Classic Red Sox: They had a top free-agent signing as their No. 1 target, allegedly
November 29th, 2022
The Red Sox remain the undisputed “Interest Kings,” as Jared Carrabis has long labeled them. According to a new report, they swear they had a high level of interest in one of the top power-hitting free agents available, before he inevitably signed elsewhere.
That would be Jose Abreu, who is officially a member of the Houston Astros after signing on Monday. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chroniclesaid over multiple tweets that the deal is for three “guaranteed” years and around $60 million.
The Astros are the defending World Series champions, so they were certainly a much easier sell for Abreu in terms of the team’s outlook for the next three years. But apparently, they were also able to outbid the Red Sox on the financials – even though Boston was pursuing Abreu as its “No. 1 outside target” and met him soon after free agency began, according to Jon Heyman.
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – AUGUST 03: Jose Abreu #79 of the Chicago White Sox hits a three-run home run against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning at Guaranteed Rate Field on August 03, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Abreu will be 36 years old when the 2023 season begins, and his power took a sharp dip in 2022, so concerns about a decline are understandable. He hit just 15 home runs last season, despite playing 157 games. However, Abreu still managed to bat .304 with 40 doubles and a respectable .824 OPS. He’s also been remarkably durable throughout his career, playing 93.7 percent of all possible games from 2014-22.
If the Red Sox truly considered Abreu their No. 1 free-agent target outside the organization, then they apparently consider three years and/or $20 million per season as too big of a financial commitment. One would hope they’re willing to extend themselves much more than that to retain third baseman Rafael Devers, or make a last-minute push to keep shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
But as far as external options in free agency, the Red Sox appear set to seek short-term deals for average-at-best money. That’s not going to be a great feeling for fans who had hopes of higher spending on higher-end talent, and it’s certainly not going to make anyone feel better to know that they wanted Abreu more than anyone else, and lost out on him anyway.
Abreu has mostly played first base in his career, but the Red Sox are likely to turn to Triston Casas at that spot in 2023, so perhaps they wanted him as a designated hitter and Abreu balked at that. The Astros can park Abreu at first base while keeping Yordan Alvarez as their top option at DH.
Based on the reports about the Red Sox’ elite level of interest in Abreu, they are looking to improve their power at DH more than any other spot. Abreu’s regression in 2022 is similar to that of J.D. Martinez, who hit just 16 home runs in 2022, his lowest output in a non-shortened season since 2013.
WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 10: Josh Bell #19 of the Washington Nationals hits a three run home run in the sixth inning during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on June 10, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
If the Red Sox still want to add a power hitter to play DH, they have options remaining on the open market. Josh Bell is still available and has been rumored as a Red Sox target (interest!!!) in the past. Bell, 30, is coming off a strange season in 2022. He hit 14 homers in 103 games for the Nationals before being traded to the Padres, then batted just .192 with three home runs in 53 games to close out the season.
However, Bell did average 27 home runs per 162 games from 2017-21, so it’s possible he can rebound to that level of production and his time in San Diego was an outlier. If their Interest™ in Bell was real, perhaps it still is now.
Other names to know on the market for a possible fit in Boston as a DH who can also play first base and/or outfield: Luke Voit, Andrew McCutchen, Nelson Cruz, Brandon Belt, Trey Mancini, and Yuli Gurriel.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.