The Boston Red Sox need a replacement for Chris Young. Can in-house answer Bryce Brentz be the solution?
The Boston Red Sox may enter the 2018 season without Chris Young or Eduardo Nunez; two guys who provided depth last year who are now free agents. While Brock Holt still remains an option, his declining offense has become less reliable than ever.
Yes, there are a few MLB free agents on the market that Boston can sign.
But many, if not all, lack the reliable fourth outfielder/utility man status the Red Sox are looking for — and the ones who do, come at a costly price.
This begs the question: Is Bryce Brentz the answer?
Brentz has shown flashes of brilliance when given the opportunity with the Red Sox, but those opportunities have been limited. In 2014, Brentz batted .308 with two doubles in 26 at-bats. It wasn’t overly impressive, but it was something.
Fast forward to 2016, Brentz was given another opportunity to contribute off the bench. In 61 at-bats, Brentz hit .279 with three doubles, a HR and seven RBI. They aren’t elite numbers, but they are serviceable. Although it’s a small sample size, Brentz shows he can add an offensive punch off the bench that the Red Sox sorely missed last season.
Despite Boston not providing an opportunity for Brentz to produce at the major league level, he still impressed for Pawtucket. In AAA, he had a .271/.334/.529 slash line with 31 HR and 85 RBI. Those numbers deserve an opportunity to win a roster spot, though he’ll likely have to turn heads during spring training.
If Brentz makes the 25-man roster, the Red Sox should keep Brock Holt on the active roster too. While Brentz could provide offensive depth, he’s merely a decent fielder who has average athleticism. But, Holt can serve as a late-inning defensive replacement that can balance out the primarily offensive Brentz.
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If Brentz is given the opportunity, this all but signifies the end for both Chris Young and Eduardo Nunez.
Young’s roster spot is predominately for the fourth outfielder position. After experiencing a declining season for Boston last year, there have been no whispers of a return for the veteran. Brent’z stats suggest he could do Young’s job for less than half the price.
Nunez can play just about any position on the diamond, but he could come at a hefty price for a player who doesn’t start everyday. Additionally, if Brentz captures the fourth outfielder/bench spot, one might suggest the Red Sox may move on from Nunez. Nunez will be limited to backup second baseman and third baseman, two positions that are occupied by players who should start everyday: Dustin Pedroia and Rafael Devers.
The easy answer is to let Chris Young find a new home, especially with Brentz waiting for his chance.
But the even harder question is: Do the Red Sox keep Nunez even if they add Brentz to the roster?
Given Boston’s roster has a possible platoon first basemen duo in Mitch Moreland and Hanley Ramirez, plus Brock Holt as a super utility, that leaves very little room for a fourth outfielder (Brentz) and another utility player (Nunez).
In other words, someone’s going to be the odd man out. We’ve seen what happens when the Red Sox try to nibble financially; they lose. In fact, they did so this offseason with Giancarlo Stanton. Taking the inexpensive way by relying on Brentz to replace Nunez’s offense seems like a bad idea.
While Brentz is perfectly capable of handling the fourth outfielder duties, his ceiling of production isn’t as high as Nunez’s.
Brentz wouldn’t only be replacing Young or Nunez, he’d be replacing them both. Considering Brentz hasn’t been able to hold an active roster spot for a full season suggests the Red Sox don’t believe he’s the answer to their area of need.
The search for depth continues.