Giolito, Grissom, and Running Through Quicksand

Kees van Hemmen
22 min readJan 3, 2024

The Red Sox made two relatively big moves at the very end of December to get the blood pumping in the veins of their offseason for the first time. On December 29th they made the first addition to their rotation for next season by signing former White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito to a 2 year deal worth $38.5 million. Reactions to this news were mixed at best.

Craig Breslow’s front office quickly followed that headline up with an even bigger one by trading beloved-yet-maligned former ace Chris Sale to the Braves in exchange for second baseman Vaughn Grissom. This move was greeted more universally positively: most Sox fans, irrespective of their feelings with regard to Sale as a person and player, were happy to see a new chapter begin by shipping the ever present cloud of Sale’s health (or lack thereof) south of the Mason-Dixon line. Personally, I loved Sale, but I have to admit I had a similar reaction — in particular when I saw the return.

If you look at Vaughn Grissom’s MLB career on the surface, he looks like a spare part. He has 0.1 career fWAR over 236 career MLB plate appearances. Last season he lost out to Orlando Arcia in a battle for the Braves starting shortstop spot. When he did come up, he played catastrophically bad defense (-8 OAA in just 23 games) at SS and his quality of contact was bad. For most Sox fans this probably delivers flashbacks of Kiké Hernandez’s cursed run at the position last season. I sympathize. Emotionally, I’m right there with you.

Nevertheless, I think that is a superficial way of assessing Grissom. Let me tell you why.

For starters, Grissom turns 23 on January 5th. That’s a full year younger than Triston Casas. That’s two full years younger than Brayan Bello. Age is very much on his side. If he’d never had those 80 catastrophic plate appearances (which, for reference, is fewer than what Ceddanne Rafaela got in his cup of coffee to finish off last season at Fenway) his stock amongst casuals would be far, far higher.

Secondly, Grissom won’t be playing shortstop for the Red Sox. Craig Breslow has already said in no uncertain terms that he’ll be playing second base. There is a long history of bad shortstops moving over and being league average defensively as second baseman. I get that, as a fanbase, we are scarred from last year’s infield defense. But it’s simply unwise to let that trauma inform our assessment of Grissom’s ability to field his new position. In 2022, MLB.com wrote this of Grissom’s defense:

As solid as Grissom has been at the plate, it’s been less clear where he might belong long-term defensively. He’s still seen more time at shortstop than any other position, but he’s also played a fair amount at third as well as a little at second. He has the arm to stay on the left side of the infield, where he’s more comfortable and while he doesn’t always have silky-smooth actions, he’s a solid defender. If he can’t play short, he might need to raise his power profile a bit to be a fit at the hot corner as a regular.

That’s not the scouting report of a positionless bat. That’s the scouting report of an athletic kid who won’t stick at shortstop in the major leagues. Those two things are not the same thing. A lot of negative-nellies with regard to Grissom have said he’s just a left-handed Enmanuel Váldez. Compare the above, on Grissom, to the below, from soxprospects.com, on Váldez:

Fringy hands and range. Not a natural fielder. Can make routine plays but tends to lack fluidity and makes things more difficult than they need to be. Has primarily played second and third base in his career, but in 2022 began to see some time in left field and first base in an attempt to find him a long-term defensive home. Potential below-average defender regardless of where he ends up.

On the one hand we’re talking about a guy who needs to move off of shortstop, but still has the arm strength for the left side of infield. On the other we’re talking about a guy who’s fighting for his life at second and probably won’t cut it in left. That’s without going (rather cruelly) into the raw physicals: Grissom is 6'3", 180, compared to Váldez’s 5'9", 190. Grissom is frequently described as a natural athlete with functional speed. To drive home the contrast, I once again go to soxprospects.com on Váldez:

Below-average speed. Not a base stealing threat. Has a frame that could cause him to get even slower as he ages.

Take this as a lesson in false equivalence. There’s no reason to believe Grissom isn’t an upgrade of the Sox’s infield defense. He may not win a gold glove at second, but it’s unlikely he’ll be worse than plain old just below average.

As for the bat? The bat is good. Grissom hit .330/.419/.501 in one of the most defensive ballparks in all of professional baseball in AAA last season at just 22 years old. In 2022 (only 80 MLB plate appearances ago!!!) MLB.com wrote this of his offensive abilities:

Grissom routinely displays outstanding bat-to-ball skills with a very good approach. He has a strong feel for the barrel from the right side of the plate, manages his at-bats well, draws walks and rarely strikes out. He’s short to the ball with relatively simple hitting mechanics and has solid bat speed. The Braves hope he’ll continue to fill out his 6-foot-3 frame and grow into more power as he matures.

