With roster nearly set, Red Sox see Kiké as primary SS

January 21st, 2023

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Red Sox are, in manager Alex Cora’s words, at the one-yard line when it comes to the completion of their 2023 roster.

“And we’re going to run it,” quipped Cora.

While Cora, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, general manager Brian O’Halloran and president/CEO Sam Kennedy all expressed optimism about the coming season, many Red Sox fans made it clear on Friday night that they are going to need to see results on the field before feeling the same way.

The team’s annual Winter Weekend kicked off in somewhat uncomfortable fashion, as owner John Henry and Bloom both took in a series of sustained boos during the Town Hall event at the MassMutual Center.

“I’m from Philly. I get it,” said Bloom, who added that Red Sox fans have similar fire in the opposite direction when the team is winning, “and that’s wind in our sails.”

The Sox often felt as if they were going against the wind in 2022, finishing 78-84, a far cry from a ’21 season in which the club fell just two wins shy of getting to the World Series.

Henry, Boston’s principal owner since 2002, reminded the spectators at Friday’s event that expectations were similarly low from fans and prognosticators entering 2013 as they are right now. The Red Sox finished last in 2012 and won it all the following year.

Not only did the 2022 Sox finish last, but they lost team leader Xander Bogaerts in free agency to the Padres last month, which is clearly adding to the overall saltiness of Red Sox Nation these days.

“They were a team a lot of people didn’t have a lot of faith in,” Henry said of 2013. “We had a really tough year [in 2022] with injuries and we didn’t perform the way you would expect a Red Sox team to perform. We’ve been there before. We’ve been up, we’ve been down, I expect great things in the future.”

Toward that end, the Sox last week signed star slugger to a 10-year, $313.5 million extension that will start in ’24.

Clearly, the 26-year-old Devers is a player the team can build around.

Replacing Bogaerts, however, will be a challenge. Rather than try to replace the shortstop with one player, Bloom is looking to build a rebounding Boston squad with several pieces.

Masataka Yoshida was imported from Japan at the price of five years and $90 million to play left field and perhaps lead off. Gritty veteran was added via free agency on a one-year deal with a player option.

was expected to replace Bogaerts at shortstop but that plan fell through due to a significant right elbow injury that required surgery last week.

Cora said Friday night that he expects Kiké Hernández to be the team’s primary shortstop. Who will be Hernández’s primary replacement in center? That will be , a right-handed hitter with power who reached agreement on a one-year, $7 million contract earlier this week that is pending a physical.

Though there are two veteran shortstops who remain on the market in Elvis Andrus and José Iglesias, Bloom and Cora both sound more inclined to stick with Hernández at short.

“Right now, yeah, we have a lot of confidence in him,” Bloom said. “We have this whole way. It's one of the great things about him, he's basically a plus defender wherever you put him on the field. There's not too many guys in baseball you can say that about but I wouldn't rule out anything. We have to make sure that we’re opportunistic and whatever adds the most impact to our club, we have to be ready to do.”

What about second base?

As the roster is presently constituted, Cora said is “going to play a lot.”

Don’t be surprised if the Sox get another middle infielder with versatility -- ideally a left-handed hitter -- to pair with Arroyo.

“There's still a couple pieces we'd like to add,” Bloom said. “We still want to fortify ourselves more up the middle. You know, we've talked about that obviously with Trevor [injured], that adds to our needs there.”

For sure, it has been an interesting offseason for the Red Sox. The story, however, will be what happens once the games start.

“We’re excited to get going,” said Kennedy.