It’s not even spring training yet, and the Boston Red Sox have an MVP in their ranks.
Jorge Alfaro, the veteran catcher in agreement with the Sox on a minor-league deal, is the Dominican winter league’s finals MVP. He went 8-for-19 in the series with a pair of home runs and 4 RBI, helping the Tigres del Licey defeat the Estrellas Orientales in five games.
Alfaro’s Red Sox deal, agreed to this week, will pay him $2 million if he makes the majors. As reported by Chris Cotillo, if he doesn’t make the big-league club, Alfaro has a pair of opt-outs on June 1 and July 1.
Originally a top prospect in the Texas Rangers and Philadelphia Phillies systems, Alfaro was part of two enormous trades early on in his professional career. At the 2015 trade deadline, the Rangers sent him to the Phillies in their blockbuster Cole Hamels trade. Alfaro then debuted with the Phillies in 2016 and spent a significant portion of the next two seasons as their primary catcher before being dealt to the Miami Marlins for J.T. Realmuto.
A career .256/.305/.396 hitter over seven seasons (478 games), the 29-year-old profiles as an “all or nothing” hitter. He hits the ball hard (career 90.6 mph exit velocity, 45.3% hard-hit rate) but is well below league average in home runs and drawing walks. His career 34.2% strikeout rate is more than 10 percent above league average.
The Marlins traded Alfaro to the San Diego Padres last offseason, and his spring training performance earned him a spot on the 2022 Opening Day roster. In 82 games last year, he hit .246/.285/.383 with 14 doubles, 7 home runs, 25 runs scored, and 40 RBI, but he only drew 11 walks and struck out 98 times.
Last season, Alfaro ranked in the 37th percentile in framing, only slightly worse than new teammate Reese McGuire, who ranked in the 40th percentile. But unlike McGuire, Alfaro brings some serious speed and strength to the table; he’s ranked in the 70th percentile or better in Sprint Speed each year of his career. Whereas McGuire was in the 20th for Sprint Speed, 50th percentile for Pop Time 2B, and 57th percentile for Max. Exit Velocity, Alfaro ranked in the 85th in SS, 96th in Pop Time 2B, and 97th in Max. EV.
Barring an out-of-the-blue move, it looks like the Sox are prepared to head into spring training with a cadre of underwhelming catching options. Alfaro, McGuire, and the barely-out-of-rookie-eligibility Connor Wong are among those who will compete for playing time. It’s not the most promising situation, but it’s what the Sox chose. Despite Chaim Bloom repeatedly stating a desire to upgrade behind the dish, they passed or missed out on several free agents and trades to fortify the position. Most notably, they opted not to re-sign longtime catcher Christian Vázquez, whom they traded to the Houston Astros at the 2022 deadline. Vázquez, the longest-tenured player in the organization at the time of the trade, was publicly hopeful about a reunion, but ended up signing a three-year deal with the Minnesota Twins instead.