Here’s how Adam Duvall signing changes complexion of Red Sox lineup

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Adam Duvall #14 of the Atlanta Braves takes a swing during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: Adam Duvall #14 of the Atlanta Braves takes a swing during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox upgraded their outfield with Adam Duvall

Outfielder Adam Duvall has agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. The contract includes incentives that could allow him to earn up to an additional $3 million in performance bonuses.

The 34-year-old struggled through an injury-plagued season with the Atlanta Braves last year, hitting .213/.276/.401 in 86 games. He was starting to heat up as we moved into the summer, hitting .255/.317/.618 with 10 home runs in his final 34 games before a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist ended his season.

In 146 games split between the Braves and Marlins the previous year, Duvall hit .228/.281/.491 with a career-high 38 home runs. His 113 RBI led the National League. He won a ring with the Braves, helping to fuel his team to a title with a pair of home runs on the World Series stage.

Duvall will never hit for average and doesn’t walk enough to offset that concern. His 6.7 BB% would have barely put him inside the top 100 in the majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify last season. His strikeout rate has climbed to alarmingly high levels over the last few years, culminating in last season’s 32.1 K% that ranked as the 13th-worst in the majors among hitters with 300+ plate appearances.

What Duvall does offer is power. He has three 30+ homer campaigns on his resume and he has ranked in the top 10% of the league in Max Exit Velocity in two of the last three years. His bat is an appealing addition to a Red Sox lineup that ranked 20th in home runs last season.

Duvall’s right-handed bat also helps balance a lineup that was leaning heavily to the left. His career splits are relatively even, with a career .230 average against both right-handed pitchers and lefties. He walks more frequently against southpaws though and has a bit more power, resulting in a career .771 OPS against lefties compared to a .749 OPS against right-handers.

While he has primarily played left field in his career, where he won a Gold Glove award in 2021, Duvall has some experience in center field. He has 4 defensive runs saved in 75 career games at the position. He played 44 games in center last season and produced 4 outs above average, per Baseball Savant.

Duvall was in the 88th percentile in outs above average, the 78th percentile in arm strength, and the 74th percentile in outfielder jump in 86 games split between all three outfield positions last season.

Inserting Duvall in center field would allow the Red Sox to move Kiké Hernández back to the infield. The departure of Xander Bogaerts in free agency combined with Trevor Story’s elbow injury has created two holes in the middle of the Red Sox infield. Hernández has an excellent glove at shortstop and second base, giving Boston some flexibility in filling the other position.

The Red Sox could also consider leaving Hernández in center, putting Duvall in right field, and trading Alex Verdugo for an infielder. Verdugo is a solid everyday outfielder but he has been slightly disappointing based on expectations. Manager Alex Cora was quick to call out Verdugo as the player who needs to take a leap in 2023, hinting that there may be some frustration within the organization that Verdugo hasn’t performed to his capabilities. If he’s not a part of Boston’s long-term plans, flipping him for a center fielder or a middle infielder makes some sense. It still leaves the Red Sox with holes to fill, but the versatility of Hernández and Duvall’s ability to cover all three outfield positions gives them options.

Duvall isn’t a flashy signing, but he’s the type of under-the-radar addition that we’ve seen Chaim Bloom strike gold with a few times. Duvall is basically Hunter Renfroe with better defense. His pull-heavy swing will be a great fit at Fenway Park where he can target the Green Monster. As long as his wrist has recovered enough for him to return to his pre-2022 level, Duvall will provide an upgrade to the outfield while adding some pop to the lineup.

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