Admittedly Franklin Barreto is a bit outside the box for this kind of exercise and is not a big-time name like some others we’ve gone through this month, but before you quickly point out how bad he’s been in his short stints in the majors, stick with me on this one. First, I wanted to go deeper than the obvious MLB free agent and trade targets and give myself a challenging player to find. What else is there to do right now as baseball fans, after all? And second, allow me to outline why Barreto actually makes more sense than you might initially think.
Under Chaim Bloom, the Boston Red Sox have been bringing in potential value where ever they can find in whatever form it may come, including former top prospects who have failed at other organizations such as Danny Santana, Franchy Cordero, and Rob Refsnyder among many others.
Barreto also fits this trend as a former top 50 prospect in all of baseball (peaking at number 35 on Baseball America’s rankings) with the Oakland Athletics. It really wasn’t all that long ago that Baretto was one of the hot up-and-coming middle infielders — his last appearance on a top 100 list was prior to the 2018 season — excelling in the minors. Scouting reports from the middle of last decade described him as a potential all-around infielder, sporting only modest power but combining it with speed, defense, and the ability to spray line drives all around the field. However, he could never quite break through to the majors, due to both depth ahead of him at the time as well never really wowing in the at bats he did manage to receive.
Barreto continued to produce in the minors, though, posting a career line of .289/.352/.482 with 86 homers and 42 steals. At the major-league level, on the other hand, across four seasons he’s only totaled 101 games and a slash line of .175/.207/.342 with nine homers and four steals. The inconsistent playing time no doubt had an effect on his production, but for a former top prospect, no other word comes to mind but disappointing.
Still, it’s possible Barreto is an ideal change-of-scenery candidate, and he almost got that chance in 2020 when he landed with the Los Angeles Angels. Unfortunately for him, he only played in 6 games before suffering a left shoulder injury that caused him to miss the rest of the season and all of 2021. So the idea of him being a change-of-scenery guy is still within the realm of possibility.
The other piece that fits with the Red Sox philosophy is Barreto’s versatility from a defensive perspective. While he has mostly played second base as a pro, he also has a bunch of innings at shortstop as well as some experience at third base. In addition, the most interesting piece here is that, in an attempt to get Barreto on the field more, Oakland started using Barreto in the outfield, getting him innings in center and left field in both the minors and the majors. All of these are positions where the Red Sox would love to have some depth at the major-league and high minor-league level.
Currently, Barreto is a free agent and remarkably he is somehow still only entering his age-26 season. If it works — and admittedly that's huge if given his lackluster major league performance’s and he’s returning from a lost season — it would be a huge win in terms of overall value for the team. Taking the circumstances into account in their totality, bringing in Barreto on a minor-league deal to see if the Red Sox can get anything out of him would be a very on-brand move for Bloom.
To sum it up, it may not be a splashy move, and there’s probably a larger chance than not that it doesn’t work out. Still, if the Red Sox are looking for more depth that can cover multiple positions while possessing a modicum of upside, looking at a former top prospect might not be a bad target.