The BoSox Injection staff looks at players available on the free agent market that the Boston Red Sox may have interest in this offseason.
The Boston Red Sox showed vast improvement in the 2016 season, spinning another worst-to-first campaign that saw them take the AL East crown. Despite the no-show in the playoffs, there is plenty reason to be optimistic about the team come 2017, mostly because of how much of the roster remains under contract.
There are only a few key holes for president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to fill, and that brings us to the perfect fit that no one is talking about: Brandon Moss.
Why he fits
Many fans may not remember, but Brandon Moss actually started out in Boston. In fact, he even earned a World Series ring with the team in 2007 (overlooking the fact that he played just 15 games that season). Despite putting up some gaudy offensive numbers in the minors, Moss never received a real major league shot until the Pirates gave him one in 2009. Even then, it wasn’t until 2012 with the Oakland A’s, the franchise famous for reviving forgotten players, when Moss exploded for 21 homers in 84 games, posting a monstrous .291/.358/.596 line.
This is Brandon Moss’ absolute ceiling, but it shows what he’s capable of doing – bringing power, and lots of it, on the left-handed side of the plate. And with legendary DH David Ortiz now retired, the Red Sox are looking for just that to fill the void. And who better than a veteran slugger who has played in Boston before and can be had on the relatively cheap? Seriously, why isn’t anyone talking about this guy?
Sure, Moss has shown problems with striking out and declining batting average. His 30.4% strikeout rate last season is well above league average, and his .225 batting average is less than inspiring, but it doesn’t change the fact that Moss can flat-out hit. His wRC+ has been on the right side of 100 in four of the past five seasons, and he’s seeing the ball better as he ages.
His hard-hit ball percentage has increased from 33.1% to 39.2% to 40.1% over the past three years. His low batting average can at least be partially attributed to his extremely unlucky .261 BABIP, and his .259 ISO from last season ranks among the league’s premier power hitters.
With the DH spot freed up in the lineup, Moss can certainly contribute there, but he also brings some defensive versatility. He played 507.1 innings of outfield with the Cardinals last season, mostly in LF with some RF time, and 397 innings of first base. And he wasn’t terrible at either; in the outfield, Moss recorded a 5.3 UZR and 3 defensive runs saved, and at first he had a -3.3 UZR and -3 defensive runs saved. He’s not going to be taking home a Gold Glove, but he’s no Hanley Ramirez in left field or Prince Fielder at first base.
Such versatility would allow Hanley to slide over to DH for some rest while Moss mans first, or giving one of the young studs in the outfield a turn at DH while Moss battles the Green Monster in left.
Why he doesn’t fit
They say Fenway Park is a power-hitting lefties dream park – provided that lefty can hit the other way. Minus the short distance of Pesky Pole, Fenway’s right field can be daunting for a lefty pull hitter, and that’s exactly what Moss is. His pull percentage last season was 46.2%, slightly down from 2015’s 49.4%. Basically, about half the time Moss will pull the ball when he puts it in play, more than enough cause for team’s to play a defensive shift on him.
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Of course, Red Sox fans are used to seeing David Ortiz obliterate the shift time and time again, but Moss may have some more trouble dealing with that on a nightly basis.
Will they sign him?
As thin as the current free agent market is in a number of areas, power hitting is one of the departments where there are options. More options drive down the demand for one singular player, making each slightly more affordable. Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo are likely to pull away the big spenders for power, leaving players like Moss available for a relatively bargain price.
Heading into his age 34 season, he likely won’t be looking for anything more than a three-year deal, and about $9-10 million per year over the life of the contract would probably get it done, or at least make significant headway.
Of course, there has been little to no talk about any Moss-to-Boston rumors, so stay tuned on that front.
Overall, Moss is as good of a fit as any to help replace David Ortiz’s power as a dangerous lefty in the lineup. He’s experienced, he’s talented, and he’s cheap. Pull the trigger, Boston.