Grading Red Sox Offseason Signings… So Far

Red Sox Signings
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The 2020 offseason wasn’t the most spectacular for Chaim Bloom and the Boston Red Sox. There were no huge names who put ink to paper. Some may say it was quite uneventful. For a lot of Red Sox fans, it was nothing more than the front office signing a few mid-level veteran talents to one-year deals. Now that we are approaching the midway point of the season, there has been plenty of time to see how effective these Red Sox free agent signings have been. 

Hunter Renfroe: A-

Usually, the first thing to look at when evaluating a player’s impact is their offensive output. On that end, Renfroe has been quite good for the Red Sox, especially as of late. From May 1- June 25, he has posted a slash line of .298/.353/.518. On top of that, his 134 wRC+ since May 1 ranks third among all American League right fielders. As crazy as it seems, the Red Sox may have found a comparable replacement to Mookie Betts in right field. 

With as solid as he’s been on offense, his calling card has been on the other side. There is a case to be made that Renfroe has been the best fielder in all of baseball. Not one of the best, but the best. Let’s start with UZR, which puts a run value to defense, quantifying how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess. There are four different components to UZR, one being Outfield Arm Runs (ARM). ARM is the number of runs above average an outfielder saves with their arm by preventing runners from advancing. In that category, Renfroe has graced us with quite a few gems. His 11 outfield assists lead the majors.

He’s well on his way to a Gold Glove this year. When coupled with his solid stats at the plate, the Red Sox have found a legit threat in the middle of their lineup. The only thing keeping this grade from an A+ is the fact that he struggled so much out of the gate. (.167/.235/.250 32 wRC+ in April).

Enrique Hernandez: F

On the flip side of Hunter Renfroe is Enrique Hernandez. No matter which way you slice it, Hernandez’s numbers have been outright ugly. At the plate, he’s currently .224/.279/.371. He also has a well below-average wRC+ of 76. For someone that has been entrusted with the majority of leadoff responsibilities, that is just not good enough. In 45 games as a leadoff hitter, Hernandez is .229/.287/.385.

Hernandez’s biggest asset is his versatility as a utility fielder. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, he thrived in that role. As this season has gone on, Hernandez has basically been the starting center fielder. As a defender he’s been okay, but nothing great. He currently carries a 0.9 UZR. Hernandez underperforming creates a greater question: does Chaim Bloom need to find a way to upgrade this position leading up to the trade deadline? Will they bring up their star prospect, Jarren Duran? This all hinges on whether Hernandez can flip the switch and put forth production on the offensive end.

Marwin Gonzalez: D

Much like Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez’s struggles at the plate have been well documented — .195/.274/.295 says it all. Gonzalez, too, has made a name for himself as a Swiss Army Knife on defense. If we go off of defensive impact alone, this signing isn’t too bad. Gonzalez has played every position except catcher. He even took the mound in an 18-4 blowout loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, and on that day, he was probably the club’s best pitcher. He’s mostly been platooning with Christian Arroyo at second base and has been valuable when someone like Xander Bogaerts needs a day off. Though he’s been valuable in those areas, it’s his bat that the Sox need the most. On this team, he is going to get a lot of playing time. Again, how long can the Red Sox keep their faith in Gonzalez before a change in direction is needed?

Garrett Richards: C

It feels like it’s been a tale of three seasons for one Garrett Richards. First there was the opening act (April 4-21), an 0-2 record with a 6.48 ERA and  5.81 FIP. Then there was April 27-May 25, which gave us mechanical changes, a fierce duel with the game’s best pitcher, and a 4-1 record with a 2.65 ERA and a solid 3.03 FIP. Now we find ourselves in the month of June, where Richards has mirrored more of his form at the beginning of April. June’s numbers aren’t so favorable. In 20 innings pitched he’s given up 30 hits. His June ERA sits at 5.75.

During his resurgence in late April/May, Richards was a big part in keeping the Red Sox atop the AL East. Along with Nick Pivetta and Martin Perez, Richards’ steady performance helped make the Sox rotation one of the most effective in this early part of the season. It seems as of late that Richards and his partners have come back to Earth. Even more concerning are Richard’s comments following his latest start. With MLB cracking down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers, Richards stated “It has changed pretty much everything for me” and “I feel like I need to be a different pitcher than I have been the last nine and a half years.” This isn’t something people want to hear from a guy they are counting on to stabilize the rotation.

Adam Ottavino: A-

With a 1.54 ERA and 2.05 FIP since mid-May, Ottavino has made himself into the definitive setup man for Matt Barnes. From May 11 to June 6, he didn’t allow one run. Not only did he not allow a run, but he also only gave up three hits in 11 appearances. His BABIP was a microscopic .143, and he also had a respectable 2.76 FIP. This period of dominance has made the back end of the Red Sox pitching staff one of the best in all of baseball.

Hirokazu Sawamura: B

When going through Sawamura’s stats game-by-game, the first thing that jumps out is the volatility. For example, in his first five appearances, he allowed no runs and only one hit in his five innings. In his next nine innings, ranging from April 15- May 7, Sawamura allowed 11 hits, six runs, and four home runs. With that said, it seems that he has begun to settle down nicely. In his last 15 games, he’s 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA. In that time he’s also held opponents to a .194 AVG. We honestly couldn’t ask more from a pitcher in his first season in the majors.

Overview

In all, each of these signings has played an integral part in the Red Sox’s resurgence as a top contender in the American League. Most of the impact from these signings has been felt on the defensive side. They have two of the most reliable relievers — Ottavino and Sawamura — on top of a legitimate Gold Glove contender in Renfroe. Although the Hernandez and Gonzalez signings have yet to pan out, these are still veteran players who maybe could become trade assets because of their one-year deals. There’s plenty of season left for the Red Sox and, of course, this list will deserve another look-see come the end of the season.

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Players mentioned:
Hunter Renfroe, Enrique Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez, Garrett Richards, Adam Ottavino, Hirokazu Sawamura, Jarren Duran, Christian Arroyo, Xander Bogaerts, Nick Pivetta, Martin Perez, Matt Barnes