The Red Sox have money to spend in free agency this offseason. That’s a good thing — unless you make bad decisions.
There were 19 free agents who agreed to contracts worth at least $50 million before this season. For the teams who made those agreements, there are more regrets than celebrations so far.
With the understanding that the years to come could change the outcome, here’s a breakdown of how the top free agents from the Class of 2022 fared.
⋅ 1B Freddie Freeman (Dodgers, 6 years, $162 million) — Freeman has been even better for the Dodgers than he was in leading the Braves to a World Series championship last season. He’s among the MLB leaders in batting average, on-base percentage, doubles, walks, and runs created.
▪ RHP Kevin Gausman (Blue Jays, 5 years, $110 million) — Gausman has been a solid No. 2 starter on a playoff team. That’s what the Jays wanted. Gausman has only one career playoff start, so October will be a further test.
▪ OF Starling Marte (Mets, 4 years, $78 million) — Long an underrated player, the Mets spent big on the 33-year-old to improve their outfield. Marte delivered an All-Star season.
▪ RHP Max Scherzer (Mets, 3 years, $130 million) — He has been limited to 22 starts but has a 2.13 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. His presence has given the Mets some needed passion.
▪ OF-DH Kyle Schwarber (Phillies, 4 years, $79 million) — Schwarber turned a strong 2021 season into a long-term deal and kept hitting. He strikes out a lot and doesn’t hit for average but the home runs (42) and walks helped keep the Phillies in contention.
▪ OF Seiya Suzuki (Cubs, 5 years, $85 million) — A .780 OPS in his first season after playing in Japan bodes well for the future.
Swing and a miss?
▪ OF Nick Castellanos (Phillies, 5 years, $100 million) — His OPS dropped 24 percent in the first year of the deal and he has minus-10 defensive runs saved in right field.
▪ 2B Marcus Semien (Rangers, 7 years, $175 million) — Semien took a one-year deal with the Jays in 2021 and produced big numbers before going back into free agency.
He’s still an above-average hitter but dropped off with 24 fewer extra-base hits. Semien’s defense remains excellent but how will this deal play for six more years?
▪ OF Chris Taylor (Dodgers, 4 years, $60 million) — The Dodgers retained Taylor and he had the worst offensive season of his career.
▪ RHP Jon Gray (Rangers, 4 years, $56 million) — He pitched well when he pitched, but injuries cost him 10 starts.
▪ RHP Raisel Iglesias (Angels, 4 years, $58 million) — The Angels signed Iglesias to be their closer, then traded him to the Braves Aug. 2 for two prospects. He’s been an effective — and very well paid — set-up man since. Presumably the Braves plan to have him close down the road.
▪ LHP Robbie Ray (Mariners, 5 years, $115 million) — There’s a lot of value in making every start and approaching 200 innings. That his ERA climbed and his strikeouts dropped is something Seattle can live with.
▪ SS Corey Seager (Rangers, 10 years, $325 million) — Seager had an .870 OPS over seven seasons with the Dodgers. It’s been under .800 most of the season with the Rangers.
▪ 2B Trevor Story (Red Sox, 6 years, $140 million) — The Sox are clearly a better defensive team when he’s on the field. But Story will finish the season having played only 94 games. He’s been a little bit better than average offensively for two years now. The Sox need better than that.
▪ RHP Marcus Stroman (Cubs, 3 years, $71 million) — A shoulder issue cost him a big chunk of the season. The Cubs are only 8-16 when he starts.
▪ SS Javy Baez (Tigers, 6 years, $140 million) — His defense took a sharp downward turn and his on-base percentage is .281. No wonder Al Avila was fired as GM.
▪ OF Kris Bryant (Rockies. 7 years, $182 million) — This deal made little sense when it was made and less now as Bryant played only 42 games because of a series of injuries. He hit well when he played but somehow didn’t homer in 99 at-bats at Coors Field.
▪ OF Avisail Garcia (Marlins, 4 years, $53 million) — Garcia turned a productive season with the Brewers into a lucrative contract and went back to being a league-average hitter.
▪ LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (Tigers, 5 years, $77 million) — He missed half the season because of marital difficulties and at one point wasn’t returning calls from the team. But at least Rodriguez pitched fairly well when he was on the roster.
