A baseball team's failure can often be attributed to bad luck, which can surface in various forms, including Injuries, getting pinched for PEDs, a player's sudden apathy, simmering contract disputes, managerial conflicts, and internal clubhouse dissension. The Boston Red Sox have seen their share, as have other teams.
What could go wrong for the Red Sox? A clear focus on negativity despite my relatively high-end expectations. The first and most obvious to even the most fervent loyalists is pitching.
As spring training begins, the 2023 Boston Red Sox roster still has some weak spots
Good pitching gets you to .500, and great pitching gets you deep into the playoffs. Earl Weaver said it best since everything revolves around that little bump in the middle of the diamond. But baseball does not live by pitching alone, and hitting and defense can often make adjustments for mound ineptness. So what are my nonpitching red flag warnings? I'll stick to three.
The Captain Obvious point is shortstop, and the Red Sox had one of the best in Xander Bogaerts. You do not attain a 134 wRC+ in 2022 and all the attendant production numbers by being a stiff. The Red Sox had a great backup plan in Trevor Story, bringing us back to paragraph one and injuries. Story is down for the count, and it could be an all-season count. Now what?
Enrique Hernández is the heir apparent to Bogaerts-Story, and the shortstop bloodline is weakened. Hernández appears a likable chap, prone to self-promotion, with a strong clubhouse presence and a resume that screams out "average" on defense (except for CF) and offense.
The backup plan to the backup plan is recently acquired via trade Adalberto Mondesi. Mondesi had three good seasons (2018-2020), with the Royals hitting 14 homers in one season (2018) and leading the American League in steals (24) in 2020. The bad news is you can't steal first base. Mondesi comes to town with a career 4.4 BB% and a career 30.2 K%. This is Bobby Dalbec territory.
Giving the switch-hitting Mondesi his due is injuries have derailed him, but at 27 years old, he should be entering his prime baseball years. Defensively for Red Sox fans, he will not bring back memories of Orlando Cabrera.
The Red Sox and Chaim Bloom may still need to take further action to solidfy the middle infield. A trade or a signing could mitigate my angst, and both have surfaced in the rumor mill. Maybe number one prospect Marcelo Mayer will replicate Wander Franco and force his way into contention?
The shortstop situation supplanted my original roster tender spot at catching. The Red Sox are rolling the dice on Reese McGuire and Connor Wong. The lefty-hitting McGuire surprised with a .337 average when sent to Boston. This is eerily similar to the 2020 surprise of Kevin Plawecki hitting .341. Historically both are traditionally fitting the mold of backup. Now McGuire will be elevated to the prime spot at backstop.
The backup is now Connor Wong, part of the residue from the Mookie Betts trade. Wong can hit if you stick with Triple-A stats. Wong was noted as a solid defender and reliable bat with some noted pop to it while with the WooSox.
The Red Sox minor league system does have two catching prospects among their top thirty.
The WooSox have three catchers on their roster, including Ronaldo Hernández, who may be locked into 3A or jettisoned with other 3A catchers. Why? Chaim Bloom has been active on the free agent market with a series of minor-league invitations, and those prospects sequestered in the top 30 may be on the move upward. Nothing in the system or signings jumps out as Carlton Fisk redux.
The McGuire-Wong duo is the show unless spring training offers a surprise. With a veteran staff, the game-calling mechanics may be fine. If McGuire's hitting was not an anomaly, Boston may have a solid 120-game backstop. If not, we can collectively whine about Christian Vázquez not being resigned.
The Red Sox outfield was not one the memory banks of Red Sox Nation will remember being associated with Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, and Dwight Evans. The big free agent move of the off-season was to go to Nippon Baseball and sign lefty-hitting Masataka Yoshida to provide (hopefully) the necessary upgrade - at least offensively.
Yoshida is a well-disciplined hitter contact hitter with two batting titles in Japan. An OBP machine that does has a good touch of power. A friend I have known in Japan for over 30 years states he will be a doubles machine at Fenway Park. Granted, he is an Orix Buffaloes fan, so his view may be biased.
The negativity has flowed over the Yoshida signing, particularly the possibility of what is viewed as a defensive liability. The best measurement is to wait and see. If Yoshida can solve the leadoff situation, Boston may have a successful free agent signing; if not, the outfield will continue to be stagnant defensively and offensively.
For those still infected with the Fellowship of the Miserable virus, a limit of three and excluding pitching is a vast understatement of the potential disaster facing the team in 2023. But I will brush away the clouds of doom and cheerily hope there are rainbows and unicorns for 2023.