It’s the trading season, and you know what that means: endless speculation about players that may or may not come to Boston, what their fit on the team is, how much we’d have to give up to make that a reality, and so on. It’s a fun time of year, but it’s also a frustrating one given all of the uncertainty.
I think the Red Sox most glaring need is at second base. I have nothing in particular against Brock Holt or Eduardo Nunez, but they just aren’t enough as starting players. Not that it was ever planned for them to be that, as this is only an issue because of Dustin Pedroia’s injuries - he’s not expected back until the end of July at the very earliest, and by then, it will be too late to improve if we need to.
Second base is one of the three positions we’re getting below average offensive value at, along with catcher and third base. I’m sure we could upgrade at those positions as well, but I’m more likely to roll with Rafael Devers at third, and let him figure it out at the major league level (and he’s shown himself capable), and I really don’t want to mess much with the catching, since there’s more than offense that matters at that position. I’d rather let Sandy Leon handle it, and maybe bring in a better backup catcher if Christian Vazquez has to miss extended time. (Editor’s Note: He does.)
There is hardly a paucity of options available on the market this year for second basemen. Scrolling down the list of players who could potentially be upgrades for the Red Sox (that are on selling teams), I came up with: Whit Merrifield, Brian Dozier, Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro, and of course, Scooter Gennett. More names could be made available in the next couple of weeks, if say a Rockies team falls out of it (DJ LeMahieu), but these are the names I expect to be most talked about this deadline season.
Of those names, I think we should be targeting Gennett, because he fits two key categories: he isn’t just a rental (year and a half of control left), and he doesn’t have an obscene amount of control left, like Whit Merrifield. While Merrifield would undoubtedly be a great acquisition, I get the feeling he’s going to cost significantly more than people like, since the Royals have several years of control left. They simply have little reason to move him now while he’s cheap, unless they get absolutely bowled over. If they get bowled over, it won’t be by the Red Sox, who are still in the process of recovering parts of their farm system.
Ultimately, it was Gennett who made the most sense to me. He has been on my radar since 2016. Prior to that, I was aware of him, of course, but I didn’t see anything to get excited about. What was previously a fringy gap hitter became an interesting power threat. The first thought that came to mind was that Scooter Gennett was a Great American Ball Park product, and just had inflated numbers because he played half his games in Cincy. This wasn’t really true.
In 2017, he hit .284/.333/.481 on the road, and .307/.352/.587 at home. While his home numbers were better (as they should be, it’d be weird if they weren’t), he hit well enough on the road, that I don’t feel we should consider last year’s numbers inflated. In 2018, this year, he’s hit .308/.349/.522 at home, similarly to last season, but has improved on the road, hitting .343/.386/.509, becoming a veritable road warrior. Gennett actually ranks 18th in OPS in the National League on the road this season, ahead of names like Joey Votto, Ozzie Albies, and Cody Bellinger, and only narrowly behind big power bat Rhys Hoskins. The point I want to make here, is he’s not strictly a GABP product. He’s played like a legitimately good ball player the last two seasons plus. Even in 2016 with Milwaukee, he’d started to show a little of the type of player he could be.
That said, Gennett isn’t perfect and there’s reason to believe he could regress a bit. His numbers are presently fueled by a relatively high batting average on balls in play, and while his batted ball profile indicates he should still be a solidly above average player once/if regression to the mean occurs, there’s also reason to think he will drop a bit, especially once he plays half his games at Fenway. He’s a pull lefty, and would be hitting into a right field that gets really deep, really fast.
While Gennett may swing at too many pitches outside of the zone, he usually makes contact, and judging by his batted ball profiles, he hits it pretty hard. He ranks 19th this season (among qualified hitters) on O-Contact% (contact percentage on pitches outside of the strikezone), just ahead of Andrew Benintendi. This stands to be my biggest issue with him, as he probably shouldn’t be swinging on those pitches, and looking to walk more (like Benintendi, for example), but there’s value in having aggressive hitters who are able to do damage on those types of pitches as well.
At this point, you might be wondering about the cost, and frankly, so am I. The Reds are in an odd position, where they’ve pulled a reverse-Mets. Where they once sucked, they are now playing respectably. They won’t be making the playoffs, but there’s a chance they could be a sneaky team next year if they play like this into next season. They also don’t need to move Scooter Gennett (or anyone besides maybe Matt Harvey), since he has a year of control beyond this one. There’s a bit of leverage when it comes to that.
Thanks to our friend, Wick Terrell, at Red Reporter, we have an idea of what they might expect in a return:
Boston’s Jay Groome seemed like he’d be a player the Reds could target should the Red Sox look for more Dustin Pedroia insurance given Nunez’s lackluster performance in 2018, but he’s out after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and that’s just the most recent injury he’s fought. Their only other Top 100 prospect, Michael Chavis, is yet another 2B/3B prospect - and one coming off a PED suspension, at that. So, the fit there becomes a bit more difficult to put together.
Personally, although I love Jason Groome, and Michael Chavis, if the Reds come knocking for one of those two, I’m not going to tell them no. Chavis might be blocked at every position in the majors, except first base, and Josh Ockimey is making a case for it being his position going forward. Jason Groome, for all his talent, has had injuries, and won’t be in A+ until next year at the very earliest, due to said injuries. Additionally, Groome will be Rule 5 eligible in December of 2020, which means that he will be on the 40 man in 2020. If even one more injury or set back occurs, you could get into Brian Johnson territory, where we have to roster a player, simply because they are out of options. While there’s a chance we’ll want him there regardless, it’s never a great thing to be forced to roster an unproven player.
As for a secondary, or tertiary piece, Terrell notes that the Reds would want a “lower-level wild card prospect” or an “MLB-ready but flawed/injured secondary piece”. As far as lower-level wild card prospects go, you are probably talking the realm of a CJ Chatham or a Bobby Dalbec. I might be in the minority, but if Groome+Dalbec gets us a player who could be a legitimate difference maker at second base, I’m going to have a hard time turning it up.
That said, we could always just give much less up for Asdrubal Cabrera. That could work too.