Outfield is kind of a strange spot for this Red Sox team. On the one hand, they are undoubtedly set for at least a couple of years. Boston has one of the most talented young trios in all of baseball in the outfield, with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi all presenting upside at the plate and strong gloves. It would stand to reason that the team would want to stand pat here. However, two of the biggest bats available this winter are outfielders. It’s possible that the Red Sox could just acquire one of those big bats and make them a DH, allowing them to keep everyone. However, if they acquire one of these players as well as a first baseman like Eric Hosmer, then they’d have to trade one of those Killer B’s. This is perhaps the most fascinating storyline of the offseason, so let’s take a look at that outfield market.
J.D. Martinez, Jay Bruce, Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, Jarrod Dyson, Curtis Granderson, Jon Jay, Carlos Gomez, Seth Smith
Martinez is the top target for many Red Sox fans, myself included. He is going to cost a lot of money, but he deserves it. He’s coming off an absurd season that included a wild second half and a 16-homer September, but he was also crushing the ball all year. It’s not as if 2017 was a fluke, though, as Martinez has been one of the very best hitters in baseball for the last four years. His defense is a bit suspect, but that’s why it would make the most sense to sign him to play DH or perhaps even a little first base along with Hanley Ramirez. If they do sign another first baseman on top of signing Martinez, putting him in left field at Fenway wouldn’t be the end of the world, though it would be dicier on the road. Defense aside, this makes too much sense for it not to happen for the Red Sox, particularly when you consider that he wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer because he was traded midway through the season.
After Martinez, there aren’t a whole lot of outfielders that make a big enough impact that it would make sense to move on from one of the outfielders already here. Cain in particular is someone that is a very good player and some team will be lucky to have him, but so much value is with his glove and that’s just not as valuable a commodity for Boston. Similar things can be said for Dyson, Jay and Gomez.
The other players could be looked at as backup plans for DH, though at that point it would probably make more sense to look at a Lucas Duda or Carlos Santana at first base to keep Ramirez at DH. Still, the Red Sox could do worse than adding someone like Bruce to the middle of their lineup. Even Carlos Gonzalez could be interesting on a cheap deal, though he’s a big risk. He’s not the player he once was, and he’s no longer hitting in Coors Field, so there’s no telling what he would bring. Cabrera has been an underrated hitter for years now, but he’s not really the power bat Boston needs. Granderson would bring some veteran leadership but not enough stability, Bautista is probably a nonstarter around these parts and Smith doesn’t move the needle enough.
My Pick: Martinez. Obviously. Come on, Dave. Get it done.
The Bench Players
Chris Young, Daniel Nava, Ichiro, Rajai Davis, Peter Bourjos, Andre Ethier, Craig Gentry, Franklin Gutierrez, Austin Jackson, Cameron Maybin, Hyun Soo Kim, Michael Saunders, Jayson Werth
Whether or not the Red Sox need a bench outfielder depends on how they approach the first section. If they sign someone like Martinez and slide him in as their DH, they can also just have him in place as their fourth outfielder. Guys like Brock Holt and Bryce Brentz could also be factors in the outfield depth discussion. However, if Martinez (or whoever) is placed in left, they may not trust Holt and Brentz enough as their only depth pieces. That leaves them the list above, one with some interesting names.
I would be surprised if Young comes back at this point, though I will say that I believe he is much better than he played in 2017. He’s also great in the clubhouse, which could be even more important with a new, young manager in town. Nava is a longtime fan favorite and one of my favorites of all time. I’m not sure he’s much of a fit in Boston these days, but I certainly wouldn’t complain about a Nava reunion. Ichiro is another one of my personal favorites, and even though he also may not be a great fit for this Red Sox team I would love to have him play in Boston for a year of his career.
More realistic fits could be someone like Gutierrez, who hits from the right side and provides a good glove and some decent pop. He has some major injury issues, though. Jackson is perhaps the best player on this list, but he would probably want to go to a team with a clearer path to playing time. The same could be said for Maybin.
My Pick: I’m going with Nava. Screw it, he is the best and the Red Sox don’t need a right-handed bat, particularly if they sign Martinez. Plus, Nava can teach Martinez to play the Monster. Get it done, Dave.
The Trade Market
Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Andrew McCutchen, Khris Davis, Matt Kemp, Nick Markakis, Kyle Schwarber
The outfield trade market is a fascinating one, and it’s led by a man about whom we will hear plenty of rumors until he’s actually moved. It’s all but certain the Marlins are going to move Stanton this offseason, and there are going to be a bunch of teams involved. At this early point in the process, the Cardinals appear to be in the lead, though don’t count the Red Sox out. That being said, I hope they look to free agency rather than trading for Stanton. Perhaps I’m overrating his market, but based on all of the reports the Marlins will be looking for good young players while also offloading most of his large contract. Stanton is a great player, but he’s also one with injury history. I’d prefer to just pay a bunch of money to someone without also having to give up key pieces.
The rest of the market has some interesting names, too. Ozuna and Yelich make up the rest of Miami’s outfield, and while none of them are officially on the block it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Marlins trade anyone at this point. Both will cost a ton in a deal, though. McCutchen is someone I would like the Red Sox to look at, as the former outfielder isn’t quite his old self but he’s still a good player who would be fun to watch in Fenway’s outfield. Davis is one of the best power hitters in baseball and could be a cheaper version of Stanton. Kemp and Markakis could probably be had for nearly free from Atlanta. Schwarber is included here, though he’s not really an outfielder and any trade to Boston should involve him being their DH.
My Pick: I like Davis from this group. One of these days I’ll go more in-depth about my fears in trading for Stanton, but while Davis would also presumably cost a bunch, he’s not as big of a name and doesn’t carry as big of a contract. Plus, you never know what Billy Beane is going to want in return. A Davis/Jed Lowrie package could make a ton of sense for the Red Sox.