John Tomase

Imagining a roster Red Sox could've built will make your blood boil

Boston had the core pieces in-house to maintain success post-Dave Dombrowski.

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It turns out the next great Red Sox team actually could've been the last great Red Sox team THIS WHOLE TIME.

It's no longer just fans and media frustrated by the aimless rebuild, but players and franchise icons, too. From Dustin Pedroia to Rafael Devers to Kenley Jansen, these guys want to know what the hell is going on as much as the rest of us.

Imagine how frustrated they'd be if they built a 2024 roster comprised solely of players either already in the organization, or ones who have left since 2020 as part of John Henry's austerity measures.

Even at market value prices, the Red Sox could've built a roster that wouldn't blow past the luxury tax threshold of $237 million, if that's the sort of thing you care about (which you shouldn't).

From Mookie Betts to Nathan Eovaldi to Jansen, the Red Sox still could boast star power in their lineup, depth in their rotation, and promise in their bullpen. It's exactly the kind of roster they used to build on the regular, it wouldn't have prevented them from integrating their best young prospects in the coming seasons, and it might've even been worth Netflixing.

Try to envision the following without crying. (Note: all salaries are rounded up to make the math easier)


C Christian Vazquez, 1B Triston Casas, 2B Xander Bogaerts, SS Trevor Story, 3B Rafael Devers, LF Kyle Schwarber, CF Jarren Duran, RF Mookie Betts, DH J.D. Martinez

Total annual cost: $150 million

We're imagining Bogaerts signing for six years and $150 million without ever reaching free agency, which might've been doable if the club hadn't lowballed him to start, and then making the move to second base like he just did in San Diego. Devers and Betts are each making over $300 million, Story stays on his $140 million deal, and with the market light for designated hitters, we're giving Martinez one year and $10 million, although feel free to swap in someone like Adam Duvall for a little less.

This lineup does not include the $90 million wasted on Masataka Yoshida, nor does it reunite with outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Youngsters Casas and Duran help keep costs down, and if you really want to cut some payroll, there are cheaper options than Vazquez on his current three-year, $30 million deal with Minnesota at catcher.

Still, that's a monster lineup with left-right balance, a high on base percentage, and ridiculous power. Staring at the names, it's not even a fantasy. They could've made all of this happen.

Red Sox teammates Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Red Sox had the resources to sign Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers to long-term deals. Instead, only Devers remains.


C Reese McGuire, OF Rob Refsnyder, IF/OF Ceddanne Rafaela, IF Pablo Reyes

Total annual cost: $5 million

Feel free to swap Duran and Rafaela if you'd rather the glove in center, and McGuire could replace Vazquez as the starting catcher to save about $8 million. One name we're not including is Connor Wong, since he presumably never would've been traded here from the Dodgers.


RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Lucas Giolito, RHP Brayan Bello, RHP Garrett Whitlock, RHP Nick Pivetta

Total annual cost: $50 million

In retrospect, it's utter malpractice that the Red Sox couldn't match the pedestrian two years and $34 million Eovaldi received from the Rangers to anchor the rotation that ended up winning a World Series. (Speaking of malpractice, we're choosing to live in a world where Bloom took up the Rangers on their reported offer to acquire Chris Sale and basically all of his remaining salary in 2022.)

From there, if you want to gamble on Giolito and then keep the rest of your young arms, fine. At least the rotation is fronted by someone who knows how to win on the big stage. It just highlights what an impact Jordan Montgomery could still yet make, if the Red Sox would only do the sensible thing and sign him.


CL Kenley Jansen, RHP Chris Martin, RHP Tanner Houck, RHP Kutter Crawford, RHP Josh Winckowski, LHP Brennan Bernardino, RHP Isaiah Campbell, RHP Justin Slaten

Total annual cost: $30 million

Want to save $16 million by dealing away Jansen, elevating Martin, and putting the Craig Breslow pitching development program to work? Fine. But even with Jansen, this isn't a bullpen the breaks the bank, and there's an enviable mix of experience and potential.

Total overall payroll

$252 million (which includes $17 million for benefits, etc. …)

Even if we assume the Red Sox, by consistently going for it in this scenario, are surpassing the luxury tax threshold for a third straight year, their penalty would be 50 percent on the overage, or a paltry $7.5 million. There are draft and international bonus penalties, too, but $7.5 million is Pivetta's salary, and that doesn't sound like a steep price to pay to avoid three straight last-place finishes.

As it is, we're looking at $235 million for players, with possible cuts at catcher and closer to drop the luxury-tax penalties to zero.

Imagine cheering for that team. Instead, we're left to deal with the fallout from a pointless self-own that's entering its fifth year of devastation.

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