Future Roster Construction

The evolution of the Sox roster this season raises some interesting questions about roster construction through the back half of this decade, and I thought it might be good to have a dedicated place to discuss it. I do not want this to be a place to discuss front office spending. Instead, let's assume that sometime over the next few years the front office is going to be operating at or near the tax limit and willing to consider major acquisitions.

If that's the case, then where does it make sense to focus?

So far this season there have been a few developments of significance:

On the pitching side:
  • Tanner Houck has shown that he has the ability to be an ace (control through 2027)
  • Garret Whitlock's injury may not completely eliminate the possibility of him starting in the future, but it's looking much less likely now (control through 2028)
  • Brayan Bello has not taken a step forward, but at least looks serviceable as a back end starter (control through 2030)
  • Kutter Crawford has cemented himself as a legitimate starter, likely at least middle rotation with upside (control through 2028)
  • Cooper Criswell has also shown the potential to be a legitimate starter, and is at the very least a solid depth option (control through 2028)
  • Justin Slaten looks like a very good bullpen piece (control through 2029)
  • Brennan Bernardino, Cam Booser, Greg Weissert, and Zack Kelly have all shown very good bullpen potential and are all controlled through 2028-30ish, but most of them are in their late 20's to early 30's and therefore there's a bit more of a question mark there about sustained performance over time
On the position player side:
  • Jarren Duran has built upon his 2023 campaign in a very impressive manor. His 2023 was very good, but seemed inflated based on a likely unsustainable BABIP. In 2024 his underlying metrics have caught up with his performance, and his xWOBA tracks very well with his actual WOBA. He has also improved substantially on defense. He looks like a significant part of the future, assuming he doesn't follow the Carl Crawford career trajectory (control through 2028)
  • Ceddanne Rafaela struggled a bit early on but has shown significant improvement as the season progressed. He's shown a defensive floor and speed that cements his role as a super utility guy at a bare minimum (control through 2032)
  • David Hamilton is showing some serious potential that is reminiscent of Duran's 2023. His arm is questionable at SS, but perhaps he would play better at 2B? At the very least he seems like good depth/utility (control through 2030, I think?)
  • Triston Casas appears to have taken some steps forward defensively while maintaining a good bat (albeit his underlying metrics are somewhat weaker this season), but his injury is definitely concerning and it remains to be seen whether it will have a long term impact (control through 2028)
  • Wilyer Abreu has shown a solid bat AND glove, although his wOBA is significantly outpacing his xWOBA (control through 2029)
  • Enmanuel Valdez has not impressed, although is xWOBA of .327 is solid and his defense has improved some (control through at least 2030 I think)
  • Connor Wong has been great, albeit perhaps overperforming on offense (control through 2029)
  • Masataka Yoshida needed to step up and return to the offensive performance of the first half of last year, and he has decidedly not done that (control through 2027)
  • Vaughn Grissom hasn't been able to stay on the field and has been awful when he has (control through 2029)

Meanwhile, in the minor leagues the big three of Teel, Anthony and Mayer are all performing. Kristian Campbell has been tearing up AA, although in quite a small sample size. Dick Fitts is looking like a reasonable depth option, and we're likely to see what Winckowski has to offer sooner or later. Luis Perales appears to have taken a major step forward, although his elbow injury is also very concerning.

Putting all that together, it looks like the Red Sox have control of three solid starters (Houck, Crawford, Bello), three depth starters with upside (Criswell, Winckowski, Fitts), and two wild cards (Whitlock and Perales) who could become relevant over the next few years depending how their injuries shake out. There are also a lot of bullpen pieces with significant control.
On the position player side, two to three outfield spots are covered between Duran, Abreu, and Rafaela. Third base and catcher are covered as well, as is first base with an asterisk (assuming Casas' injury doesn't become a career altering thing). Backup catcher is likely good too as long as Teel pans out, either taking that role himself or more likely pushing Wong into it.

