As the MLB postseason gets underway, the Boston Red Sox are back to the drawing board looking for ways to return to contention next year.
They have their work cut out for them.
Even if Boston nails the upcoming offseason, it won't be easy to compete in the loaded American League East. The Baltimore Orioles have become the class of the division and should only get better. The Tampa Bay Rays are the model of consistency. The Toronto Blue Jays are loaded with talent. The New York Yankees... well, they're sort of in the same boat as their archrival.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Boston sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
MORE RED SOX
That said, there is a path for the Red Sox to regain their reputation as a perennial World Series contender. Here is the five-step plan for a perfect offseason that will get fans back on board with the club heading into 2024.
1. Hire a risk-tolerant GM
Before we can shift our focus to free agency, the Red Sox need to find the right individual to replace the recently fired Chaim Bloom. According to team president and CEO Sam Kennedy, the search for the new chief baseball officer, general manager, or whatever title they give to the new head of baseball operations is underway.
So, who's the right man or woman for the job? A handful of intriguing candidates, including Philadelphia Phillies vice president/GM Sam Fuld, have been linked to the position. However, it seems like a strong possibility the Red Sox could promote from within. If they do, assistant GM Eddie Romero is the most likely candidate to take Bloom's place.
The most important qualities in the new head of baseball ops are A.) A willingness to take risks and spend big on starting pitching, and B.) Meshing with manager Alex Cora. Bloom fell short in both of those categories and it resulted in mediocrity on the field.
If Red Sox ownership can find someone who checks both boxes, Boston's pivotal offseason will be off to an ideal start.
2. Overhaul the starting pitching staff
Coming off two consecutive last-place seasons, the Red Sox cannot enter the 2024 campaign without improving the starting rotation. There are a handful of front-end options on the free-agent market, and there are trades that can be made for additional arms. Whatever it takes to add an ace or two, this is priority No. 1.
The free-agent names that jump off the page are Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto and left-hander Blake Snell, the likely 2023 National League Cy Young Award winner. Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola, a two-time top-five Cy Young finisher, is another appealing option despite his down season. Texas Rangers lefty Jordan Montgomery would be a solid No. 3 starter.
Signing two of those pitchers -- or trading for one, such as Chicago White Sox righty Dylan Cease -- would show the new Red Sox regime is serious about contending in 2024 and beyond. More importantly, it would save Boston from depending on oft-injured veteran Chris Sale or up-and-coming righty Brayan Bello to anchor the rotation. Entering next season with either of them as the de facto ace would be unacceptable.
3. Add a right-handed bat
The Red Sox are extremely left-handed-hitting heavy, especially with veteran sluggers Adam Duvall and Justin Turner (if he opts out) set to become free agents. Most of the best hitters currently on their roster -- Triston Casas, Rafael Devers, Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran, and Alex Verdugo -- are left-handed. While it's not nearly as critical as upgrading the pitching staff, they need to add a right-handed hitter -- preferably an outfielder -- capable of rocketing balls off and over the Green Monster.
The problem is there aren't too many appealing options on the free-agent market. The most intriguing names on the list are Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. If they want to upgrade the catcher position, Mitch Garver is another name that stands out. That said, the best course of action to find a right-handed bat would probably be a trade. And if they land, say, Juan Soto... we'll make an exception and welcome another left-handed hitter to the collection.
4. Fix the defense
As bad as the starting pitching was in 2023, the defense behind it was even worse. Boston ranked 25th in the majors in defensive runs saved at -22. The shortstop position was a disaster until Trevor Story returned from injury. That issue might be resolved, but there are still improvements that need to be made elsewhere on the roster.
Rafael Devers was a major liability at third base. The 26-year-old slugger needs to either take a significant step forward defensively next season or be moved to designated hitter. Unfortunately, there are several players on the current roster who probably would be better off DHing.
Masataka Yoshida was on track for AL Rookie of the Year consideration before he ran out of gas post-All-Star break. We should see him return to form offensively to start next year, but he's another DH candidate after a rough defensive season in left field.
One solution could be moving Yoshida to DH, Jarren Duran to left, and rookie Ceddanne Rafaela to center field. Rafaela is already considered an elite defender and would be a tremendous upgrade at the position. However, that would leave a glaring hole at second base. That's another position of need heading into the offseason and there aren't any standout options set to hit free agency.
5. Find a clubhouse leader
Justin Turner was one of the few bright spots for Boston in 2023. Signed last offseason, the 38-year-old was one of the club's most consistent hitters and finished the year with 23 homers, 96 RBIs, and an .800 OPS.
Even more importantly, Turner served as the clubhouse leader the Red Sox desperately needed following the departure of shortstop Xander Bogaerts. So if he opts out of his contract for 2024, his absence will be felt in the clubhouse.
Entering a crucial year with so much young talent in the pipeline, the Red Sox need someone to fill the Turner leadership void if he leaves in free agency. It doesn't need to be someone who hits 20+ homers with an OPS in the .800s. It just needs to be someone capable of being the veteran voice who can right the ship when the seas get rough. The current roster without Turner lacks that necessary presence.