MLB free agents 2022: Six realistic targets for Red Sox to improve roster

Six realistic free agents Red Sox should target this offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

This is the offseason for Chaim Bloom to go outside his comfort zone. The Boston Red Sox chief baseball officer has gone bargain hunting since joining the front office in late 2019, but a reluctance to spend in free agency this time around could alter the course of the franchise.

The first order of business should be re-signing homegrown stars Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers to long-term extensions. Once those items are checked off the to-do list, we can focus on the realistic free-agent options that can fill the numerous holes on the roster.

Tomase: Red Sox rotation taking shape, but badly needs top-end stability

Aaron Judge and Jacob deGrom top the list of free agents available, but neither qualifies as a “realistic” target for Boston. And while Trea Turner and Carlos Correa are the next-best players on the market, we’re naively operating under the assumption that Bogaerts returns as Boston’s shortstop.

So who does that leave as “realistic” targets for Bloom and Co. this winter? Here are six names who should be on the Red Sox’ radar.

Carlos Rodon, LHP

The Red Sox need a true ace atop the rotation in 2023. And no, Chris Sale does not count.

Rodon showed with the San Francisco Giants that his breakout year with the Chicago White Sox was no fluke. The southpaw earned his second All-Star nod and finished with a 2.28 ERA as well as a league-best 2.25 FIP. He tallied 237 strikeouts in 178 innings pitched to lead MLB in K/9 (12.0).

Boston has a chance to correct its critical mistake of passing on Rodon and Toronto Blue Jays ace Kevin Gausman last offseason. Rodon should be at the top of Bloom’s wish list.

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Chris Bassitt, RHP

The next best thing after Rodon, Bassitt was rock-solid in his first season with the New York Mets. The former Oakland ace was the perfect No. 3 starter behind the deGrom/Max Scherzer tandem, posting a 3.42 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 181 2/3 innings of work. He’s more of a No. 2 or 3 starter than a bonafide ace, but there’s no doubt he’d be a significant upgrade to a rotation filled with question marks.

Josh Bell or Jose Abreu, 1B/DH

Assuming J.D. Martinez’s days in Boston are over, the Red Sox could look to sign Josh Bell or Jose Abreu to take his spot.

Bell has had an OPS of at least .800 in all but one full season in his seven-year MLB career. His production fell off a cliff after being traded to the San Diego Padres last season, but he raked during his time with the Washington Nationals. In 103 games with the Nats in 2022, Bell slashed .301/.384/.493 with 24 doubles, 14 homers and 57 RBI. Boston will gladly take those numbers in the DH spot next season, and his ability to fill in when needed at first base is a bonus.

Abreu had a career-low 15 homers last season, so his power could be starting to decline as he approaches age 36. The rest of his numbers, however, were on par with the rest of his stellar career. The 2020 AL MVP slashed .304/.378/.446 with 40 doubles and 75 RBI in 157 games.

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Andrew Chafin, LHP

Signing Edwin Diaz was the dream scenario for a Red Sox bullpen that needs an overhaul this offseason. Unfortunately, the New York Mets wasted no time bringing the star closer with the trumpet song to a record-breaking contract.

Other big-name bullpen arms on the market include Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen, with the latter being the only one of that trio the Red Sox should even think about. The reliever that might make the most sense, however, isn’t exactly a household name.

Chafin has quietly been one of the game’s best relief pitchers over the last couple of seasons. In 2021 with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s, he notched a 1.83 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in 71 appearances. Last year with the Detroit Tigers, the 32-year-old had a 2.83 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 64 outings.

He isn’t a true closer, so the Red Sox will still need to find a way to fill that role and avoid the closer-by-committee approach that failed last season. Still, Chafin would bring a major boost to the back of the ‘pen.

Brandon Nimmo, OF

Barring a surprise move, the Red Sox have Kiké Hernandez locked in the center field spot for 2023 and Alex Verdugo in one of the corner outfield spots. Behind them, the lack of outfield depth is glaring.

Nimmo has spent most of his time with the Mets as a center fielder, but he has the versatility to move over to either corner outfield position. The 29-year-old showed what he’s capable of when healthy last season, slashing .274/.367/.433 with 30 doubles, seven triples, 16 homers and 64 RBI. Since Bloom will likely let another team break the bank for Judge, Nimmo would make for an excellent consolation prize.