That leaves shortstop, second base, DH, and 1-2 outfield spots up in the air with some chance of first base falling as well. I'll go through this position by position:

SS: Between Story, Rafaela, and Hamilton this position is likely covered until Mayer gets his shot. If Mayer doesn't pan out, then it's possible that Rafaela or Hamilton can hold this down long term which could free up space in the OF.
2B: This position is likely the biggest question mark. Grissom and Valdez are going to get their chances here, and there is a chance that Hamilton could slide over as well. Beyond that, Kristian Campbell could make a run at the job if he sustains anything like his current performance.
OF: Easily covered by Duran, Rafaela, Abreu and short term free agents until Anthony gets his chance. If Anthony sticks, there's a real chance that the Sox don't even need another outfielder for a long time. That said, if Rafaela is called to shift his focus to IF duties, either Duran or Abreu collapses or Anthony doesn't pan out, there could be room for a free agent here.
DH: Yoshida is probably the biggest liability on the roster at the moment. He really needs to show something, as the team could really use this slot to pick up a big bat that can fill in at a corner infield position to rotate with Devers, Casas, and whomever else.
1B: Obviously covered by Casas, but if his injury become career altering then this would be an obvious place for an upgrade.

Summary:

Between players that the Red Sox have long term control over and likely top prospects emerging over the next few seasons, there really aren't a ton of places for the team to make big free agent moves. Over the next few years, I think the most logical places to aim for big trade or free agent acquisitions are:

SP: The rotation looks quite solid now between current talent and depth, but there is definitely room to add here. A big trade or free agency hit could make a very good rotation with good depth into an incredible rotation with great depth. The depth also means that the FO doesn't need to commit to a long contract here either. When I looked at the data on cost to performance ratios for pitchers and hitters a year or two ago, the best category on both sides of the ball were pillow contract guys. They outperformed their salary at a rate that was better than any other tier of free agent signing. Of course sometimes these guys blow up in your face, but the depth really protects against that. Similarly, renting an ace once or twice during the next window could be a very viable option as the team would not need to count on that pitcher for multiple seasons (again because of the depth).

Position Players: The best places for an acquisition would either be 2B or either a corner infield or outfield bat. 2B is likely the least locked down position on the roster going forward, although Kristian Campbell could change that. Between Grissom, Hamilton, Valdez and possibly Story I don't think this needs to be sorted this year. I think by the 2025-26 offseason we'll have a much better picture of whether Kristian Campbell is going to make a push for the job and/or whether Grissom is the guy. If neither is true, then a trade or FA could be in order. Meanwhile, a corner IF/OF/DH bat could be added at any time. I don't think the team needs an OF going into next season, but the roster could definitely accomodate one. Someone who could DH and sometimes spell Devers, Casas or both would also work well long term, especially as backup in case Casas's injury ends up being a chronic problem.

The big names in our areas of interest hitting FA this offseason are Juan Soto, Pete Alonso, Cody Bellinger, and Alex Bregman. Soto is the obvious jewel here, but he's unfortunately left-handed and the Red Sox are looking to be really lefy heavy between Devers, Casas, Duran, Teel, Anthony, Abreu, and maybe Hamilton. Alonso and Bregman are both having down years so far, which is definitely concerning for any big name free agent in their 30's. Maybe you make a run at Soto and if you actually get him you worry about the handedness problem later (or solve it through trade). 2025-26 doesn't look much better, with the best two names being Kyle Tucker (also left handed) and Vlad Guerrero Jr.

One other interesting option who could become available in either 2024-25 or 25-26 is Ha-Seong Kim.

Obviously there is still a ton of uncertainty, especially over the course of two or three seasons a lot can happen. But from where we sit now, the Red Sox have surprisingly few obvious gaps in the roster and big ticket free agents that would be a good fit for the team's likely needs are few and far between (at least on the position player side).

