This is part two of my mid-season projections of what the Red Sox will look like in 2023. You can check out my projections for the offense here.
I started off my projections of the Red Sox 2023 offense by mentioning the trade deadline and what trades the Red Sox made. But when it comes to the pitching staff, there was not much to speak of. They traded Jake Diekman to get Reese McGuire. That’s it.
A great place to start would be free agency.
Projecting the 2023 Red Sox pitching staff is very interesting, as the team has a handful of pitchers headed for free agency. Nate Eovaldi, Michael Wacha, James Paxton (potentially), Rich Hill, Matt Strahm, and Hirokazu Sawamura all have contracts set to expire at the end of 2022. Others who could be candidates to be off the team include just about everyone in the Red Sox bullpen, with the exceptions of John Schreiber, Tanner Houck, and Garrett Whitlock.
When pitching comes to mind, the first thing I think of is the rotation. Nick Pivetta and Chris Sale should be locks, and Kutter Crawford’s performance also merits his inclusion. I believe that Brayan Bello should be in the rotation as well, as he looked much improved in his outing against the Brewers, and solid against Houston before getting injured. That leaves just one open spot.
For that spot, the Red Sox should look to target a lefthanded starter. I believe that starter will be James Paxton because if the Red Sox decline their team option, Paxton will most likely accept his player option. If Paxton isn’t the answer, the Sox could target a lefty free agent starter such as Carlos Rodón or Sean Manaea. However, I find Paxton to be the most likely option.
Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock are definitely rotation options. In my opinion though, they are great relievers and merely average-to-good-at-best starters. Here’s what I think when I look at a potential backend of the bullpen that includes Whitlock and Houck plus another bullpen piece:
3 shutout innings.
Now, imagine if they had two solid bullpen pieces on top of Whitlock and Houck. Schreiber, Whitlock, Houck, plus someone else. See where I’m going with this?
When it comes to the bullpen, there’s one thing I’d like the Red Sox to add. An elite reliever to either close out games or set up whoever will be the closer. The simplest option is Edwin Díaz, who is a free agent after this year. Edwin Díaz may seem like a long shot, but why not go out and get one of the best closers in baseball? Yes, they’d have to pay for him (especially since the Mets will want him back and Steve Cohen’s bank account is massive), but there is money available after this year to do it. The pen would be ridiculous next year if the Red Sox could pull the trigger on Díaz, who has a 1.39 ERA and a 0.82 FIP this year.
If not, another option would be to trade for David Bednar from the Pirates. That trade would probably include Jarren Duran. I don’t think Bobby Dalbec would be included, as he does have value as a backup corner infielder. However, if Cody Bellinger is in center with Refsnyder on the bench, there is no need for Duran to be on the roster. I should also add that Bednar has four years of team control after 2022, so the Sox would be getting 4 years of a reliever with a sub 3.00 ERA and FIP.
Finally, one person I think deserves a chance in the bullpen is Frank German. German is a minor leaguer that was acquired in the Adam Ottavino trade. He has had a very good year out of the bullpen in Double-A and Triple-A this year, and he could grab a nice middle relief role in 2023.
With the rotation and bullpen almost set, the biggest remaining question marks are Josh Winckowski and Connor Seabold. However, if the Bednar trade happens, I think one of Seabold and Winckowski would be included in the deal, leaving the other as the the long relief guy who can make spot starts when necessary. Then there is also Brandon Walter, Bryan Mata, and more in Triple-A that could come up if needed. I almost considered Mata for a bullpen spot, but I figured he’d be best off starting the year in Triple-A as a starter, and if he’s needed in the bullpen he can always be called up.
One thing that was important to me in building the bullpen was having two lefties. The Red Sox have two lefties under control for 2023 in Josh Taylor and Austin Davis. Matt Strahm could be brought back, and should be if there are concerns regarding Josh Taylor and his back. However, I see the Red Sox rolling with Taylor and Davis. Also, James Paxton could be pushed into the pen if they got Rodón or Manaea like I mentioned earlier.
The last thing I will bring up is Matt Barnes being missing from my hypothetical bullpen. I think the Sox will just eat the contract with Barnes and DFA him, with him either accepting the assignment to Triple-A or being released. Or they will go the NHL route and give him a phantom injury so they can stash him on the 60-day injured list all year.
I mentioned a couple different options the Red Sox have, but I have chosen a road to go down with the pitching staff. Here’s how I think the Red Sox pitching staff will look in 2023.
When I constructed my position players projections, I wanted a capable defensive team that the pitching could rely on. The only weak point defensively might be Verdugo in RF at Fenway, but I think he can play RF good enough in most MLB ballparks. There would be great infield defense to help the pitching staff get out of jams. There are injury concerns with my projected team, especially with the rotation having Sale and Paxton or one of Rodón and Manaea, but the necessary depth should be in place unless the whole entire team gets injured.
This team would 100% be carried by the bullpen and defense, with a deep lineup (hopefully) that can be a doubles machine. If the Sox had this type of roster, the World Series team they would best resemble is the 2015 Kansas City Royals. Not a boatload of homers, a lot of doubles, and a stellar lockdown bullpen. Obviously this team doesn’t have the speed that Royals team had, but there is a common link to the 2015 Royals, and that link is Eric Hosmer. Yes, this is wishful thinking, but who doesn’t like to dream a little bit.
The last thing I want to mention is that my 2023 projections are purely speculation. Most of it is what I actually think will happen, a couple things are what I want to happen, and then there’s one thing that is definitely a pipe dream (cough cough…Edwin Díaz…cough cough). With this team they would be under the luxury tax (if my calculations are right) and would still have a decent sized margin to add in season at the deadline if needed. If all of this happens, it would be great (with the exception of losing Bogaerts), but the Red Sox are building towards something. This offseason will have a massive impact on what that something might be and how quickly that something can be built.
The ball is in Chaim Bloom’s court. What will he do with it? Only time will tell.