Red Sox

Grading the Red Sox' offseason moves at halfway point

Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have bounced back from a miserable start to the season and appear to be legitimate playoff contenders as they approach the halfway point of the campaign. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as our John Tomase recently explained, deserves his fair share of credit for the stunning turnaround.

Bloom made headlines with the signing of Trevor Story, but it was the moves that were met with little fanfare that helped fuel Boston's recent surge. Right-hander Michael Wacha has played at an All-Star level and reliever Matt Strahm has been a stabilizing force out of the bullpen. Rob Refsnyder, signed to a minor-league deal, has thrived in a fourth outfielder role for the big-league club.

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Those were the hits, but the Red Sox front office also had a couple of misses last winter. With about 50 percent of the 2022 MLB season in the books, it's time to hand out grades for each of Boston's offseason moves.

Traded Hunter Renfroe to Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects

Grade: B+

Could the Red Sox use Hunter Renfroe's bat in their lineup? Of course. The slugging outfielder would be a significant offensive upgrade over Bradley. But in the grand scheme of things, this is looking like a stellar deal for Boston.

The prospects acquired in the trade, infielders Alex Binelas and David Hamilton, are ranked 17th and 31st in the Red Sox farm system, respectively. Binelas slashed .245/.355/.495 with 14 homers and 43 RBI this season with High-A Greenville before being promoted to Double-A Portland. Hamilton is hitting just .206 with five homers for the Sea Dogs but has shown off his blazing speed with 25 stolen bases.

 

Prior to being placed on the injured list on Sunday, Renfroe looked like his 2021 self at the plate. The 30-year-old is batting .247 with 13 homers and a .789 OPS through 54 games played. While those numbers unsurprisingly dwarf Bradley's, Boston still is fifth in MLB in runs scored (353) despite the downgrade. We won't truly know the value of this trade until Binelas and Hamilton finish their development, but it's a passing grade for now.

Signed Rob Refsnyder to minor-league contract

Grade: A

There was no guarantee Refsnyder would make an appearance with Boston this season, never mind be a legitimate difference-maker. The veteran utilityman has stepped up when called upon as a reliable outfield option both offensively and defensively. He's 12-for-33 (.364) with a homer and six RBI in 12 games with the major league club. That'll play.

Signed Michael Wacha to one-year, $7 million contract

Grade: A

An underwhelming offseason signing has turned into one of the Red Sox' most reliable starting pitchers this year. Wacha is making a serious case to be an All-Star for the second time in his career, posting a 6-1 record and 2.34 ERA through 12 starts. The soon-to-be 31-year-old also earned the second complete-game shutout of his 10-year MLB career. There's bound to be some regression down the stretch, but Wacha already has been more valuable to Boston's success than anyone anticipated he'd be heading into the season.

Signed Jake Diekman to two-year, $7 million contract

Grade: C-

When the Red Sox signed Diekman, the expectation was the left-hander could compete for the closer role. He's only two seasons removed from a sensational campaign in which he had a 0.42 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with the Oakland Athletics. Unfortunately, the 35-year-old has been unable to duplicate that success since then.

Diekman has been one of the least trustworthy options out of Boston's bullpen this year. Through 30 appearances (26 innings) he has a 3.12 ERA, but a worrisome 1.65 strikeout to walk ratio (33 SO, 20 BB). He has a 1.46 WHIP and a 5.25 FIP. The good news is Bloom and Co. didn't have to spend a fortune for Diekman's services, so they avoid a failing grade.

Signed Matt Strahm to one-year, $3 million contract

Grade: A-

Strahm has been the anti-Diekman through the first half of the season. The long-haired righty has a higher ERA (3.74) but has been far more reliable in high-leverage situations, posting a 1.15 WHIP and 2.58 FIP through 27 appearances (21 2/3 innings). He's also stepped up to close a few games and notched the first three saves of his career. Those key contributions have made that $3 million contract look like highway robbery.

Signed Rich Hill to one-year, $5 million contract

Grade: B

Hill has been pretty much exactly what the Red Sox expected him to be when they signed him for his third stint with the team. The 42-year-old has a 4.09 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 3.99 FIP through 14 starts. He had a 3.86 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 4.34 WHIP in 32 games last year. He's been a solid backend starter, which is everything you can hope to get from a pitcher who tops out at 88 mph with his fastball.

 

Signed Trevor Story to six-year, $140 million contract

Grade: C+

We wouldn't rule out Story making this grade look foolish over the next few months. The former Colorado Rockies slugger has been streaky at the plate the season but is making up for it with Gold Glove-caliber defense at second base. It's safe to say Story won't finish the season with a .224 batting average and he's never played a full season with less than 24 homers, so we should expect a huge second half for the two-time All-Star. It's worth noting he ranks ninth in MLB with 51 RBI.

Signed James Paxton to one-year, $10 million contract

Grade: N/A

Paxton is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Barring any further setbacks, he should return for the latter half of the campaign. The Red Sox included a two-year club option for 2023 and 2024 in Paxton's contract, so the southpaw could turn out to be a steal if he looks like his Seattle Mariners self when he returns to the mound.