How would you like to see the team proceed, in general terms? Do you think trying to sign a big bat is the way to go? Do you prefer focusing on a long term SP, or do you think the team is set up well to keep trying to catch lightning with short term SP while leaning on the depth? Is trade likely to be a better option?
 

TapeAndPosts

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Jarren Duran has built upon his 2023 campaign in a very impressive manor. His 2023 was very good, but seemed inflated based on a likely unsustainable BABIP. In 2024 his underlying metrics have caught up with his performance, and his xWOBA tracks very well with his actual WOBA. He has also improved substantially on defense. He looks like a significant part of the future, assuming he doesn't follow the Carl Crawford career trajectory (control through 2028)
He's welcome to follow the Carl Crawford career trajectory as long as that means "Putting up 35 WAR for the team who drafted you and then immediately turning into garbage when signed by a divisional rival"!

Great summary of where things are at. My biggest concern right now is Casas — the difference between him staying healthy and keeping the career trajectory he was on, and having chronic issues that derail him, seems like the outcome with the most uncertainty and the biggest divergence.
 

koufax32

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Time to start changing out some of these positional prospects for pitching ones. How to go about doing that is much less clear to me though.

Relatedly, I’d love to exchange some of them for a rising pitcher who’s going to start getting expensive soon on a team going nowhere, like a Garrett Crochet.
 
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TheYellowDart5

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Time to start changing out some of these positional prospects for pitching ones. How to go about doing that is much less clear to me though.

Relatedly, I’d love to exchange some of them for a rising pitcher who’s going to start getting expensive soon on a team going nowhere, like a Garrett Crochet.
There's a surplus of middle infield/utility IF guys who could help there. Between Nick Yorke, Chase Meidroth, Mikey Romero, Eddison Paulino and Cutter Coffey, there's a logjam at second and shortstop that needs clearing up, particularly with better long-term options at each position already available in Mayer, Campbell and possibly Yoelin Cespedes, Naz Zanetello and Franklin Arias (and whoever they draft this summer). Similarly, I could see Blaze Jordan and Allan Castro, both of whom are Rule 5 eligible this December, being dangled in trade talks.
 
He's welcome to follow the Carl Crawford career trajectory as long as that means "Putting up 35 WAR for the team who drafted you and then immediately turning into garbage when signed by a divisional rival"!

Great summary of where things are at. My biggest concern right now is Casas — the difference between him staying healthy and keeping the career trajectory he was on, and having chronic issues that derail him, seems like the outcome with the most uncertainty and the biggest divergence.
Ohh yes, I'll take that with a side of chips. I was thinking more along the lines of "wheels on the bus fall off at age 29." Falling off a cliff that young is quite uncommon, but for someone with Duran's skillset I wouldn't be surprised to see a rapid decline in the early 30's.

Time to start changing out some of these positional prospects for pitching ones. How to go about doing that is much less clear to me though.

Relatedly, I’d love to exchange some of them for a rising pitcher who’s going to start getting expensive soon on a team going nowhere, like a Garrett Crochet.
Trading from the position prospect pool (particularly the big three) for pitching is definitely the biggest wildcard in the analysis as it could potentially free up a lot of flexibility to acquire lefty bats. It's certainly one argument for making a hard run at Soto this offseason. If you get him, you then try to trade one of the big three for pitching, especially if Casas recovers. You then try to fill the spot of whomever you trade with a RHH either via trade or short term acquisitions.


EDIT: @TheYellowDart5 for sure, and I think that's pretty uncontroversial. If you can get impact players for these guys then you absolutely do it. Problem is that the way the roster is now we don't have many glaring weaknesses, so it takes impact players to upgrade and it's not at all clear that these lower tier prospects can yield that kind of return. Where this depth could really help out is in the rental market in the next couple years. If the Sox get to the point where they have their long term needs generally filled out, but can upgrade on the short term (particularly through something like SP or relief ace rentals) then I can see lower tier prospects getting it done.
 
