The Boston Red Sox are in need to make some major changes to their roster, more for next season than this one. However, the need for other teams to arm themselves for the postseason may be even greater, triggering talks with teams that are not in the hunt and, yet, have top talent on their current rosters. The Los Angeles Dodgers have that particular need to improve their team for a championship run. And, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, they may be interested in Red Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza.
The long-standing rumor in the media was that the Dodgers wanted Chase Utley from the Philadelphia Phillies and, while that may still happen, however unlikely, the De Aza deal would be an interesting ‘plan B’ to allow Kike Hernandez to stay at second until Howie Hendrick returns.
MLBTradeRumors.com had Jeff Todd give an opinion about the possible deal:
"“In spite of that explanation, it seems a curious fit unless another move is also being contemplated. De Aza hits from the left side, and the Dodgers already have three left-handed-hitting outfielders in Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Joc Pederson. And it’s not as if the 31-year-old De Aza posts reverse platoon splits; to the contrary, he’s been far more productive against right-handed pitching this season and over his career. (The same holds true of the team’s incumbent options.)”"
While Todd gives allowances for why the Dodgers would want De Aza in terms of contractual obligations and flexibility, his opinion of the deal not making “a ton of sense”to the team’s current structure is well-founded.
However, before continuing to dive completely into the Dodgers’ needs, let’s look at what the deal means for Boston.
With a slash line of .313/.362/.520 in 150 at-bats, earning four home runs and 25 RBIs, De Aza filled in pretty well for the Red Sox, after joining the team in June. He’s been frequently called upon to play for the consistently-injured big-name hitter Hanley Ramirez in left field, and is tied for the team’s lead in batting average, for players with more than 100 at-bats, with star shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
With all of the team’s so-called depth in the outfield, it’s been only in recent weeks that the water hasn’t looked murky.
Mookie Betts was the clear winner in the competition for the center field job, after making highlight-reel catches game after game as well as improving his bat. Betts has hit 10 home runs and 53 RBIs with a .298 average when the game is late or close and .314 when runners are in scoring position. De Aza is only .188 with runners at second and third. Match that up with Betts’ speed and De Aza was never considered for the job in the middle.
However, that’s as clear as the waters have been. Ramirez has been a defensive nightmare in left field, including last night’s game against the Cleveland Indians. He’s got 19 home runs, which accounts for most of his 53 RBIs, but much of that was also at the beginning of the season. Ramirez has only hit a slash of .243/.269/.297 in the last 30 games, putting him behind outfield prospects Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rusney Castillo. In the last 17 games, Bradley’s bat awoke from some kind of coma by hitting .304 with three homers and 15 RBIs, bringing up his average to .244 after suffering below .190 for most of the season. Castillo has been adding some Cuban heat to the Red Sox lineup, hitting a slash of .339/.369/.548 in that same stretch, earning three homers and 12 RBIs while bringing up his season’s average to .279.
Out of those three, Ramirez seems to be more of the odd man out, if you factor in Betts at center. That’s before even accounting for De Aza hitting a slash of .308/.368/.442 in his last 22 games. De Aza hasn’t produced as much as the others, with one homer and six RBIs, but that’s because he’s been buried under the top five or six batters in the order many times. While Bradley is often the ninth hitter in the lineup, De Aza and others have done well to get on base for Bradley and the top of the order to drive home.
The youth movement seems to be working and, while De Aza is hanging with the young bucks better than Ramirez, the Red Sox have players like Brock Holt that could fill in just as well if one of them was injured. They even have some more outfield prospects like Andrew Benintendi moving quickly up the food chain, making De Aza a valuable but superfluous asset.
Contractually, it makes sense for both Boston and the Dodgers to make the deal. Todd reported that “Boston only took on $1MM of his salary in acquiring him from the [Baltimore] Orioles, and he’ll hit free agency after the season, so he’s a cheap rental piece at this point.”
For the Red Sox, keeping De Aza only to possibly see him leave at the end of the season seems a mistake. Even if they were to re-sign him, that’s money that could have been used to bring in a pitcher like David Price or another top free agent in the off-season. That’s money that may not be needed, with the Beantown Babes emerging in the outfield and the team’s reluctance to admit that Ramirez should not have been put in left field.
For the Dodgers, who should not be forgotten in this deal’s equation, their outfield situation is pricey, even for their deep pockets. Crawford’s contract has him set to make another $43.5 million over the next two seasons. While he may be hitting .353 in the last 19 games, he’s been chronically injured and has only played 34 games this season. With Pederson being one of the golden boys during this year’s MLB Home Run Derby and hitting 47 RBIs, he’s not going anywhere, especially since he plays in center field. Either’s contract has him making $35.5 million until free agency after 2017. However, the Dodgers may be more reluctant to move him, compared to Crawford, after Ethier hit 12 homers and 39 RBIs so far in a season where their once-phenom Yasiel Puig had less production with only a .248 batting average. Ethier has an average of .289.
If the Dodgers are even seriously entertaining the notion of trading for a lefty veteran outfielder to compensate for another move for the same style of player, it would have to be under the pretense that De Aza is simply insurance. The Dodgers would likely not start De Aza unless their own outfield combinations are broken by injuries.
But it is possible that the deal could be done. The Red Sox should make the deal before they lose an asset that they don’t see starting for them. However, it will have to be for something worthwhile coming back from Los Angeles. If the Dodgers want to make a move to dump some money, De Aza seems like a logical move, but that’s a big ‘if’.
More from BoSox Injection
- Predicting Red Sox top prospect Marcelo Mayer’s timeline to the majors
- Giants’ desperation post-Carlos Correa debacle highlights Red Sox’ lack of urgency
- Dave Dombrowski reunites with former Red Sox ace on Phillies
- 10 grievances against the Boston Red Sox in honor of Seinfeld holiday Festivus
- Red Sox risk repeating rookie mistake with Eric Hosmer release