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The Boston Red Sox begin their offseason with a number of question marks. We could be looking at a familiar roster in 2020, but the hiring of Chaim Bloom as Chief Baseball Officer all but confirms significant changes are about to be made.
It's still too early to get a read on which way the wind is blowing for the impactful decisions Bloom will be faced with this winter, the most important of which will be the future of superstar right fielder Mookie Betts. But as we look forward to what's sure to be an eventful offseason, we can at least take a shot at what the 25-man roster could look like come Opening Day.
Here's a look at the potential roster before free agency gains some steam in the coming weeks:
Catcher: Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon OR free agent/trade
Vazquez is locked in as Boston's starting catcher after producing the best offensive season of his career and earning a Gold Glove award nomination. The real question is who will back him up.
Leon could be non-tendered if the Red Sox ultimately decide they want more offensive production behind Vazquez on the depth chart. If Leon isn't brought back for 2020, expect Boston to sign a cheap alternative in free agency.
(Update: Leon was traded to the Cleveland Indians on December 2.)
First Base: Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Sam Travis, free agent/trade
Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce both are unrestricted free agents with the latter pondering retirement. It's a possibility Boston re-signs Moreland on a reasonable one-year deal, but there are some interesting alternatives.
Chavis could see a lot of playing time at first depending on how the second base situation plays out. This also could be the year we see minor league slugger Dalbec get some big-league at-bats. We should expect to see Travis in the mix too following a 2019 season in which he appeared in 59 games.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently noted one player the Red Sox could pursue to replace Moreland and Pearce is free agent Justin Smoak, who spent the last five seasons with the Blue Jays.
Second Base: Michael Chavis, Dustin Pedroia, free agent/trade
It's safe to say we probably shouldn't enter 2020 with an optimistic outlook on Pedroia, but he's on this list as a formality.
Don't rule out Brock Holt returning in free agency. Though if he doesn't, we could be looking at another year of Chavis as the team's primary second baseman.
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts
Barring some ridiculous trade this offseason, Bogaerts is locked in as the starting shortstop for 2020 and years to come.
Third Base: Rafael Devers
Devers ain't going anywhere.
Left Field: Andrew Benintendi
We'll see what happens with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, who we'll discuss momentarily, but for now it looks like Benintendi will again be the starting left fielder for the Red Sox as he looks to improve in 2020.
Center Field: Jackie Bradley Jr. OR free agent/trade
Here's where it starts to get interesting. Ken Rosenthal reported the Red Sox trading Bradley this offseason "seems all but certain." Bradley is set to make $11 million before he hits free agency in 2020.
For what it's worth, Rosenthal mentions Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick as a potential replacement if Bradley is moved. Of course, if Bradley isn't traded before Opening Day, he'll resume his role as the Sox' starting center fielder.
Right Field: Mookie Betts OR free agent/trade
To trade Mookie or to not trade Mookie? That is the most glaring question Bloom is faced with as he begins his Red Sox tenure.
Betts will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season if he and the Red Sox cannot come to terms on a contract extension. If Betts is adamant about testing the free-agent market, Boston could opt to move the 2018 American League MVP for a haul. That would have to be a last resort as obviously the Red Sox would prefer to keep the homegrown 27-year-old.
This will be the most compelling storyline of the offseason. For now, mark Betts down as the starting right fielder.
Designated Hitter: J.D. Martinez
Martinez decided to not opt out of his contract, so he'll be back as the Red Sox' stud DH next season unless they decide to trade him, which doesn't seem likely. The 32-year-old can block trades to three teams.
Starting Pitchers: Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, free agent/trade
The Red Sox are looking to shed payroll this offseason. One way of doing that would be to part ways with the expensive contracts of Price and/or Eovaldi. In fact, rumor has it Boston has already discussed such a deal with the Texas Rangers.
Sale, assuming he's healthy, is the clear-cut ace with Rodriguez looking to build off an impressive 2019 campaign. Rick Porcello is a free agent, so unless the Red Sox bring him back on a cheaper contract, they'll need to sign or trade for someone to replace him in the rotation.
Bullpen: Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Ryan Brasier, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Brian Johnson, Travis Lakins, Heath Hembree, free agent/trade
Workman likely earned the closer role after being one of the bright spots in an otherwise bleak 2019 season. Barnes and Brasier should resume their roles as the set-up men and "spot-closers." Left-handers Hernandez and Taylor were effective down the stretch and provide hope for a more stable bullpen in 2020. There's some uncertainty in the rest of this group, including Hembree, who could be non-tendered.