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Checking the market: Corner Infield

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A look at players on the corners that could help the Red Sox.

2020 World Series Game 6: Los Angeles Dodgers v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The offseason is officially upon us, and the Red Sox should be active. Coming off one of the worst seasons in the history of the franchise (the length of which notwithstanding), they have plenty of needs all over the roster. To get us ready for all of the possible moves that could be made over the next few months, we’re going to spent the next week looking at every portion of the roster and the available players that could be targeted both in free agency and via trade. Today, we’ll look at the corner infield market.

Where the Red Sox Stand

The Red Sox are halfway there at least at the corner infield spot. Despite legitimate questions about Rafael Devers’s defense at third base, in the short-term that is his position. There’s still room to believe he can stick long-term, too, but that’s a conversation for another day. He is the third baseman and it’s hard to see them looking to change that this winter.

That brings us to the other side of the diamond. Things aren’t quite as set there, though with Bobby Dalbec they likely won’t be making any sort of big splash their either. That being said, I do think it would behoove them to at least look at their options. They don’t need to be looking for a replacement there, but there is plenty of logic to the idea of bringing in a complementary player, preferably from the left side, who could fill in when needed and provide insurance should Dalbec’s contact issues prevent him from taking the step forward we’re hoping to see. A straight platoon likely isn’t, and probably shouldn’t be, on the table, but a complementary veteran would be a smart target for the bench.

Top Free Agent

Justin Turner

The corner infield market is pretty weak this year, with Turner being the clear top choice. Coming off some controversy after receiving a positive COVID test result during the final game of the World Series and still going out to celebrate with his team despite that, Turner has been in the news for the wrong reasons. As a player, though, he’s still an intriguing target in free agency. The commitment shouldn’t be too large as he’s entering his age-36 season and the defense is declining. On the other hand, he can still hit, coming off a 140 wRC+ — his fourth straight year of a mark above 130 — and teams always need offense.

As far as the fit with the Red Sox goes, there wouldn’t appear to be a great fit between those two sides at first glance. That said, there is a scenario where this would make sense in the event the Red Sox trade J.D. Martinez. This isn’t necessarily something I’m expected, but if that did happen they could turn around and sign Turner in a free agent market that is sure to be depressed for players. Turner and Devers could each play some third base and some DH in this scenario. Again, the chances of this are not high, but there is a path.

Other Free Agents

Matt Adams, Justin Smoak, Eric Thames, C.J. Cron, Jake Lamb, Logan Morrison, Daniel Murphy, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman, Todd Frazier

As I said, this is a weak market for this position and teams looking for impact help on the corner are going to be disappointed. For a team like the Red Sox that is looking for more complementary help, though, this is not a terrible situation. Right off the bat I’d rule out Cron, Sandoval, Zimmerman and Frazier. Sandoval because, well, you know. Cron, Zimmerman and Frazier are righties, and I don’t see a ton of reason for the Red Sox to add another right-handed first baseman with Dalbec as well as Michael Chavis in the picture.

The other names could all be intriguing, relatively cheap backups. Adams has long been a good platoon veteran. Smoak has been a starter in the past and could be a tough get if other teams can offer a bigger role, though that’s not a guarantee coming off a rough year. Thames has always been a personal favorite, while Lamb would make sense as someone who could swing over to third base at times as well. Morrison and Murphy would be more emergency options if the others don’t work out in my mind, both because they are well past their prime and for personality-related reasons.

Best Fit: To me, any of Adams, Thames, Smoak or Lamb would be good options. If I had to choose just one, though, I’d go with Eric Thames, who could fill in at times in left field and would be a big power bat they could use off the bench late in games as well. He’s coming off a rough year in Washington, too, which should drive his price down.

Atlanta Braves v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Potential Trade Partners

I’m focusing only on left-handed first basemen here.

White Sox, Indians, Royals, Angels, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Padres

None of these potential trades would qualify as anything close to a blockbuster, but some teams have extra bench players that could be parted with either in a minor trade or as part of something bigger. In the AL Central, the White Sox have Zack Collins, a catcher by trade but really not good enough there, who is a former first round pick the Red Sox could buy low on. They also have Gavin Sheets, a minor-leaguer who could be ready for the majors. The Royals got a breakout from Ryan McBroom and could look to ship out Ryan O’Hearn after a second straight rough season to clear room in the lineup. The Indians, meanwhile, have both Bobby Bradley and Jake Bauers, both of whom once showed promise but have seen their value drop recently.

Meanwhile, Matt Thaiss is a former first round pick for the Angels who has yet to be able to really crack a regular role at the major-league level, while in Oakland Seth Brown is a late bloomer stuck behind Matt Olson. The Diamondbacks are likely the most far-fetched of these potential trade partners, but with both Pavin Smith and Seth Beer they have a pair of left-handed, recent first round first basemen at a similar stage in their development. With the Brewers, it’s hard to know exactly what their plan is but if they decide to take a step back to retool Daniel Vogelbach could be on the move once again after playing for three teams in 2020. Finally, the Padres are just fun to think about if somehow the Red Sox could actually get Mitch Moreland back, assuming his $3 million option is picked up. If it’s not, he would be a potential free agent target.

Best Fit: There are issues with every one of the names here, but these are also not projected starters so that is to be expected. I would probably be most intrigued by a possible Matt Thaiss addition. The former 16th overall pick has had a tough go of it in his brief major-league stints, but he’s hit in the minors and could also fill in at third base and in left field.

Parting thoughts

The Red Sox haven’t made any indication they are looking to find a bench player who can fill this role, but one has to imagine they’ll at least bring someone in on a minor-league deal with a spring training invitation. Most likely is that this would be one of their last moves to make, waiting to see who could fall through the cracks this winter.