A few interesting free-agent options emerge for Red Sox

Red Sox

The Red Sox could have more options to address their many areas of need following Friday.

Cody Bellinger is a free agent as he’s declined from his MVP season just three years ago. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

An already intriguing MLB free agency market added a few names late Friday.

Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger, Mets first baseman Dominic Smith, and Nationals first baseman Luke Voit were just a few of the players that became free agents after they weren’t tendered by their respective ballclubs ahead of Friday’s non-tender deadline.

All three of those players seem like logical fits with the Red Sox.

Bellinger’s the biggest name of the group of players. The 27-year-old is one of the most decorated players in the game under 28 years old. He won the National League Rookie of the Year in 2017 and two years later, he was named NL MVP. Bellinger also played a key role in helping the Dodgers win the World Series in 2020 and has been named an All-Star twice.

However, all of those accomplishments already feel like they’re in the distant past with the way Bellinger’s been hitting over the last two seasons. In 2021, Bellinger had a .165 batting average with a .542 OPS to go along with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 95 games. He was a bit better at the plate in 2022, posting a .210 batting average and a .654 OPS to go along with 19 homers and 68 RBIs in 144 games, but was clearly not at the level he once was as a hitter to justify the cost of the Dodgers tendering his contract.

Bellinger has tried to fix his swing over the past couple seasons multiple times, but to no avail. Some have speculated that the dislocated shoulder injury he suffered when celebrating his home run with Kiké Hernández that ultimately won the Dodgers the 2020 NLCS might have caused the issues with his swing. Bellinger had surgery on his right shoulder following the Dodgers’ World Series win that season.

Obviously, there is some talent there with Bellinger. He had a .273 batting average to go along with 123 home runs and 312 RBIs in the four seasons (506 games) prior to the last two years.

While Bellinger’s bat has suffered, he’s still considered to be one of the best defenders in the outfield in the majors. Boston’s struggled with its outfield defense over the last few seasons and with Hernández, Alex Verdugo, Rob Refsnyder, and Jarren Duran being the only outfielders on its 40-man roster, Bellinger would likely have a regular starting spot. Signing Bellinger could also allow the Red Sox to move Hernández to second base if Xander Bogaerts leaves and they opt to move Trevor Story to shortstop.

The other big issue with the Red Sox’ outfield is that they didn’t provide much at the plate last season, either. Verdugo was the only player of the group to reach double digits in home runs, while Hernández dealt with injury and Refsnyder and Duran split time between the minors and majors. Bellinger is far from a guarantee to fix that issue.

Meanwhile, Smith and Voit could be options to pair with Triston Casas at first base next season. Voit would probably be the more reasonable option considering he’s a right-handed bat who could platoon with the lefty Casas. If Casas begins the year in Triple-A Worcester, Boston still has Eric Hosmer under contract and is paying him next to nothing for the next three seasons, so singing Voit would make sense there, too.

Several Red Sox fans likely remember Voit from his time with the Yankees, where he hit 68 home runs over four seasons. He also led the majors in home runs in 2020 with 22.

Voit didn’t have the insane power he had in 2020 (when he only played 56 games) over the last two seasons, but he’s still been hitting home runs on a consistent basis. He had 11 in 68 games with the Yankees in 2021 and hit 22 home runs in 135 games with the Padres and Nationals this past season.

Voit would also be a suitable option to replace J.D. Martinez as a designated hitter if the slugger opts to walk away from Boston in free agency. In 20 career games at Fenway Park, Voit has a .307 batting average and a .880 OPS to go along with three home runs and nine RBIs.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have reportedly shown interest in Smith in the past as they were rumored to be among the teams interested in the first baseman at the trade deadline. Those rumors though came prior to the deal that brought Hosmer from San Diego to Boston. Of course, the Red Sox could waive Hosmer with a minimal fee to make room for another left-handed hitting first baseman.

Smith had a career year in the 2020 pandemic-shortened season but has struggled since. After posting a .316 batting average with 10 home runs in 50 games that season, he’s hitting just .226 with 11 home runs over the last two seasons.

Franchy Cordero wasn’t tendered by the Red Sox ahead of Friday’s deadline, making him a free agent.

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