Sage advice from Eckersley
One of the best perks of covering the Red Sox is getting to Fenway Park early in the afternoon when it’s still quiet. It’s even better when Dennis Eckersley is there because he’s always happy to talk about the game.
Eckersley is one of the best analysts in the game and could have enjoyed a bigger national profile had he pursued it. His unique baseball vocabulary will make you laugh, but you’re also learning something at the same time.
He turns 68 on Monday and this week will be his last on NESN. Eckersley is relocating to be closer to his grandchildren in California and slow down a bit after 50 years in pro ball.
Former Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, an aspiring broadcaster, got some reps in the booth last week and asked Eckersley for advice while they were on the air.
“You know something? Not being afraid to say what needs to be said,” Eckersley said. “That’s probably one of the hardest things to do coming out of the dugout. Once you leave the dugout, you’re not in the dugout anymore. I think players have a hard time with it.
“This game is not easy. We get up here and we think it’s easy. It looks a lot easier up here, doesn’t it? And ultimately, be who you are . . . and it’s scary because if you are who you are, you can’t be afraid to be who you are.”
For Eckersley, calling a game felt like playing in one.
“I feel like sometimes, you feel a little naked up here because, I don’t know, it’s falling off a cliff sometimes because you never know,” he said. “Because it’s live . . . This is as close as it gets to playing because you get a little nervous. I love it. That’s why it’s going to be hard to leave. Because there’s nothing that you do in life that gets you going like this.”
Honesty matters to Sox fans. It’s a delicate balance, one that Jerry Remy and Eckersley handled well. The analysts who follow them would be wise to follow that example.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ Brayan Bello looks like a high school senior when he walks into the ballpark with a backpack slung over one shoulder and wearing untied high-top sneakers. You’d swear he was 18, not 23.
But he’s a killer on the mound, pitching with a scowl and an attitude.
“When I’m out there I’m focused and I’m trying to be focused on what’s going on and what’s my game plan,” he said via a translator. “Here in the clubhouse I can be relaxed and smile at everybody and just have a good time.
“I always try to have that mean face when I pitch so I can get the batters out.”
The Sox have had to talk to Bello about being careful with his reactions when a teammate makes a mistake behind him.
“He’s a young kid. He’s learning,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. “He’s doing a better job now controlling the emotions compared to early in the season. That’s part of the learning process. He’s growing up to become a really good one.”
▪ Here’s a strange one: The Red Sox had back-to-back home runs 10 times last season and have yet to do it this season (through Friday). The last time they went back-to-back-to-back was July 7, 2011, when David Ortiz, Josh Reddick, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia did it.
▪ Here’s another strange one: Michael Wacha and Tony Gonsolin of the Dodgers are the first pitchers with at least 21 starts and one or fewer losses since 1929 when Connie Rector of the New York Lincoln Giants was 18-1. He appeared in 26 games, starting 22.
▪ At 42, Rich Hill is the second-oldest player in baseball, 54 days younger than Albert Pujols.
He has made 25 starts this season and is third on the Sox with 118⅓ innings and has a 4.41 ERA. The American League average for a starter is 4.04.
With one start remaining, Hill has two starts with at least six scoreless innings and nine strikeouts. Only Nolan Ryan (10), Roger Clemens (6), and Randy Johnson (3) have done that past the age of 42.
Hill isn’t sure of his plans for next season. If the Red Sox are again an option, he could play the entire season as that would allow him to live at home and see his son, Brice, play Little League.
If not, Hill could stay in shape on his own and join a team in June after school is out. That route also would allow him to pick a contending team and pursue the World Series championship that would cap his career.
Hill also hopes to join Team USA for the World Baseball Classic in March. Hill’s repertoire of different speeds, angles, and deliveries would be a good weapon out of the bullpen in a tournament setting.
Pujols, who says he is definitely retiring, went into the weekend with an .854 OPS, 21 home runs, and 58 RBIs.
The third-oldest player in the majors, Nelson Cruz, has the third-most plate appearances on the Nationals but a career-worst .651 OPS (over a full season) and only 10 homers. He’s 41 shy of 500 homers.
