Most of this offseason has been spent waiting to see what the Red Sox will do, and while there are still likely some more moves on the periphery coming this recent flurry of activity (not major activity, granted, but activity) likely represents the climax of the winter. That would be, specifically, signing Enrique Hernández and Garrett Richards on back-to-back days and then shortly thereafter trading for Adam Ottavino. Those moves are not the kind of marquee additions that will take a team to the next level, but they do fill holes on the Red Sox roster.
And so we are focusing on these three moves for this week’s roundtable, and the question was simple: What grade do you give each of them? (Note that this question went out before the Ottavino trade went down so he’s not addressed in every answer.)
I grade the Hernández signing a C. It gets the job done, and he has his uses, but I get the feeling he is our primary second Baseman which drags this grade down a lot. If he is a bench player, this is a begrudging B, as he is essentially Brock Holt 2.0.
I grade the Richards signing as an A+. This is exactly the type of move I wanted Bloom to make. He checks all the boxes. Starting pitcher. High ceiling. Low risk. You may be saying “What? He is high risk!” The only risk here is loss of finances. That doesn’t really matter. There is a club option for cheap if he ends up rocking it this year. If he gets hurt, we have depth behind him. No big deal. I cannot find one thing about this signing to complain about which is remarkable by itself.
As far as the Ottavino trade, that also gets an A+. Ignoring Ottavino for a minute, the Red Sox essentially paid money to buy a prospect and a fairly decent one at that. If Ottavino rebounds, he can be traded for more prospects mid-season. And we should expect a rebound. Half his earned runs came in one game last year. Remove that game and he has a healthy sub 3.00 ERA. This to me is another no-risk move where the worst case is we got a prospect for basically nothing.
Although it’s disappointing the Red Sox seemingly aren’t trying to contend this year, Chaim Bloom’s signings have been quite satisfactory. Many offseason moves for rebuilding teams aren’t to find players for the future, but to find low-risk, high-reward guys who can eat innings. The moves to acquire Adam Ottavino, Garrett Richards, and Enrique Hernández are perfect examples of this.
Ottavino struggled last year, but it was thanks to a lot of poor luck. Despite an ugly 5.89 ERA, he still finished with a 3.52 FIP and struck out over 12 batters per 9 innings. I’m fully expecting Ottavino to perform to his 2018-2019 standards this year. Not only did the Sox get a solid reliever in this unusual trade with the Yankees, they also nabbed a free prospect for taking on Ottavino’s contract.
Richards was impressive in the mid 2010’s before injury troubles derailed his next few years. Coming off Tommy John surgery this past year, he struggled a bit as a starter, but was great in relief. A 1-year deal is perfect to see if he can re-gain his old form.
Finally, the Enrique Hernández signing is the move I’m least excited about, but it was a necessary one. He’ll give the Sox much-needed depth, especially at 2nd base, but he won’t wow you with his hitting abilities. Hernández’s value mostly stems from his versatility, as he can play any position in the infield or outfield.
Adam Ottavino: A
Garrett Richards: B
Enrique Hernández: B-
Wow! So the Red Sox actually did something and...I like all three deals! Hernández I think will get most of the playing time at second but could also give many guys a night off if needed. I still would have preferred Kolten Wong, but he might be looking for a longer deal. Grade: B
Richards reminds me so much of Eovaldi: Big stuff and big injury risk. As long as they are both not hurt at the same time, it looks like a great one year deal. Grade: B
I wanted the team to sign Ottavino when he was a free agent so while it is a bit later than expected he still made his way to Boston. Has long as his command doesn’t get to far out of whack, he looks like a great trade Grade: B+
Enrique Hernández: B. Hernández is a versatile player who can man the infield and outfield with ease. In Boston he’s probably going to get the bulk of him time at second base and that’s a good thing given the black hole the position has become. While he really has only one standout season (2018) his average of full seasons and 2020 looks like this: .237/.312/.432 with 19 home runs and 24 doubles per 162 games. It’s no Laser Show, but can easily keep the seat warm for Jeter Downs.
Garrett Richards: A. Richards is a player with one question: health. Since 2015 he’s thrown 198.2 innings combined. He’s got the skills to really fortify the rotation if he’s on the field. If he’s hurt, well, that’s the risk with Richards.
Ottavino: B. Sure it might help the Yankees, but Ottavino is a great piece to add to the back of the bullpen.Was his time with the Yankees a little disappointing, sure, at first. In 2020 he made 24 appearances for a total of 18.1 innings and a 5.89 ERA. He allowed 12 earned runs. However, six of those runs were in once appearance on September 7 were Ottavino recorded no outs. Three more runs were in one other outing. This isn’t a 5.89 ERA reliever the Sox acquired. And I’m ready to buy a 0 shirt.
