Analysis: Despite Devers signing, 2023 looks bleak for Sox

Boston Herald
Published: 1/16/2023 2:36:24 AM
Modified: 1/16/2023 2:33:08 AM

One day after the Boston Red Sox announced that Xander Bogaerts’ replacement, Trevor Story, would miss most of the 2023 season with an elbow injury, they turned their attention to the future.

Rafael Devers, they said, would bring the Red Sox long-term success.

“We’re going to do this, and it’s going to be awesome,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom giddily proclaimed at the end of a lengthy introduction to announce the 10-year, $313.5 million contract extension for Devers at Fenway Park.

The celebratory press conference, which was broadcasted live on the Red Sox’ Twitter feed, was missing a key piece of information about Devers’ contract: It means nothing for 2023.

He was already signed for this year.

The Red Sox didn’t get better on Wednesday. They added nobody new to their roster. They’re still the same flawed team they were on Tuesday, and barring something shocking between now and Opening Day, they’ll be picked to finish in last place for the third time in four years.

The unfortunate reality is the Red Sox aren’t expected to be very good this season. And while it was a relief to see them finally sign a star player to a long-term contract, this winter has been one of subtraction for the Sox’ big league talent pool.

That’s why the focus is on the future.

Despite the absence of principal owner John Henry at Wednesday’s press conference, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner told reporters covering the event that the ownership group remains invested in the long-term success of the club and has no plans to sell the team, despite clear efforts to divest in recent years.

“There are absolutely no plans,” Werner said.

He later added, “We’ve got lots of plans about how to strengthen the minor league system. As for (Fenway Sports Group), yes, it’s true that we were looking for additional investors. Nothing has materialized, but that doesn’t change our focus.”

Werner also threw his support behind Bloom, who has led the Red Sox to a pair of last-place finishes in 2020 and ’22, but used a Wild Card berth to launch a deep playoff run in ’21.

Said Werner, “I think he’s one of the finest general managers in baseball, or heads of baseball operations I should say. He had a tough year last year. We all had a tough year. We had an excellent year the year before. I endorse, and I’m excited about his long-term plan.”

Bloom, to his credit, was willing to admit to some mistakes during his lengthy opening statement. But it got awkward toward the end.

“One more thing actually I want to say, really to our fans,” he said after reading a prepared statement. “Loving your favorite team has its great moments. It’s not always easy. … And you’ve been with us the whole way.”

That part isn’t exactly true.

The fans did not stick with the Red Sox in 2022. In fact, fans went to Fenway Park less frequently than they did in every other non-pandemic year since 2000. The average attendance was 32,409, the lowest figures under Henry’s ownership.

They stopped watching on TV, too. Ratings plummeted, falling almost as low as they were during the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, when the Sox pathetically limped to the finish line with one of the worst records in baseball while using a pitching staff that ranked as one of the worst of this millennium.

“When we’ve celebrated, you’ve celebrated with us,” Bloom continued. “When we’ve hurt, you’ve hurt, and we know that and we feel that. I’m hoping today, when you think about what we’ve talked about and where we’re going and this vision of the Red Sox organization that every year is consistently contending for a championship, I’m hoping that vision is a little clearer today, knowing this guy (Devers) is going to be right there in the middle of it, what we’re going to do around him.”

Have the Red Sox actually built around Devers?

They traded future Hall of Famer Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers for little in return. They failed to re-sign Bogaerts and have continuously made subtle hints that the San Diego Padres look foolish for paying him $280 million when the Red Sox reportedly offered just $160 million.

“Was I surprised that the Padres made such a long extension? Slightly,” Werner said.

Then he credited Bogaerts’ agent, Scott Boras, saying, “Scott did his job.”

Finally, the Red Sox did theirs.

They locked up a homegrown star and gave their fans something to be excited about.

But the idea that they’re suddenly on the right track is one purely based on hope.

“It’s not always linear,” Bloom said. “It’s not always easy. We’ve taken a couple haymakers, and we’re probably going to take a couple more. This is baseball. It’s not supposed to be easy. I want to be clear we’re going to do this, and it’s going to be awesome. And we are going to do it together, and I want to thank all of you for your support and hope it’s a little clearer today.”

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