Red Sox players, and players from all across baseball, are reporting to their home parks to get tested for COVID and eventually start up league-wide summer camps to get ready for the season, slated to start July 23 and 24. Teams have already submitted their preliminary rosters for camp and the season, but most teams did not fill them out completely. That includes the Red Sox, who named 47 players to their roster. That leaves them with 13 more spots they can fill. Most of those spots will likely go to players already in the organization like Jonathan Lucroy and some of the top prospects, but there is still a chance to add players from outside the organization, too.
Transactions were frozen around baseball for most of the last couple of months, but they have been opened back up and teams are free to make trades and free agent signings yet again. Obviously there aren’t a ton of big names remaining on the free agent market, but there are some interesting names that could help out a team like the Red Sox. I have a list of eight names — almost all pitchers, unsurprisingly — who could be potentially helpful for the Red Sox if they are looking to add from outside the organization. Keep in mind that, according to Red Sox Payroll on Twitter, the Red Sox have just under $10 million (prorated for a full season) to spend under the luxury tax threshold to reset the penalties, which has clearly been the big goal of theirs.
With all of that said, here are the names I would be keeping an eye on as potential cheap signings to help this season.
I am starting with both the only position player on this list and also the most unlikely signing among these names. Puig has been linked to a few teams already, most notably the Giants, and is the biggest name remaining in free agency. Right now, he is clearly not a fit for the Red Sox. I do like Puig a lot and advocated signing him if the Red Sox didn’t get a Betts replacement back in that trade, but they obviously did get a right fielder in Verdugo. So as things stand right now with Verdugo, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez and Kevin Pillar, there isn’t really room for Puig. However, with the universal DH if the trade market heats up for Martinez here soon, that could open up a spot for Puig. Until that happens it’s a non-starter, though.
Most of these signings are with an eye toward helping in 2020, but Sanchez is one that would be more about the future. The former Blue Jay and Astro is not likely to pitch at all in 2020 after undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of last season. I’ve gone back and forth on Sanchez as a pitcher many times over his career, as he has at times looked to be a dominant force and at other times looked like a Quad-A arm. His sinker-heavy repertoire doesn’t fit too well with today’s game, but the Red Sox pitching doesn’t look like it’s ready to take a big jump forward in 2021. A forward-thinking signing like this on a cheap, two-year deal would be a nice low-risk, high-upside pick up.
Now we get into what is really representative of the free agent class. Cashner was obviously with the Red Sox last year and could potentially help on two fronts. Obviously Boston needs whatever help it can get for its rotation, and Cashner has been a league-average arm in that role in the past. I wouldn’t necessarily bet on him achieving that in 2020, but throw enough guys with some chance at being solid at the wall eventually a few will stick. Plus, he looked legitimately solid as a reliever late in the year, and you can never have enough bullpen depth.
Yes, I did hear the audible groan from Red Sox fans all around the world from reading this name, but I’m going to go ahead and ignore it. Buchholz is obviously an injury waiting to happen in a normal year, and in a weird season like this that is only exacerbated by the conditions. On the other hand, making it through 60 games is easier than making it through 162. Plus, did you know only two years ago Buchholz pitched to a 209 ERA+ over 16 starts with the Diamondbacks? Let’s give it another chance!
The area in which the Red Sox need the most help is clearly the rotation, but that’s also really hard to find. I mean, Cashner and Buchholz are the biggest potential helpers there right now. So, the other way to fix that is to build a bullpen as strongly as possible to shorten games. Given his connection to those late-aughts Rays teams, Rodney is not my favorite. However, despite the heart attack nature of his performances, he has been very good as recently as two years ago and even in the second half last year he was above average.
Hernández was cut by the Nationals just before baseball paused due to the pandemic and he is coming off a season in 2019 in which his ERA started with “8.” That is not ideal! However, I have long been borderline obsessed with Hernández in the sense that he never really seemed to get the credit he deserved for being consistently solid year in and year out. Obviously last season changes things, but in the three years before that he pitched to a 133 ERA+ with more than a strikeout per inning and fewer than three walks per nine while averaging 64 innings per season. On a cheap deal it is certainly worth seeing if he can get back to that level.
Another pitcher who I always felt never got the respect he deserved, Vizcaino is coming off a lost 2019 due to injury. Vizcaino underwent surgery for a torn labrum in April of last season and didn’t pitch after that, and while he was traded to Seattle that was purely financial. He’s now a free agent and likely not going to command a big deal. Before the injury, though, he was one of the more underrated late-inning relievers in the game, pitching to a 150 ERA+ from 2015 through 2018 with over 10 strikeouts per nine. He also pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA in three of those four years. As with everyone on this list there is not a ton of risk if things don’t work out, but the upside here is arguably higher than anyone else on the list.
I don’t really know why I’m listing Dyson last on this list, because in terms of confidence in a solid 2020 performance Dyson is probably number one, at least among the pitchers. He did have a terrible end to last season after being traded to the Twins, but with the Giants for the first two-thirds of his season he was solid as always. There’s not a huge ceiling like with some of the others listed here mostly due to a lack of strikeout stuff, but since becoming something close to a regular major leaguer in 2014 he has had just one season with an ERA+ lower than 124.