I’ve been trying to hold off on offseason speculation until, well, the season actually ended. It is obviously already a much-anticipated winter with a ton of storylines and there are conversations to be had right now. The Red Sox are technically still in the race, though, and more selfishly it can be really hard to think of topics in the winter! I don’t want to waste those bullets in August when there’s still real baseball happening, ya know?
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the offseason, though. Much of that thought has been how aggressively I’m going to be pulling out my hair thinking about Mookie Betts trade talks. What I’ve been thinking about even more than that, however, has been Brock Holt. The Red Sox utility player is a free agent at the end of the year, and his recent run of heroics in giving his team the win in two of the last three days, makes this a good time to break the no offseason talk rule, if only temporarily.
Like I said, there are a ton of stories that are going to take the spotlight in this upcoming winter. The aforementioned Betts trade rumors. Whether or not Dave Dombrowski will be kept around following the end of this year. Is J.D. Martinez going to opt out? How are they going to replace Rick Porcello’s spot in the rotation? Are they actually going to add to the bullpen this year? This is a Red Sox team in a fascinating spot as a franchise, and this winter is going to reflect that.
With all of that going on, it’s easy to see how Holt’s upcoming free agency is flying under the market and how it likely will continue to do so when the market actually opens. In terms of the future of the franchise on the field, Holt’s free agency ranks far behind the other storylines. Despite that, I am at least as invested in this one as any of the others.
The argument against keeping Holt beyond this season is, honestly, pretty simple. And in a vacuum, it’s also a tough one to argue against. Holt is presumably not in line to be the everyday second baseman next year, with the best-case scenario potentially being a split time arrangement between himself and Michael Chavis. Of course, the team also has plenty of other infield depth with Marco Hernández, Tzu-Wei Lin, Bobby Dalbec (whose ability to play first base makes it easier to put Chavis at second), and C.J. Chatham. That doesn’t even include Chad De La Guerra or other potential free agents. From a pure baseball perspective, if there’s one guy on this roster who could be replaced cheaply with a young player already in the organization, Holt is near or at the top of the list.
The argument for keeping him, though, relies on worrying more about the simple addition of value on the baseball field. Obviously that is the top consideration at all times, but at the end of the day that’s not everything. As I’ve gotten older it’s become clearer that winning a championship every year is impossible and that you need other reasons to watch beyond winning. For me, that means finding players for whom it is fun to root. On this current iteration of the Red Sox, Holt tops that list.
Holt is an absolute blast of a player to root for, and the reasons range from his on-field game to his legendary off-field status. On the field, and this is obviously a personal preference, Holt is my favorite type of player. He’s versatile, he hits line drives and he relies more on singles and doubles than homers. Slightly more off the field, Holt is a major clubhouse presence. Xander Bogaerts has taken the mantle as the de facto leader in the clubhouse, but Holt is the guy who keeps everything loose. It’s impossible to quantify that impact, and in terms of a cold WAR calculation it’s probably tiny, but over 162 games it isn’t nothing.
The biggest factor here, though, is all the way off the field where Holt has really entrenched himself in Boston. In his My Story episode on NESN’s running series highlighting Red Sox players, Holt described being upset when he was traded to Boston. It was an understandable reaction for a young player moving away from the only organization he ever knew. As it turns out, Boston has been the perfect home for him. The team’s relationship with the Jimmy Fund is one of the most important parts of the franchise, and many players over the years have had major impacts on the children in the program. None that I can remember match Holt. He, along with his wife and now his son, have made the Jimmy Fund a major part of their lives and for the children and families at Dana Farber the Holts have been, by all accounts, almost unbelievably gracious, generous and kind. There’s a million stories highlighting this, but it’s this video that I always come back to.
Brock Holt of the @RedSox is a world champion and @MLB All-Star, but the role he's played for children at the @DanaFarber Cancer Institute's @TheJimmyFund may be even more impressive.— Infield Chatter (@InfieldChatter) July 12, 2019
Today, some of the families he's touched say thank you. pic.twitter.com/V67yes4XjX
The question ultimately becomes just how much this should play a role in front office decisions. Granted, it should also be mentioned that Holt is having his best offensive season at the plate, so it’s not as though he doesn’t contribute on the field too. If that was all there was, though, it would be a lot easier to let him go. I would have a hard time really arguing against the people making the case to turn the page to Hernández, Lin, etc. and let Holt shine somewhere else. That doesn’t mean I agree, though. Holt is too important in the clubhouse and in the city to let him wear another uniform after this season.