Turner to be the primary DH. To plug that hole, the Red Sox have a few different options to consider. Going the free agent route would mean targeting Brandon Drury, Elvis Andrus, or Jean Segura (preferably Segura). However, another intriguing possibility could be a trade with the Guardians to acquire Amed Rosario, as he only has one year left until free agency. Middle infielders Tyler Freeman and Gabriel Arias project to be major leaguers from the jump for Cleveland in 2023, with consensus top 100 prospect Bryan Rocchio also waiting in the wings. There have been no rumors of Rosario potentially being traded and it’s highly unlikely, but if the Sox give Cleveland a good enough offer, the Guardians might be inclined to take it.


Take Advantage of the New Balanced Schedule

In 2023, the MLB is changing the schedule so teams will play every team in the MLB for at least one series per season, reducing the number of in-division games from 76 to 52. This new change might benefit the Red Sox the most. The Sox were putrid against the rest of the AL East in 2022, going 26-50 over 76 games. But against non-AL East opponents, the Red Sox were 52-34. Now, being able to beat the division will still go a long way, but it won’t be as crucial as it was in previous seasons. I would hope that there’s no way the Sox can do worse in 2023 than they did against the division last year. So even a small improvement against the division would help if the Sox can continue to beat non-AL East teams.


Have Luck on Their Side

Last but not least is to finally get some help from Lady Luck. In 2022, the Sox didn’t have much luck, especially when it came to injuries. It was hip-gate in June, with Kiké Hernandez and Garrett Whitlock both succumbing to hip injuries. Then July spawned hand-gate, with Trevor Story, Matt Strahm, and Chris Sale suffering hand/finger injuries due to hard hit/thrown baseballs drilling each of them in the hand in the course of a single week. There were also other injuries to Nate Eovaldi, J.D. Martinez, Raffy Devers, and plenty more. If the Red Sox can have luck on their side with injuries, and maybe a couple of guys performing better than expected, the 2023 season could be a good one.


In conclusion, the Red Sox have a team that, if healthy, has the talent to surprise some people that have already given up on 2023. Can they get through the strong AL East and beat out teams in other divisions for a playoff spot?

Only time will tell, but in the meantime, why not be optimistic?

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