Red Sox: The nationwide search for outfield help
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox need some outfield depth and it may be internal or external. Here are a few external options still on the board.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the Red Sox are stalled – probably deliberately – in filling a few prominent holes. The most notable one is the ongoing drama surrounding the most prolific bat for hire – one J.D. Martinez.
Scanning the free agent roster several names pop out that bring positive, negative or neutral vibes. The Red Sox could use some additional reinforcements for the outfield, infield and pitching staff. Maybe some bargains still exist? Maybe a few are bad ideas? Maybe a few more are really bad ideas – I have a special knack for that. I’ll stick to the outfielders – if the Red Sox go outside the organization.
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First up is our friend Joey or Jose Bautista. Bautista is a known basher at Fenway Park with 26 career home runs. Bautista can zero in on left field with a vengeance – a premier right-hand power hitter with a career going on a quick slide to oblivion. Bautista is now 37-year-old but plays like he is 47-years-old and acts like he is five-years-old.
In 2017 Bautista slammed 23 home runs while barely exceeding the Mendoza Line with a .203 average. Defensively Bautista was never considered anything more than barely adequate, but in 2017 Bautista had an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 0.1. That alone should forever make one question the veracity of fielding metrics. Bautista also had a rather inglorious -1.7 bWAR. If the Red Sox sign Bautista I will sit on the third rail at the Downtown Crossing Station.
If the Red Sox need that fourth outfielder, the good thing is Melky Cabrera can play the outfield. Conversely, the bad thing is Cabrera can play the outfield. Last season the damage was a -10.3 UZR. But Cabrera can still hit and did slash .285/.324/.423 and 17/85 in the power department. Cabrera could once upon a time motored rather well, but one steal in three attempts settles that. A 0.0 bWAR sums up the 33-year-old switch hitter’s year.
Jon Jay is a career .288 hitter with very limited power, but the 32-year-old lefty will not short change you defensively like Bautista and Cabrera. Jay may be looking for a more regular rotation, but if the market stays firm the Red Sox could swing a one=-year deal.
I have no idea of the status of Colby Rasmus? Last season Rasmus was granted a “leave of absence” by the Rays and is now a free agent. Is he returning to baseball? The 31-year-old lefty has some respectable power with four seasons of 20+ home runs. Rasmus also has a career 16.7 UZR and can play all three outfield positions. Worth a look to see if he is back in the game.
A low-risk option would be 31-year-old Michael Saunders. Saunders was an All-Star in 2016, but 2017 was not exactly spectacular with a two-team .202 average. In 2016 the lefty-hitting “Condor” hit 24 home runs so the power is there, but is the glove? A career -5.7 UZR gives some minimal doubt.
Ichiro Suzuki wants another year in the majors – maybe. Japan still beckons, and Ichiro could play one sayonara season on the home islands. If not, the price would be baseball low for the future Hall of Fame player. No doubt that Ichiro has slipped with both the bat and the glove, but for a few games he’ll be fine. Longer than that and you are in deep trouble.
Speed, defense, a .284 career average and you have my pick with Ben Revere. Revere has been with several organizations and once led the National League in hits (184). Revere can play all three outfield positions and has a quite respectable career 9.7 UZR.
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The Red Sox like speed off the bench and Revere swiped 21 bases in 27 attempts last season in 109 games. Twice in his career Revere has gone 40+ in steals. The 29-year-old lefty hitter is capable of spot duty or extended duty as a regular if the need arises.