Monday was the deadline for teams to tender contracts to all players without guaranteed deals, and we saw a whole lot of players enter the free agent market who were not tendered deals. The Red Sox were responsible for two of those players — one of which is already back with the team — but they could be interested in a lot more. Non-tendered players are generally not going to be very expensive, because if they were able to get significant money on the open market their team would presumably keep them. With the Red Sox deciding not to spend money this winter, these are exactly the kinds of players they will likely be targeting. So, with that in mind, I looked through the non-tendered players and put together a list of 16 who I think could be fits for Boston. We’ll go in alphabetical order.
Charlie Culberson, INF
The Red Sox infield is in flux. They are clearly set on the left side with Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, and Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec have roles somewhere, though for Dalbec it’s probably not right away. They don’t have much else, though, and even their depth is questionable with Marco Hernández, Tzu-Wei Lin and C.J. Chatham. Enter: Culberson. He’s not great and probably shouldn’t be in an everyday role, but he can play all over the infield and would be a nice, cheap acquisition for a backup role if they aren’t overly enthused with their current depth options.
Elias Díaz, C
With Sandy León now in Cleveland, the Red Sox have a hole for their backup catcher role. Elias Díaz could be a cheap, buy-low option for that role. The former Pirate was brutal at the plate last year, finishing with a 61 wRC+. However, two years ago he was a legitimately good hitter playing half the year and finishing with a 114 wRC+. Even if he meets those two numbers in the middle, he’s a solid backup option and a clear offensive upgrade over León. It is, however, worth mentioning his framing metrics are very bad.
Kevin Gausman, RHP
Gausman is one of those pitchers whose potential we’ve been hearing about for what seems like forever but it just hasn’t shown through. At a certain point, pitchers are what they are. I would not be happy if he came in and was the team’s fifth starter in 2019. That said, as a depth option who could pitch out of the bullpen in the meantime, I think he could be interesting. Even as a full-time reliever he’s a guy I’d take a chance on if the price was right.
Junior Guerra, RHP
Brewers fans were pretty upset when it came out that Guerra was non-tendered on Monday. Don’t take that to mean he is a great option, but more than he was fun to root for. The righty has been solid for a few years now, though, and is another guy who could potentially be a swingman type. He spent all of 2019 as a reliever and was good, but not great.
Cesar Hernández, 2B
The Red Sox need a second baseman. They could feasibly grab a first baseman instead and move Chavis to second full-time and it wouldn’t be a disaster. However, the most prudent move in my estimation would be to grab a second baseman and keep Chavis at first (at least possibly until Dalbec is ready, but that’s a discussion for another space). Hernández does not have a huge ceiling, but he can play the position nearly every day, puts the ball in play and before 2019 drew a ton of walks. I think the Red Sox are just going to wait this market out and grab who’s left, but if it is Hernández I wouldn’t be upset about it.
Trevor Hildenberger, RHP
It wasn’t all that long ago that Hildenberger looked like the potential Closer of the Future for the Twins. Granted, we know how fickle that title can be, but the point is Hildenberger had real potential. He’s been bad and injured for a couple of years now, though, and he’s about to turn 29. I probably wouldn’t want to guarantee a 40-man spot for him at this point, but if he ends up settling for a minor-league deal it’d be hard to argue with taking a chance here.
Jimmy Nelson, RHP
Speaking of righties who formerly had some high expectations, Nelson was a very good starting pitcher as recently as 2017. He missed all of 2018, though, and in his 10 appearances (three starts) in 2019 he was very bad. Like Hildenberger, I’m not chomping at the bit to make a big guarantee to Nelson, but he’s a flier worth taking a chance on if the stakes aren’t very high.
José Peraza, 2B
Peraza was a favorite of mine for a long time with his speed and hit tool-oriented approach, but he just hasn’t worked out. He’s been good a couple times, though, particularly in 2018 when he was nearly a three-win player by FanGraphs WAR. Like Culberson, Peraza isn’t someone I want playing every day but if he can be had as a backup I would be okay with that.
Josh Phegley, C
Here we have another potential backup catcher option. Obviously everyone is going to be flawed or else they wouldn’t be backups, and Phegley is no exception. His offense is no sure thing — he was very bad at the plate in the two years before 2019 — but he generally makes contact and has some pop. His defense isn’t super highly rated either, with his framing taking a big step back in 2019. That said, he’s been around for a long time and has filled this role admirably for most of this decade.
Kevin Pillar, CF
Red Sox fans are familiar with Pillar, as he spent most of his career with the Blue Jays. After being non-tendered by the Giants, he could now come back east. With the Red Sox presumably looking to trade Jackie Bradley Jr., Pillar could be the replacement as another weak offensive player who provides strong defense in center. He’s not as good as Bradley, but he’d also be paid less.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP
After his first start with Houston, people thought Sanchez might be the next Gerrit Cole as a former top prospect who floundered with his original team before figuring it out with the Astros. Instead, he got hurt and missed most of the second half. I still think the talent is there for Sanchez, but I’m not sure someone with as many health questions as him is the answer for the Red Sox right now.
Yolmer Sánchez, 2B
I mentioned the crowded second base market above, and Sánchez is part of that as well. The reigning Gold Glove winner at the position doesn’t provide a ton of offense, but the Red Sox can probably afford to give up some offense in exchange for defense at some points around the diamond. He wouldn’t be my top choice, but it wouldn’t be a terrible fit, either.
Domingo Santana, OF
Santana looked like a potential All-Star after his breakout 2017, but things just haven’t gone his way in the next two years. He was solid last year at the plate with a 107 wRC+, but with his lack of defensive value you want more than that. However, if the Red Sox move on from Bradley and think Andrew Benintendi can play center field (which would be a mistake in my estimation, but it’s not my team), Santana could be a guy they could put in Fenway’s small left field and hope his bat breaks out again.
Travis Shaw, INF
Shaw is the non-tender that most Red Sox fans will want, obviously due to his connection with the franchise. We all know Shaw’s story by now, but after a terrible 2019 the Brewers have cut ties. I don’t think his career is over after one bad season, but I’m also not sure about the fit here.
Do the Red Sox really need another right-handed corner infielder who can play second if need be? Isn’t Michael Chavis exactly that? I watched Travis Shaw for many years and still don’t know his handedness apparently. Still not crazy about the fit, though.
Blake Treinen, RHP
Taijuan Walker, RHP
Walker is another one of these former prospects who haven’t worked out in their career. For Walker, it’s been mainly due to injury issues. He’s thrown only 14 innings over the last two seasons and has never thrown at least 170 innings in a season. It’s hard to really say how interested the Red Sox should be without knowing his health status, but I’ll put him on the same plane as Hildenberger and Nelson at this point.