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Yo La Tengo

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Giolito will likely fit into this matrix as well (it seems really unlikely he would opt out of his contract before next year and I anticipate he'll be in Boston in 2025 and 2026). Plus Hendricks in the pen for next year.

With the relatively unattractive/poor fit of the upcoming free agent classes, I think the Sox are in a good position to be pairing players in a trade. I think we'll be surprised by some of the names you listed be moved before this trade deadline or in the off-season.
 

TheYellowDart5

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EDIT: @TheYellowDart5 for sure, and I think that's pretty uncontroversial. If you can get impact players for these guys then you absolutely do it. Problem is that the way the roster is now we don't have many glaring weaknesses, so it takes impact players to upgrade and it's not at all clear that these lower tier prospects can yield that kind of return. Where this depth could really help out is in the rental market in the next couple years. If the Sox get to the point where they have their long term needs generally filled out, but can upgrade on the short term (particularly through something like SP or relief ace rentals) then I can see lower tier prospects getting it done.
I do think there's a possibility of packaging guys like Yorke and Meidroth to try to appeal to teams that want high-minors guys who can be cheap league average major leaguers right away — small-payroll squads like the A's, Pirates and Marlins are always casting about for pre-arb hitters who can give them 3-6 years of bargain production even if they're never more than 1-2 WAR guys. Actually finding that fit is harder, but so long as you're dealing with an FO that isn't necessarily looking for a Top 100 guy, I think there's success to be had.
 

greenmountains

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Sox Roster - 2024 to 2030 - Players under Control
2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030

[/TD]
Starters
1​
Catcher Wong Wong Teel Teel Teel Teel Teel
2​
First Base Casas Casas Casas Casas Casas Casas
3​
2nd Base Valdez Grissom Grissom Grissom Grissom Grissom Grissom
4​
3rd Base Devers Devers Devers Devers Devers Devers Devers
5​
Shortstop Hamilton Story Mayer Mayer Mayer Mayer Mayer
6​
Outfield Rafaela Rafaela Rafaela Rafaela Rafaela Rafaela Rafaela
7​
Outfield Abreu Abreu Abreu Abreu Abreu Abreu Abreu
8​
Outfield Duran Duran Duran Duran Duran
9​
DH Yoshida Yoshida Yoshida Yoshida
Bench
10​
Catcher McGuire (could be Teel) Wong Wong Wong Wong
11​
1st / 3rd Base The Dom
12​
Utility Infield Romy (could be Mayer) Story Story
13​
Outfield 4 O'Neal (could be Anthony) Anthony Anthony Anthony Anthony
14​
Outfield 5 Refsnyder Refsnyder (could be Bleis)
Starting Pitching
15​
SP1 Pivetta Giolito
16​
SP2 Houck Houck Houck Houck
17​
SP3 Bello Bello Bello Bello Bello Bello Bello
18​
SP4 Crawford Crawford Crawford Crawford Crawford Crawford
19​
SP5 Criswell Criswell Criswell Criswell Criswell Criswell
Relief Pitching
20​
Swing Winckowski Winckowski Winckowski Winckowski Winckowski
21​
RP 1 Whitlock Whitlock Whitlock Whitlock Whitlock
22​
RP 2 Bernardino Bernardino Bernardino Bernardino Bernardino Bernardino Bernardino
23​
RP 3 Slaten Slaten Slaten Slaten Slaten Slaten Slaten
24​
RP 4 Weissert Weissert Weissert Weissert Weissert Weissert Weissert
25​
RP 5 Martin
26​
RP 6 Jansen Hendriks Hendriks
Under Team Control
21​
19​
18​
17​
14​
10
Not Undercontrol
5​
4​
5​
8​
11​
15
Under control but - Release / Trade
0
3
3
1
1
1
1
(or really need to improve)
Assumes only the "Big 3 - Mayer, Teel, Anthony" make the team
excluded all other minor leagues - Bleis, Yorke, Meidroth, Campbell, Blaze Jordan, Cespedes, Zanetello, Romero
Perales, Fitts, Wikelman Gonzalez, Sandlin, Monegro, Bastardo
Caveats - Actual performance in 2024
Assumes no additional extensions
Injuries - can those happen?
Assumes no trades - we know better
Goal - whose under control given 2024 performance as a benchmark
NO FREE AGENGY / UPGRADES
NO ANALYSIS OF "HANDEDNESS"