Even with last year’s catastrophic cameo at major league level, Grissom is a career 107 wRC+ hitter at the highest level. There’s no substantive argument that he’s not, at the very least, an average bat as an everyday regular.

A quick aside: I do think this move is a death knell for Nick Yorke’s Red Sox outlook. Yorke’s simply a much worse prospect than Grissom. His .268/.350/.435 slash line last year in Double-A Portland is only marginally better than Grissom’s career MLB slash line of .287/.339/.407, and Grissom is only a year older. Grissom’s also the better athlete and possesses the better carrying tool — that being his far superior bat to ball skills when compared to Yorke. With an array of much higher potential middle infielders in the system between Mayer, Céspedes, Zanetello, and even the scuffling Mikey Romero, I just don’t see what the path is for him here. That’s not a knock on him as a prospect — I just think his path to being a Major League regular leads elsewhere.

Fangraphs projects Grissom for 2.1 WAR next season. That places him third amongst the Red Sox’s position players for next year behind Rafael Devers and Triston Casas. Projections are projections, and there’s obviously a degree of volatility for a player with as few plate appearances at MLB level as Grissom, but if anything that’s a positive more than a negative. The Sox need high upside players. If he flops you’re not exactly wasting a championship roster. We have the unfortunate privilege of being in a position to tolerate volatility. This is a 6'3", 22 year old, athletic second baseman in pre-arbitration who had a 55 overall grade from most scouts just a year ago, before proceeding to slaughter AAA for a full season. Gloves off, mask off, exposing my true take in its full glory: I love this deal.

As for Giolito? I will not pretend this is a slam dunk. Giolito has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball multiple times in his career. Notably, last year. Are there caveats? Yes. He went through a divorce mid season last year. I won’t pretend to know how much of his late season downturn is explained by that, but suffice it to say he would not be the first person to see his performance suffer at work due to problems at home.

Nevertheless, you don’t offer someone 20 million dollars coming off a 5 ERA season with a gameplan that consists of, “Let’s just hope he sorts out the personal issues and then things fall in place.” There were clear issues with his pitch efficacy and mix that caused his ERA to balloon.

Others have gone into greater detail than me, but basically the cliff notes are as follows: Giolito throws pretty hard. When his fastball is good, he’s very good. When his fastball is bad, he gets hit very hard, and he is very bad. The last two seasons his fastball has been very, very bad. In turn, he’s surrendered more home runs than any other pitcher in baseball.

The bad news? Giolito’s fastball has been bad essentially as long as sticky stuff has been banned. Take a look:

As you can see from 2019–2021, Giolito was in the upper third or so of MLB pitchers in fastball spin rate. Every other year he’s been in the bottom third. That’s a big swing, and it tracks pretty closely with the years he’s been a good MLB pitcher as opposed to the years he’s been poor. That’s made even clearer if you look at how his spin rate changed when the ban was put in place:

There’s no getting around it: that’s brutal, and extremely concerning. I’m worried about it — and I’ll touch on it in greater length in just a moment.

First, I want to take a step back and acknowledge the positives. First and foremost: Giolito is the definition of a workhorse, and is replacing a pitcher (Chris Sale) who has hardly pitched the last 4 years. A big problem the Red Sox had last season was bullpen depletion. This is a move towards addressing that in a big way. Giolito has tossed at least 160 innings every season from 2018 to 2023, with the exception of the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign. There is inherent value in that, even if he delivers a paltry mid 4 ERA (I’m not too worried about him posting another high 4 ERA — the last two years have been the result of some negative variance with fly balls, to a certain extent, even with all the hard contact off his fastball).

Secondly: Giolito has been extremely effective before, and there doesn’t appear to have to have been any physical decline since then. His fastball velocity is down from his peak, but not to a concerning extent. He still throws slightly harder than the league average starting pitcher. This isn’t a Corey Kluber situation, where the wheels have simply fallen off the bus and the front office has decided we can get by using the bus like a sled.

