Editor’s note: Welcome back to the Roster Revamp series! In each article, BTV Associate Editor Joshua Iversen will be completing a team’s offseason by compiling different user-submitted proposals from the site’s trade boards into a single plan. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.
It was another disappointing year for the Boston Red Sox, as they were once again overtaken by smaller-market teams in the competitive AL East en route to their second consecutive playoff miss. This one cost Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom his job, leaving the organization looking not only to fill gaps on the field, but also in the front office.
It was an attractive job on paper, given the financial resources at Boston’s disposal and the wave of top young prospects getting ready to join corner infielders Rafael Devers and Triston Casas at the big league level. But top candidates turned down interviews left and right in what might have been a sign of how those around the game view the team’s power structure between manager Alex Cora and owner John Henry.
Eventually the organization settled on former big leaguer Craig Breslow to lead its baseball ops department. And Breslow will have his work cut out for him.
Where they stand
Between Devers, Casas and outfielders Jarren Duran and Masataka Yoshida, the top of the Red Sox lineup is pretty much set. That’s a lefty-heavy bunch, especially as designated hitter Justin Turner, coming off another good-not-great season as he nears his 40s, declined his $13.4 million player option and is now a free agent.
Shortstop Trevor Story will hope to step up in his absence. His Red Sox career has not gone as planned, as the former Rockies star has spent the first two seasons of his six-year, $140 million deal injured and underperforming. One positive sign: he rated well defensively in his return from Tommy John Surgery last season, though his arm strength ranked near the bottom of the league among shortstops.
The bottom half of Boston’s lineup isn’t as impressive, though there’s room for optimism. Young players like outfielder Wilyer Abreu and catcher Connor Wong showed flashes of productivity in 2023, and an exciting young crop of hitters, headlined by infielder Marcelo Mayer and outfielder Cedanne Rafaela, are on the way.
The Red Sox also have a surprisingly solid bullpen core. Closer Kenley Jansen is showing his age, but was still productive in 2023, and veteran Chris Martin was excellent. Josh Winckowski’s strong season earned him another look, either in the bullpen or the rotation, and there are reasons to like John Schreiber and Brennan Bernardino.
Boston isn’t losing too much talent to free agency beyond Turner. Outfielder Adam Duvall (1.9 fWAR) and lefty James Paxton (1.0 fWAR) weren’t huge contributors, but could likely be retained relatively cheaply if the team desires. The Red Sox also declined their club options on righty Corey Kluber (-0.8 fWAR) and lefty Joely Rodriguez (0.0 fWAR).
What they’ve done
Outfielder Alex Verdugo ($4.8M median trade value) made sense as a trade candidate due to his somewhat lackluster production, his modest projected salary in his final year of arbitration and his history of clubhouse issues in Boston. But it was certainly a surprise when the Red Sox dealt him to their biggest rival, the New York Yankees, during the Winter Meetings. The return was middling - a depth reliever in Greg Weissert, a fifth starter type in Richard Fitts and a lotto ticket arm in Nicholas Judice - but that’s not too surprising for one year of an average-ish regular in Verdugo, and the values lined up fine.
The payroll flexibility (and playing time in the outfield) opened up by that Verdugo trade allowed Boston to buy low on another outfielder in Tyler O’Neill ($5.7M). The Cardinals have had a “for sale” sign up on O’Neill since last summer, and that lack of leverage led to a smaller return (reliever Nick Robertson and fringe pitching prospect Victor Santos) than expected, though the deal was still accepted by the model as a minor overpay. O’Neill is also in his final year of team control, but as a right-handed hitter he’s a better fit for Boston’s roster, and likely has more upside than Verdugo (though a lower floor).
Prior to the non-tender deadline, the Red Sox swapped infielder Luis Urias ($1.2M) to the Seattle Mariners. His disappointing 2023 season and $4.7 million arbitration projection made him a non-tender candidate, but instead Boston was able to turn him into an interesting enough bullpen arm in Isaiah Campbell.
