Welcome back to another edition of the OTM Mailbag. It’s been quite busy since the last time we spoke, what with the Red Sox trading Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City and also signing Marwin Gonzalez. So, let’s get right into this week’s questions, which look at that Benintendi trade, what the lineup looks like with Gonzalez in tow, and Rafael Devers’s defense, among other things.
Stefan via email asks a two-part question:
1. Why involve the Mets? Khalil Lee versus Winckowski + a bag of balls PTBNLs seem not a balanced value. So why not a straight deal between KC and the Sox for a Lee-caliber player, if you want a pitcher? Thus, shouldn’t there be a little bit more than a bag of balls come from the Mets to even this up?
2. What exactly did the $2.8 million to KC get us back? Bloom seemingly said it was included to increase the return. Is this already the return with the 2 PTBNL just being more bags of balls, or is there value to be expected?
So I think the first question is really interesting in that I’m not entirely sure myself how the Mets worked their way in there. It’s like the Dwight Schrute meme. You know the one.
So I don’t really have a great answer to the Mets involvement.
But I think there are three things going on that get to the heart of your question. First is that the players to be named later are going to be more significant than we’re used to them being. That’s not to say they’ll swing the deal entirely. It’s been reported they won’t be top ten organizationally, and I’ve already said I don’t think they’ll significantly alter my perception of the deal. But I don’t think qualifying it as “a bag of balls” is fair. I think they’ll be real prospects, even if they’re not nearly elite.
Then, I think we’re overestimating Andrew Benintendi’s value right now. I won’t go through the entire argument again, but it’s worth mentioning that he has been no better than average at the plate since the first half of 2018 all while losing enough athleticism that playing center field is out of the question. Maybe there’s a bounce-back coming in both areas. It certainly wouldn’t shock me. But still a guy who has been a league-average bat and can only play left field simply isn’t going to get you as big a return as you’d think based on the name value. Now, as I’ve said that can just mean you don’t make any trade at all, but if you’re going to make a trade the return was never going to be significant.
And third, I think maybe the Red Sox weren’t as high on Khalil Lee. Presumably they could have made that kind of deal without getting the Mets involved, but they wouldn’t have gotten as much in terms of quantity. Lee is a talented player, but the hit tool is a major question and the power hasn’t really shown up in games. If you’re scared of that profile, there’s a fair argument to go quantity over quality.
Zach via Twitter
Do you have any thoughts on the lineup? Do we just put all the home run mashers back to back at the end of the order?
I think it’s almost foolish to project a lineup right now because it sure seems like we’re going to see almost a new lineup every single day, especially if there are no more signings coming. Between the questions in the outfield along with the versatility of guys like Enrique Hernández and Marwin Gonzalez, there’s going to be a lot of shuffling. That said, I’ll do it anyway. Here’s what I’d put forth as the closest thing to a normal lineup, with Hunter Renfroe subbed into left field with a lefty on the mound.
- Alex Verdugo, RF
- Xander Bogaerts, SS
- Rafael Devers, 3B
- J.D. Martinez, DH
- Christian Vázquez, C
- Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
- Bobby Dalbec, 1B
- Franchy Cordero, LF
- Enrique Hernández, CF
This isn’t necessarily what I’d expect, but this is how I’d draw it up. But again, I’d expect plenty of shuffling around with Hernández seeing some time at second, Christian Arroyo getting his chances, Verdugo playing center, etc. Cora has his work cut out for him here.
GOAT91 via the comments asks
With the recent news of Boston’s interest in Sawamura (he has reportedly signed since this question was submitted) it appears that Bloom isn’t done addressing the back-end of the bullpen. While I fully support the addition of more upgrades in the pitching department, I’m a little surprised that Ottavino isn’t considered the heavy favorite to lock down the closer role. He has 19 career saves – more than anyone else currently on the roster, if I’m not mistaken – and his ninth inning splits over the course of his career are actually pretty impressive, especially considering he took the mound at Coors Field a lot. As much as I like Matt Barnes, which I do, I feel like Ottavino should be the obvious candidate for save situations. Am I alone on this one?
I don’t think you’re alone on this one, though I would say there’s no reason to think either Barnes or Ottavino is a heavy favorite. I’ve said that I think Barnes will get the edge to start off due to the familiarity in the organization, but that’s not a significant edge. Ottavino has been the better pitcher if you stretch out the samples beyond last year, but last year was really rough for Ottavino. Some of that comes down to one bad outing, but that wasn’t the entire issue.
I think Barnes is the better strikeout pitcher while Ottavino gets weaker contact, and they both struggle with control. So, no, it’s definitely not crazy to think Ottavino is the better option. I just don’t think there’s enough separation right now to say one is definitively better than the other and I’d just roll with whoever looks the best coming out of camp and then proceed from there.
Julian via email asks:
With Marwin Gonzalez and Enrique Hernández now on the roster, and both theoretically capable of playing third base, along with Bobby Dalbec and Michael Chavis, is there any chance Devers moves off third base at some point this season? Would J.D. Martinez be asked to play some outfield if Cora felt the need to use Devers at the DH slot?
I don’t think it’s impossible, though it’s not something I’d bet on either. I think the team truly believes Devers can stick at third base for at least a few more years, and they’ll give him every opportunity to prove that. Last season was no doubt a regression, but he was average to even slightly above-average in 2019. So he’ll get every chance to keep going. However, if he’s a disaster there again and the team is competing despite that, maybe some of those questions start to come up. I’d be surprised if it happened in-season, but it’s not impossible. I think ideally they’d like to time his potential move off the position with Xander Bogaerts maybe having to move off shortstop and Martinez moving off the roster. Things never quite work according to plan, but if you can time it right you can have Bogaerts at third and Devers at DH with Triston Casas at first. But again, Plan A is Devers being able to stick at third.
Julian via email asks:
Assuming five bullpens spots are locked up (Barnes, Ottavino, Darwinzon Hernandez, Matt Andriese, Sawamura) then how do the remaining three spots shake out? Austin Brice is out of options, Garrett Whitlock goes back to the Yankees if he doesn’t stay on the active roster, and I assume Josh Taylor has an advantage by virtue of being left handed. Could Philips Valdez be on the outside looking in after a really good performance last year?
A two-fer for Julian to finish things out. First of all, I think there’s a chance they carry a nine-man pitching staff with a three-man bench. That’s part of the appeal of having two guys like Hernández and Gonzalez who can play everywhere. So, I think there’s a decent chance it’s four spots. And then it has to be said that injuries tend to make these decisions easier than we expect.
But for the sake of discussion, let’s say there are four spots to fill but everyone stays healthy. In that case, in addition to the five you list there I would say the next four go to Ryan Brasier (who I would include with the locks), Brice, Whitlock, and Taylor. That last spot would be a legitimate camp battle between Taylor and Valdez, both of whom have options. As you say, Taylor being a lefty helps him out and personally I think he’s a better pitcher. That said, it’s close enough that I could see that going either way, especially because Valdez’s changeup-heavy approach makes the platoon concerns less of an issue.
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.