Thirdly: Though Giolito’s home run rate has gone absolutely off the rails, the rest of his true outcomes have remained relatively stable. His 25.7% K rate last season is still well above the league average for starters (though down from his sticky stuff peak in the low 30s), and his walk rate of just over 9% is perfectly in line with his average during his peak. This is not a guy whose stuff doesn’t play anymore, this is a guy for whom, when he does get hit, the ball tends to get squared up and carry. That’s a much more manageable problem, albeit an extremely costly one when unmanaged entirely.

All of which brings me back to the elephant in the room: If Giolito’s fastball, sans sticky stuff, is only slightly harder to hit than mine (I sit in the mid-high 60s, but with lots of run, I swear) how much pitching lab magic can actually be done to get him back on track?

To that question, there is a short answer and a long answer. The short answer? A lot, I think.

The long answer?

The 3 starters with the most similar 4-seamers to Giolito in terms of velocity, vertical break, and horizontal break are as follows: Miles Mikolas, Jordan Lyles, and Merrill Kelly. The bad news here is this: Mikolas and Lyles, for lack of a kinder phrasing, are very bad MLB starters. Both had expected ERAs last season of 4.9 or higher, and both had 4 seamers that got absolutely smoked. Not so different from Giolito.

Things are looking bad so far. Is it just that Giolito’s profile of fastball is unusable? Not so fast. Where Mikolas and Lyles had very poor fastballs, Kelly actually had an above average one last year, and an elite one the year before. He leveraged this to the tune of a 3.33 ERA over the last two seasons.

There’s a reason for this, and I suspect it lies within the pitch mix data. Take a look at Kelly’s pitch mix from last year:

Merrill Kelly’s pitch distribution. He logged a 4.13 xERA last season.

Now take a look at Lyles’:

Jordan Lyles’ pitch mix data. He logged a 4.9 xERA last season.

And finally take a look at Mikolas’:

Miles Mikolas’ pitch mix data. He logged a 5.4 xERA last season.

If you can’t see it, I’ll just tell you: where Mikolas and Lyles have a large velocity separation between their four seamers and their secondary pitches, Kelly’s top 3 pitches (83% of the pitches he throws) average between 89 and 92 miles per hour. This trend goes beyond just velocity. The horizontal and vertical movement profiles on Kelly’s cutter are far closer to that of his fastball than is true of Mikolas and Lyles with their secondary pitches. All three have pedestrian fastballs. The difference? Kelly is tunneling his, whereas Mikolas and Lyles have generated too much differentiation between their primary and secondary pitches. Prospectslive.com has a great article on the nitty gritty bits of these principles that you can find here. Essentially, Kelly is using the tunnels between his pitches (in short, the degree to which each pitch looks like the others out of hand, yet diverges as it reaches the plate) to make each more effective. The end result has been Kelly’s fastball playing up in turn.

What’s the takeaway here for Giolito? Well, take a look at his pitch mix.

Our new friend is throwing his own pedestrian fastball, but his pitch mix looks much more Lylesian than Kellyan. He doesn’t have any pitch in the upper 80s velocity band between his slider and his fastball (remember, that’s where both of Kelly’s secondaries sit). Even worse? His slider has only 4 inches of horizontal separation from his fastball, while sporting a whole 18 more inches of induced vertical break at the same time. That might sound good in a vacuum, but the end result is a pitch that looks absolutely nothing like his fastball out of hand. The ball drops off so early that it’s easy to distinguish from his harder offering, while not moving enough on the horizontal plane to make the hitter adjust to a new look. As a result, neither pitch helps the other deceive hitters, and hitters have been squaring both up at an insane clip. Meanwhile, his changeup — which has historically been his best pitch — has been significantly less effective in recent seasons as well. Though it’s harder to blame this on his fastball — changeup tunnel specifically, the falling efficacy of his fastball on the whole certainly has an effect on the changeup going from outright dominant to middling. This Fangraphs article, which came out today, has some interesting insights there.

To drive the point home, here’s an excerpt from the aforementioned prospectslive.com article, with some annotations from me in bold:

The four-seam fastball and the slider are the most obvious pitch pairing for noticing the impact of pitch tunneling. There are tons of disgusting sliders that don’t get out-of-zone swings. Similarly, there are tons of gyro sliders that don’t look like all that much, but consistently dominate because they play off of the fastball so effectively. We found three basic rules a fastball and slider pairing usually follow when they regularly get out-of-zone swings.

