The problem with the Boston Red Sox free agency strategy

Boston Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe (10) Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe (10) Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Red Sox have recently picked up their activity in MLB free agency, joining the rest of the league in the fun. Unfortunately, with the MLB now in a lockout, that recent splurge appears to be the last action we will see for the foreseeable future. In another sense, the lockout might have saved the Red Sox from their own front office.

To say Boston’s recent free agent moves have been confusing would be putting it nicely. The team had some clear needs heading into the offseason, and rather than stepping up to the plate and doing what it takes to bring in some actual talent to help this team, they have spent most of their time scouring the lower or middle levels of the market.

As a result, you can raise the question of whether this team has even improved as a result of the moves made this offseason. The Boston Red Sox appeared to be a few pieces away from being a legitimate World Series contender last season, and even after their recent spending spree, they are no closer than they were when the season ended.

Boston hasn’t improved their roster from last season, and you can even make an argument that it’s actually gotten worse as a result of their recent moves. The front office’s lack of urgency was concerning at the trade deadline last season, and it’s been carried over to this offseason as well. Chaim Bloom doesn’t seem intent on pushing the needle and trying to bring this team a championship, and that is a massive problem that could seriously hurt this team.

The Boston Red Sox front office doesn’t seem intent on improving this team

So far, the Boston Red Sox have made four major moves that fans should be aware of. They have signed three starting pitchers in Michael Wacha, James Paxton, and Rich Hill. They also pulled off a very surprising trade last night with the Milwaukee Brewers that sent Hunter Renfroe out the door and brought back old friend Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects.

I’ve already taken in depth looks at why the Wacha and Paxton deals are significant overpays for the team, but will provide a recap here. Wacha made $3 million in 2021 with the Tampa Bay Rays and posted a 5.05 ERA, yet the Sox decided to more than double his previous salary, and pay him $7 million for the upcoming season. Paxton threw 24 pitches last season, and still managed to somehow earn $10 million from Boston.

Both are completely unreasonable overpays for pitchers who were probably looking for prove-it deals, but instead lucked their way into huge sums of money despite doing virtually nothing to earn it last season.

Related Story. Jeurys Familia could be the solution in the pen for Boston. light

Remember, Boston tried to pull off this exact trick last season, bringing in guys like Garrett Richards and Martin Perez. Both were so bad they got demoted to the bullpen. You’d figure the front office would try to get proven talent, but we find ourselves in virtually the same position as last season. The names are different, but don’t be surprised if the results are the same.

Easily the Boston Red Sox best move so far has been the addition of Hill, but that really isn’t saying much. Hill continued his late career resurgence with the Tampa Bay Rays before getting sent to the New York Mets at the trade deadline, and earned himself a one year, $5 million contract from the Sox. Despite the fact he is going to be heading into his age 42 season, this is easily the most reasonable contract Boston has handed out this offseason.

But Bloom and the front office pulled off their most egregious move just hours later right before the league went into its lockout. Bloom decided it would be a good idea to trade Renfroe, who had a breakout season in 2021, hitting .259 with 31 home runs, for our old friend JBJ and a pair of low level prospects. For reference, Bradley hit .163 with six home runs last season.

I understand Bradley is a defensive improvement over Renfroe, but they aren’t even close at the plate. You can admittedly expect Bradley to be a bit better than he was last season with the Brewers, but his production at the plate is going to come nowhere near what Renfroe provided last season. Renfroe was a bit of a liability in right field, but the trade off here just isn’t fair for Boston.

Renfroe struggled in the playoffs last season, but there’s not a shot the team would have made it there without him. When the team was dealing with a lack of production, injuries, and a COVID outbreak among other things, Renfroe was in the lineup pretty much everyday, and produced day in and day out. If you substitute his production for Bradley’s, this team isn’t even in contention for a playoff spot.

Boston’s outfield was one of their strengths last season, but as currently constructed, they just got invariably worse. Bradley was pretty much unplayable last season, and the Brewers are probably throwing a party today that they were able unload him for a guy who hit 30+ dingers last season. If he struggles, which is likely to happen, who takes over?

The added prospects to this deal aren’t really any sort of saving grace considering they have no shot of contributing to the major league team this season. If they turn into something down the line, great, but that shouldn’t be the biggest concern of a team that came two wins away from advancing to the World Series last season. Winning minor league championships should not be on the list of goals this offseason.

Ultimately, the MLB lockout might be a good thing for the Boston Red Sox because it is currently saving them from themselves. Bloom and the front office have showed a stunning lack of urgency to upgrade a team that looked like a surefire championship contender heading into the offseason. Instead, we have seen moves that could be great, but almost certainly won’t, at least not at the price the team is paying for.

The core of this group may realistically be entering their last season together. J.D. Martinez will be a free agent next offseason, and Xander Bogaerts seems intent on opting out of his current deal when he can. Rafael Devers is no closer to reaching an extension than he was this time last season either. There’s still time to solve these issues, but at this rate, the front office has shown no intent on doing so, which only adds to the concerns.

Next. Just like that, Jackie Bradley Jr. is back in Boston. dark

While other teams have made big moves to bring in high level free agents, the Boston Red Sox have overpaid for low level guys, and somehow made things worse by trading away one of their best hitters from last season. Not exactly a great start to the offseason.

Here’s hoping the time off during the lockout will give the front office some time to come up with an actual plan to bring another championship to Boston, because whatever they have done in the past few days isn’t going to cut it.