Red Sox Players to Watch in 2022; Free Agents To Be
The Boston Red Sox will find themselves in an interesting situation at the end of the 2022 season. They have three major players in their core who will hit Free Agency with Vazquez, Bogaerts, and Eovaldi. Let's evaluate who will stay and who will go.
There is no question that catching is the toughest position in the game of baseball. The toll of being behind the plate does damage to any ball player. Crouched down on your knees, foul balls hitting you, the amount of your throws back to the pitcher, the constant gameplanning on top of contributing offensively; it’s no wonder catchers have such short careers. Due to the difficulty of the position, a good catcher is extremely valuable to a ball club. The Red Sox have been fortunate enough to have Christian Vazquez the past few seasons but will need to reevaluate the catching position after this season. Vazquez is a tremendous defensive catcher with an inconsistent bat. In 2021, Vazquez posted a .659 OPS with a .352 SLG% which are his worst offensive numbers as the Red Sox starting catcher. This is a slight concern, but nearly every baseball player has a down year at the plate. Another concern, though, is Vazquez’s age. He will be turning thirty-two towards the end of the season, which means he is an aging catcher. Coming off a down year at the plate, Vazquez is entering the last year of his contract. Will he continue to decline offensively? How many more years does he have behind the plate? It has been reported that the Red Sox made an offer for Jacob Stallings prior to the lock out. He ended up being acquired by the Miami Marlins from the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. This illustrates that the Red Sox are seriously considering making a change behind the plate. They picked up Vazquez’s team-friendly seven million dollar option for 2022, but afterwards both Vazquez and backup catcher Kevin Plawecki will be Free Agents after this season. Will the Red Sox go younger at the catching position in 2023? Wilson Contreras and Mike Zunino are the best catching options in this upcoming Free Agency class. Contreras is a great all-around baseball player but will likely be expensive as he is one of the best-hitting catchers in the game. Zunino, on the other hand, is a great defensive catcher with plenty of power. He unfortunately does not hit for average the way Vazquez does, but his thirty-three home runs for the Rays in 2021 raised some eyebrows. There may be options Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox Front Office like better, but it is clear the future of the catching position needs to be evaluated in Boston.
Xander Bogaerts has certainly earned a pay raise. It is almost without question that he exercises his opt-out clause at the end of the season. Boegarts has watched fellow Shortstops hit Free Agency and receive big-time money. This past offseason, the game’s other elite Shortstops signed record breaking deals. Corey Seager signed for ten years and 325 million (32.5 AAV) with the Texas Rangers, and Carlos Correa’s 35.1 million AAV for the next three seasons is the highest annual salary for an infielder ever. There is no way Boegarts will not try to get a raise from his 20 million dollar AAV. With Scott Boras as Boegarts’s agent, he is going to demand a huge pay raise and possibly price himself out of Boston.
The addition of Trevor Story gave the Red Sox an insurance policy for Xander’s possible departure. The Red Sox have already put themselves into a position where they have a much cheaper replacement at Shortstop with dynamic power, game changing speed, and terrific defense. With the signing of Story, Chaim Bloom made a smart baseball move. Hopefully Boston and Boegarts can work something out. He may be surprised that teams will not pay him premier Shortstop money. His glove is good, but his range is subpar, which will only get worse with age. It will be difficult for Bogaerts to find a team that is willing to keep him at the Shortstop position. A move to Third Base seems inevitable for the Red Sox All-Star. Red Sox Nation is extremely tired of watching Franchise players walk in Free Agency. As a fan, it would be heartbreaking to watch Xander Boegarts leave in Free Agency. Nobody wants to see a player of Xander Bogaerts caliber leave, but we should all prepare for it.
This should be simple for the Boston Front Office. Nathan Eovaldi has recently emerged as one of the game’s most reliable pitchers. He was the driving force behind the success of the Red Sox Starting Rotation. For the past year and a half, Eovaldi has found a lot of success on the mound. His efficiency is off the charts, he throws a ton of strikes, rarely walks batters, and has really limited his home runs against. Due to his newfound deception, he often messes with hitters' timings with quick pitches or delays in his wind up, which has only increased his strikeout totals. Throughout his Boston career, Eovaldi has been a big game pitcher. Every time he steps foot on the mound, you know he is going to give it his all. Another valuable trait Eovaldi brings to the Red Sox is his leadership in the Clubhouse. He is a respected, hardworking pitcher who has really reinvented his career. At 32, Eovaldi is entering the last year of his contract in Boston. If he continues as the backbone of this Red Sox pitching staff, I do not think there is any doubt Boston should offer Eovaldi an extension. Yet again, they rarely extend the players they should. I would not be surprised if the James Paxton signing is insurance for a potential Eovaldi departure like Story is for Bogaerts.
Only time will tell what the Red Sox will do next offseason. There are a lot of decisions to make. I expect to see all of these guys go. I hope they keep at least one, if not two.The Red Sox are an organization that constantly changes their roster. Nobody has been a Red Sox for long in the John Henry ownership era. They clearly believe in getting the most out of players and not have them weigh down the payroll. It is smart baseball most of the time but unfortunate for the fans all the time.