The writing has been on the wall for months that the Red Sox are poised to be big-time players this winter.
After finishing last in the AL East for the third time in four seasons in 2023, new chief baseball ops officer Craig Breslow has routinely expressed a willingness to bolster Boston’s pitching staff and shift Boston’s recent status as a cellar-dweller.
And with Boston both flush with blue-chip prospects and boasting close to $50 million in available spending power before reaching the first CBT threshold of $237 million, Breslow and his staff have the means to acquire talent for the big-league roster in several ways.
But for as much as this time of year usually revolves around free-agent feeding frenzies and trade rumors, Red Sox manager Alex Cora still believes that Boston’s path toward contention in 2024 still rests on internal contributors taking a major step forward.
“I do believe there’s a few things that we got to do better as a baseball team,” Alex Cora said of Boston’s offseason plans during an appearance on MLB Network. “I know the expectations of the fanbase and everybody else is to add this free agent or sign this big guy, whatever. But I do believe, from my perspective, we need our guys to be better — [Garrett] Whitlock, [Tanner] Houck, [Kutter] Crawford, [Brayan] Bello.”
“We need Trevor Story to get back to the offensive force that he was in Colorado. We need Raffy Devers to be better at third base. Triston Casas — the way he finished the season last year. So I do believe we’re gonna make some moves, we’re gonna get better, we’re gonna be deeper. But I think the core of the group – Jarren Duran, Alex Verdugo, Triston Casas, Raffy Devers – they need to be better.”
But Cora stressed that the Red Sox’ starting rotation still needs returning contributors to right the ship after a 2023 season where Boston ranked 21st in MLB with a 4.52 team ERA.
“I think those guys can help any team in the big leagues, right,” Cora said of pitchers like Yamamoto, Snell and Montgomery. “But like I said before, the most important thing is for Chris Sale to be healthy. Brayan Bello to take the next step. Garrett Whitlock and Tanner Houck, to bounce back from a tough year. You got to remember three of those guys last year in the offseason, they were coming back from surgery.
“Their offseason was cut short and I don’t think they hit their stride during the season. So all those names are outstanding. I know a lot of people are excited about them — the 30 teams at the big-league level. But from our end, we need our guys to be better to improve and hopefully we can accomplish that.”
Cora did not dispel the notion that the Red Sox could be in the hunt for a free agent at second base like Whit Merrifield.
But Cora also believes that the Red Sox have enough internal options to step into that infield vacancy if Breslow focuses his offseason efforts elsewhere on the roster.
“It’s very important for us to create balance, and that’s something Craig and I have talked throughout the process the last three weeks,” Cora said. “We just gotta be patient. We’ve got some guys in the system, they’re really good. Enmanuel Valdez, he was a good offensive player. Defensively? He had his hiccups where he’s working hard at it. And Pablo Reyes was another guy that came in and he actually swung the bat great. … We’re very comfortable with those guys.
“David Hamilton is another guy that had thumb surgery during the season — this guy is an elite defender, an elite runner. He was hitting the ball hard last year. So right now we’re comfortable with the group that we have, but as you know, every GM, every president of baseball operations is trying to improve.
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