The Red Sox also made a post-Rule 5 swap, acquiring reliever Justin Slaten - whom the Mets had just selected - in exchange for lefty Ryan Ammons and cash considerations. Slaten was one of the top relievers available in the Rule 5, though he’ll need to either stay on Boston’s 26-man roster or be returned to his original organization, the Texas Rangers.
What they still need
The rotation needs some help. Young righties Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck took significant steps back in 2023, and it’s unclear whether either pitcher has a future in the rotation or should be moved to the bullpen full-time.
Righties Kutter Crawford and Bryan Bello stepped up to solidify the back end of the rotation, and might have potential for more. Swingman Nick Pivetta continues to show flashes of greatness but can’t quite put it all together, and the right-hander is entering his final year of arbitration.
And then there’s lefty Chris Sale, who returned from injury to post a pretty solid 20-start season. But as he enters his mid-30s seemingly held together by Scotch tape and twine, the team can’t count on Sale for reliable innings, let alone the ace-level production he was once known for.
The bottom half of the lineup could also use upgrades, though the team will likely be hesitant to commit to any players long-term who might block the upcoming wave of prospects. A versatile infielder to play second base would be a nice addition, as would a veteran catcher to pair with Wong.
What they have
Boston has the prospects to make a big splash, and if part of why Bloom was fired was his unwillingness to pull the trigger on such a move, then it would make sense that owner John Henry would give Breslow the green light to do so.
Mayer ($44.5M median trade value) is likely off-limits. But outfielders Roman Anthony ($41.5M), Miguel Bleis ($21.5M) or Rafaela ($12.3M) could easily headline a deal, as could infielder Nick Yorke ($13.3M). The team could even entertain including an arm like Houck ($22.1M) or Crawford ($24.4M) if the right deal presents itself.
The bigger question might be whether such a move exists to be made. Beyond names like Corbin Burnes and Dylan Cease, the trade market for starting pitchers thins out quickly. But the free agent market is deep, so perhaps Boston takes that route instead.
What they could do
|Red Sox get
|Paul Blackburn | SP | $7.6M
|Wikelman Gonzalez | RHP | $5.7M
|Bryan Mata | RHP | $2.3M
|Mauricio Llovera | RHP | $0.0M
This trade proposal, from user Ms. Dajuba, isn’t anything flashy, but it would add a little more stability to a pitching staff sorely lacking in that category. Despite his All-Star status in 2022, Blackburn ($7.6M) is a back-end arm, but he’s under cheap team control through 2025. He also has historically kept the ball on the ground (crucial for success at Fenway Park) though he was closer to middle of the pack in ground ball rate in 2023.
Best of all, the acquisition cost would be cheap. Gonzalez ($5.7M) is the prize, a Double-A starter who could debut late in 2024. His command issues will likely force him to the bullpen, but he could be a weapon in that role. Mata ($2.3M), a former top prospect, has stalled in the high minors as he’s spent the last few seasons battling injuries, so perhaps a change of scenery is in order. Llovera ($0.0M) has been passed around the league and is closer to Quad-A relief depth than anything else.
Hip Hip, Jorge!
|Red Sox get
|Jorge Polanco | 2B | $9.4M
|Josh Winckowski | RHP | $9.1M
The Red Sox have been quietly adding interesting low-cost bullpen arms all offseason, and with this proposal, user sodakbmt suggests this could make Josh Winckowski ($9.1M) available. He took significant steps forward in a multi-inning bullpen role in 2023, and the Twins - looking to fill innings after losing Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda to free agency - could either keep him there or stretch him back out as a starter.
In exchange, Boston would fill a large hole at second base with a solid switch-hitter in Polanco ($9.4M). He’s battled injuries the last two years, but when healthy, his bat has reliably been 20% above league average in every full season going back to 2019. His defense isn’t spectacular - comfortably below average according to OAA and UZR, closer to average by DRS - but his bat is worth it. Polanco is set to earn $10.5 million in 2024 and has a $12 million club option for 2025. The Twins are reportedly open to moving Polanco given their depth on the infield and financial constraints.