Each of the moves the Red Sox have made the last week have been… fine. The Enrique Hernández signing was rumored for a bit, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, and the Garrett Richards signing was also somewhat expected. The Adam Ottavino trade made me lift an eyebrow, but it also wasn’t a watershed moment by any means.
Now, not every transaction has to be a major one, but even when combining all three of these moves together, I don’t see this drastically improving the team in 2021. Hernández has been a below league-average hitter in four of the last five years and Richards hasn’t pitched more than 100 innings since 2015. Ottavino was awesome in 2018 and 2019, but 2020 wasn’t his year. I think he could bounce back for sure, but at 35, he’s not exactly an addition for the long-term, making the trade a little puzzling when the rest of the Red Sox’s moves have been very tame.
These are clearly moves that are banking on buying somewhat low and getting some surprise in return, but on the face of it, I can’t see giving these more than a D+.
I liked all three of these moves a lot. Hernández I’ll give a B+. Richards and Ottavino get A’s. Hernández is an upgrade on the bats they had available for second base and his ability to play basically every single position on the diamond means he’s perfect for Cora and will get all the at-bats he desires. Richards fills a big need in the rotation, and although he has risk he’s one of the better options the Red Sox could have gone after. Ottavino is exactly the high leverage reliever the Sox bullpen needs and I’m just not worried about 18 bad innings in 2020.
In a perfect world, Hernández would be used off the bench as a utility piece and off the bench against lefties. Imagine a right-handed Brock Holt. Unfortunately, Hernández wasn’t going to sign somewhere to be a bench piece. He wants a chance to start and he’s earned it. The concerning thing about Hernández is that he’s only had one full season where he’s been good against right-handed pitching, so the biggest change in value comes from seeing the glove change from Chavis’s hand to Hernández’s. Even if the offensive move is lateral, the defensive upgrade makes this a solid signing. I wrote once upon a time in these pages that I would’ve liked them to go after Jurickson Profar, but Hernández is a fine consolation prize. C+
Garrett Richards I can get into. I’m a sucker for high velocity and Garrett possesses as beautiful as one in the game. This is the type of signing the Sox should be making while they’re in stasis. Fun, short-term, rebound deals for guys they can catch lightning in a bottle with and flip or lightning in a bottle and extend like they failed to do with Rich Hill after his 2015 resurgence. A dominant Richards would command more money than Hill’s 1 year/$6 million pact he signed with the A’s. He’s younger, got better stuff, and a previous history of dominant performance. But, if the Sox unlock something with Richards and he stays healthy, he would warrant consideration for an extension despite his laundry list of health issues. A.
The Adam Ottavino trade makes me happy for reasons I’ll expand upon in a later article, but in short I’ll give it an A+.
I’m gonna give a B+ for both Hernández and Richards. The main factor here is that the contract length, especially for the perpetually broken Richards, isn’t too onerous. Hernández is quickly gonna be a fan favorite and rightly seen as a bargain when he plays absolutely friggin’ everywhere, and Richards still has a ceiling worth paying toward. $10 million isn’t that big of a gamble. If they hit, the sky’s the limit... for this year, at least.
Hernández: C+. I think Hernández is fine, but there are better second base options out there and the reports that indicated he wanted to play somewhere that would keep him mostly in one position concerns me. If those turn out to be less true and his versaility is utilized to its fullest potential, this grade goes up. But if he’s basically just a second baseman it’s more fine than good. Personally, even if he sticks at one position I’d prefer that position to be in the outfield.
Richards: A-. In a vacuum, I preferred Corey Kluber to Richards for 2021, and still do. But Richards is a good consolation prize there and as others have mentioned the upside is very real. The thing that puts this one over the top for me is the option, which Kluber apparently was steadfast against. The possibility, albeit somewhat out there, that Richards stays healthy and productive all year and then they get him for relatively cheap in 2022 as well makes this a perfect gamble.
Ottavino: B+. I’ve come down slightly on this since the deal, though not by a ton. I love the idea of using the financial muscles to buy a prospect, even if I’m not particularly enamored with German specifically. As far as Ottavino, I think he’s a Matt Barnes-like guy who can pitch in the late innings but you don’t want as your best option. The only downside here is if we assume the tax threshold or something close to that is a hard cap, then this eats up a lot of that budget. If I felt more optimistic they had a chance at Jackie Bradley Jr. before this trade I’d grade this lower, but as it is it’s still a good deal, just one that could prevent them from upgrading too much elsewhere due to their self-imposed budget.