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Offseason Target: Wilmer Flores

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An injury-shortened 2019 campaign could mean team friendly deal for 28-year-old infielder

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at New York Mets Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

If the Red Sox are truly bargain shopping this offseason — and all reports indicate that’s the plan — then it won’t hurt to make a call on Wilmer Flores. The Diamondbacks declined the 28-year-old’s $6 million option for 2020 back in October, making him a free agent, and he is expected to be a bargain this offseason, at according to CBS Sports. He can give the Red Sox exactly what they seem to be looking for — legitimate big-league talent at a position they need to fill for a discounted rate. Who says no?

Flores, who has spent his entire seven-year career in the National League, played just 89 games in 2019 after suffering a broken foot in May. He did have an eventful return to the big-league club and slashed .368 /.410/.623 with seven home runs, 22 RBI and just 14 strikeouts between August 2 and September 29. Flores played mostly second base in 2019, but spent some time at first and is a legitimate threat coming off the bench. Now that Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce are both free agents, Boston could definitely use some depth at first base, even if the team is expecting Bobby Dalbec to have an impact there this year. And it can’t hurt to give Michael Chavis a little time at second.

One of Flores’ most intriguing attributes is that he doesn’t strike out all that much with a career strikeout percentage just north of 12%. Flores posted a career low 9.8 K% in 2018 with the Mets, which was the fourth-lowest in Major League Baseball among players with at least 400 plate appearances. Comparatively speaking, Chavis struck out 127 times in 387 major-league plate appearances (32.8 K%) last season and Dalbec had 139 strikeouts in 562 minor-league plate appearances (24.7 K%). Even if Flores serves as something of a backup to both of those guys next year, he gives Alex Cora someone to turn to in the event that either one goes through a cold spell, which is entirely possible and honestly to be expected. There’s really nothing detrimental about bringing a veteran like Flores into the mix.

Flores is not a superstar by any means and likely wouldn’t even be an everyday player on a good team, but he’s the type of personality that might fit in well in Boston. As mentioned by AZ Snake Pit earlier this offseason, after six seasons with the Mets — where Flores posted 400+ plate appearances just one time — he still received a video tribute upon his return to Citi Field. Remember, this is the guy who cried on the field when he thought the Mets had traded him in 2015. He just seems like the kind of player you want on your favorite team.

Money-wise, his injury-shortened 2019 campaign will likely result in some kind of discounted deal in 2020, which fits right in with Boston’s offseason plans. Flores is definitely not going to turn into a superstar in Boston and it’d be best to manage expectations if the Red Sox did happen to sign him. But I’m intrigued by his contact rate, which has been trending upwards over the last few years and topped out at 89.5% in a shortened 2019 campaign, all while the league average was 76.2% according to Fangraphs. Second base was one of the least effective offensive positions for the Red Sox last season as they averaged the 28th-worst contact rate in the league at 72.8% with a .685 OPS (25th). So things can’t really get much worse at the position.

There have been virtually no rumors regarding Flores so far this offseason, but there were plenty of big names on the free-agent market that needed to find new homes before teams can begin investing in less compelling players like Flores. It also seems as though the front office is still working on moving some money around — whether it be trading away David Price, Mookie Betts or someone else that will make me very sad — before they spend much more this offseason. If you can spend $6 million to plug the open rotation spot with Martín Pérez, bringing in Flores to give you more infield depth, even with José Peraza here too, can’t possibly be viewed as a bad investment.