Simply attempting to create the Matrix
 
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TomRicardo

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Position Player 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028
Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Shortstop
Third Base
Left Field
Center Field
Right Field
DH
 

Heating up in the bullpen

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SS: Between Story, Rafaela, and Hamilton this position is likely covered until Mayer gets his shot. If Mayer doesn't pan out, then it's possible that Rafaela or Hamilton can hold this down long term which could free up space in the OF.
2B: This position is likely the biggest question mark. Grissom and Valdez are going to get their chances here, and there is a chance that Hamilton could slide over as well. Beyond that, Kristian Campbell could make a run at the job if he sustains anything like his current performance.
OF: Easily covered by Duran, Rafaela, Abreu and short term free agents until Anthony gets his chance. If Anthony sticks, there's a real chance that the Sox don't even need another outfielder for a long time. That said, if Rafaela is called to shift his focus to IF duties, either Duran or Abreu collapses or Anthony doesn't pan out, there could be room for a free agent here.
Just to note, Yorke has been tearing up AAA in his first two weeks, and is by all accounts a passable defensive 2B (and also getting reps in LF). As you note, Campbell has been tearing up AA in his first two weeks there; he plays 2B and CF.
So lot's of possibilities for infield and outfield beyond who's already in Boston and the Big 3.
 

j-man

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u guys need a ACE right now u have a bunch of 2/3 starters but u also need that star guy like a soto type or soto himseif right now u are a 84-85 win team with a ACE and soto u can be 96-97 wins
 

nvalvo

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but for someone with Duran's skillset I wouldn't be surprised to see a rapid decline in the early 30's.
Bill James found that the more athletic “young player skills” guys age *better* than those with “old player skills.” Has that changed?

(Given steroid enforcement, it really could have!)
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Bill James found that the more athletic “young player skills” guys age *better* than those with “old player skills.” Has that changed?

(Given steroid enforcement, it really could have!)
I thought it was just the opposite actually. That the big slugging high OBP types have shown the ability to stay..... big slugging types high OBP types, while the more speed athletic types skills can decline enough that if those skills decline just enough, the "edge" dulls quickly. Being reliant on speed (basepaths or defense and even bat speed for a high batting average) without having the slower skills (discipline) quickly seperates around 29-32. The high SLG, OBP types tend to hang out around 1B, 3B and corner OF where fast twitch athleticism isn't as important.
Likely totally misremembering.
 

Max Power

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I thought it was just the opposite actually. That the big slugging high OBP types have shown the ability to stay..... big slugging types high OBP types, while the more speed athletic types skills can decline enough that if those skills decline just enough, the "edge" dulls quickly. Being reliant on speed (basepaths or defense and even bat speed for a high batting average) without having the slower skills (discipline) quickly seperates around 29-32. The high SLG, OBP types tend to hang out around 1B, 3B and corner OF where fast twitch athleticism isn't as important.
Likely totally misremembering.
I know I read one time that fat players aged better than their skinnier counterparts. Think of Matt Stairs, CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Tony Gwynn, Big Papi, and the rest. But that may have been selection bias since scouts generally don't give unathletic looking guys a chance unless their skill is undeniable. "We're not selling jeans here."
 

The Filthy One

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I believe the key thing is when you're displaying those skills. So young players with "old player" skill sets -- high BB%, high K%, HRs, etc. -- age poorly relative to peers who have other skills carrying (defense, speed, but also contact, etc.). The poster child for this is Ben Grieve, who was an above-average hitter in his early 20s thanks to above average OBP, but was then out of baseball before he turned 30.