After a week off for the holiday last Friday, we are back with the roundtable again this week. And of course, because this is just the way the offseason is progressing, not much has really changed for the Red Sox since our last question. So we’re going to look at our preferred process for fixing up the outfield. I wrote a bit about this a couple weeks ago with regards to the different paths the team could take to fill the glaring hole on this portion of the roster, and the question for the staff this week was simply which option they would take.
This is going to sound wild and out of character, considering I’ve been called a prospect hugger in the past, but I would spend money on George Springer. It isn’t that we need him, per se. We need starting pitching way more, and that would be the need I would address first if given the option. But in a vacuum, when thinking about outfield options, nothing inspires confidence. With our outfield looking bleak, and only one outfield prospect of value anywhere near the majors in Jarren Duran, we need another long-term play out there, especially if we can’t count on an Andrew Benintendi resurgence.
So I choose Springer even knowing the draft pick cost. The value of a hypothetical second round pick just isn’t anywhere near that of a proven All-Star talent, and I have faith in Chain Bloom to rebuild the farm well even without a second round pick.
This is a team built to win, and adding Springer’s bat would offset some of the need for improvement from the pitching. Plus it would just be a fun move and good lord we need some fun. An outfield of Benintendi/Springer/Verdugo sounds fun.
The Sox should add a centerfielder to address their outfield this winter. Their right field is locked up by Alex Verdugo, and Andrew Benintendi should be considered an everyday player unless his struggles continue. Benny has been a solid player since 2016, and despite an abysmal 2020, I can’t bring myself to overreact to a sample size of just 14 games. I’m banking on him regaining his old form.
So, what to do in center? Everyone would love a George Springer signing, but I don’t think his price tag is worth it, especially with the Sox in the midst of a mini rebuild. Jackie Bradley Jr. is the clear best fit, and would fill next year’s hole in centerfield while likely providing the Red Sox with long-term flexibility. However, if Bradley signs elsewhere, the next best option is Kevin Pillar in center. A Pillar signing would obviously disappoint Sox fans hoping for a big splash, but he’s a solid defender and would be serviceable for the 2021 season.
I think Plan A should be Bradley/Pillar in centerfield, and if that falls through, perhaps it’d be prudent to explore more expensive options (with no qualifying offer) like Marcell Ozuna or Michael Brantley. A move like that might require some shifting around in the outfield and would result in a weaker defense, but it’d sure give the offense a boost.
I would try to sign some of the players who were non-tendered this week. We’ve heard there are some talks with Eddie Rosario, but I would like the team to sign David Dahl, Adam Duvall, or Hunter Renfroe. An outfield of Benny-Verdugo-Rosario would be an adventure...and not a good one at that. With some of the players who were non-tendered, I doubt Benny gets moved this winter so just adding Renfroe (my personal go-to signee) with a Profar that can help off the bench would be perfect.
It’s simple. You bring back Jackie Bradley Jr. Okay, so it’s not that simple, especially since we have no idea if Bradley would even want to come back, and, as expected, we’ve seen that Boston isn’t his only suitor. What I’m really getting at is that I think the Red Sox should be looking to fill the gap in center field. Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo both fit well enough in left and right field, respectively, but moving either over to center doesn’t make much sense unless it’s to add a young star for a long-term deal. As good as guys like Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna are, neither make me completely fine with pushing Benintendi to center and getting weaker on defense. They’re close, and if the Red Sox miss out on Bradley, then I think one of them might be the answer since center field free agent depth isn’t great. However, I worry about overpaying for an MVP-caliber 2020 with Ozuna, who is a very good player but has produced only 1.7 more wins above replacement than Bradley since 2015. Meanwhile, Rosario will probably have a more reasonable signing cost, but he has been less valuable than Bradley in that same time frame.
Now, when picking the right center fielder to go after, I think Bradley is the best fit for a few reasons. George Springer is the biggest name, but he will cost a lot more and I’d prefer the Red Sox make big spending a priority on the pitching side. For comparison’s sake, MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Springer will bring in a five-year $125 million deal, whereas Bradley is looking at two years and $16 million. (Ozuna is projected to get $72 million over four years). In addition, as I mentioned, the depth of free agent center fielders isn’t particularly great, so if they can’t get Bradley or Springer, the Red Sox are looking at a serious downgrade. On top of all that, Bradley’s defense is not easily replaceable and that matters for a pitching staff that will need all the help it can get.
