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Red Sox Throwing Jabs. Will the Haymaker Come?

MLB is in the midst of a lockout, in case you don’t own a TV or haven’t had access to the Internet recently. But before this began on December 1st, there was plenty of action across the league. Huge trades. Mega contracts given out to free agents. We had a piping hot stove to follow before the lockout started. And what did the Boston Red Sox do amidst this flurry of activity, you might ask?

Not much. Save for a few low-risk signings here and there.

New Arms and Familiar Faces

The four most significant moves the Sox made before the lockout were signing pitchers Michael Wacha, James Paxton, and Rich Hill, along with trading Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two infield prospects. The three starting pitchers all have similar reputations: stints of dominance mired by injuries and/or inconsistency. This is a lot like the Garrett Richards signing (he’s now a free agent). All of these guys are on one-year deals worth between five and ten million dollars. They didn’t break the bank to get these talented veterans. Hopefully, at least one of them has a clean bill of health for all of 2022. The potential is undeniable for all three.

Then you have the return of JBJ in exchange for Hunter Renfroe. Bradley was a fan favorite in Boston, largely due to his incredible defense and his playoff heroics. The problem is he’s returning after being arguably the worst hitter in the Majors (34 OPS+ in 428 OPS+)…in exchange for a guy who just hit 31 bombs. Mind you, Renfroe was also a Gold Glove finalist, so although Bradley is still the superior defender, overall this is probably a net negative for 2022 (not factoring in the prospects).

Kyle Schwarber also has no shortage of potential suitors. If you assume he won’t be re-signed, the Red Sox have a lot of power walking out the door. That will need to be replaced if they hope to compete in a loaded AL East.

White Whale?

The Red Sox likely need to land their white whale, so to speak. They might need two: a bopper and a pitcher. The current rotation of Eovaldi, Sale, Pivetta, Houck, and potentially one or two of the newly-acquired veterans could be…adequate. They can always make a trade at the deadline if it’s obvious they need a horse for the stretch run. A lights-out reliever is probably what they’ll be looking for once the lockout ends, along with a guy who can drive the ball.

Brad Hand, Kenley Jansen, and Craig Kimbrel are all free agent options to handle the 9th for the Sox in 2022. Trevor Rosenthal is another interesting name to consider if he has a clean bill of health after missing all of 2021 with a shoulder injury. Matt Barnes had his run, but his implosion in the second half of the season is concerning. They could use another back-end reliever.

As for the boppers, Nick Castellanos is the obvious one. His career trajectory is similar to that of J.D. Martinez. Although he’ll probably never reach that level of production, you can assume he’ll be an elite run producer for the next few seasons. Kris Bryant is another top name, but I’m not sure Chaim Bloom and the rest of the front office are willing to spend that much. He might be a little too pricey.

Playoff hero Jorge Soler is an interesting name to watch, as Fenway suits his swing and he’s shown he can hit for power. The problem has always been consistency. Could playing in the cozy confines of the AL East unlock his power for good? He’s only 29 years old.

The Red Sox will make a big move or two once the lockout ends. Bank on it. There will probably be a rush of moves once the owners and players association come to an agreement, so expect the Sox to move quickly in signing or trading for the arm and the bat they need to contend next season.

Now…we just need the lockout to end. Don’t hold your breath.