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How Do The Red Sox Solve The Duvall Depression?

What can the Red Sox do to fill the slot of the guy who was their best hitter this early in the season?

On Monday, it was reported that Adam Duvall had a distal radius fracture in his left wrist, and after the team’s loss to the Rays, Alex Cora said Duvall would not need surgery.

While that’s a minor victory, Duvall’s timetable for recovery still looks like at least four to six weeks, if not more (and given that he fractured the same wrist he had surgery on last season, delays may be inevitable.) For a Red Sox lineup that basically was held together by duct tape and Duvall’s bat, this still is a massive blow to a team that needs every win to make this season a success.

Let’s put that argument into a little more context

Baseball Savant’s 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings for Adam Duvall.
This is what an elite power hitter looks like.
Baseball Savant

Expected on-base average, expected batting average, expected slugging, barrel percentage, strikeout rate, whiff percentage, & chase rate. Those are otherworldly percentages right there. He was getting on base any way you see fit; hard hit balls, dingers, walks, you name it, he was doing it. He wasn’t striking out, he wasn’t chasing bad pitches out of the zone, he wasn’t missing the ball, and hell, he was even taking a healthy amount of walks. That’s an impact bat out of your lineup until at least Memorial Day.

Knowing the Red Sox brass’ philosophy, there’s going to be no major trade splash to replace Duvall for now. That doesn't mean we can’t do a little Moneyball.

How can we recreate Duvall in the aggregate?

Adam Duvall’s 2023 to date

33 11 15 4 14 0 0.455 0.514 1.544
These numbers are beyond impressive!

How can Alex Cora and/or Chaim Bloom get an aggregate OBP of 0.514 out of their lineup?

External Options

I’m going to start here just because this seems like the more fun option. Despite everyone and their mothers knowing Chaim Bloom won’t add to this team right now, let’s just make some conjecture about who could fill that void.

Bryan Reynolds

Ah, yes, the Pirate who just played excellently at Fenway Park last week. He’s been rumored to be on the trade market every season for the last three years, and yet he hasn’t been moved. That’s not to say there isn’t a little love affair with the city of Boston, at least. John Tomase caught up with Reynolds, who not only commented on liking the city in and of itself but commended the atmosphere Fenway Park creates when it’s packed to the gills. A natural center fielder with an OPS of 1.207 this season so far, he could be an add not just for this year but beyond to continue forming a new-look Red Sox core. The problem becomes what you pay the Pirates for him. You’re looking at giving up major prospects at the very least. Nick Yorke to start with? Do you have to consider parting ways with Bryan Bello or Marcelo Mayer? For that alone, I think Bloom would keep far, far away from a deal of this magnitude.

Hunter Renfroe

Are we sure Hunter Renfroe isn’t just an Adam Duvall dupe? Both had provided similar roles for the Red Sox: a semi-decent outfielder, a massive power bat, and mainly a three-true outcomes batter. Renfroe came alive for the Angels this weekend, homering in three consecutive games.

Fans were apoplectic last season when Bloom shipped him off to Milwaukee to reunite with Jackie Bradley Jr., an experiment that inarguably failed. However, is this the right use of resources for Bloom? Let’s not let this hot streak fool us Moneyball experts. Remember, our OBP metric of .514? Renfroe sits at .356. If we take a deeper look too, Renfroe’s Baseball Savant metrics do somewhat align with Duvall, but not in two important categories. Renfroe’s whiff and chase rates are both under the 50th percentile. While his strikeout rate is almost the same as Duvall’s in the 83rd percentile, the whiff and chase rates concern me that he’ll regress back to the mean and strike out a lot more. That’s not a risk I’d take.

Jorge Soler

Now here’s an interesting option. Another natural, right-handed outfielder with a proven slugger bat on a team with not very high expectations for the season. A contract that would just barely keep the Red Sox under the luxury tax threshold. Do the Moneyball numbers line up? Not a chance, right now. Soler commands an OBP of .250 on the dot. So why is he even in this conversation? Let’s look under the hood.

Jorge Soler’s Baseball Savant 2023 MLB Percentile Rankings
A lot of overlap with Duvall, and some fixable metrics!
Baseball Savant

Launching rockets like there’s no tomorrow. Expected batting metrics wayyyy above what his broad stats look like. The whiff rate in the 30th percentile isn’t great by any means, but it’s made up for with a chase rate almost as strong as Duvall’s. To me, this regression to the mean would work in the opposite direction of Hunter Renfroe. At some point this season, Soler will be bashing as his reputation has commanded across his MLB career. If Chaim Bloom needed to make a deal, this is the one I’d take.

Internal Options

We all know this is where the Red Sox are going to look for answers. It’s so early in the season that I don’t expect anyone to make a trade, let alone a splash, for another few months. Honestly, there are a few players who need to step it up.

Masataka Yoshida

Empirically, Yoshida looks like he’s adjusting well to the Majors. It’s just not reflecting on the stat sheets yet. Batting .235 with an OPS of .719, only one dinger, and six RBIs, we’re not getting the WBC version of Macho Man. As excited as we all were, maybe that’s not what we should have expected. Still, if Yoshida can bring some of that pop back, it goes a long way to helping out, considering he’s still batting cleanup.

Bobby Dalbec

Outfielder Bobby Dalbec? The newly bespectacled slugger has grazed the outfield grass a little in Worcester in an effort to make himself more valuable of a call-up going forward. If there’s any time for Dalbec to step up in his career, it’s now.

Raimel Tapia/Jarren Duran

With only seven plate appearances this season, I’m going to discount Tapia’s regular season stats. Hey, did you know Tapia had a .988 OPS in spring training this year? He earned that last roster spot for a reason. If he wants to make himself indispensable, this is probably the largest opportunity to do so. The same goes for Duran, whom the organization hasn’t given up on but to whom they definitely sent a message when they sent him to Worcester over letting Tapia walk. Does a chip on his shoulder make him the replacement-level outfielder the Sox need to re-balance the lineup?

It goes beyond saying that losing Adam Duvall is a massive loss for the Red Sox, no matter how short or long he may be off the field. It’s up to Cora and Bloom together to figure out how to navigate this mess. It may be their jobs on the line if they can’t.

Red Sox 3, White Sox 2: A Battle of Incompetence

Game 154: White Sox at Red Sox

Kim Ng for President (of Baseball Operations)