We are now a full week into the New Year, but if you’re anything like me it will still take you at least a few more weeks to really adjust to realizing we’re in 2022, no longer 2021. A nice little side effect of that is an ability to convince yourself it’s fine to hold off on that resolution one more day, and then one more day again, and so on and so on and... You get it. Anyway, we’re talking about New Year’s resolutions for the Red Sox in 2022 for this week’s staff roundtable.
My New Year’s resolution is for Bobby Dalbec. He has Tristan Casas, an elite prospect, raking his way through the minor leagues chasing him down. However, Dalbec was a real solid prospect himself and has all of the tools to be a perennial 30+ home run star. His resolution should be to work on his plate discipline. Last season Dalbec struck out 156 times and only walked 28 times in 133 games played. You cannot be a very productive player striking out more than once per game with a horrible K/BB ratio. However, he still managed to hit .240 with 25 home runs and 78 runs batted in. If he could cut his strikeout rate down substantially and increase his walk rate, it would be hard to remove him from the lineup with a 20.2% barrel rate (98th percentile). Fortunately for Dalbec moving forward, he was in the 2nd percentile in strikeout rate at 34.4% of the time, which makes it easy to improve. If he can work on his pitch selection and reduce his chase rate, he will be an All-Star caliber player in 2022.
Bayleigh Von Schneider
A resolution I have for the 2022 Red Sox is for Chris Sale to pitch an entirely healthy season. 30 starts, uninterrupted, to a point where he’s back to as normal as we can all possibly dream about. There should still be some leeway given it will be his first full season coming off Tommy John, but we can hope for him to pitch most of the 2022 season at an elite level again. Sale’s final start of the 2021 season had him take a majorly important leap forward in getting back to the pitcher he was prior to surgery. If he can get back anywhere close to the level he was prior, well, his contract just might be a steal for the Red Sox give what the likes of Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have signed.
My one Red Sox resolution for 2022 would be for the team to play more sound defense than they did in 2021. After placing such an emphasis on it during spring training, Alex Cora’s Red Sox were among the worst defensive teams in baseball last year. According to FanGraphs, Boston ranked last in the American League in errors committed (108), last in fielding percentage (.981), seventh in Defensive Runs Saved (4), 11th in Ultimate Zone Rating (-5.1), and 10th in Defense (-11.1).
Since the season ended, Chaim Bloom has shown that he is willing to sacrifice some offensive production for defense heading into 2022, as the Red Sox traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for old friend Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects. In Bradley Jr., the Sox gain a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder who was among the best at patrolling center field in the National League last year. Combine the addition of Bradley Jr. with some pieces already in place — such as Enrique Hernandez and Christian Arroyo — and I do believe the Red Sox have what it takes to be a better team defensively in 2022.
Saving money is one of the most common New Year resolutions people have, but since the Red Sox are not individual person and are a baseball team, a business entity if you will, I will adjust this resolution for the Red Sox to make money. They also say you need to spend money to make money, so I’m going to put the Red Sox in the spending phase and say extend Rafael Devers. I’m so nervous about him playing somewhere else that the longer it drags on it feels like it won’t happen. That said, it makes all the sense in the world to wait until a new CBA is in place to get an extension done so i should just calm the hell down but I’d say the thought of Devers playing elsewhere is cause enough to be dramatic.
My resolution for 2022 is that Chris Sale stays healthy. Like nearly all resolutions, it probably won’t work, but it’s what I want and I’m willing to lie to myself over it. Sale is the single most important Red Sox player and I don’t think it’s close. A healthy Sale gives the Sox a leg up against anyone at any time and that’s kinda very seriously important. There’s a good chance that on his best day he’s still the best pitcher in the world, and it we’re making resolutions, I resolve to let him do it. Let it be so, and don’t let him get hurt reading this.
My resolution is for Chaim Bloom: spend money! I mean, don’t go crazy or anything with 10-year deals for fragile pitchers (Devers? Sure why not). But if there’s a reasonable deal to bring back Kyle Schwarber, do it! Don’t worry that 2022 might be high when money is always coming off the books. That’s just a much of a tool as Rule 5 picks or the draft. And it’s one that might be even more powerful once the lockout ends and guys look for homes. Pay someone in 2022 and let them try free agency again in a normal winter. The risk is minimal but the reward could be huge.
The Red Sox New Year’s resolution this year should be to “stay likable”. The 2021 Sox got the best out of several players, young and veteran, and noticeably got along with each other, both on the field and in the locker room. The players credited and encouraged the fans throughout the postseason, and the staff kept the jams flowing over the PA system, creating a great home-field advantage down the stretch. Rolling that into 2022 starts with making every effort to keep their core players around long-term.
Whether that will be possible with Xander Bogaerts remains to be seen as a Scott Boras client, but locking up Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and even an extension for Nate Eovaldi should be front and center to keep continuity, leadership, and a likable core for the fanbase to root for in the coming years. We have seen in the past here the need to sign two or three free agents in the same offseason (A-Gon, Crawford, Lackey, Price, Sandoval come to mind) and you never truly know how a new group of players will jell. Keep Xander, Raffy, and, on a shorter-term deal, Nate around to lead a group that should be entering their competition window for the foreseeable future.
The Red Sox 2022 New Year’s Resolution should be to improve their defense. In 2021, Boston ranked in the bottom third of the league in most defensive statistics (in fact, the Sox ranked dead last in Statcast’s team Outs Above Average leaderboard for the 2021 season). Although the talented infield duo of Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts contribute more on offense than what they take away in defense, the team as a whole must improve its skills. The outfield display of defense last year was in one word: meh. The group of Alex Verdugo, Kiké Hernández, Hunter Renfroe, Kyle Schwarber, and Jarren Duran had their fair share of highlight-reel plays, but they were not above average in defense in any way. Looking at some of the league’s most successful teams last year, most rank high up in defensive statistics (the Cardinals, Astros, Rays, and Giants finished top-five in OAA).
So, if Boston plans on becoming a championship-caliber team in the future, their defense must improve and begin to follow the path of the offensive output that their young stars have produced in these past seasons.
I’d like their New Year’s resolution to be less thrifty. The Sox haven’t made a big free agent add since J.D. Martinez in 2018 and haven’t spent a load of money on an individual player since re-signing Nathan Eovaldi in 2019. My biggest complaint of the Chaim Bloom era has been the unwillingness to go after high end free agents. Now, I know ownership doesn’t want to exceed the luxury tax so I can’t dump this all over Bloom and company here, but I think Bloom prefers not to shop at this end of the market. I’d like to see them change that and go after just one guy. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, or Clayton Kershaw would make me feel so much better about this team’s willingness to dump cash at an area of need instead of shopping at the clearance rack.
My 2022 resolution for the Red Sox is for Chaim Bloom—be bold. The last couple of years have been great for the Red Sox organization as Bloom has come in and really rebuilt the farm system and depth, all while returning the team to contention. He has done a fantastic Ben Cherington impression by adding layers of depth to the farm system in a number of creative ways. Now we need to see if he has any Dave Dombrowski in him, the ability to go out and make a big splash to win now. If he can prove capable of this he will be the first person in charge since Theo Epstein with a knack for both of those skills. I’m not sure if he has it in him, but if he does, Bloom has a chance to be one of the greats.