Who Will Play First in Boston Long Term?
The Red Sox are fortunate enough to be a well rounded baseball team. There are not a lot of glaring holes in the lineup, the rotation depth is solid and the bullpen does their job. Although, there is one position the Red Sox need to address in the near future and that is First Base. In the Free Agent market, one of the best players in baseball is available, in Freddie Freeman. Freeman is coming off his first World Series victory with Atlanta, where he has served as the face of the franchise for the last few years. Surprisingly, the Braves and Freeman did not reach a deal prior to MLB lockout and will not be able to negotiate until it is over. In twelve big league seasons, Freeman has posted an .893 OPS hit 271 home runs and a 43.1 Wins Above Replacement. It is safe to say that at the age of thirty two, Freeman is on track to be a Hall of Famer. If the Braves were smart they would resign him but they have so much young talent on their roster that I can foolishly see them letting him go elsewhere. At thirty two, most teams will be wary of committing a large amount of money for a five to seven year contract, which is a shame. Freeman has been one of the best players in baseball throughout his career and he deserves to be paid like one. It is not every day that you can add a future Hall of Famer to your team. The amount of interested teams post lockout will depend on what the new CBA will put as the luxury tax threshold. A higher amount teams can spend, the more suitors Freeman will have. The Red Sox do have the flexibility to make a major move once the lockout ends. Will they make a big splash by signing Freddie Freeman? I would find it out of character for the Red Sox to sign Freeman but we do not fully know how they will operate in the Chaim Bloom era. An opportunity to add a player like Freeman to fill a positional need does not happen every day. Especially to a contending team.
Kyle Schwarber is not a natural First Baseman. Anyone who watched the Red Sox in the second half and in the Postseason knows this. Despite this, every fan, player and member of the Red Sox organization enjoyed watching Schwarber play for Boston. Schwarber can hold down the First Base until Casas arrives, platoon with Bobby Dalbec or play the outfield. His asking price of three years for sixty million dollars is affordable for the Red Sox and a fair deal. Teams interested in Schwarber are worried about his numbers in 2021 being an outlier. He had the best year of his career with career highs in batting average .266, OBP .374 and OPS .928, a large improvement from his previous seasons. That may be the case but it is not uncommon for players to improve drastically in the middle of their career. Especially with the technology and information baseball players have access to in today’s game. Schwarber’s newly improved plate discipline seemed to be legitimate and held out over the course of the 2021 season. The power he displayed while in Boston has always been there. If you are worried about his 2021 being an outlier the power has always been there and is worth paying for.
Despite inconsistencies, Bobby Dalbec earned himself consideration to be the Red Sox full time First Baseman. Dalbec’s contact and plate discipline is certainly below Major League average, his .298 OBP was certainly not ideal but his power is a serious threat to opposing lineups. Despite his terrible OBP he still managed to have an OPS of .796 which is above the Major League average. In fact, Dalbec is one of the rare hitters who had more Extra Base Hits than singles during the 2021 season. His ability to play both First and Third makes him a valuable player for the Red Sox to have on their roster. He is a versatile and capable defender but his streakiness at the plate makes him a question mark. He will certainly get playing time in 2022, but the question is how much playing time? Only time will tell.
Triston Casas is the projected First Baseman of the future. At twenty years old, he has impressed scouts across the baseball world with his raw power at the plate and his ability to succeed at every level. Casas was drafted by the Red Sox at 26th overall in 2018, when Dave Dombrowski the President of Baseball Operations. It appears to be a smart pick. Casas has shown confidence at every level, especially the Olympics where he hit 3 home runs and drove in 8 runs for USA Silver Medal winners. Towards the end of last season the Red Sox promoted him to Worcester where he is likely to be the best player on the team. He is just one call away from joining the Red Sox which he likely will during the 2022 season. As we all know, prospects do not always pan out once they hit the big league level but Casas appears to be the real deal. If he is, the Red Sox will soon have the answer to their First Base question.