The Red Sox made the big splash we were all waiting for this offseason, bringing in infielder Trevor Story on a big six-year deal to shore up the infield and also add another big right-handed bat to the lineup. It wasn’t necessarily the biggest need for the roster in many of our minds, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a helpful move. That being said, it also means some of those bigger needs still must be addressed, most notably in my mind with the outfield. As of this moment, Jackie Bradley Jr. is still an everyday player and there’s no real backup behind him, assuming they’d like to start Jarren Duran back at Triple-A. While it’s hard to imagine Bradley will be as bad as he was last season when he was arguably the worst hitter in baseball, it’s also hard for me to imagine a contending team giving him everyday plate appearances without insurance.
The bad news on this front is that the market for players changing teams is starting to dry up with the post-lockout frenzy cleaning up most free agents. The impatience some of us Red Sox fans displayed looks silly now after the Story signing, but at the same time the slow-moving pace also ensured any potential options at these other position of needs, most notably in the outfield, are off the board. If they’re going to make another move, it likely needs to be soon. So with that in mind, here are five outfielders who at least could still be available and could be targets for the Red Sox to finish out their lineup.
Conforto is the top free agent remaining at any position, and is the only free agent left on the board with a qualifying offer attached to his free agency. That, however, is one of the reasons it is probably tough seeing the Red Sox make this move. Conforto is a solid player, coming off a down year in which he was only slightly better-than-average at the plate, but has a career 124 wRC+. He also draws a ton of walks, which theoretically could fill that specific hole left by the departure of Kyle Schwarber. Still, the Red Sox already gave up a draft pick for Story, and it’s hard seeing them give up another one for a good-not-great player like Conforto. That he’s a left-handed hitter in a lefty-heavy outfield is probably less than ideal as well. I suppose if the market crashes enough that they can get him on a cheap enough deal they’d consider, but I think the qualifying offer will make them look elsewhere at this position.
Outside of Conforto, the only truly viable starting option on the free agency market is Pham. He’s certainly a step down from Conforto and some of the other options we’d been talking about all offseason, but he’s still a solid-average starter with a right-handed bat. He could play every day, but he could also take a step back if Bradley were to go on one of his patented hot streaks and Alex Cora wanted to ride that streak for as long as it could last. Pham has been an above-average hitter by wRC+ every season of his career outside of the shortened 2020 season, and is projected for something in the 105-115 range by most systems for 2022. The big issue with Pham is that he’d likely have to play left field, as he has little experience in right, never mind in Fenway’s big right field. So on the surface this one makes sense, but it really comes down to whether or not the Red Sox are confident that Alex Verdugo can handle right field every day at a high enough level. I’m not sure I am, but my opinion is surprisingly lacking importance in this decision.
I think this may be the most popular potential move among Red Sox fans, at least if my Twitter mentions are any indication. (They probably are not!) I shouldn’t bury the lede with this speculation, as it wouldn’t be just about getting Myers from the Padres in a trade. According to reports, San Diego is trying to shed some salary and could potentially package Myers and/or Eric Hosmer with a prospect (or multiple prospects) to a team willing to take on one or both of those contracts. I wouldn’t want Hosmer’s deal more because of the 40-man spot he’d take up than the money, but Myers is more palatable and there’d be a role for him. Like Pham, I’m not sure Myers could play right field every day so they’d be taking a hit defensively, but he’s a good hitter. There’s not a huge ceiling with the bat that I can see at this point, but if the Red Sox brass think they can make it work defensively and they can get a solid prospect back in exchange, I think they have to think about it.
Now we’re getting more pie in the sky, but this would be a hell of a surprise move to add an impact player in his prime into the middle of the lineup. We’ve discussed Reynolds a bit already this winter, but he remains with the Pirates and now is seemingly headed towards an arbitration hearing with his current club, which doesn’t bode well for any long-term discussions they may have with the outfielder. Reynolds makes contact at a hight rate, draws plenty of walks, hits from both sides of the plate, and provides good power. He’s been in the league three years, and has been at least 30 percent better than league-average in two of them. Now, I don’t expect this to happen because the cost will be huge in terms of prospects. When the Freddie Freeman rumors were happening, while I never believed the Red Sox were really in (more because of fit than an unwillingness to pay) I did play around with the idea of maybe signing Freeman then trading Triston Casas in a package for Reynolds. After signing Story, maybe they’d be willing to do that with Marcelo Mayer or Nick Yorke? I’d be surprised, but it’s a juicy idea to at least noodle on.
The Athletics are trading away anyone who could potentially make even a little bit of money, and after dealing Matts Olson and Chapman, all of the focus there is on pitchers Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas. Each of them could be good targets for Boston as well, but they also have an outfielder in Laureano who could be on the move. Now, it should be noted that he will be suspended for the first 27 games of the year due to a positive PED test, but in Bradley the Red Sox have someone who can serve as a stopgap. When he returns, Boston would get a defensive outfielder who has the range and athleticism to play in right field at Fenway — he currently plays center field in a huge Oakland outfield — and a guy who’s never been below-average at the plate while hitting from the right side. He’s also under control through 2024. As with Reynolds, the price will be high (though maybe not quite as high) but to me he checks the most boxes with defensive value and handedness.