How are members of the 2023 Red Sox doing on their new teams?

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

After being hired by the Boston Red Sox as their new chief baseball officer, Craig Breslow decided to move off of a plethora of veterans from 2023’s last-place team.

Red Sox fans have been forced to come to grips with a new reality. Every year roster turnover and injury management present problems for teams.

There’s been a heavy amount of nostalgia for Red Sox players who have come and gone after a tumultuous offseason and more than a dozen players hitting the injured list. Despite the ballclub getting off to a surprisingly good start, the Sox may have been better off hanging onto some of their 2023 players.

With that in mind, let’s check in on some old friends who are sporting new uniforms this year. Brace yourselves — some of these numbers will sting. 

Justin Turner

Every metric indicates that Justin Turner, who won fans over last season with both his offensive output and full embrace of the city, has been one of the best hitters in MLB. FanGraphs ranks Turner’s 4.9 Offensive WAR as 36th in all of baseball through his 22 games played. That’s higher than every one of his current Blue Jays teammates’, and every Red Sox position player except Tyler O’Neill. Turner’s oWAR ranks higher than stars like Marcus Semien, Freddie Freeman, Yordan Alvarez, Aaron Judge, and Pete Alonso, to name a few. Similarly, his 165 wrc+ ranks 30th in the league. 

Turner has proven invaluable to a Blue Jays team that ranks 21st in runs scored. His best skill this season has been his ability to put balls in play. Turner is sporting a .345 BABIP and an elite strikeout percentage of 15.1%. Contrast that with Red Sox hitters who have posted a .282 BABIP (20th in MLB) and 26.0% strikeout percentage (25th in MLB). With Triston Casas moved to the IL for the foreseeable future and Yoshida’s subpar beginning to the season, it’s difficult not to miss “Red.” 

Losing Turner was a tough pill to swallow, but Casas needed to play first base every day and Chaim Bloom spent over $100 million on an everyday designated hitter in Masataka Yoshida. Casas and Yoshida’s presence wouldn’t have justified Breslow bringing back Turner with a one-year, $13 million contract (which he got from Toronto). 

Chris Sale

Despite still unnecessarily beating himself up during postgames interviews, Chris Sale has been a workhorse for the Atlanta Braves team that lost Spencer Strider after just two starts. Sale’s averaging over six IP in his four starts this season and leads the Braves in innings pitched. While Sale’s increased workload could cause a trip to the IL later in the season given his previous injury history, he’s been a tone-setting front-end starter thus far. 

Sale’s not just eating innings, he’s pitching very effectively. Amongst the Braves starters, Sale’s 2.97 xFIP ranks first (outside of Bryce Elder and his 1 start), his 2.19 BB/9 ranks first, and his 9.85 K/9 ranks first (outside of Strider). 

Sale’s success this season, unsurprisingly, has been in large part due to his blistering four-seamer and wipeout slider. According to Baseball Savant, Sale’s four-seamer is averaging 94.7 miles per hour with an average ride of 20.2 inches. Sale’s four-seam fastball velocity ranks 125th in MLB, however, no pitcher ahead of him on that list has more ride.

His slider results and metrics have been incredible. According to Sports Info Solutions, Sale’s slider runs above average ranks 3rd in MLB this season (Tanner Houck’s leads MLB). 

The Red Sox's starting pitching has notably been the best in MLB so far, so there’s not currently hand-wringing over trading Sale. However, Sale was a fan favorite and a 2018 World Series champion who represented one of the last vestiges of better times, who will forever be remembered fondly in Boston. Oh, and Vaughn Grissom has yet to make his Red Sox debut. 

Alex Verdugo 

This one stings. 

In stark contrast with Chris Sale, few people in Boston are rooting for this guy. Alex Verdugo, much maligned among Sox fans for showing up late for a game, lack of hustle, and reportedly feuding with Alex Cora, has been a spark plug for Boston's biggest rival. 

On the field, Verdugo has grounded into a lot of double plays, but otherwise, his stats are above average. He ranks third amongst Yankees hitters in fWAR, runs scored, and OBP, behind only Juan Soto and Anthony Volpe. He’s striking out at a minuscule 9.5% clip, and he has more total walks than Ks. Of players with over 25 plate appearances, he ranks fourth in the league with a 1.33 BB/K. As a team, the Red Sox rank 22nd in BB/K. Similarly, he has a swinging strike percentage of 4.9% which is one of the top marks in the league as well. As a team, the Red Sox rank 24th in swinging strike percentage. 

Soto and Marcus Stroman receive the bulk of the praise for reshaping Yankees culture, but Verdugo has been pivotal in changing the long-standing perception that Yankees players are clean-cut, buttoned-up, and business-like. It’s been brutal to watch Verdugo spark an electric clubhouse while the Sox are losing players to injury left and right, but the Sox sport several young outfielders on both their MLB and MiLB rosters, making Verdugo less positionally valuable to the organization than three pitchers with decent upside.

James Paxton

There’s at least one former Sox player who’s not crushing it on their new team. 

James Paxton, who the Dodgers brought in on a one-year contract to eat innings, has been spotty. A blink test would say that Paxton is doing well so far as he’s 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA, but there’s a lot more to unpack. 

“Big Maple” has the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in all of baseball, as he’s struck out 11 and walked 17 batters this season. He ranks last amongst all Dodgers in xFIP and walks per nine innings.

Paxton has been able to eat more innings than expected due to an 89% left-on-base percentage, which has contributed significantly to him being able to throw 20.2 innings in four starts. There’s a lot to be said for Paxton limiting damage in his outings and there’s definitely an “effectively wild” element to Paxton’s game that can keep hitters off-balance. It’s difficult to believe Paxton can continue to walk the world but continue to post great results. That being said, Paxton’s been providing some value despite not having a ton of run support from a loaded lineup.

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