The Red Sox are open to adding another right-handed hitter to their outfield mix, chief baseball officer Craig Breslow tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. To that end, Abraham reports that Boston remains in contact with free-agent outfielder Adam Duvall’s camp.
Duvall had a solid, if volatile, 2023 season. Signed to a one-year, $7M contract over the offseason, he was arguably the best hitter in MLB for the first couple of weeks. Duvall ran a .455/.514/1.030 line over his first 37 plate appearances before fracturing a bone in his left wrist while diving for a fly ball. The injury cost him two months.
He was mired in an extended slump upon coming off the injured list, limping to a .175/.253/.313 showing through the All-Star Break. Duvall found his stride again coming out of the Break, raking at a .293/.349/.654 clip through the end of August. The year ended on a dismal note, as he struck out in over 40% of his plate appearances while hitting .149/.177/.324 from September 1 on.
Despite the extreme peaks and valleys, Duvall’s overall offensive production was well better than average. He hit 21 homers with a .247/.303/.531 slash in 353 plate appearances. Boston’s decision to give him nearly 500 innings in center field predictably didn’t work out well, as he rated between three and five runs below average by Statcast and Defensive Runs Saved. Duvall has been a plus defender in left field throughout the course of his career though. Between the strong corner outfield defense and 30-homer upside, he’s a valuable player despite high strikeout totals and subpar on-base marks.
The Angels are the only other team that has been publicly linked to Duvall this offseason. At age 35, it seems likely he’ll sign another one-year pact, but there’s an outside chance he lands a second guaranteed season.
Breslow wasn’t with the Sox when they signed Duvall last January. Yet the front office has sought right-handed power in the outfield throughout his first offseason at the helm. Boston already swung a trade for Tyler O’Neill. They were linked to Teoscar Hernández before he signed a one-year, $23.5M pillow contract with the Dodgers. Duvall would be significantly cheaper.
Even as the Sox pursued Hernández, they’d pointed to the rotation as their biggest priority. Boston took a rebound flier on Lucas Giolito. Not long thereafter, they subtracted Chris Sale in the trade to add Vaughn Grissom from the Braves. While Giolito seems a safer bet than Sale to log a full workload, the pair of moves leaves the Sox with the same number of starters they had at the beginning of the winter.
Breslow told Abraham the current rotation consists of four pitchers: Giolito, Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford and Nick Pivetta. That’d leave Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck and Josh Winckowski competing for the final spot. Offseason acquisitions Cooper Criswell and Max Castillo are among the depth options on the 40-man roster.
Of course, that’s not necessarily the mix they’ll take to spring training. Breslow conceded their efforts to add rotation help have thus far “been a challenge” but said they’re “still engaged in conversations with free agents and teams via trade.” The Sox have been loosely tied to top arms Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery (more so the latter) during the offseason, but more recent reports indicated they were looking at the next tiers down. With mid-level arms like Shota Imanaga and Marcus Stroman recently coming off the board, the free-agent supply is dwindling beyond Snell and Montgomery.
That hints at payroll questions that have hung over the offseason. The Sox opened the 2023 season with a player payroll in the $181M range, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That ranked 12th in the majors, their first time outside the top 10 this century. Roster Resource projects their 2024 payroll in a similar range, a little under $178M. They’re almost $40M away from next year’s base luxury-tax threshold.
An offseason headlined by Giolito and trade pickups of Grissom and O’Neill presumably isn’t what many in the fanbase envisioned. That’s especially true after team chairman Tom Werner vowed in early November the organization would go “full throttle” to put their two straight last-place finishes behind them.
Werner walked that phrasing back in a conversation with Sean McAdam of MassLive.
“Maybe that wasn’t the most artful way of saying what I wanted to say, which is that we’re going to be pressing all levers to improve the team,” he said. “In the end, nobody’s happy with our performance the last few years. Some years, we go after somebody who is about to be a free agent, or was a free agent, as it pertains to Trevor Story or Raffy Devers.”
After noting the organization made an unsuccessful run at Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Werner added the Sox “certainly aren’t happy with the current roster as it was at the end of last year, so if I was going to say it again, I would say that we’re going to be pressing all levers and weren’t going to be happy with just one (method) — that includes free agency, trades or talent from Triple and Double A. … In the end, we don’t have a line in terms of our payroll that we look at as much as trusting that Craig is going to deliver on his assurance that we’re going to be competitive.“