6–14” Horizontal Separation [Giolito = 4" of horizontal separation] XXX

8–16” IVB Separation [Giolito = 18" of IVB separation] XXX

6–11 MPH Separation [Giolito = 9 MPH of separation] +++

Based on our studies, we’ve found that almost every effective slider falls into at least two of those three boxes. [Giolito’s falls into only one]

So, essentially when it comes to Giolito what we have is a pitcher whose fastball became very hittable after the crackdown on sticky stuff. As a result, hitters didn’t have to do nearly as much guesswork to square the pitch up or lay off of it. This, in turn, meant they could likely sit back on his slider more easily. Because the two pitches never looked particularly similar to begin with, this drop off in pure stuff meant the lack of a strong tunnel rendered both pitches very hittable.

If we accept my explanation, we must then ask the question: How does one fix a problem like a broken tunnel? Well, in the case of a fastball — slider tunnel, there’s a pretty obvious fix. You add a cutter in between. Lance Brozdowski, who has an awesome Youtube channel talking predominantly about pitching, had the following to say in a similar vein:

Lance is an awesome follow on twitter, which you can find here

That’s a lot of words there, so let me cook down what Lance is saying for my purposes: basically, adding a cutter allows Giolito’s slider, which is too distinguishable from his fastball to form an effective tunnel, to instead tunnel with his cutter. Meanwhile, the fastball does the same thing. The cutter forms a bridge for the pitch mix, allowing each pitch to blend in with the others, in turn making each more effective. It doesn’t even matter too much if the cutter is a mediocre pitch on its own. As long as both the fastball and the slider share a tunnel with it, both can become significantly better.

For now, in the context of Giolito, this is just theory. However, I think it does serve to prove a point: there is a lot a good pitching development staff can do with Giolito’s raw stuff and pitchability to turn him back into a league average or better starter. Basically, what it all comes down to is this: how much do you trust Andrew Bailey and the new pitching overhaul? I think my stance is this: they haven’t yet earned my trust, but it’s only fair to afford them the benefit of the doubt. With Giolito, the raw tools make much more sense than they did for the Kluber signing a year ago. Though he doesn’t have the over powering fastball that I think many of us expected Breslow to want all of his pitchers to build off of, there’s precedent for pitchers with similar 4 seamers finding success. Given that, and his otherwise effective stuff, I’m cautiously optimistic that he outperforms his 2.3 fWAR projection for the coming season. All is not lost in the post sticky stuff Giolito-verse.

Now that I’ve talked myself (and hopefully you) into both of these moves, I have the real bad news. Neither of them has seriously moved the needle on the Red Sox average expected outcome this season:

This is the part of the article where I talk about running through quicksand. That’s sort of what this offseason feels like for the Red Sox. Even putting aside some extremely concerning reports about budgetary restrictions, there just aren’t that many avenues through which to meaningfully improve this team in a way that makes them likely contenders this season. That’s not to say that the team can’t be improved — rather, the team has good talent in a lot of positions, but standouts in very few. The unfortunate reality of talent acquisition is that it’s far easier to improve by getting a 2 WAR player to replace a 0 WAR player than it is to get a 4 WAR player to replace a 2 WAR player. The Red Sox problem is that they have lots of players projected for something in the realm of 2 WAR: Tyler O’Neill, Masataka Yoshida, Trevor Story, and the aforementioned Vaughn Grissom are all projected for between 1.5 and 2.5 WAR this season. The same can be said of all 5 of the Red Sox projected starters as of today. Only Triston Casas (2.9 projected WAR) and Rafael Devers (4.7 projected WAR) can be truly considered anything approaching surefire stardom on this roster.

These 11 players together account for all 4 infield positions, 2 outfield positions, and, like I said, all 5 rotation spots. That means catcher, right field, and designated hitter are the only places where a 2–3 WAR player even constitutes a meaningful upgrade in terms of average outcome. That’s without yet considering that the price of WAR at the catcher position is disproportionately high, the Red Sox already have 3 young outfielders in Jarren Duran, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Wilyer Abreu who most agree are some of the highest potential players on the 40 man roster, and both O’Neill and Yoshida are arguably best suited to DH duty for health and defensive reasons respectively. There’s no slam dunk way to make massive marginal improvements to this roster tomorrow.

