Red Sox should take the non-tender path with Sandy Leon, Steven Wright

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 25: Sandy Leon #3 of the Boston Red Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 25, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 25: Sandy Leon #3 of the Boston Red Sox at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 25, 2019 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox are looking for contract relief and it could be large or small. Here is a look at two small contracts – Sandy Leon and Steven Wright.

The Red Sox can certainly reduce payroll with a big hit on the potential luxury tax by trading Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.  Maybe even J.D. Martinez if he chooses to remain? The Red Sox could also go through the couch cushions looking for small change collecting a quarter here and a dime there.

Many of us during our lives have faced a budget crunch and some cutting of expenses becomes necessary. The usual process to control expenses is to look at the large expenditures, but often the savings can be accomplished with small adjustments. Apply the same to the Red Sox budget.

Glancing through the projected arbitration list there is a commonality to most in that they are simply not worth it. Possibly easily disposable and replaced. The issue then becomes the cost of replacement and that must have a judicious application or you are just making a sideways talent and fiscal move.

In battery is important in baseball, but the battery is the designation between pitcher and catcher. The Red Sox have a battery in two players that are potential cost savings – Sandy Leon and Steven Wright. A closer look at both can either seal the departure deal or muddy the waters.

Leon is an exceptional defensive catcher and a horrid offensive catcher. The negative captures the moment as Leon hit just .192 for the Red Sox in 2019. In Leon’s five Boston seasons he has not hit his listed weight.

The only career anomaly is a .310 batting average in 2016. The shared task of catching with Christian Vazquez is no longer and the 30-year-old switch-hitting Leon may simply be handed his walking papers by being non-tendered.

The flip side is Leon’s ability to do the arduous task of defense behind the plate. In the sketchy world of catching defensive metrics, Leon ranks eighth among fellow backstop tops all catchers in the American League (min: 400 innings). Another area of slippage is a surprisingly low 21 CS%. Wear and tear? Blame the hurlers?

Leon is projected to receive $2.4 Million in arbitration and that can be avoided by not tendering a contract. But how do you replace Leon? Is the cost balanced out fiscally with a replacement? The farm system has nothing on the horizon with not one prospect cracking the top 30 list. Forget that.

Maybe a trade will yield a ready role, but that would have to fall into the cost management area meaning MLB minimum and with it the risk of youth and a veteran staff. The Red Sox do have on the roster left-hand hitting – when he actually makes contact – Juan Centeno. The soon to be 30-year-old hit just .233 in his MLB career and a Leon like .133 in a small trial run in Boston. The only value is cost. Look elsewhere?

The free-agent list offers possibilities but that certainly wanders into the potentially too expensive or just another Leon or Centeno. The Red Sox are in a bind or are they? The solution to avoid paying Leon that projected money is to non-tender Leon making him a free agent and there is a risk.

More from Red Sox News

Once Leon joins the free-agent swamp he is available to anyone and could conceivably capture a contract similar to his possible arbitration handout. This is worth the risk. Non-tender Leon and offer a minor league deal freeing up both money and a roster spot. Leon has traveled down that road before and stands on the precipice of doing it again.

With Wright, a similar situation can occur and just may, but Wright is a risk/reward that other teams would possibly jump at based on the value of pitching. Just a few seasons back the 35-year-old knuckleballer right-hander was an All-Star. Personal and professional deterioration may have ended Wright’s career based on his latest round of injuries.

With Wright, almost a total non-contributor the Red Sox won a title (2018) and sank (2019). Wright’s role could be limited to the bullpen and the Red Sox have cheaper options in Marcus Walden, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, and several others.

Next. Red Sox projected 2020 arbitration salaries. dark

The real possible value for Wright is as possible spot starter since that is always necessary especially with a rotation loaded with question marks – more question marks than even whirl around Wright. A simple opinion is just risking the non-tender option and see if Wright has no one on his dance card. Total savings with Leon and Wright could be $2.5 – 3 Million. If it doesn’t work out they are replaceable.