Baseball is dead right now. Not in the “baseball is dying” sense, but rather in terms of the state of the sport’s breathing at this very moment. It’s Super Bowl week, and therefore the entire sport that we love the most is apparently taking a break. At some point, though, it will come back to life and free agents will start signing again. While most of the action is over, there are still a few interesting players left on the market. Although Boston’s roster is basically set, these players could become so cheap that even the set teams have to take a look. Today and tomorrow, I’ll take a look at whether or not the Red Sox should consider any of the remaining names, with this edition focusing on the bats. It is worth noting off the top that Dave Dombrowski has made it clear that he’d like to stay below the $195 million luxury tax threshold. According to Cots Contracts, they are currently at roughly $190 million.
One would assume the Red Sox aren’t going to delve into this market, since they already have three backstops competing for two roster spots. They also have Dan Butler, who has seemingly been the team’s fourth catcher for 20 years but actually just came back last season after playing elsewhere in 2015. It’s worth noting, however, that Matt Wieters is the best available free agent. It would be shocking if the Red Sox were to sign him, of course, but if he’s still available early in spring training and one of the three catchers goes down with a major injury, maybe something could change.
Also, A.J. Pierzynski is still available. You down with AJP?
Here’s where it gets a bit more interesting. Boston’s starting infield is set, but the depth could be an issue. In particular, we have no idea what’s going to happen at third base. Sure, the skinny Pablo Sandoval pictures are nice to see, but we can’t be sure that will translate to on-field performance until we actually see it. Shoring up the depth at the hot corner would be nice. Unfortunately, there’s not much out there in that area. The best I could come up with would be Chris Johnson or Aaron Hill. Both of whom are veterans with some MLB success in their careers, but none of that success coming recently.
Hill, of course, came to the Red Sox last summer in a trade with Milwaukee, and was awful. He was brought in for the very purpose of shoring up third base after Travis Shaw started to struggle, but couldn’t get that job done. He was good in the first half, though, and could be an interesting get if he has to settle for a minor-league deal. As for Johnson, well, he’s been pretty awful for three years now and can’t really play defense that well anymore.
Outside of the hot corner, there is also some serious power at the other corner available. Specifically, Mike Napoli and Chris Carter are still available. It goes without saying that both of these guys can threaten for 30+ home runs on a yearly basis. Unfortunately, the Red Sox filled that position with Mitch Moreland early in the offseason. This could end up looking like a mistake for Dombrowski, as Napoli and Carter will likely be better hitters and could sign for similar deals. Of course, it’s worth noting that Moreland is a more consistent presence in the field, and that could’ve been Dombrowski’s main concern with filling the hole at first base.
The Red Sox have poor outfield depth, and have for the last few years. Their MLB roster is obviously loaded in this area. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi represent one of the most exciting starting trios in all of baseball, and Chris Young is a more than formidable backup/platoon partner. Beyond them, however, they are relying on a hodgepodge of Triple-A talent that is led by Bryce Brents and Steve Selsky. Perhaps, some of the top outfielders could be had for cheap or even minor-league deals.
Here, I am thinking of guys like Angel Pagan and Franklin Gutierrez. The former would be a little surprising, since one would think he could find a major-league role somewhere. He’s certainly taken a step back, especially in the field, but he’s still a league-average hitter who can play all three outfield spots. He’s also a switch hitter with no discernable splits. If he could be had on a cheap deal, he wouldn’t be terrible depth for the roster. It would take some roster manipulation to make it work, though, like getting rid of Josh Rutledge. It may be worth that price.
Gutierrez is a bit more of an unknown commodity, and might have a better chance of being had on a minor-league deal. The former Mariner is still incredibly talented, and he hit really well when he was on the field in 2016. Of course “when he was on the field” is always the key phrase with him. He’s the very definition of an injury risk. Still, he’d easily become the most talented piece of outfield depth if he was truly attainable for the Red Sox.
Chances are, the team won’t delve into any of the remaining major free agents on the hitting side of things. In all likelihood, Brock Holt, Marco Hernandez, Josh Rutledge and Matt Dominguez will be the extent of their Pablo Sandoval depth. Napoli and Carter would’ve been exciting, but the offense should still be more than fine with Moreland at first base. They could certainly use outfield depth, but the top remaining options would probably want to go to a team with a better chance at a regular role. Still, this has been a quiet offseason, and eventually these players will have to sign. Perhaps the Red Sox could find an unexpected bargain.