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Red Sox showing interest in Trevor Plouffe

The former Twin would make a lot of sense for the bench

Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

While the Red Sox have more-or-less declared their offseason complete, they might still have a small move left in them. In this case, the addition of Trevor Plouffe, who Evan Drellich says is on a short list of free agents the Red Sox remain interested in.

Plouffe actually makes a lot of sense for the Red Sox in much the same way that Chris Young did last offseason. The Red Sox have a clear need for insurance in the infield, particularly against left-handed pitchers given the vulnerability of Mitch Moreland and Pablo Sandoval at the corners. Plouffe, while not a fantastic overall player, fills the desired role nicely, and while he’s not necessarily a player you’d be eager to have starting for your team, he can likely play a larger role for a while should the need arise.

It should be mentioned that Plouffe’s viability as a starter relies on giving him some defensive benefit of the doubt. In the past, Plouffe has spent time as a huge defensive liability in the infield, but seemed to develop nicely as he hit his prime years. That apparently changed in 2016, as he fell back into his old territory, which is largely unacceptable when you’re considering his bat as a whole.

The tricky thing with quantitative analysis of defense, though, is that thus far it doesn’t really bear out in the chunks we like to think in terms of. That makes Plouffe’s 2016 season—one where the same metrics which gave him credit for rising from the gutter in 2014-2015 say he dropped back into terrible territory—a bit difficult to understand. It’s wrong to say authoritatively Plouffe was bad defensively in 2016 in much the same way it’s wrong to say he’s still good because of 2014 or 2015. In a particularly small sample (Plouffe played only 600-odd innings for the Twins last year), Plouffe was miserable. But between the last three years (generally considered around where you start to hit relevant sample territory), Plouffe was neutral-to-good. It’s probably reasonable to expect that Plouffe will be, on the whole, more of a neutral defender than anything else, but with a clearly negative glove more likely than a clearly positive one. Certainly he could at least handle first base if needed.

Really, though, the glove will only be a serious issue if Plouffe doesn’t perform the way the Sox would hope he does in a platoon role. In his career, Plouffe is actually a significantly positive bat against left-handed pitchers, producing a .268/.344/.465 batting line against them. He’s generally been a pull hitter, and while Target Field doesn’t exactly have the most spacious of left fields, Plouffe is still likely to enjoy his new home should he choose to come to Boston.

The question of whether he will or not remains unclear. The Red Sox, after all, can’t exactly roll out much of a red carpet for Plouffe. They’re not looking to spend heavily on this position—not even as heavily as they spent on Chris Young last year (two years at $6.5 million per year). They also can’t offer Plouffe a starting role. Drellich has them pegged as going no higher than $3 million for a one-year no higher tha

That’s not a lot these days, but it’s also perhaps the best Plouffe can hope for. He was, after all, just outrighted by the Twins. That doesn’t actually affect his market too much, but it does give you an idea of where he’s at right now in his career. He’s the sort of player who can fill a very specific role for a team that’s largely got their affairs in order. There’s not many teams out there that will be hugely interested in signing him to start after producing a 91 wRC+ last year. Even the Red Sox are kind of taking it on faith that his bat will rebound to its career levels against lefties.

For a guy who is still looking for his first postseason at bat, the Red Sox could offer a chance at relevant baseball, even if it’s in a reserve role. And if Plouffe does have an eye towards earning back his reputation as a starter, the fact that only Pablo Sandoval and Mitch Moreland really stand between him and the opportunity to show he has more should jump out. And if things don’t break to give Plouffe an opportunity to be more than a platoon bat, so long as he actually performs in that role he can stick around the league for a while, make some good money, and hopefully have the most significant at bats of his career even as a part-timer.

This just makes a lot of sense for both sides. But in the end it’s going to come down to Plouffe’s willingness to sign for cheap. If another team is out there looking to bet more heavily on Plouffe’s 2.5-3.5 fWAR seasons in the past, don’t expect the Red Sox to sacrifice mid-season flexibility to meet them.