When it comes down to it, I think the Red Sox are going to be in rebuilding mode beyond next year. Bradley may not be a future cornerstone, but I don’t think some of the other outfielders available would be either, and adding a more expensive outfield replacement who is a good but not franchise-changing option is antithetical to the rebuilding process. Bradley fits the Red Sox’s need at center field without breaking the bank and without taking a huge hit in terms of production. Bring. Back. JBJ.
The Sox outfield, more or less, is Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo. Depending on the cost, I’d try to re-sign Jackie Bradley Jr. If he’s looking for one year, it’s a no-brainier. You can’t really replace that type of defense, no matter how frustrating it can be to watch him at the plate. That doesn’t mean he’s a great long-term solution, but in any given year he’s worth a flier. Could Andrew Benintendi play a passable center field? Maybe. But given his struggles at the plate, let’s work on one problem at a time getting him right.
With the recent non-tenders of David Dahl, Eddie Rosario, and Nomar (Nomah!) Mazara I’d honestly sign as many as I could, in that order. If the decline of J.D. Martinez is real, you’ve got options. If Benintendi is never going to bounce back, you’ve got options. Are any of these three guaranteed hits? Well, they were non-tendered. But roll the dice! Just think of it as the bargain basement winter of 2012 with Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli. It might work out great, for low risk.
I’m on team “add multiple outfielders” here. Look, half the league just got non-tendered. There are Guys To Be Had. Not everyone the Sox sign needs to be a star-ish level player like Marcell Ozuna or Michael Brantley — they could just use the bodies, frankly. Now it might help if one of the guys is a natural center fielder, sure, though I suspect Jarren Duran will be out there before too much longer. Given Andrew Benintendi’s massive struggles at, uh, baseball these days, I’m not sure he makes sense to ink into CF. Use a pencil instead. Both players alongside him out there, tho, should be new guys on short to medium length contracts to bridge the gap between the 2018-era Good Sox and the 20XX-era Good Sox. I don’t think just one is going to cut it.
Shelly and I talked about this a bit on the podcast this week and what I would do is, sign one of Springer, Ozuna, or Rosario, sign Hunter Renfroe and also hold onto Benintendi. I know the end of 2019 and 2020 was frustrating for Benintendi but his ability to get on base is just so good I have to believe his hit tool is still there. If the Sox sign Springer, Benintendi can stay in left. If not I think he’s defense in center would be average, although average defense following Bradley will look below average. Honestly, that’s going to be the case for whoever replaces Bradley though so we just need to get used to the idea of downgrade there. Renfroe, I really like as a 4th OF/DH option and much-needed depth in case of injury.
The outfield is without a doubt one of the most important areas to address this offseason considering the weak performance of Andrew Benintendi in 2020 and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s potential departure. My first move would be to re-sign Jackie Bradley Jr. to a two-year deal at a fair market value. I don’t know if Bradley is interested in staying, but I would try and make it financially worth it for him. His defense is incredible, he’s durable, and while his bat isn’t special, it is adequate.
My next move would be to sign Marcell Ozuna to play left field. Much has been made about his poor defense but I believe it is good enough to play in the outfield for at least the next two seasons before J.D. Martinez leaves. If Manny could do it then Ozuna can do it. He is projected to sign for around $70 million, which honestly seems like a bargain for his bat. His spray chart looks tailor made for Fenway Park. Lastly, I’d try to trade Benintedni for pitching, starting or relief, or if I can’t find any interest, I’m fine keeping him as a bench bat. Outfield depth isn’t great in the Red Sox system and he would be one of the best bench bat’s in baseball. Sure, his salary would be rich as a bench bat, but that seems like a better alternative than missing out on Ozuna or selling him for next to nothing.
The more I think about it the more I think the only real move is signing a center fielder. I don’t particularly love any of the options there and there are quite a few left fielders that I really like on the market this winter, but I don’t see how I can make that work. Andrew Benintendi in center field is a nonstarter to me, and I just am not at all optimistic they’d be able to trade him as a primary piece in any deal that would be worth it. I do think Alex Verdugo would handle center field fine, but I don’t know who then slides over to right field that I’m comfortable with. Hunter Renfroe is probably the best option there, and I’ve never been a big Renfroe guy. It’s not an easy situation to navigate, but as much sense as it makes theoretically to shuffle things around by either moving Benintendi to center or trading him, in reality I just don’t see the path for that to happen.