Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, JD Martinez: the biggest takeaways from Red Sox end-of-year press conference
On Thursday morning, the Boston Red Sox offseason began with the customary end-of-season press conference.
After a last-place finish with an over-the-threshold payroll, a torrent of injuries, and several significant roster changes in the near future, there was a lot to discuss.
For some questions, the brass had no answer. Unsurprising, given that revealing their game plan for the offseason would weaken their chances of building for success next year and beyond. But in some cases, the information disseminated was actually noteworthy.
Here’s all the good and bad news you need to know about the final page of the 2022 chapter in the book of Boston baseball:
Red Sox ownership was a no-show again
Four high-ranking members of the Red Sox faced the
media on Thursday morning: Brian O’Halloran, Sam Kennedy, Chaim Bloom, and Alex Cora.
As Chris Cotillo of MassLive noted, principle owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner haven’t addressed the media since February 2020. Nothing says accountability like inaccessibility.
If Henry & Co. were interested in quashing the very prevalent opinion that they are more focused on Fenway Sports Groups’ many other endeavors and no longer prioritizing their original club, they’d show up once in a while. Instead, Liverpool and the Pittsburgh Penguins (yes, they bought a black-and-yellow NHL team that doesn’t play in Boston), seem to be drawing their gaze.
Fenway Park ticket prices will go up in 2023, despite a serious drop in attendance in 2022
Nothing says “fan appreciation” like raising ticket prices after a last-place season. Again.
Sox CEO Sam Kennedy informed the public that there will be a “small, single-digit increase” in prices for next season, somewhere in the 1-2% range.
The Red Sox had also planned to raise ticket prices by about 1.7% in 2020 but were forced to shelve those plans when fans weren’t allowed into the ballpark for the pandemic-shortened season. Not to worry, though; after a year of disease, death, financial hardship, trauma, and another last-place finish, the Sox proceeded with their price increase in 2021, instead.
In the first season of full capacity since the pandemic began (2021 saw limited capacity for over a month), Fenway’s attendance was down 10% from 2019, the final MLB season before the coronavirus. According to Bill Koch, that’s the lowest non-COVID total since current ownership took over in 2002.
Xander Bogaerts is the Red Sox’ No. 1 priority, but is that a good thing?
On Wednesday evening, Xander Bogaerts said he needs to go home to Aruba and recalibrate after a tough season.
On Thursday morning, Chaim Bloom said that the Sox the process of negotiating and hopefully re-signing Bogaerts “is going to start right away,” calling the beloved shortstop their “current No. 1 priority.” Already, the two sides do not appear to be on the same page, which bodes well.
However, he then noted that part of that ranking is due to the fact that half the league is about to begin the postseason, and free agency cannot begin until the conclusion of the World Series. De facto, Bogaerts negotiations can be prioritized because it is one of the only tasks the front office is allowed to tackle right now.
Marcelo Mayer isn’t going to hold the Red Sox back from keeping Xander Bogaerts
Top prospect Marcelo Mayer has generated a lot of buzz this year, especially with regards to Bogaerts’ future.
Only, Mayer is 19 and just spent his first full season playing mostly Low-A ball and a little High-A. He is nowhere near ready, and prospects, in general, are never guaranteed. Bogaerts, meanwhile, has four Silver Slugger awards and two World Series rings. He’s played more games at shortstop than any predecessor in franchise history. To bid him adieu for the potential of a promising prospect years down the road would be absurd and nonsensical.
Thankfully, Bloom shut that down:
"“If that becomes a problem it usually finds a way to resolve itself. We need to focus on a way to build good teams. It is never, ever a problem to have more good players than roster spots.”"
The same Red Sox fans clamoring for Mayer should ask themselves if it’s worth watching a shoddy team for the next two, three, four seasons while they wait for him.
And wouldn’t it be better to have Bogaerts under contract so that he can mentor Mayer when the time comes? By then, Bogaerts could be the DH. He could play a less taxing position, like first base, and Triston Casas could DH. The possibilities are endless, because this is a situation years away, if it even comes to fruition at all.
Rafael Devers isn’t a trade candidate
The fact that this topic even exists is absurd, but the Red Sox are the Red Sox, and Mookie Betts is a Los Angeles Dodger.
But according to Bloom, a Devers trade isn’t on their “radar”:
"“I don’t see how we make life easier for ourselves if he’s not part of’ the 2023 team.”"
Fans certainly won’t make life easy for them.
Trevor Story at shortstop?
Minutes after Bloom expounded on Bogaerts being the top priority, Alex Cora swiftly undercut the optimism by saying, “I think he can handle shortstop.”
He, of course, is Trevor Story, the free agent the Sox signed last spring, presumably as a failsafe for Bogaerts. However, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe recently noted that Story’s arm strength is seriously diminished from earlier in his career, calling into question his ability to return to the left side of the infield.
Regardless, even if Story might be able to play shortstop again, he shouldn’t and doesn’t want to; he wants to play with Bogaerts and has made that abundantly clear for months.