John Tomase

Trying to make sense of a historically bad Red Sox lineup

Boston is essentially using a Triple-A lineup for Thursday afternoon's game at Fenway Park.

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So about Thursday's Red Sox lineup...

Listen, it's one thing to lose one of your best hitters to a collision (Tyler O'Neill) and another (Rafael Devers) to knee pain that may trace to the same fender-bender in short left field. The Red Sox had hoped those would be short-term absences, but on Thursday they put O'Neill on the injured list and activated outfielder Rob Refsnyder.

It's also understandable for the offense to suffer following a season-ending injury to your middle-of-the-order shortstop (Trevor Story) and a season-opening one to the promising youngster expected to play second base (Vaughn Grissom), although you've known about the latter since spring training.

It's another thing entirely, however, to build your roster with such a blatant disregard for the possibility of injuries that you leave yourself with this lineup for a getaway day matinee vs. the Guardians:

1. Jarren Duran, LF

2. Triston Casas, 1B

3. Wilyer Abreu, RF

4. Enmanuel Valdez, 2B

5. Connor Wong, DH

6. David Hamilton, SS

7. Pablo Reyes, 3B

8. Reese McGuire, C

9. Ceddanne Rafaela, CF

Brennan Bernardino, P

The Polar Park jokes write themselves, but it's worth noting exactly how the Red Sox ended up with such an underwhelming batting order barely two weeks into the season.

The @redsoxstats X account lays it out perfectly.

Minimum salaries as far as the eye can see. In the case of Duran and Casas, that's because they're young players with upside. Every functional roster would love to have one or two of those. The problems lie everywhere else.

Abreu and Valdez arrived in the same deal from the Astros for catcher Christian Vazquez, and so far neither looks particularly dynamic. Valdez has some power, but can't play reliable defense, and Abreu found a lot of holes last year to inflate his batting average. The Red Sox should've tried to upgrade both of them this winter.

Wong and McGuire have actually produced like one of the best catcher platoons in baseball, but it doesn't speak well of the offensive depth when both must play simultaneously.

Hamilton simply isn't a big leaguer, outside of his speed, and Rafaela has so far confirmed our worst fears about his inability to lay off pretty much anything, his average sinking to .155 through 58 at-bats. That leaves Reyes, a perfectly acceptable 26th man who is somehow starting every other day.

Making matters worse is the one guy who isn't playing, even though the Red Sox are facing a right-handed pitcher. That would be $90 million DH Masataka Yoshida, a 4-3 groundout machine who has already played himself out of left field and might yet render the DH spot impotent, too. The fact that Yoshida can't crack this particular lineup just increases the fear that he's Rusney Castillo 2.0. Manager Alex Cora gave him another day off as he battles a slump.

It didn't have to be this way. The Red Sox left a ton of talent on the table in free agency, and solely for financial reasons.

Of all the players most consistently linked to Boston, chief baseball officer Craig Breslow deserves credit for identifying the right ones. In addition to acquiring O'Neill, who leads baseball in OPS, he also reportedly targeted outfielders Lourdes Gurriel and Michael Taylor. Keeping Justin Turner would've been a good move, too.

Gurriel already has five homers and 20 RBIs with the Diamondbacks, Taylor is hitting almost .300 for the Pirates, and Turner is off to a .333 start with the Blue Jays that includes a .933 OPS. Feel free to throw in Teoscar Hernandez, too, who leads the Dodgers with 18 RBIs.

Any one of them would've balanced an overly left-handed lineup, while also giving manager Alex Cora more experienced options to play on days like this.

Instead, the Red Sox roll out a Triple-A lineup for a major-league game, the latest insult to the paying customers who show up to Fenway Park in jerseys commemorating departed stars from a bygone era named Betts, Bogaerts, and Martinez.

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