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After Eovaldi’s departure, 2023 Red Sox roster looks worse than it was in 2022


The Red Sox have nearly completed their turnover of the 2018 World Series team.

It all happened so quickly.

Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Christian Vazquez, Nathan Eovaldi, Matt Strahm and Rich Hill entered free agency this winter with the reasonable expectatio­n that the Red Sox would be interested in a reunion.

Two months into the offseason and all six of them have now signed with new teams, leaving the Red Sox in undoubtedl­y worse position than they were while ending the season in last place.

It’s gone from bad to worse on Jersey Street, where the Sox are only signing players to one- or two-year deals, with the only exception being a fiveyear deal for 29-year-old Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida.

As for every other signing this offseason?

They’re veterans in the final stages of their career, which could bode well if the Sox actually make the postseason, but the more likely scenario is that Kenley Jansen, Chris Martin, Justin Turner and perhaps others will be flipped for prospects in July if (when) the Sox find themselves out of the playoff picture because of a failure to upgrade at any position except relief pitcher this winter.

Typically, bad teams go into the winter in one of two ways: full-throttle to improve after a disappoint­ing season (see: Rangers, Texas), or they continue to shed veterans while focusing on the future.

The Red Sox have, once again, done neither, instead trying to operate in the muddy middle that has this team bound for another season in purgatory. Or worse.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom thought he was making a joke when he had bottles of wines labeled “Pessimist” as a gag gift for the reporters covering the event.

But if the Red Sox are genuinely feeling good about their chances of competing in 2023, we’ll have to send them a case of “Delusional.”

So far, they’ve fallen $120 million short of retaining Bogaerts and have yet to sign a replacemen­t middle infielder. If Bogaerts was Plan A, it’s fair to wonder if Plans B, C, D and E have similarly gone up in smoke as Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Dansby Swanson and even the secondtier Jean Segura have all signed elsewhere.

To go from Bogaerts and Trevor Story in the middle infield to Story and a replacemen­t-level player is about as clear as it gets that this year’s Red Sox aren’t exactly serious about competing.

They may have similarly downgraded from the 35year-old Martinez to the 38-year-old Turner, depending how well Turner’s body and bat speed hold up with age.

Going from Eovaldi and Michael Wacha to Corey Kluber and James Paxton, a pair of oft-injured pitchers who might have a season or two left in them, could be just as egregious.

If there’s any reason to feel hopeful it’s the Red Sox’ bullpen, where they’ve added Jansen, Martin, Joely Rodriguez and perhaps some of their starting pitching depth that won’t be needed in the rotation and could fortify the middle innings.

But overall, this looks like a team of the past, a bunch of guys who have done amazing things in their careers but have very legitimate questions around how much they have left.

Perhaps that can be Alex Cora’s message when he does his annual speech to the organizati­on in spring training this year: this team has experience, this team has wisdom, this team has leadership – now they need to prove to the rest of the league that they can still play at an elite level.

That still doesn’t explain the loss of Bogaerts, nor the most recent loss of Eovaldi, who said he was hoping to return at season’s end but fled to Texas for $34 million over two years.

Eovaldi knew he was better than what he’d showed in the second half, when he tried, once again, to push himself back from an injury too quickly and then hurt himself worse. He admitted as much in August, when he said he stumbled into bad mechanics while trying to rediscover his velocity that disappeare­d after shoulder and back problems.

To count him out would be a mistake, as he’s proven time and time again while bouncing back from injuries, and if the Rangers make the postseason you know they’ll be feeling good about putting him on the mound.

Supposedly, that was the criteria of what the Red Sox wanted in a starting pitcher this winter.

Bloom said so at the Winter Meetings when asked what he meant by his desire for “upside” in a free agent pitcher.

“Someone that you would be really proud to have taking the mound for you in a playoff game,” Bloom said. “That can look different for different guys, obviously, but that’s the type of impact that we’re looking for.”

Their response has thus far been only to sign Kluber, the 37-year-old who hasn’t made a quality start in the postseason since 2016. Since then, he’s allowed 14 earned runs in 12 innings over four playoff appearance­s.

Worse, the Sox have now just about gutted the entire roster from the 2018 World Series team.

The only guys left are Rafael Devers, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier.

Perhaps that’s Bloom and Co.’s plan: tear it down to build it back up.

It’s hard to make sense of it otherwise.

 ?? Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle ?? Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi kicks the dirt on the mound as Astros second baseman Jose Altuve prepares to bat during the fourth inning on Aug. 1 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
Jon Shapley / Houston Chronicle Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi kicks the dirt on the mound as Astros second baseman Jose Altuve prepares to bat during the fourth inning on Aug. 1 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

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