On Wednesday, the Red Sox signed outfielder Adam Duvall to a 1-year deal worth $7 MM, which included $3 MM in incentives based off plate appearances. After Trevor Story went down with interior brace surgery on his UCL, the Red Sox were lacking right-handed power and dependable options up the middle. Duvall has the ability to check off both of those boxes if he’s capable of repeating his 2021 season.
The Red Sox are betting on a big bounce back from Duvall in 2023 after the right-handed slugger struggled offensively last season and eventually required season-ending surgery to repair a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. It resembles a similar bet this front office took with Hunter Renfroe heading into 2021, with the hopes Fenway Park would be the perfect remedy.
Across 86 games in 2022, Duvall put together a weak slash line of .213/.276/.401/.677 with 12 HR and the second-worst K% of his career at 32.1%. It was a complete 180 for him after being one of the key cogs in the Braves championship run in 2021 following a mid-season trade by the Marlins.
In 2021, Duvall wasn’t an MVP-caliber slugger or anything close to that, but he did two things very well at the plate. Mash for power and be an RBI machine. In 146 games during that magical season, he hit .228/.281/.491/.772 with 38 home runs and an NL-leading 113 RBI for a slightly above-average 102 OPS+.
It’s hard not to draw immediate comparisons to Renfroe, who before a disaster performance in 2020, had a 33 homer season with the Padres in 2019 that included a batting line of .216/.289/.489/.788 and a 103 OPS+. Both offered dependable defense in the corners with similar offense, but unlike Renfroe, Duvall has shown the ability to handle center field quite well.
As Chad Jennings mentioned in his most recent piece for The Athletic, even Red Sox officials are hoping for Hunter Renfroe 2.0 in 2023. As you dig deeper into the numbers and the batted ball profiles, it’s hard not to think that hope isn’t justified.