The Red Sox have rumored interest in free-agent Freddie Freeman
The stove is hot! Free agency is firing back up again and the Boston Red Sox have officially entered the chat. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Red Sox have joined the Freddie Freeman sweepstakes.
The Atlanta Braves essentially bowed out of the race when they swung a blockbuster trade with the Oakland A’s to acquire Matt Olson. The Los Angeles Dodgers, motivated to find a left-handed bat to replace Corey Seager, appear to be the frontrunners.
The other top contenders all reside in the AL East. It makes you wonder, do the Red Sox have serious interest in Freeman or are they simply trying to drive up the price for their competition?
With Atlanta out of the picture, the Dodgers seem to be the preferred choice for the southern California native based on geography. It’s unclear if Freeman would consider moving to the northeast but money always talks.
The Yankees have continued conversations with Anthony Rizzo under the belief that Freeman is a longshot but they won’t back down with their division rivals competing for the former MVP. The Blue Jays made a splash last year when they signed George Springer, who is represented by the same agency as Freeman. Toronto aims to push their way into contention and they have money to spend before approaching the luxury tax. It’s hard to imagine the low-budget Rays splurging on Freeman but they might be ready to make an exception after several years of being a top contender that ultimately falls short.
Boston has some room in their budget and they might even be willing to cross the tax threshold this year after staying under the last two seasons. With a significant amount of money falling off their books after this season, this might be the year to dip into the tax for the right target.
The question is whether or not Freeman is the right choice to spend up for. Based on his talent, he’s an obvious upgrade. The five-time All-Star earned an MVP award in 2020 and led the Braves to a World Series championship last season. He hit .300/.393/.503 with 31 home runs, 83 RBI and a league-leading 120 runs scored.
Freeman is the type of talent any team would salivate over inserting into their lineup but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a fit for every team. Fist base isn’t a position of need with top prospect Triston Casas expected to debut at some point this year. Does it make sense to block a 22-year-old prospect by signing a veteran who is a decade older to an expensive long-term deal?
If the Red Sox sign Freeman, it may signal that they are willing to take their time developing Casas. As impressive as he was last season in the minor leagues and the Olympics, Casas only spent nine games at the Triple-A level. Even if he’s lighting it up this spring, penciling him in for the Opening Day roster would be an aggressive projection. With Freeman on board, there would be no reason to rush. Casas would have sufficient time to polish his skills in Worcester before the Red Sox ease him in during the second half of the season as their top bat off the bench and occasional starter.
Delaying his major league debut until late in the season would take Casas out of the Rookie of the Year and MVP conversations, which means Boston wouldn’t need to worry about the new rule that potentially rewards prospects a year of service time based on the results of those awards.
J.D. Martinez is entering the final year of his contract. If the Red Sox are willing to let him walk, Freeman and Casas can split duties between first base and designated hitter in 2023. Casas might have his time in the big leagues limited a bit more than expected this year but he wouldn’t be blocked for long.
We also can’t rule out the possibility of Freeman making Casas expendable in a trade. We’re all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the promising prospect and it would be tough to part with him. However, if Casas headlines a trade for a frontline starting pitcher or a star outfielder, we’d manage to accept that outcome.
The Red Sox would still have Bobby Dalbec to share first base/DH with Freeman in that scenario with Blaze Jordan potentially emerging near the end of Freeman’s contract. Their right-handed bats would make better platoon partners than Casas.
While upgrading at first base is a luxury the Red Sox don’t necessarily need, it’s clear they could make it work. Boston could then use the surplus they create to address other areas of need on the trade market.
That being said, it still feels like a long shot that Chaim Bloom would pull the trigger on signing Freeman. It’s not that he isn’t willing to spend money. Concerns that he’s never signed a player to a deal of this magnitude are overblown – he wasn’t allowed to spend freely during his tenure in Tampa Bay and the Red Sox ownership group pushed him to slash payroll as soon as he arrived in Boston. That doesn’t mean Bloom is incapable of spending, especially now that the luxury tax thresholds are rising.
However, a 32-year-old first baseman doesn’t fit the profile for Bloom’s long-term vision of building a core through their improving farm system and supplementing the roster by spending wisely.
Bloom might be ready to make a splash but his rumored interest in Freeman seems like a ploy to drive up the price for the division rivals competing for his services. Freeman would be an excellent addition to the lineup but we shouldn’t get our hopes up.