The wait, wait, wait ... NOW! approach to the offseason that Chaim Bloom has frequently employed since taking over the Red Sox can be hit or miss. Holding off until spring training of 2020 didn't particularly maximize the return for Mookie Betts, but Kiké Hernández proved to be a solid late January signing in 2021, and claiming John Schreiber a month later would pay off handsomely down the road.
When it comes to late-winter bang for buck, however, it's hard to beat Adam Duvall at the moment.
The red-hot outfielder didn't officially sign until the final week of January, well after counterparts like Mitch Haniger, Andrew Benintendi, and Michael Conforto had already cashed in.
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In fact, of the 21 outfielders to sign this winter in free agency per Spotrac, only five received lower guaranteed totals than Duvall's one-year and $7 million. Among those making more are declining slugger Wil Myers (Reds, $7.5 million), journeyman Jurickson Profar (Rockies, $7.75 million), and the injury-prone Kevin Kiermaier (Blue Jays, $9 million).
Those three have combined for zero home runs and one run batted in. Meanwhile, Duvall is directly responsible for two of the three Red Sox victories.
One of them came Thursday in Detroit when Duvall launched a three-run homer to break a 3-3 tie and propel the Red Sox to a 6-3 victory over the Tigers.
It was just the latest example of heroics from a player coming off 2022 curtailed by a freak wrist injury. Duvall had just started to hit with the Braves when he tore the tendon sheath in his left wrist last July after awkwardly colliding with a wall in short left field. Surgery ended his season and he remained unsigned for much of the winter before the Red Sox, in need of a right-handed hitting outfielder with the ability to play center, came calling.
Needless to say, the early returns are smashing. Duvall leads the American League in home runs (3) and RBIs (12), while hitting .458 with a 1.577 OPS. He is slugging over 1.000 and was already named Player of the Week to open the season after drilling a walk-off homer to beat the Orioles.
"He's off to a great start," Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters in Detroit, and Tigers counterpart A.J. Hinch agreed.
"Duvall has been smoking hot," he said.
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It's scary to think where the Red Sox would be without him. Duval has either driven in or scored over 40 percent of the team's 41 runs (not counting homers twice). He is barreling the ball as consistently as any player in baseball, and his right-handed power stroke is perfectly built for Fenway Park, as he proved with the 2020 Braves when he went deep three times in one game.
So even though it may have taken a while, Duvall can't be happier that he landed in Boston.
"There were actually several selling points," he said after signing. "One was the opportunity to play every day, the chance to be part of an organization that has a lot of tradition and has had a lot of success and a lot of good players, manager, so that was a huge selling point there. Another selling point was guys reaching out from the team and around the organization letting me know that they were looking forward to playing with me and things of those sorts, so I think it all came together. It was a culmination of different things, but I couldn't be more excited to be playing with the Red Sox and be a part of this ride."
Little did the Red Sox know in late January that Duvall wouldn't just be along for the ride, but driving the bus.