Where will Shohei Ohtani be at this time next year?
When it comes to the opinions on the Red Sox' offseason maneuverings, this doesn't seem to be much in between. You love it, or you hate it. And there are plenty of voices from each side of the aisle.
There is only one consensus: This may have been the most polarizing Red Sox Hot Stove since the pursuit of Jose Contreras.
To figure out where we landed, maybe the best place to start is remembering when it all started.
The organizational narrative that was being pushed heading into November was that this was going to be different than any of Chaim Bloom's previous years at the helm, with oodles of money to spend. Sure, the Red Sox hadn't exactly lived in the deep end of free agency in recent years (with the possible exception of Trevor Story), but that was about to change.
The Red Sox had money to spend, and they were going to spend it.
And they did.
According to the excellent Twitter account @RedSoxpayroll, the Red Sox currently sit with $224 million of commitments, about $9 million shy of the luxury tax line.
They have four newcomers (Masa Yoshida, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Corey Kluber) making $10 million or better. There are two more - Chris Martin, Adam Duvall - who will be coming in at $8.75 million and $7 million, respectively. For that group of six free agents, the Red Sox will be paying approximately $71 million in 2023.
Basically, it is a group that is replacing $63 million of commitments from 2022, which came in the form of Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Wacha.
And, of course, there was the financial commitment to extending Rafael Devers to the largest contract in franchise history.
So, when you look at the potential of securing six key players and juxtapose it against the loss of the aforementioned four, one can certainly make the case this was a step in the right direction. The outfield should be more of an offensive presence. The bullpen improvement is undeniable. And a case could certainly be made for Kluber filling the shoes of either Eovaldi or Wacha while the likes of Brayan Bello and Garrett Whitlock get their chances.
So, why all the naysayers?
It really isn't that complicated.
The root of the worries is the discomfort that comes with the lack of certainty. You knew what you had in Bogaerts. And while Eovaldi and Martinez had uneven seasons in 2022, the idea of having them around would have been far more of a security blanket than what the Sox fans are currently nestled under.
There is a lot of hoping for the best with all these newcomers, which comes with the territory. Other than Yoshida, not a single one of the Big 6 is signed for more than two years. And it's not as if anyone truly knows what the MLB version of the Japanese outfielder will look like.
With the understanding that there is no absolute certainty in baseball, the closest any team can come is via the top tier of any free agent market. To many fans dismay, that's not where the Red Sox went fishing this offseason.
Another issue when it came to the perception of the last few months was the messaging heading into the offseason, with the Red Sox not coming close on the player they identified as their top priority (Bogaerts). And then came the names Bloom and Co. did have their eyes on and were seemingly prioritizing - such as Jose Abreu, Andrew Heaney and Zach Eflin. Swings and misses.
And while all the Red Sox acquisitions could absolutely be viewed as helpful, the idea that this could be 2013 all over again was tough to swallow. The collection of Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster, Jonny Gomes and David Ross were being added to a pretty impressive foundation. This time around? The certainty is Devers, Alex Verdugo and Kiké Hernandez.
Then there was what was happening everywhere else.
The Yankees locked up Aaron Judge while adding Carlos Rodon. The Blue Jays added Chris Bassitt and one of the best relievers in baseball last year, Erik Swanson. The Rays and Orioles? The young stars that will filter onto their roster this season puts them above the Red Sox in the power rankings even without major expenditures.
Yes, the Red Sox bought players this offseason, but it certainly didn't come with the benefit of the doubt.
That will have to wait.