Any player who joins the Red Sox is immediately under a microscope.
Even when morale is low, expectations are high. For Adam Duvall, crank that heat up a few dozen notches; signed to a one-year, $7 million deal, he has quite the tall order waiting for him:
- Succeed in the American League after playing your entire nine-year career in the National League
- Play center field in America’s oldest, most beloved, and weirdest-shaped outfield.
- Hit home runs to make up for the fact that JD Martinez is gone and Trevor Story is out indefinitely.
- Stay healthy.
- And perhaps the most difficult task of all: be a part of a Red Sox team that makes fans believe in magic again.
Welcome to Boston. No pressure.
Introducing himself to reporters on Wednesday via Zoom, Duvall said he’s not only “up for the challenge,” but “looking forward to it.”
“The opportunity to play every day” was a selling point, and though he acknowledged that playing center at Fenway comes with “a small learning curve,” he believes he “can be a plus defender at any position out there.” He’s ranked in the 88th percentile or better in Outs Above Average four times in the last six years, and brings above-average speed and arm strength to the table.
In order to familiarize himself with the “very unique ballpark,” Duvall says Kiké Hernández will be “probably the first person that I go to for advice.” The Sox originally signed Hernández to play second base, but the super-utility player ended up spending most of his first two seasons in center. When the Sox gave him a one-year extension last fall, the original plan was for him to be the everyday center fielder in ’23. Instead, he’ll be playing a lot of shortstop.
Over nine seasons in the majors, Duvall is a career .230/.289/.465 hitter. Since his first full season in 2016, he’s averaged 111 games, 19 doubles and 22 home runs per year. The Red Sox will be his first foray into the American League after playing for the Giants, Reds, Marlins and two stints with the Braves, but his bat could play very nicely in Boston. Baseball Savant lists 106 of his 163 career home runs going to the pull side.
Hours after Chaim Bloom described Duvall as “full go” after his season-ending wrist injury and surgery last year, the veteran outfielder noted that he hasn’t had any setbacks.
The 34-year-old, who won a ring and Gold Glove with the Atlanta Braves in 2021, thinks people shouldn’t count the Sox out just yet. He praised the recent bullpen upgrades, and said “I think they’re not getting enough credit as far as where we stand.”
To Duvall, veteran additions such as himself give the Sox an unexpected edge: “One thing we do have is guys that have won before, and that’s important … when you show up to the ballpark and you expect to win, like most of these guys have, that’s when you take a step forward.”
Hernández a recruiter
Add Duvall to the long list of players Hernández has helped recruit since joining the team before the 2021 season. He also had a hand in bringing Trevor Story, Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner to town.
Duvall told reporters that one of the key “selling points” that convinced him to sign on was that Alex Cora and so many players reached out. Among them was Turner, and Duvall says he’s “been fascinated with his swing” and is “eager to kind of pick his brain” about hitting.
Barnes throws shade
After Chaim Bloom told reporters that telling Matt Barnes he’d been designated for assignment was one of the most difficult conversations he’s had, the veteran reliever made a point to retweet a post that showed how the Sox had ‘run him into the ground’ for years.
Big payday for Springs
Jeffrey Springs was one of many reasons the 2020 Sox were hard to watch.
In his one season in Boston, Springs posted a 7.08 ERA across eight starts and eight relief appearances. Though there was more to his season than met the eye, it wasn’t enough to keep him around. By spring training 2021, the Sox traded him and Chris Mazza to the Rays for prospects Ronaldo Hernandez and Nick Sogard.
How the tables have turned. In his first two seasons with the Rays, Springs compiled a 2.70 ERA over 76 appearances, including 25 starts. He faced the Sox five times last season, and held the lineup to .235/.307/.412, though they did tag him for nine earned runs in 18 innings.
On Wednesday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported the Rays are giving Springs a four-year, $31 million extension, despite still being under club control for two more years. Incentives and an option could bring the contract’s total value to $65.75 million and five seasons.
Pitching, especially bullpen construction and performance, has been a significant area of need for the Sox over the last few years. Springs getting a sizable deal less than 24 hours after the Sox designated Matt Barnes for assignment really hammers the point home.
Hours after trading lefty Josh Taylor to the Royals on Tuesday, the Sox signed another southpaw.
Matt Dermody is getting a minor-league contract and will have an opportunity to impress at big-league camp when spring training begins next month. Dermody began his big-league career with the Blue Jays in 2016-17 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018. Since becoming a free agent following the 2019 season, Dermody has signed on with the Cubs as well as teams in the Atlantic League, Japan’s Nippon league, and Korea’s KBO.
Across 27.1 career innings in the majors, the 32-year-old has allowed 17 earned runs, struck out 22 batters, and issued seven walks, though the majority of that work was with the Blue Jays half a decade ago. He could offer the Sox depth in the rotation and bullpen; last year, he compiled a 3.74 across 13 starts and seven relief appearances with the Cubs’ Triple-A club in Iowa.
Spring training dates
Friday, Feb. 3 – Truck Day. Wednesday, Feb. 15 – Pitchers and catchers report. Monday, Feb. 20 – Full squad. Friday, Feb. 24 – First spring training game vs. Northeastern University.