The Boston Red Sox, fresh off an unexpected run to the American League Championship Series this season, are expected to do some work in free agency this offseason. In recent offseasons though, MLB free agency has moved at a snails pace, with many free agents waiting months until deciding where they wanted to continue their career. Things seem to have changed this offseason though.
Deals are already coming in much faster than in previous years. Boston lost one of their own in Eduardo Rodriguez earlier this week, as he signed a 5 year, $77 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Another starting pitcher, Noah Syndergaard, was snatched off the market by the Los Angeles Angels shortly after on a 1 year, $21 million deal. And from the sounds of it, things are only just getting started.
In a way, the quick start to free agency makes sense. This one of the deeper free agent pools we have seen in recent memory, and there’s a chance that the MLB is set for a lockout later on this offseason. Some players are going to be anxious to lock up deals while they can, so it’s important for the Red Sox to not get left in the dust by their competitors.
Fortunately, that doesn’t appear likely to happen. The Sox have been involved in quite a few rumors early on, which is a good sign that they are looking to bring in some help for their returning core. One of the names they are rumored to be in on is the versatile infielder Javier Baez. For a team that desperately needs a fix at second base, Baez could end up being a perfect fit in Boston, and his addition would give the Boston Red Sox one of the most dangerous lineups in the game.
Javier Baez would be a perfect fit on the Boston Red Sox
Baez has long been a polarizing figure in the world of baseball. He clearly has bundles of talent, and when he gets hold of a baseball, he can certainly give it a ride. But he often makes some bewildering plays, particularly at the plate, that seem to be preventing him from taking his game to the next level.
Baez was a part of the the most recent Chicago Cubs dynasty, and you can make a case that he was their best player for a stretch of it. Baez initially made his way to the majors as a slick fielder who couldn’t really hit, but that all changed in 2018. Baez hit .290, smacked 34 home runs, and drove in a league-leading 111 runs, which was good for a second place finish in the National League MVP race. Simply put, Baez seemed destined for stardom.
Over the next three seasons, Baez was never able to fully recapture his performance from 2018. The power remained, but pitchers were able to take advantage of Baez’s aggressive approach at the plate.
Baez has become infamous for being one of the least disciplined hitters at the plate in the league, and that has come back to bite him throughout his career. For reference, Baez has 156 walks throughout his career. He struck out 184 times in just the 2021 season alone.
Baez was dealt to the New York Mets at the Trade Deadline this past season, and he linked up with his friend Francisco Lindor to form arguably the most exciting second base/shortstop duo in the league.
While the Mets ended up collapsing in the second half of the season, it was not because of Baez. Baez seemingly readjusted his approach at the plate, and put together an impressive second half of the season. Take a look at his splits during his time in Chicago and his time in New York:
Chicago: 91 G, .248 BA, .292 OBP, .775 OPS
New York: 47 G, .299 BA, .371 OBP, .886 OPS
Baez became far more patient at the plate, and the results improved dramatically. Despite playing just a third of his games with the Mets, Baez nearly had as many walks during his time in New York as he did in Chicago (13 with New York, 15 with Chicago). Baez has always been able to hit for power and run on the bases, but his game at the plate seemingly went to a new level when he began to lay off some bad pitches.
Talent evaluators have taken note of Baez’s second half improvements, and he’s become one of the most desired players on the free agent market. It’s also worth noting that guys like Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are available, which goes to show just how that simple note is actually quite impressive.
Baez also offers versatility in the field, which is something that not everyone on the market can do. Baez has spent most of his career at either second base or shortstop, while also playing at third base every now and then too. He can also play in the outfield in a pinch if needed to as well.
Adding Baez would give the Boston Red Sox options. They could choose to deploy him at second base, which may be his more natural fit. They also could put him at shortstop and move Xander Bogaerts to second, which is something the front office has said they would look into this offseason. Yet between Bogaerts and his third base partner, Rafael Devers, it seems more likely Devers switches positions before Bogaerts does.
In terms of what a potential contract would look like, Baez is probably looking for a long-term deal that would carry him through his peak years. Baez will be 29 by the time the 2022 season starts up, and while his value is not what it once was after a season like 2018, it’s safe to say he’s still one of the best hitters in the game. He will probably be looking for $20 million a season, and depending on how the market shakes out, he might even get more than that.
Baez is an intriguing potential addition because of the promise he showed during his potentially short-lived tenure with the Mets. He’s really become known as a hit-or-miss batter, but if he can develop some discipline, he could become a real weapon. Adding him to a Boston Red Sox lineup with some really disciplined batters such as Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez could do wonders for him. If pitchers don’t want to attack those guys, that means more hittable pitchers for Baez.
There are tons of options of the free agent market, particularly at the infield spot, that Boston could look into. Personally, I think there are some safer options on the market than Baez, but it’s clear his ceiling is higher than many of the other guys that fill the same category that he does. If Baez’s price tag hangs around the $20 million area, the Boston Red Sox would be foolish to pass on him, and he could end up being a key piece of Boston’s next championship squad.