To drive this home, take the example of Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery is projected for 3.3 fWAR in 2024. The contract getting tossed around on the rumor mill for Montgomery is something in the realm of 6 years, 160 million. That’s 27 million dollars annually against the CBT. If we assume Montgomery pushes Houck, for example, out of the Sox rotation, then the Sox gain 1.4 WAR from that transaction by Montgomery replacing Houck in the rotation (Montgomery’s 3.3 minus Houck’s projected 1.9). Then Houck’s projected WAR is likely dropped to something more like 0.8 (generously) as he slides into the bullpen, replacing someone like John Schreiber, for instance, whose WAR drops from its current 0.4 to something more like 0.2. Bryan Mata’s projected WAR goes from 0.2 to 0, as his odds to make the 40 man decrease accordingly. All in all the Sox gain about 1.8 projected WAR from all of this. That’s 27/1.8, or about 15 million dollars per WAR added. The Sox go to 37.3 projected WAR. Even if you do that exercise again and add Blake Snell to the mix, the Red Sox still wind up in 5th in the AL East in terms of projected WAR after giving out 400 million dollars and 12+ years worth of deals to two pitchers with major question marks who are staring down the barrel at their 30s.

I am by no means defending ownership’s frugality here. I am instead making a separate argument: the price of impact players, and in particular “top-end” pitching with Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Aaron Nola off the market, is simply not worth what it will cost the Red Sox in free agency this winter. This is not an excuse to never spend money. Rather, it’s a warning that any contract given out to the remaining top of the market players has a good chance to turn into an albatross. If you think Masataka Yoshida and Trevor Story’s contracts have been ugly, that’s what I have in mind here. It’s not that they’re bad players. It’s that they’re bad players per dollar, and those are the kinds of deals that turn championship expenditure into playoff teams and playoff expenditure into .500 teams in a few years time. Given the choice between spending a lot to improve a little, versus maintaining flexibility so you can spend a lot to improve a lot later, I would advocate for the latter every time. I realize many of us have lost faith that the Red Sox will spend at all, at any point, but that’s no excuse to advocate for stupid spending. I am all for throwing money at our problems — but only as long as the money actually solves our problems in the process.

The question that this raises is as follows: what is the best way to proceed if not to spend big on the best remaining free agent starters? I know people hate to hear it, but I really do think the best thing to do is to work on the periphery. Turning Chris Sale, who was still the Red Sox best starter, into a player with very real everyday potential at second base in real time made tons of sense for this team. It made it more athletic, it made it younger, and it made it more controllable. It did all of that without massively hurting its ceiling. Where Sale realistically could have a 6 WAR season this year, I think Grissom’s chances of a 4 WAR season are just as good. Both of those outcomes help the Red Sox this year massively. The real difference? One of those outcomes results in a payday for Sale elsewhere, while the other results in a huge increase in the Red Sox World Series odds in 2025 and beyond as a result of having a borderline all star level middle infielder. Improving this team means improving it for this season while also increasing its likelihood of being even better in 2025.

With that in mind, I think the obvious next step is to trade Kenley Jansen. His contract is massive and expiring, his numbers are down, and he still likely commands enough value to net MLB talent or near-ready minor league arms. Swapping him out of the closer role for someone like Houck, Whitlock, or Martin likely costs the Red Sox little to nothing in the way of wins this season. This makes even more sense than moving Sale did.

In order to shift one of those guys to the bullpen I think you go after the next tier of starter beyond Snell and Montgomery. James Paxton will probably cost something in the realm of 12-15 million in average annual value and has a comparable range of outcomes to the recently departed Sale. That seems like a no brainer. He’s got a power fastball, which is something Breslow reportedly cares deeply about, and he was dominant with it last season before what I think can logically be concluded was fatigue took hold. He’s another guy for whom I’d take the over on his 2.3 projected fWAR this year.

After that it gets less clear. Part of me is tempted by Teoscar Hernández. He’s a league average defender in left, has serious power, and just a year ago he was 30% better than a league average hitter. This team needs another right handed power bat, and he’s also another guy who has a reasonable chance of running into a 3+ WAR season. That said, he’s a lot like another player the Sox have under contract — Tyler O’Neill — in almost every way. The similarities? Both were very good a few years ago, both are right handed power bats and capable fielders, and both are projected for about 1.5 WAR next year. Both are also best utilized in either left field or at DH. That gives you three guys, between Yoshida and the two of them, all at a very similar talent level, for two lineup spots. It makes the roster better — by a bit — but it also makes the bench extremely inflexible. I’m left again wondering if the 80+ million dollar expenditure that signing Hernández would almost certainly demand actually improves the team beyond functioning as O’Neill insurance.

