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Projecting Sox's 2020 Opening Day roster

@IanMBrowne
January 6, 2020

BOSTON -- There have been some modest transactions since we took our first crack a couple of months ago at projecting what the 26-man roster will like for the Red Sox when they open their season on March 26 at Toronto. But there is still much up in the air

BOSTON -- There have been some modest transactions since we took our first crack a couple of months ago at projecting what the 26-man roster will like for the Red Sox when they open their season on March 26 at Toronto.

But there is still much up in the air as new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom attempts to achieve ownership’s goal of trimming the team’s payroll below the luxury-tax threshold of $208 million.

Here are the latest roster projections, including the question marks that remain.

Catcher

Locks: Christian Vázquez, Kevin Plawecki

This area is set. Vázquez has established himself as Boston’s lockdown No. 1 catcher after a tremendous 2019 season at the plate. Sandy León was traded to the Indians instead of being non-tendered. In his place, the Red Sox got Plawecki, who was non-tendered by, yep, the Indians. Plawecki’s top strength is framing pitches, and his weakness is his offense.

Infield

Locks: Michael Chavis, José Peraza, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers
Possibilities: Bobby Dalbec, Marco Hernandez, Jonathan Arauz, free agent/trade

One item of note: If Dustin Pedroia is able to come back from the highly problematic left knee that has limited him to a total of nine games over the last two seasons, it won’t be by Opening Day.

There is a bit more clarity in the infield now that Peraza has been signed for one year at $3 million to be the primary second baseman. Shortstop and third base are more than settled for not just 2020, but the next few years to come, with Bogaerts and Devers.

The main question is how the Sox will distribute the playing time at first base. Chavis started strong in his rookie season, but then battled inconsistency and injuries. He’ll be out to prove he can hold down a steady role, but he can also play second and third.

After belting 27 homers in the Minor League last season, Dalbec, Boston's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, could get a chance to earn a roster spot in Spring Training and become a major part of the first-base equation. Arauz was snagged by the Red Sox in the Rule 5 Draft, and he can play all over the infield. He’ll get a long look in Spring Training. If the Sox add from outside the organization, it will likely be a left-handed hitter to complement all the righty bats currently in the fold.

Outfield

Locks: Andrew Benintendi
Possibilities: Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, free agent/trade

All eyes continue to be on Betts and whether the Sox will trade their five-tool star who has a year left on his contract. Bradley, a brilliant defender in center but an inconsistent hitter, also enters his walk year. It’s unlikely Boston would trade both players, but there seems to be a good chance one of them will move on due to financial constraints. If Betts or Bradley is dealt, Dalbec or Chavis could conceivably be shifted to the outfield.

Designated hitter

Locks: J.D. Martinez
Possibilities: none

Martinez decided not to exercise his opt-out clause, so the Sox will have one of the most productive bats in the game in the middle of their lineup for a third straight season.

Starting rotation

Locks: Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Pérez
Possibilities: David Price, free agent/trade

With a $32 million price tag for the next three seasons, Price continues to be the subject of trade rumors. Considering how much money teams are spending on starting pitching this offseason, it now seems more likely Price could be attractive to a contender. The question is how much money the Red Sox will have to absorb of Price’s remaining salary. If Boston doesn’t deal Price, the team would likely have to trade Betts to get under the luxury tax.

Pérez, a lefty with experience, essentially replaces Rick Porcello, who signed with the Mets as a free agent. If Price gets dealt, the Sox could go with an opener to fill out the rotation.

Bullpen

Locks: Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden
Possibilities: Brian Johnson, Travis Lakins, free agent/trade

Maligned as it was through the first three months of the 2019 season, Boston’s bullpen settled in once roles were defined in the second half. Workman became a strong closer who could have the opportunity to hold down the job for a full season, unless Bloom adds an established closer before Spring Training. Hernandez and Taylor are two young, promising lefties. Hembree had right elbow problems last season, but the Sox believe he is now healthy. Johnson, who was taken off the 40-man roster and outrighted to Pawtucket, will have the chance to prove in Spring Training that he can get back to his '18 form.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.