The Boston Red Sox Should Listen to Their Star Players

Two of the Red Sox' biggest names have openly expressed their frustration with the team's lack of improvement heading into the 2024 season.

Rafael Devers Red Sox
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 24: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox flips his bat after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 24, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

What are the Boston Red Sox doing? Not even their own players know.

The team has come under heavy internal scrutiny recently as the Red Sox opened spring training at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida this past week. Specifically, star third baseman Rafael Devers and closer Kenley Jansen have not been shy about vocalizing their opinions regarding Boston’s mellow off-season.

Let’s start with Devers, whose blunt and pointed remarks aimed at Red Sox executives have raised eyebrows.

Rafael Devers Packs a Punch

“Everybody knows what we need,” the star third baseman told the Boston media at spring training. “You know what we need and they know what we need. It’s just there’s some things that I can’t say out loud. But everybody that knows the organization and knows the game knows what we need.”

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In case you didn’t know what the Red Sox needed, though, it was a lot.

While Boston’s offense ranked ninth in team OPS across the majors last season (.748), their pitching fell way short of expectations, placing 21st league-wide with a 4.52 staff ERA. If not for their decent lineup production, the team would’ve fared much worse than their 78-84 record in 2023.

Regardless, the team still finished in last place in a stacked American League East division that now includes a rising Orioles club, a newly revamped Yankees squad and two other formidable foes in Tampa Bay and Toronto. That means the Red Sox are likely headed back to the AL East cellar again in 2024 despite carrying an estimated payroll of $178 million per FanGraph’s Roster Resource.

That payroll figure reflects what we already knew about Red Sox ownership, spearheaded by John Henry and team president Sam Kennedy, with Theo Epstein also back in the mix: they’re not poor. But they’ve acted like it, which is partly why FanGraphs’ ZiPS model projects Boston to finish with a similar 79-83 record in 2024.

To that end, let’s run down the list of major players the Red Sox have added and subtracted this winter:

Free Agents

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  • SP Lucas Giolito – 2 years, $38.5 million
  • RHP Liam Hendriks – 2 years, $10 million


  • Acquired OF Tyler O’Neill from the St. Louis Cardinals
  • LHP Chris Sale to the Atlanta Braves for 2B/SS Vaughn Grissom
  • INF Luis Urias to the Seattle Mariners for RHP Isaiah Campbell
  • OF Alex Verdugo to the New York Yankees for three minor league pitchers
  • RHP John Schreiber to the Kansas City Royals for RHP David Sandlin

If you’re underwhelmed by this list, you’re not alone. Recall that Boston also lost third baseman Justin Turner to the Toronto Blue Jays in free agency and SP James Paxton to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In total, there’s no marked improvement over the 2023 Red Sox, at least on paper. And as an aside, Liam Hendriks can’t even pitch in 2024 because he’s still recovering from Tommy John surgery. So while his story is inspiring, his impact on any winning baseball in Boston this season will be non-existent.

Kenley Jansen Not Hiding His Frustration Either

Rafael Devers is the Red Sox’ star player, but don’t forget about Kenley Jansen, Boston’s closer and one of the team’s most respected veteran presences.

Jansen, like Devers, wasn’t shy about expressing his thoughts on what the Red Sox have done this winter, either.

“I definitely feel frustrated,” Jansen said on Audacy’s Baseball Isn’t Boring podcast with Rob Bradford. “I came here for two years where Year 1 we were going to compete but by Year 2 they were really going to go after it.”

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Jansen’s comments were also in response to rumors that he could be traded by the Red Sox, though he’s since reported to Fort Myers.

The 36-year-old All-Star closer represented Boston at the Midsummer Classic last July and was signed to upgrade their much-maligned bullpen from 2022.

Teams don’t typically sign elite relievers if they aren’t intending to win, though, which makes the Red Sox’ circumstances that much more curious.

But Jansen’s comments echo Devers’ sentiments: the expectation is to field a winning team every year. That has proven to be easier said than done of late, as the Red Sox only have one playoff appearance since their last World Series title in 2018. That came in 2021, when the club arguably overachieved by going on a run to that season’s ALCS, where they’d lose to the Houston Astros.

In that same span (since 2018), the Red Sox dealt homegrown superstar Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in one of the most lopsided trades ever made, allowed fan favorite shortstop Xander Bogaerts walk in free agency two winters ago to the San Diego Padres and even watched their manager Alex Cora serve a season-long suspension for sign-stealing in 2020.

On the contrary, others will be quick to point out that Boston has more World Series titles (four) than any other franchise in baseball this century. But for all that winning, they’ve done plenty of losing, too. And fans are known for having short memories, as do the players.

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Will the Boston Red Sox Listen To Their Players?

If Team President Sam Kennedy’s response to criticism surrounding the Red Sox’ spending are any indication, it doesn’t appear likely.

“We understand there’s frustration,” Kennedy said. [But] There’s nothing that I can say or do at this point in the offseason that’s going to make anybody feel great about what’s happened the last two years. So we’ve turned the page internally and we’re moving on to 2024.”

That’s not what Rafael Devers, Kenley Jansen or Red Sox fans want to hear. Quite the opposite, actually.

If Boston is at all serious about fielding a competitive team this season, perhaps they’d be wise to re-consider adding one or more of the ‘Boras Four’ free agents who remain unsigned even as exhibition games begin ramping up.

Rarely are players of that caliber still available this late in the cycle, affording the Red Sox a prime opportunity to heed those frustrated voices both internally and externally.

For what it’s worth, Boston was in the running for other names throughout the winter, including new Dodgers Teoscar Hernandez and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, new Cub Shota Imanaga and new Blue Jay Yariel Rodriguez. But being the runner-up isn’t the same as getting a deal done, which has made the Red Sox unsuccessful in their pursuits.

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That seems to be the recurring theme here: close, but no cigar. And as long as that narrative persists, Boston will run its star players into the ground.