Eschewing that move leaves you in the trade market for a right handed hitter and a starting pitcher. I think there’s a reasonable chance a deal involving Kenley can net you the RHH you need. Worst case, I think including someone like Jarren Duran or Ceddanne Rafaela would be enough to get a decent MLB power hitter if Kenley’s less valuable than I perceive. I don’t think this team needs both Rafaela and Duran, and frankly I’m concerned that both of them are at all time highs in terms of value.

Starting pitcher is trickier. This is once again an instance where you’re going to have to lay out more assets than are probably worth it to improve you only marginally in the short term. That said, this is also an area where you can make a move with both the short and long term in mind, and you don’t have to worry about losing financial flexibility. Free agent pitchers have almost always already peaked. That’s not true of arms on the trade market. That means a large prospect outlay is more realistic, and arguably more productive, than a large monetary outlay in free agency.

Guys like Burnes and Bieber aren’t seriously in the conversation, as they’re on expiring deals, so you’re left looking at pitchers like Dylan Cease, Jesús Luzardo, and, if we delude ourselves a bit, George Kirby. The White Sox reportedly wanted Brayan Bello in exchange for Cease last year, which is a proposal so ludicrous I won’t lend it the legitimacy of discussing it further. Luzardo was apparently the topic of discussions between the Royals and Marlins at the winter meetings, with Vinnie Pasquantino the reported centerpiece of that trade. If that’s true, I think Luzardo is attainable for the Sox without parting with major league pieces. Though Triston Casas is nominally comparable to Pasquantino, Casas is coming off a far better year, he’s got way more power, and he’s got a far more replicable approach at the plate. I think Luzardo can probably be had for one of Mayer or Anthony, with maybe someone like Yorke added in. I’m not saying I’d break their hand off at that offer, but I’m also not saying I wouldn’t do it. Luzardo is already a legitimate 2–3 starter, with ace potential. He throws a power fastball and I suspect there’s a lot of room to develop his secondary offerings around it to help him make another step up. In 50 starts over the last 2 years he has a sub 3.5 ERA and underlying metrics to back it up. That’s worth a top 25 prospect. That’s what top 25 prospects are supposed to turn into. I can understand the apprehension, but it takes something to get something. A good outcome for Marcelo Mayer is 6–7 years of a 3–4 WAR player. Luzardo is already that good, and he comes with 3 years of control. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Ironically, in this instance that metaphor means parting with what we have. I think this is a realistic deal that doesn’t mortgage the future and makes us both more balanced and better in the short term.

As for Kirby, I don’t even want to begin to imagine what a package for him looks like. He’s better than Luzardo, he has more remaining control than Luzardo, and the Mariners really have no reason to trade him. If you wanted to get stupid you could offer Mayer, Anthony and another top 15 system guy like Meidroth. I don’t see how that’s productive, though, and I’m not even confident the Mariners would accept it. This team still needs impact high end prospects to replace guys like Story, Yoshida, and O’Neill in coming years. You can’t ship off everyone.

Anyway, if you accept my version of events, the Red Sox roster winds up looking like this:

I think that’s a team perfectly capable of making the playoffs. Is it guaranteed? No. And that’s a huge disappointment. O’Neill and Paxton could go down injured, Story, Abreu and Yoshida could fail to hit, and Duran, Wong, and Martin could all see the regression that their advanced metrics indicate are likely. I think the potential for that is smaller than the potential for growth, though. Grissom, Story, Yoshida, Abreu, and O’Neill all have the upside to be high impact hitters. Devers and Casas already are that. All 5 of those starters are healthy and capable of posting sub 4 ERAs. I’d argue Luzardo, Paxton, and maybe even Bello all have the ability to run ERAs in the lower end of the 3s. All of this optimism is irresponsibly egged on by Steamer’s WAR projections: only Kutter Crawford (whose projection is suppressed by the possibility that he moves into the bullpen), Jarren Duran and Connor Wong are projected to have less WAR in 2024 than they had last year amongst the starters and everyday regulars on that roster. Steamer expects everyone else to improve. Most by leaps and bounds. This is not only a reflection of this team being healthier than it was a year ago, it’s also a reflection of the fact that Steamer suspects players like Grissom, Abreu, Story, Yoshida and O’Neill all have a wide range of outcomes. Yes, they could all be duds. But they could also all rake. That’s a good thing. Will that be enough in 2025? Of course not. But for now, there’s certainly something to root for here. Go Sox.

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