Overlooked on one of MLB’s elite offenses, Brock Holt is playing the best baseball of his career with the Red Sox.
It’s been a roller coaster of a season for the defending World Series Champion, Boston Red Sox. The decision to let key bullpen pieces depart via free agency (Craig Kimbrel / Joe Kelly), combined with injury and inconsistency in the starting rotation, have led to near nightly adventures from the pitching staff. The offense, however, is performing at a rate that has the team ten games over .500 in late July, and in contention for a playoff spot.
Highlighted by a breakout season from Rafael Devers, and career years from Xander Bogaerts and Christian Vazquez, along with a 4.1 WAR (to date) from Mookie Betts and an .885 OPS from JD Martinez, the offense is performing at an elite level, and is among the very best in the Major Leagues. An offensive explosion against the New York Yankees did nothing to dispel the notion that the Red Sox are still an offensive juggernaut.
As the Red Sox claw back into playoff contention, considerable buzz is starting to build around the MVP candidacy of Devers, Bogaerts, and a mid-season push by Betts. A late season push to unseat Mike Trout and actually claim the award seems unlikely, but there is a legitimate case to be made that none of them are the team MVP.
After an atrocious start to the season offensively, followed by a freak eye injury that led to a lengthy IL stint, Brock Holt has transformed into a steady offensive force, while cementing his role as the team’s most versatile player defensively. While, admittedly, a still small sample size, Holt entered Friday’s game against the rival Yankees hitting .338 with an .829 OPS on the season. Having only played 44 games and accumulating just 146 plate appearances because of the IL stint, he’s proven to be one of the more consistent forces in all of baseball since returning to action- hitting .368 with a .902 OPS in his last thirty games.
“Brock Star” was acquired by the Red Sox prior to the 2013 season, with pitcher Joel Hanrahan, in a deal with the Pirates that sent back a four player package highlighted by reliever Mark Melancon. After a 26 game stint with the Sox in 2013, he assumed the utility role permanently in 2014 and finished eighth in AL Rookie of the Year voting. He followed that performance with an All Star selection in 2015, making the team as Boston’s lone representative in the 2015 Mid-Summer’s Classic. Injuries and a prolonged bout with vertigo put Holt’s status with the team in question in the season’s that followed, and a below average season at the plate in 2017 was a key factor in the team’s decision to trade for Eduardo Nunez that summer.
While dealing with injuries and constant questions about his roster spot, Holt continued to perform when called upon, and capped his comeback season by hitting for the cycle in the 2018 ALDS in Yankee Stadium. That feat would be followed by a World Series ring just a few weeks later.
After a failed comeback attempt by Dustin Pedroia, the cooling off of rookie Michael Chavis, and the DFA of Nunez, the 2019 season has seen Holt get consistent at-bats since returning from the IL. What’s transpired, is the finest offensive stretch of Brock Holt’s career. In addition to swinging a red hot bat, Holt provides a unique leadership role to the club. In previous years, Dustin Pedroia was seen as the unofficial team captain with his all -out style of play and “lead by example” demeanor. In contrast, David Ortiz kept the clubhouse loose with his “rah-rah” motivation and superstar personality. In 2019, Brock Holt brings the perfect blend of both. Known for his clubhouse hi-jinx, jokes, routines and superstitions, Holt’s personality blends perfectly on a team with an equal mix of veterans and young, up and coming MLB stars.
Brock Holt will be granted unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career at the end of the 2019 season. The organization has dealt with the expiring contracts of Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts, but will likely transition focus to J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts. While Brock Holt has flown under the radar, it’s likely that the Front Office will look to work out a deal to keep their do-it-all utility man.
Brock Holt’s ability to adequately play every position on the field outside of pitcher and catcher makes him a valuable commodity for any club. While the sample isn’t yet large enough, if he finishes the season with roughly 100 games played and a batting average in the .300 range with an OPS around .800, his offensive upside will only enhance the market for his services. In recent years we’ve seen the “super utility” player sign the large deal. Ben Zobrist got a 4 year / $56M deal from the Cubs prior to the 2016 season. More recently the market has seen D.J. LeMahieu sign for 2 / $24M, Whit Merrifield sign a 4 / $16.5M extension buying out his arbitration years and adding a few more years of security for a player with minimal service time. Those examples paint a pretty broad picture. The Zobrist deal looks to be a bad contract at this point, while the LeMahieu and Merrifield contact’s look like two of the best bargains in MLB.
Is Brock Holt, at age 31, a player worthy of $10M+ per year on the open market? Has the combination of good health and regular playing time unlocked the true offensive potential of the Brock Star, and can he stay consistent? How does the organization value leadership and clubhouse presence, and how will it all factor in to Holt’s future with the Red Sox? There seems to be little question as to where Brock’s heart is and where he wants to continue his career. The next few moths will likely determine if the Boston Red Sox feel the same way.
One thing’s for certain, there are many Red Sox fans that would love to keep Brock Holt for the remainder of his career.