If They Miss on the Big Fish…
The Red Sox want to add a top free agent starter like Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Jordan Montgomery, or perhaps even Blake Snell. If they snag one of those three, in addition to the two trades above, their offseason may just be complete.
But those three have many suitors, and there’s a steep drop-off in free agent options after that trio. So if Boston misses out, it may turn its sights to the trade market for a big move.
…Grabbing Another Fish Instead
|Red Sox get
|Braxton Garrett | SP | $57.7M
|Jarren Duran | OF | $34.0M
|Nick Yorke | 2B | $13.3M
|Enmanuel Valdez | 2B | $8.1M
Lefty Braxton Garrett ($57.7M) likely isn’t the top trade candidate on anyone’s radar for Boston. But this proposal, from user queensburykid, makes sense for a number of reasons.
The top names on the market are Dylan Cease ($40.4M), Corbin Burnes ($33.8M), Shane Bieber ($5.6M) and the Mariners’ young crop of George Kirby ($91.1M), Logan Gilbert ($65.9M), Bryan Woo ($28.2M) and Bryce Miller ($25.9M). Burnes and the Seattle group face the same impasse for Boston: both teams want to contend and would likely target big league ready talent. That’s not the cleanest fit for the Red Sox, who likely want to hang onto first baseman Triston Casas ($50.9M) and right-handed pitcher Brayan Bello ($47.5M). Plus, both the Brewers and Mariners are set on center fielders and may not be too interested in Jarren Duran or Cedanne Rafaela.
The White Sox, still in the early stages of their rebuild, would likely be more open to trading for value in any form. Maybe a package headlined by Miguel Bleis ($21.5M) is feasible. But Cease, given his two affordable years of team control, will be highly sought-after by the other teams who miss out on the free agent aces, and that could lead to a bidding war Boston would rather stay away from.
That leaves Bieber, and many users think our model is too low on the 2020 Cy Young Award winner. But the steady decrease in his strikeout rate and fastball velocity, paired with recent elbow and shoulder injuries, are serious cause for concern. Teams could view him as a falling knife, and the Red Sox have enough health uncertainty with Sale.
So what about Garrett? The former first-round pick was solid in his first full big league season in 2023, and unlike Bieber, appears to be on the upswing. He comes with five years of cheap control (although, as a Super Two player, our model projects him to earn about $45 million between his four years of arbitration). He isn’t a front-line starter yet, but he certainly has the pedigree to grow into one.
It isn’t hard to imagine the Marlins, desperate for talented young hitters, would be interested in Duran ($34.0M) as part of the return. He has a lot in common with Garrett, as a former top prospect who came into his own in 2023 and has five years of team control (and will also be a Super Two player). There’s a lot to like about an outfield featuring Duran, Jazz Chisholm and Bryan de la Cruz.
Yorke ($13.3M) and Valdez ($8.1M) are solid secondary pieces. They profile similarly: bat-first second basemen who may not have a true defensive home. Perhaps the Marlins would prefer to swap one of the two out for an arm like Brandon Walter ($4.4M) but they may also be happy to add offensive talent to the system, regardless of defensive position (or lack thereof).
Boston can afford to lose one (or both) of Yorke and Valdez. The long-term middle infield will likely be some combination of Story, top prospect Marcelo Mayer, 2023 debut David Hamilton and former first-round pick Mikey Romero. Losing Duran hurts a bit more, but the team could talk itself into selling high on him, especially with Rafaela now big-league ready and Duran’s center field defense leaving something to be desired.
This is a back-up plan to the top free agents, but as far as back-up plans go, the Red Sox could do a lot worse.
What do you think about this plan? What moves would you make instead? Which teams would you like to see revamped next? As always, feedback is more than welcome. And keep on submitting trade proposals – they just might end up featured in a later installment of this series.
About the Author
Joshua has been with BTV since it launched in 2019. Before that, he held various baseball writing jobs, including a stint at AthleticsNation.com where he met BTV founder John Bitzer. He lives in Phoenix, AZ, where he works in consulting as a data analyst.