This Sox utility player broke out at Classic

March 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne’s Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

One of the best parts of the World Baseball Classic is that it can make names out of players you might not have heard much about in the past.

Take utility player , who will make his way back to Fort Myers, Fla., this week to rejoin his Red Sox after winning MVP in Pool A on the strength of his breakout offensive performance for Chinese Taipei.

In his sizzling four-game run in the WBC, Chang went 7-for-16 with two doubles, two homers (including a grand slam) and eight RBIs. All five teams in Pool A went 2-2. Chinese Taipei got eliminated due to tiebreakers. Chang couldn’t have done more to aid his team’s cause.

Who could have seen such an offensive eruption coming from a player mainly known for his defense?

When the Red Sox signed Chang to a one-year Major League contract on Feb. 16, there was little in the way of a buzz.

Chang was originally claimed off waivers by Boston from Tampa Bay on Sept. 12, 2022, giving him three weeks on the roster at the end of a forgettable season. Chang had just three hits in his 26 plate appearances with Boston. It was the conclusion of a well-traveled year in which Chang suited up for the Guardians, Pirates, Rays and Red Sox, notching a .624 OPS in 141 plate appearances.

What did Red Sox manager Alex Cora see from Chang in his WBC performance that could lead to him becoming an improved offensive player this season?

“He looks stronger, a lot stronger,” Cora said.

The Red Sox haven’t seen Chang in person since they re-signed him. Due to his commitment to play in the World Baseball Classic, it didn’t make sense for Chang to fly across continents to Fort Myers, only to go back to his native Taiwan for the international showcase tournament.

There is a backstory that made Chang’s huge WBC even more intriguing. Chang originally declined to play in the WBC because he was focused on securing a job with an MLB team. But there was backlash.

An article in Focus Taiwan pointed out that Taiwan often exempts the country’s top athletes from serving their compulsory military service in exchange for competing for the national team in international competitions.

Under the original agreement Chang made, he was required to play in the 2019 Asian Baseball Championship and other top international baseball events for the next five years.

Two days after saying he wouldn’t play in the WBC, the 27-year-old Chang reversed course, then flourished in the tournament.

Now, he will head back to the Red Sox in hopes that his offensive outburst in Taiwan will be something he can build on.