Will the Red Sox make a splash before Opening Day? As part of our “free agency fits” series, we’re examining whether several top players remaining on the open market make sense (or don’t make sense) as Boston builds its roster for the 2022 Major League Baseball season.
One of the biggest questions for the Red Sox at the 2021 trade deadline was what they would do about first base. And this offseason, that still remains an area of concern as Bobby Dalbec, entering his third season, remains the only rostered first baseman.
The answer to those concerns? It’s simple: Freddie Freeman.
The 12-year member of the Atlanta Braves is a free agent, and an especially attractive one at that. While he is entering his age-32 season, Freeman is coming off a World Series title campaign — his first — in which he led the National League in plate appearances (695) and runs (120). In the process, he earned his fifth All-Star nod and his third consecutive Silver Slugger award — one season after being named the National League MVP.
It’s hard to argue with all of that. But is he as good of a fit as he appears on paper? Let’s examine.
Position: First base
Age: 32 (Sept. 12, 1989)
Weight: 220 pounds
159 games (695 plate appearances)
31 HR, 83 RBIs, 8 SB
4.7 bWAR, 4.5 fWAR
1,565 games (6,660 plate appearances)
271 HR, 941 RBIs, 53 SB
43.1 bWAR, 42.2 fWAR
Why Freeman makes sense for the Red Sox
As if he wasn’t convincing enough on paper, Freeman is exactly the player the Red Sox needed at the trade deadline, when they acquired Kyle Schwarber and went on to try to turn the lifelong outfielder into a first baseman.
Freeman is a left-handed hitter, making him the perfect option to platoon with right-handed Bobby Dalbec at first base — or even just take over for him.
Even though Dalbec is entering his age-27 season, he’s still pretty young as far as his MLB career is concerned, considering he didn’t exceed rookie contract limits until partway through last season. Freeman, who turns 33 at the end of the regular season, is entering his 13th year in the big leagues. That makes Freeman the perfect mentor for Dalbec and also for Triston Casas, the organization’s second-ranked prospect who also is a left-handed first baseman.
A lifelong National League player, having spent his entire career with the Braves, Freeman also could fit into the Red Sox roster with time at designated hitter, which would give the Red Sox more freedom with J.D. Martinez, too. If he were to come to town, it wouldn’t be as a DH — but it’s just worth noting the level of flexibility he provides for this group.
Even if Freeman doesn’t sign for long, he packs the offensive and defensive punch the Red Sox sorely need, at least to hold them over until Casas is ready to be a full-time MLB player — and perhaps even after that.
Why Freeman doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox
There’s always a catch, and the catch with Freeman is his contract. Spotrac projected his market value at $135.7 million over five years, which works out to an average salary of $27.1 million. Interestingly enough, one of his comparisons on the site was none other than Martinez, who is on the books for $19.35 million in 2022.
This town isn’t big enough for the both of them — even before you add in the $30 million allocated to Chris Sale, the $20 million that goes to Xander Bogaerts and the $17 million awarded to Nathan Eovaldi.
Still, this is his only flaw. Even if the Red Sox can overlook it, Freeman is one of the most marketable free agents out there both on and off the field, and any team that has the money to pay him what he deserves (or more) will be in the conversation to land him.
Verdict: A perfect, yet expensive fit
Prediction: Freeman returns to the Braves