The Boston Red Sox are looking for depth at first base, but, given the constraints of their roster on both the 25- and 40-man rosters, that depth is going to need to come in the form of minor-league deals and non-roster invites. While Mark Hamilton has already been brought on board for that task, the Red Sox hit the market once again on Thursday, bringing in Lyle Overbay.
According to the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber, Overbay can, like Ryan Sweeney, opt-out of the deal if he isn't on the major-league roster by the end of spring training. It's likely that Overbay is there for one reason: it's better to have him and not need him around, then to need him and not have him. If Mike Napoli's hip condition gets cranky right out of the gate, the Red Sox will need someone to fill the hole, even temporarily. If, however, he is healthy coming out of spring training, then the presence of Overbay isn't as significant.
Overbay might also find that no one else needs his services after spring training -- someone else would need to have room for a player who was still a free a couple weeks before spring training begins, after all -- and stick around in Triple-A Pawtucket if he feels he has a better eventual chance of being in the majors there than anywhere else. Neither situation is a given, but things would work out well for the Red Sox if they were able to have someone with Overbay's experience in the organization, but off of the 40-man.
The first baseman spent the 2012 season with the Diamondbacks and Braves, hitting .259/.331/.397 in 131 plate appearances. Over the last three seasons combined, Overbay has appeared in 340 games, come to the plate nearly 1,200 times, and amassed an OPS+ of 97. That's not going to cut it at first, but if we're being honest, that plus his glove is probably more reliable than Mauro Gomez. There is less upside here, but Overbay is also left-handed, and has hit righties much better than lefties in his career, as well as recently.
As a bench player, Overbay makes much more sense than Gomez. Were Napoli to go down, Gomez might be the preferable option given the aforementioned upside, however limited. Then again, if Napoli goes down, the real answer to Boston's first base woes likely isn't in the organization yet. This is a safe little no-risk move, with some potential upside for the Red Sox should they find the last man for their bench because of it.
How would Overbay fit on the bench? That's the question of the day, as it would require either fewer relievers (not going to happen) or four outfielders (probably more likely). If the Red Sox think Pedro Ciriaco can be the fifth outfielder on the roster in a pinch, given one of Jonny Gomes or Daniel Nava will already be on the bench every day, then Overbay does have a spot waiting for him, should he earn it.
For what it's worth -- and, given the sample and when it's primarily from, it's admittedly little -- Overbay is a career .323/.395/.500 hitter at Fenway in 177 plate appearances. Like with Cody Ross last spring, maybe JetBlue Park can give a little bit of an indication of how Overbay would do at his new home.