It certainly didn’t start the way he wanted thanks to a “funny but not funny” poke to the eye from his two-year-old, but in the midst of his walk year, Brock Holt is looking like Brock Holt again.
The utility man came into last night’s game batting .303 with an .777 OPS, both of which would be career highs, and he’s already played five different positions in his first 23 games.
A light-hearted and popular clubhouse presence, Holt’s contract expires at season’s end, where he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
So why not extend the glue guy now?
Dave Dombrowski generally doesn’t negotiate during the season because he feels it can be a distraction, but this is Holt we’re talking about, not Mookie Betts.
Making $3.5 million this season, Holt isn’t going to break the bank, and he’s already told the Eagle-Tribune that he’d be willing to take a hometown discount to stay.
“I love being a part of this organization. This is where I want to end up and play for as long as I’ve got left,” Holt said before the season. “Playing a game, obviously you can’t play forever, but if you’re happy, if you’re comfortable, and you enjoy where you’re at — My family loves it. I love it. It’s a good place to be.
“I’m happy I’m here with the Red Sox,” Holt reiterated. “Hopefully I can stick around. That’s what I’d like to do. I love it here. I love the role that I’m in. I’ve come to embrace it.”
That jack-of-all-positions role has already landed Holt in an All-Star Game, and Alex Cora knows how valuable he is.
“I think the whole superutility phrase is overused to be honest with you,” the manager said. “Because you play a lot of positions doesn’t mean you’re a superutility player. You’re just a utility player. Trust me, I know that. I was just a utility player... Brock, he’s a superutility player.
“You have two or three players in one player,” Cora continued. “You can use him in different situations. As a starter, as a pinch hitter, as a defensive replacement. He can play 15 days in a row when somebody gets hurt. Yeah. It’s a luxury for us.”
Off the field, he’s everything Cora asks his players to be, too. Holt is genuine, transparent, and accountable.
Take last homestand for example, when Holt made two eye-opening mistakes in the span of 24 hours. There were no excuses after either loss; Holt owned both of them.
When he ran through Andy Barkett’s (late) stop sign, Holt took the blame.
“I put my head down and when I looked up, the catcher had the ball,” Holt said. “I talked to Andy earlier and said, ‘Hey, man. That’s on me.”
When he got hung up on the right field wall the next night and watched Hunter Pence round the bases for an inside-the-park home run, the optics were bad. Holt called himself out for it.
“I assumed it had gone out, I had no idea it was still in play,” Holt explained. “That’s kind of embarrassing on my part. Got to do a better job of paying more attention. That one was on me.”
In the clubhouse, Holt is never afraid to be himself, and that brings the best out of his teammates, too. He turned the always reserved Andrew Benintendi into a “flow bro,” will break out a guitar during rain delays, and every time J.D. Martinez goes deep, the Holt hug that follows goes viral.
There’s real value to levity that can break up the monotony of an 162-game season.
Tzu-Wei Lin would be the most logical replacement, and could turn into a fine ballplayer, but he’s not Holt. Is it really worth risking that over a couple million dollars?
Good ballplayer, good teammate, and great glue guy, why not give Holt the contract extension he covets?
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason
The kids matter to Brock
In the community, Holt is a giant.
The Red Sox Jimmy Fund captain, Holt and his wife, Lakyn, visit children battling cancer regularly. When their annual Radio Telethon rolls around, Holt is the most sought after player on the roster for 36 hours, and with good reason.
If he does hit free agency, that’s something he’ll consider.
“Everyone talks about the baseball aspect, but if you’re in one spot for a long time — I’ve been here since 2013 — we get involved in stuff off the field and I’ve become a big part of the Jimmy Fund, and that’s become a big part of what I do and who I am,” Holt said. “You think about that. You go somewhere else to play and you’re not a part of that anymore.”