▪ All the best to Lynne Smith, who is at Massachusetts General Hospital recovering from surgery. Lynne and her husband, Gary, are two of the most dedicated Red Sox fans out there and, more importantly, are pillars in the community for their support of many charities.
You may know Lynne as the “Fenway Hat Lady.” She’s a treasure and everybody is looking forward to seeing her back at the ballpark for Opening Day next season.
Bad karma, coming after me
In his final start of the 2019 season, Texas lefthander Mike Minor angered the Red Sox by yelling at first baseman Ronald Guzman to let a foul pop up off the bat of Chris Owings drop in the ninth inning.
Why? Minor needed one more strikeout for 200 on the season and had already thrown 125 pitches. Owings went back to the plate and struck out.
It was a low-rent move and Alex Cora and several Sox players said they didn’t appreciate it. Minor and the Rangers laughed it off.
Minor was an All-Star that season and finished eighth in the Cy Young voting. But that was the end of the good times.
He is 13-30 since with a 5.46 ERA and been dumped twice in cost-cutting trades. Of the 151 pitchers with at least 30 starts since 2020, Minor has the eighth-highest ERA.
Minor was 4-12 with a 6.06 ERA for the Reds this season and is contemplating retirement.
It’s fair to say the current core group of Twins executives, coaches, and players have underachieved in recent seasons. This will be their second straight year out of the playoffs and the franchise hasn’t won a postseason game since 2004. But team president Dave St. Peter said president of baseball operations Derek Falvey will be back in 2023 and “many, many, many years after that.” General manager Thad Levine will be back and Falvey has already said manager Rocco Baldelli also will return. The Twins made a bold move with the signing of Carlos Correa for $35.1 million with two player options at the same rate. Assuming Correa goes back into the market, the Twins will be positioned to be aggressive again . . . The Orioles are the first team since 1900 to win 80 games after losing 110 the previous season. The winning percentage jump from .321 to .513 is the largest since the Diamondbacks went from .401 as an expansion team in 1998 to .617 in ‘99 . . . Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto has just under 1,100 innings behind the plate this season and only two passed balls. Only 10 catchers in history have had at least 1,100 innings and two or fewer passed balls. The last was Baltimore’s Matt Wieters in 2011 . . . Willie Mays, 91, visited the Giants clubhouse on Wednesday for the first time in 14 months. “I want to make sure I can keep up with the guys,” Mays told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I just hope I can keep my body strong enough to be back for spring training.” Mays spent time with Mike Yastrzemski and told him about playing against his grandfather, Carl, in some All-Star Games. “He could hit, man. Made me run around a little bit,” Mays said . . . With six games remaining, the Braves were the only team in the majors without a sacrifice. They also were third in the majors in runs scored . . . Congratulations to Don Orsillo, who called his 3,000th game last week. That’s impressive considering he spent 10 seasons in the minors and then eight years living in fear of being attacked by Terry Francona . . . Dusty Baker joined Sparky Anderson, Whitey Herzog, and Tony La Russa as the only managers with 100-win seasons in both leagues . . . Ah, the variances of baseball. Aaron Judge would have had 70 home runs by now had he played every game at Coors Field but only 49 playing every game at Comerica Park, according to data at BaseballSavant.com. Fenway Park would have produced 58 . . . Worcester Red Sox chairman and principal owner Larry Lucchino received the Semper Fidelis Award from the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation on Thursday in his hometown of Pittsburgh . . . Records show Warren Spahn did not win a game for the Boston Braves until 1946. But he was the only pitcher who worked in a game the Braves won in 1942. How could that be? Spahn and the Braves were trailing the New York Giants, 5-2, in the final game of the season when thousands of children who were given free tickets for their efforts in a wartime scrap metal drive ran onto the field in the eighth inning. The umpires decided to forfeit the game to the Braves. The statistics counted but Spahn did not get a decision . . . Happy birthday to Scott Schoeneweis, who is 49. The lefty specialist had a 12-year career that ended with 15 games for the Red Sox in 2010. Lefthanded hitters hit .229 with a .612 OPS in 1,368 plate appearances against Schoeneweis. Ernie Riles is 62. The infielder played in 94 games for the Sox in 1993. Riles is from Cairo, Ga., the same town as Jackie Robinson.