Meet the new guys: Red Sox additions who can make a difference in 2024

Meet the new guys: Red Sox additions who can make a difference in 2024 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Much to the chagrin of fans, the 2024 Boston Red Sox roster looks almost identical to the group that finished dead last in the American League East standings last year. A lackluster winter put a bitter taste in the mouths of those who bought into chairman Tom Werner's "full throttle" promise in November.

Boston's most notable offseason addition, right-hander Lucas Giolito, will miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. That hurts a starting rotation that needed all the help it could get after a rough 2023. While the rest of their moves weren't blockbusters, several Red Sox newcomers could be difference-makers in 2024.

Let's get to know the new guys before the Red Sox open their season Thursday night in Seattle.

Tyler O'Neill, OF

In December, the Red Sox acquired O'Neill from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for right-handed reliever Nick Robertson and minor league righty Victor Santos. It was an under-the-radar deal, but there's a chance we look back on it as one of Craig Breslow's best since taking over as chief baseball officer.

O'Neill broke out for the Cardinals in 2021, belting 34 homers and posting a .912 OPS en route to an eighth-place National League MVP finish. He earned Gold Glove awards in 2020 and 2021 primarily as a left fielder but can play all three outfield spots at a high level.

So, if O'Neill is that talented, why did the Cardinals give up on him? For starters, he simply hasn't been able to stay healthy. The 28-year-old's breakout 2021 is the only season in his six-year career that he has played more than 96 games.

O'Neill also had a public spat last season with Cardinals manager Oli Marmol, who called him out for his effort on the basepaths.

While he comes with obvious risk, O'Neill has obvious upside and could become a fan favorite if he stays on the field. His swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park and a 30+ homer season isn't out of the question.

Vaughn Grissom, 2B/SS

Later in December, the Red Sox traded veteran left-hander Chris Sale to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Grissom.

Grissom couldn't find a consistent spot on the Braves' 2023 roster after All-Star Orlando Arcia beat him out for the starting shortstop role. The former top prospect won't play shortstop in Boston either -- barring another Trevor Story injury -- but he's expected to stabilize a second base spot that was a major issue for the Red Sox last year.

Grissom had an eye-opening start to his big-league career in 2022, hitting .291 with five homers and a .792 OPS in 41 games. His numbers dipped significantly in 23 MLB games last season, but he remained sharp in the minor leagues.

The Red Sox won't ask Grissom to be much more than a solid defensive second baseman. If he looks more like his 2022 self at the plate, that'll be a bonus.

Fans will have to wait to watch Grissom make his Red Sox debut as he'll continue to miss time with a groin strain suffered early in spring training.

Cooper Criswell, SP/RP

The Red Sox signed Criswell to a one-year, $1 million contract in December. The 27-year-old spent 2023 with the Tampa Bay Rays, amassing a 5.73 ERA and 1.545 WHIP in 10 relief appearances (33 innings).

Criswell will begin the season in the minors as depth for the starting rotation. He looked solid in spring training with a 2.95 ERA through six games (four starts). While that's a small sample size, it's encouraging as Boston will likely need someone to step up and make spot starts later in the year. Criswell could be the guy.

Greg Weissert, RP

Weissert arrived in Boston via the Alex Verdugo deal with the New York Yankees in December. The 28-year-old right-hander had a 4.05 ERA in 17 relief appearances last season.

He made the team after an outstanding spring training in which he allowed just one run in 10 outings (9.1 innings).

Weissert could be an unsung hero for a Red Sox bullpen that features multiple newcomers. He'll play an even bigger role for the club down the stretch if veterans Kenley Jansen and Chris Martin are moved ahead of the trade deadline.

Isaiah Campbell, RP

One month before the Wessiert-Verdugo deal, Breslow bolstered his bullpen by trading infielder Luis Urias to the Seattle Mariners for right-handed reliever Isaiah Campbell. If last season is any indication of what's to come, Campbell will be the breakout star for Boston's pen in 2024.

Campbell, 26, had a 2.83 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 27 relief appearances for Seattle last year. He's coming off an exceptional spring training, during which he didn't allow a run in nine appearances (nine innings). He also struck out 11 hitters and walked just two.

We'll likely see plenty of Campbell in the late innings of close games this season.

Justin Slaten, RP

Another under-the-radar bullpen addition, Slaten went to the New York Mets via the Texas Rangers in the 2024 Rule 5 draft before being traded to Boston. The 26-year-old righty displayed elite potential in the minors last year, posting a 2.87 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 40 appearances (59.2 innings) between the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

Like Weissert and Campbell, Slaten shut down opposing hitters this spring. He let up just two hits with only one walk and didn't allow an earned run in six relief outings (6.1 innings). It's far too early to tell, but it looks like Breslow may have quietly assembled a formidable bullpen for 2024 and beyond.

Liam Hendriks, RP

Hendriks is the most established player on this list as a three-time All-Star and two-time top-10 Cy Young finisher. One of the game's top closers over the last decade, he arrives in Boston after battling adversity in Chicago.

In Jan. 2023, Hendriks announced he began treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He announced he was cancer-free in April and made his emotional season debut on May 29.

Hendriks made five appearances before landing back on the injured list with elbow inflammation. He ended up missing the remainder of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, which is expected to keep him out until around the July 30 trade deadline.

The Red Sox signed the 35-year-old veteran to a two-year, $10 million contract, so he'll likely have to wait until 2025 to make a meaningful impact. If he resembles anything close to his All-Star self when he returns, he'll become a fan favorite in Boston in no time.