When Chaim Bloom was first hired by the Red Sox, the buzzword spreading throughout the Boston media in reaction to the hiring was “creativity.” We were told to expect a different kind of team-building, with his time coming up through the Rays front office teaching him to be creative in a small-market setting. The theory was that we’d see the same kind of thinking, just in a big-market setting.
To this point, I’m not sure how much real creativity we’ve seen. To be entirely clear, this is not a shot at Bloom, who I think has done a fantastic job heading this front office. I just think the great moves that he’s made — signing Hunter Renfroe, selecting Garrett Whitlock in the Rule 5 Draft, etc. — have been smart, but in a relatively conventional way. I’m not sure we’ve seen major creativity, although I may be holding him to too high a standard.
But I bring all this up not to malign Bloom — again, I think he’s done a great job so far — but rather to point to a bit of creativity down in Worcester that seems like an A-plus move. On Tuesday, Katie Morrison, who covers the Worcester Red Sox for Masslive, tweeted out a picture of Franchy Cordero taking pregame ground balls at first base.
Franchy is out here taking grounders at first today https://t.co/pLkZKWYEDH pic.twitter.com/j4sqdZ7udo— Katie Morrison (@KatieMo61) June 29, 2021
Obviously this is the first we’re seeing of this, and we have no idea how it’s going to go. Perhaps the most famous scene in Moneyball is Wash talking about how playing first base is not as easy as it may seem, so it’s no sure thing that Cordero will play well here, never mind be okay with this new position. But it’s certainly worth a try, and if it does work it out it solves a bunch of problems for this Red Sox club.
The first thing that matters is here is that Cordero has been knocking on the door almost since the day he was shown that same door. Since getting sent down to Worcester, he has been raking, hitting .385/.471/.673 for a 199 wRC+. He’s drawing a ton of walks, cutting his strikeout rate to a still-high, but manageable 26 percent, and showing off his massive raw power. Based solely on performance, Cordero’s production over these 121 plate appearances (19 more than he got in the majors before his demotion) would seemingly be enough to get him back up in the majors.
The problem is that there is a little bit of a logjam in the outfield, both in the majors and along with Cordero in Triple-A. In the majors, Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe have very obviously earned everyday roles, while Kiké Hernández is starting to turn things around as well. Then down in Worcester, Cordero also has to compete with Jarren Duran for a call-up, and the latter arguably takes precedent at this point if a full-time job opens up. And that’s not even mentioning Marcus Wilson, who is already on the 40-man (as is Cordero, though Duran is not) and is somewhat quietly hitting .270/.394/.497.
So, a big part of this move is simply moving Cordero out of the outfield picture, or at least having him get a toe into the infield picture as well. But it also helps the first base position for the Red Sox as well. That has been a problem area all season, with Bobby Dalbec struggling and only Cleveland coming in with a worse wRC+ at the cold corner in all of baseball. For Dalbec specifically, he has been particularly bad against right-handed pitching, with a 62 wRC+ against same-handed pitchers while posting a 123 mark against southpaws.
Cordero, on the other hand, hits from the left side and over his career he has been better against righties, with a 90 wRC+ against them compared to a brutal 47 mark against lefties. This isn’t to say that the Red Sox would or should roll with a strict platoon if this plan were to come to fruition, because I don’t think they want to have Dalbec lose that many at bats. However, it would give them a chance to give him some time off against righties and perhaps add a little more punch to the bottom of the lineup in those situations.
The final part of this potential experiment with Cordero at first base that intrigues me is — stop me if you’ve heard this before — the possibility of a four-man bench coming back. I’ve been clamoring for this all year, but if they are going to roll with this plan, that does necessarily mean there is some sort of platoon between Cordero and Dalbec, and it’s tough to make that work with a three-man bench. Ideally, they’ll figure out a way to get both Duran and Cordero on the roster, dropping a pitcher and Danny Santana to make it work. These are marginal changes by definition since we’re talking about the bench, but in a close race the margins matter and it certainly makes for a more complete group of position players.
Like I said, there is still more to be done before this plan can really come to fruition, and it seems they are still in the early stages of seeing if Cordero can handle first base on a semi-regular basis. But it’s the kind of creative solution the margins of this roster need to make it all work. This allows the outfield picture in Worcester to clear up a little, with more apparent paths to the majors, it gives Cordero an easier road back after mashing at Triple-A, and it potentially shores up what has been one of the worst positional groups in baseball without giving up prospects in a trade. I’ve said that I haven’t seen the creativity from Bloom that was hyped upon his hiring, but this is it, and at least in theory it’s a perfect solution to a number of problems.