The Red Sox are in first place in the division, but some of the cracks on this roster are starting to show. That includes the performance of the bottom of the lineup, where the inconsistencies are starting to show in a major way. There are a lot of culprits here, but no one has really stood out more than Franchy Cordero. He did have a nice game on Thursday with three hits, but prior to that he hadn’t gotten a hit since Patriots Day. On the season he has a 31 wRC+ (meaning he’s been 69 percent worse than the league-average hitter) with a 39 percent strikeout rate. This has led to speculation he will be sent down at some point.
Even if he is sent down, though, it could only be a temporary thing. That’s what I want to explore for this week’s roundtable. I asked the staff to predict where things would stand with Cordero by the end of the season and what role he would fill.
I expect Cordero to be in a platoon with Hunter Renfroe as soon as Jarren Duran is ready. There are just too many holes in his swing to fix by then and carve out an everyday role. I think it’s possible he could keep an everyday role if he makes some small improvements and shows the potential of making progress, and Renfroe continues his struggles, but two of the outfield spots definitely belong Verdugo and Duran. So I think the best case for Cordero is a platoon where Cora can pick and choose his spots with him to be successful.
I’m not really sure what to think of Franchy Cordero. He gave me a good first impression, collecting a couple of clutch hits and making some nice plays in the field in the first few games, but his numbers have been downright awful since then. He’s not just getting unlucky either - he’s been whiffing with regularity and making poor contact. I do think Franchy is much more talented than his 13 wRC+ shows (Ed. Note: this was written earlier in this week), but he needs to figure it out and he needs to figure it out fast. He’s running out of time with Jarren Duran waiting in the wings and Danny Santana already out for rehab games. My guess is that Franchy will be allowed a little more time, but will be replaced by Jarren Duran by the end of the year.
Franchy Cordero’s role at the end of the season will be roughly the same as it is now: a platoon bat along with Hunter Renfroe in whatever outfield slot is available. He may get demoted to Triple-A. He may get phantom IL’d. He may even stink the rest of 2021. But this team isn’t going to give up on him, and they are going to end the season trying to see if he can be useful at the major league level.
For bonus points, I’m going to double down and say if he ends up going down to Triple-A, his swing mechanics will close up a bit and he will be a much better hitter upon coming back up to the majors.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Cordero even before the Benny trade but I didn’t expect him to be this bad. By the end of the season, he will be in Triple-A where he can get everyday at bats and hopefully he can become a fourth outfield type.
I think Franchy Cordero’s fate on the Red Sox will be decided more by the team’s performance than his own. While he might spend a little time in the minors because that option exists, this would be for roster management. It’s an understatement to say Cordero has struggled - his OPS has been hovering around .400. But after snapping an 0-25 streak on Thursday with a double, he could turn things around in a hurry with a few more hits. Cordero doesn’t even have a full season under his belt across parts of five major league seasons with a cumulative .222/.287/.391 and 12 homers, 14 doubles. He won’t turn 27 until September. And he’s the return for Andrew Benintendi.
While Benny isn’t back to his 2018 form, the change of scenery has paid off so far. There’s no way of telling if he bounces back in Boston without the trade, sometimes guys just need a fresh start. And Cordero needs to be judged on his own. So the Red Sox will let him fight through this, find a place for Jarren Duran, and by the end of the season hope to have him set to hold down an outfield spot in 2022.
I don’t expect Franchy Cordero to be a regular part of the lineup by season’s end. In fact, I think he’s probably going to have to go back down to the minors to work on his hitting (even if he had a nice day at the plate on Thursday). The Red Sox aren’t stacked with outfielders, but they have enough depth to make due so that Cordero can (hopefully) hit the reset button without the pressure of being at the MLB level. I also think at least a couple of the prospects currently percolating in the minors will get called up this summer and play well enough to earn a full-time roster spot, making it more difficult to see Cordero regaining a prominent role.
This could go a million ways based off a bunch of different variables. If the Sox keep this up and stay in first place, pressure is going to mount to do something about not just Franchy, but left field production in general. Left fielders need to hit. He has two options left so there’s nothing stopping them from sending him down for a breather or to work on whatever he needs to work on. If the team falters over the next eight weeks, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be given a longer leash to figure it out at the big league level.
In the end, I don’t know if he can hit major-league pitching reliably enough to tap into the power that he needs to access to be a good Major League hitter, but they’re not going to DFA him this season. It wouldn’t just be bad P.R. to dump the return in the Benintendi trade so soon, it’d be stupid. Like I mentioned, he has options left to work his problem out if it comes to that. I think he ends the season in the same role he’s in now: platoon left fielder.
By the time we reach mid-season, let alone the end of the season, Jarren Duran will have displaced Franchy Cordero as the starting left fielder. I envision that Cordero moves to a bench outfielder role spelling Hunter Renfroe when he needs rest and a righty is on the mound, as well as allowing Enrique Hernández and Alex Verdugo to rest when they need to. Cordero has been slightly better against right-handed pitching over his career than Renfroe has, but both have wRC+ marks of under 100. Combine that with Renfroe’s superior defense and success against lefties and he is the clear choice to play more often.
You may see Hernández in the outfield less with Cordero on the bench, which will allow the former to spend more time in the infield. Duran and Verdugo will be locks in the outfield every day, with Renfroe playing right field most of the time. Playing Cordero sparingly may be good for him from a staying on the field standpoint since he has so often been injured.
Pinch hitter. The end.
I don’t think Cordero is on the major-league roster by the end of the season. I certainly think he will be sent down sooner than later — Thursday could be the start of a hot streak, but I’m in “believe it when I see it” mode here — and I’m not sure he’ll be able to work his way back up. The issue for Cordero is they have other options. Duran has been mentioned a bunch by the responses above, and then there’s also Danny Santana, Michael Chavis, Yairo Muñoz, and maybe even guys like Marcus Wilson who may surprise and appear on the radar at some point. There are enough options that they don’t need 100 percent of them to play well to displace Cordero.
Given that the Red Sox should be in contention for most of the year — I still think they’re a .500 team, but these current wins are banked and playing .500 the rest of the way puts them at least in the picture for most of the season — they have to go with their best options. If they still expanded rosters to 40 in September I’d say he’d be a lefty off the bench, but it’s only expanded to 28 now. I suspect those two extra spots will go to pitchers or perhaps one to a catcher, and while Cordero’s upside is strong the swing and miss just scares me too much. I think at least one or two of the other options mentioned above will play well enough that Cordero will have trouble regaining a permanent major-league role this year.