Six Ex-Red Sox Players Boston Could Bring Back This MLB Offseason

Here’s the thing about Red Sox fans: They don’t forget, for better or worse.

 

Those who thrive in a Boston uniform are considered royalty, good people and part of the crew. Those who don’t, well, it depends.

 

This creates inherent pressure that some players simply can’t handle, while others embrace the stakes, understanding it’s a reflection of the region’s passion and enthusiasm. It sure beats the alternative of no one caring, right?

 

Anyway, this is to say Red Sox fans keep tabs on old friends (and enemies) and in many cases advocate for reunions. After all, if a player proved his mettle in Boston and/or fills a need on the current ballclub, why not?

 

 

With that in mind, let’s look across Major League Baseball and identify several former Red Sox players who are free agents this offseason and theoretically could fit into Boston’s 2024 plans.

 

There are a lot of familiar faces kicking around on the open market — apologies to those who aren’t mentioned here — but we’ll focus on the most notable names, with an emphasis on recent production and whether the Red Sox realistically could consider bringing them back.

 

 

 

Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

Rodriguez is a free agent after opting out of the three years and $49 million remaining on his contract with the Detroit Tigers. His 2023 season, like much of his career, featured some peaks and valleys, but the overall production was solid, with Rodriguez posting a 3.30 ERA, a 3.66 FIP and a career-best 1.153 WHIP across 26 starts (152 2/3 innings). The Red Sox obviously need starting pitching, and Rodriguez, who spent seven seasons in Boston (2015-21), represents a nice second-tier option. He’s entering his age-31 season and might be attainable on a four-year deal worth less than nine figures. Not to mention Rodriguez was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, meaning the team that signs him won’t need to relinquish draft compensation.

 

Michael Wacha, RHP

Wacha falls into the next tier of available starters. He’s not an ace. And he doesn’t really fit the bill of a No. 2 or a No. 3, either. But you’re going to see glimpses of mid-rotation production, albeit with a scaled-back workload. And there’s value in that profile over the course of a 162-game MLB season. Wacha made only 23 starts (127 1/3 innings) for Boston in 2022 but handled the job just fine, going 11-2 with a 3.32 ERA, a 4.14 FIP and a 1.115 WHP. So long as he’s signed with the appropriate expectations, Wacha is a viable candidate to flesh out any rotation, presumably with a price tag that wouldn’t throw Boston into financial disarray. He turns 33 in July.

 

Craig Kimbrel, LHP

It’s understandable if Red Sox fans are apprehensive about the idea of bringing back Kimbrel, who was named an All-Star in each of his three seasons as Boston’s closer (2016-18) but sometimes walked a tight rope en route to slamming the door. He’s turning 36 and just faltered in the postseason with the Philadelphia Phillies. But the Red Sox could use a left-handed reliever, and Kimbrel offers upside as a hard-throwing southpaw with a track record of missing bats in the later innings.

 

 

Joe Kelly, RHP

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Kelly in Boston. There were points during his five seasons with the Red Sox (2014-18) where he sputtered. But who can forget his contributions in the 2018 postseason? And looking back, he just kind of fit the fabric of the city. (Joe Kelly Fight Club, am I right?) So, with Kelly now a free agent after the Los Angeles Dodgers declined his option for 2024, it’s at least worth pondering a reunion. Kelly, who turns 36 in June, is coming off a 2023 in which he posted a 4.12 ERA in 42 relief appearances, but he was particularly strong following a midseason trade from the Chicago White Sox. He struck out a career-high 13.7 batters per nine innings across 39 1/3 frames. Teams always are looking for bullpen help. The Red Sox are no exception, even though that was an area of relative strength last season.

 

J.D. Martinez, DH

It’ll be interesting to see how the Red Sox use the designated hitter spot in 2024. They could opt for a rotation, with an eye toward maximizing roster flexibility and getting guys off their feet, unless they re-sign Justin Turner. That said, Boston needs to add some balance to its lefthanded-heavy lineup, especially if Turner leaves in free agency. And it just so happens Martinez — a right-handed hitter and the Red Sox’s DH for five seasons from 2018 to 2022 — is available after a productive 2023 with the Dodgers in which he slashed .271/.321/.572 with 33 home runs and 103 RBIs. Likely? Probably not. But worth mentioning, nonetheless.

 

Hunter Renfroe, OF

The Red Sox could look to retain Adam Duvall, basically an older version of Renfroe who offers more versatility thanks to his ability to play center field in addition to the corners. If not, Renfroe isn’t a terrible consolation prize if Boston is keen on adding a right-handed-hitting outfielder with some pop. Renfroe, entering his age-32 season, wasn’t great in 2023, slashing just .233/.297/.416 with 20 homers and 60 RBIs in 140 games (548 plate appearances) split between the Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds. Still, his 2021 production with Boston (31 homers, 96 RBIs, career-best 124 OPS+) looms large when identifying potential fits, on and off the field.

 

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