After last weekend was packed with moves, it’s been more on the quiet side this past week with the trade for Adam Ottavino highlighting it all. We’re still waiting for three signings — Martín Pérez, Garrett Richards and Enrique Hernández — to be made official, too. In the meantime, we have our latest mailbag, which looks at the Nolan Arenado deal, the lineup, and the bullpen, among other topics.
Otis via Twitter asks
Would you have moved Rafael Devers to first and paid the luxury tax if it meant having Nolan Arenado at ages 30-36 at third base for the next six years?
Full disclosure, this question was actually asked a few hours before Nolan Arenado was traded to the Cardinals, but I think it’s still an interesting thought experiment. I’ll start by saying two things. The first is that the Red Sox would never do this. They believe in Devers at third base and while Arenado is a great player, I just cannot imagine them taking on salary for a position they already have in place. Second, I have a hard time being unbiased here as Arenado is my favorite player in the game and I would do some disgusting things to get him in a Red Sox uniform.
With that out of the way, I think this question does bring into focus an interesting quandary of how long the Red Sox can live with Devers not improving enough defensively at third base, and at what point they would consider going after a star there to move Devers to another position. Say, for instance, if Arenado opts out after this season and becomes a free agent.
Personally, I’ve been on the higher end in terms of optimism of Devers’s defense moving forward. His mistakes have generally not appeared to be due to a physical inability to play the position but rather making mental decisions like throwing when he should eat it, or coming in on a ball he should have let come to him. Things like that. Those are more fixable than physically not being able to play. That said, at a certain point you have to believe people when they tell you who they are, and in this case Devers has spent the bulk of his career telling us he’s not a third baseman.
So this is a big year for Devers in terms of my opinion of him at third base. I’m willing to give him the season to figure it out. But if we’re sitting here in November talking about the same things with him having the tools but not putting them together, something needs to be done. And with Triston Casas coming up, DH is probably more viable than first base, and that of course leads to J.D. Maritnez questions. We don’t need to figure everything out right this minute, but to answer the original question I don’t think right now it’s worth investing that kind of money at third base, but I could certainly see myself being more for that at this time next year. When, coincidentally enough, Arenado could be a free agent.
subP25 via the comments asks
Who are some centerfielders that could be available via trade, and which would you prefer?
The unfortunate thing about the center field market this year is that it’s not only weak in free agency, but there’s not a whole lot of places to turn for a trade either. I’ve said this a few times through the winter, but I had been hoping Starling Marte would be made available by the Marlins. To me, he would have been the ideal target even over Jackie Bradley Jr. as a talented player who was under contract for one more year. You get the 2021 production and a trial run for a potentially longer-term relationship, and if not it’s a stopgap to Jarren Duran possibly being ready for 2022, and with a good performance you’d get a chance at compensatory picks as well. But there have unfortunately been no indications he’s actually on the market.
So beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot. Kevin Kiermaier is still likely a candidate to be traded, though his name hasn’t come up much recently. He’d be a fine Bradley consolation prize. If you’re willing to go over budget, Lorenzo Cain might be available from Milwaukee for a low price just to take his salary off their hands. Randal Grichuk has been displaced from the Blue Jays lineup after the George Springer signing, but I’m not wild about him as an everyday center fielder. I’m not a big Ender Inciarte fan, but he could likely be had for a low price from Atlanta. The best option might be in St. Louis for Harrison Bader, as the Cardinals could be looking to get top prospect Dylan Carlson shifted over to center.
So, there are options, but all of them have some sort of argument against them one way or the other. For a team like the Red Sox who is trying to build up prospect depth, I don’t think any of the names here necessarily move the needle enough to justify giving up prospects rather than targeting a lower tier free agent for just cash.
Brendan via email asks
For the closer position next year is Barnes going to lock that down? I’d love to try some new guys in the position.
This is, I think, the most interesting question with this Red Sox roster right now. As things stand currently, I think Barnes is the closer, and even as the Number One Barnes Fan, I’m not wild about that. He’s much better suited for a number two role. But it’s really between him and Ottavino, and while I think they’re similar Barnes has the organizational trust. That said, I think they’ll add at least one more reliever into the mix and it’ll be a bona fide camp competition. And then throughout the year it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone else step up and take that job a la Brandon Workman in 2019, with Darwinzon Hernandez probably being the ideal candidate if he can get the command in check.
nc2knt via email asks
Assuming we sign Moreland and Pillar, what do you think of this as the current guess for the opening day lineup?
I think this is roughly right. There are some quibbles I have with certain parts towards the bottom. I don’t think, for instance, first base would be a straight platoon. Dalbec will get a good chunk of the at bats against righties even if Moreland were to be brought in. They need to see what they have there. Muñoz is not on the 40-man, and while I could see him being added back, say, when they put Chris Sale on the 60-day injured list I’m not sure to the point where I’m adding him into a lineup projection. And while I think Pillar is a decent bet to be the last position player signing — I’d prefer they sign a second baseman and make Hernández an outfielder, but I don’t see that happening — he’d play center with Verdugo in right. But generally speaking, I think this is roughly right.
Mike via Twitter asks
With most of the trades happening around the MLB involving big names, the returns seem small compared to what would be seen in past off seasons (at least that’s my perception). If the Sox are serious about trading Benintendi, how small of a return should be expected?
I think I’d push back a little bit on that first point to some extent. The returns have been small — I’m still hootin’ and hollerin’ about the apparent extent of the Arenado return — but it’s because of money. Teams don’t want to take on big contracts so guys like Arenado and Lindor (whose acquisition likely comes with a long-term extension) and Darvish didn’t get returns that match their talent because of money. But Benintendi, while not dirt cheap, does not fall in that camp. I’d point to Blake Snell as a guy who did get a haul back. Benintendi is obviously not Snell, but I bring that up to say that teams will still pay for talent, it’s just that finances have been the first consideration this winter.
As for the Benintendi return, it’s really difficult to get a sense of what they could get in return. Keaton and I did a podcast on this putting together some fake packages, and it was one of the most difficult baseball thought experiments I can remember. There are so many ways teams could go in their evaluations of him. Ultimately, if we’re not adding significant talent or money to the equation on either side — which is possible, but it makes this whole thing that much more difficult — I think you’re looking at a young non-star major leaguer and a prospect who would probably slot in as an 8-15-ish range prospect in the system. It’s useful, but nothing that will blow you away.
Ivan via Twitter asks
Blackmon (two years $42M left) and Mychal Givens plus $15M from the Rockies for Gilberto Jimenez, Jay Groome, Michael Chavis and Thad Ward who says no? I think Blackmon for two years in right field would be great and let Verdugo play center field for now.
Yeah I’m not doing this deal. Blackmon is still good and Givens is a fine reliever, but I’m still saying no. Blackmon is going to be 35 on July 1 this year, and his athleticism is not what it once was. I’m not sure he’s a plus addition for even the entire 2021 season, never mind 2022, when you consider the big right field at Fenway. This gets back to my point earlier about preserving farm depth. If the Red Sox had the Rays farm system or the Padres farm system, they could think more about giving up these types of players for this kind of trade. But as it stands, these are three important, arguably top 10, prospects in the Red Sox system, and Blackmon is at the age where the risk starts to become too much for a team in Boston’s position.
Thanks again for all of your questions. And again, if I didn’t get to yours look out for it in a future edition of the mailbag or on the podcast. We always appreciate more questions, so please if you have any you can either ask me on Twitter @OverTheMonster, you can leave a comment on our Facebook page, you can drop a comment down below on this post, or you can send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.