I have not been kind to the Red Sox this offseason.
I've killed them over their whiffs in free agency, questioned the depth and quality of their farm system, and reported with astonishment on the hostile reception they received at Winter Weekend.
I'm skeptical they'll be anything more than victims in the murderous AL East, I wonder if John Henry's heart is in it anymore, and I fear they'll be seeking a replacement for Chaim Bloom by the fall.
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Today I'm here to say I hope I'm wrong about every word of it.
No one wins if the Red Sox stink. It makes for a dreary summer. It knocks baseball further down the local pecking order. It denies us the joy of postseason baseball, which rocked Fenway Park only two short years ago. And it extinguishes the possibility of hope not just this year, but probably next year, too.
There is a path to the Red Sox surprising us, and we shouldn't ignore it. When a roster is as boom or bust as this one, there's at least the potential that it goes boom.
Imagine a season in which Chris Sale stays healthy for 30 starts, Rafael Devers challenges for an MVP, and Kenley Jansen locks down the ninth inning. It's entirely possible that $90 million outfielder Masataka Yoshida hits for average and power, justifying the club's belief in him and making the rest of baseball look stupid for dismissing the signing as an overpay. Maybe veterans like Kiké Hernández, Adam Duvall, and Justin Turner experience a 2013-style renaissance.
The bullpen should be a lot better, with last year's wildness exchanged for strike-throwing precision. If right-hander Chris Martin can repeat his performance with the Dodgers down the stretch, then Alex Cora will boast legit options in the eighth and ninth, a luxury afforded him for exactly zero days last season.
There's young talent, too, in slugging first baseman Triston Casas and electric right-hander Brayan Bello, who for now appears to have avoided serious injury after shutting it down for a couple of days early in camp with forearm discomfort. Perhaps dynamic center fielder Ceddanne Rafaela makes an impact as a junior Mookie Betts sometime this summer.
There's even hope for internal reinforcements in the form of All-Star shortstop Trevor Story, who's recovering from modified Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow. We probably won't see him until July, but fully healthy, he could stabilize not only the middle infield, but the middle of the lineup, because his combination of power and athleticism plays.
While it's true that the division remains loaded, it's not without flaws. The Yankees have already lost right-hander Frankie Montas for most if not all of the season due to shoulder surgery, and All-Star left-hander Nestor Cortes was forced to withdraw from the World Baseball Classic with a grade 2 hamstring strain. Beyond ace Gerrit Cole, the Yankees aren't exactly awash in reliable arms; Luis Severino is basically New York's Sale, and even big free agent signing Carlos Rodon has only made 30 starts once in eight seasons.
The Blue Jays have played below the sum of their parts for two straight years, the Rays must continually win with no-name talent and an exhausting roster churn, and the Orioles did little to improve this winter after a surprising 2022.
Facing similarly long odds, the Red Sox have surprised us before. The difference this time is that beyond Devers, they lack the established base of stars who carried them in, say, 2013, when Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Koji Uehara worked in support of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury, to name four.
Bloom and the Red Sox are attempting a different trick this time around, rebuilding the culture basically from scratch and hoping to import a winning attitude from the Dodgers via Hernández, Turner, and Jansen, who won a World Series together in 2020.
Stranger things have happened. There are seven former All-Stars on the roster, and right-hander Corey Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner with a history of postseason heroism. Cora remains one of the best managers in the game, and a lackluster offseason at least means the Red Sox possess the resources to fill holes at the trade deadline.
So if you've been reading doom-and-gloom Tomase all winter, take heart. Maybe I'm wrong.