Five players the Red Sox should welcome back for 2021

Red Sox reliever Phillips Valdez. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Red Sox reliever Phillips Valdez. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Five success stories the Boston Red Sox must keep for 2021.

The Boston Red Sox have now stumbled into the halfway point in the 37% season. Moves have been made and expect more to be made. The major need for cleansing is the pitching staff as management has rolled out several arms only to see them falter, fail, and disintegrate.

But the Red Sox do have a few players, both mound and position, that are worth a further look since they have shown enough to merit another contract – with, of course, the next thirty games being the final determinant.

Kevin Pillar signed a one year deal for $4.25 million after having a respectable season for the Giants in 2019. Pillar hit a career-high with 21 home runs and had a similar career-high with 87 RBI and hit .264 with all but five of his 161 games played with the Giants.

Pillar has always been a gritty player whose defensive skills are a regular on highlights – Pillar collared the nickname “Superman” in his Toronto days for his jouve de faire style. Pillar will be 32-years-old in 2021 – if we have a season – and deserves to return. Boston is obviously getting younger, but Pillar is a steady player, a good teammate, and can be a solid role model for the more youthful players.

The cost of Pillar will be interesting since market values are the great unknown. A two year deal in the $10 million range might suffice for the veteran or the Red Sox could leave the door open and have an invite to talk if Pillar is allowed to test the market.

Why did the Red Sox ever select Jonathan Arauz in the Rule 5 Draft? A switch-hitting infielder with a .243 career average – and that career was spent entirely in the minors. Arauz was selected from the Astros who had received Arauz in a deal with the Phillies. Arauz had even bagged a suspension of 50 games from testing positive in 2017. Did the Red Sox know something? Did Alex Cora make a suggestion? Was he a “stash player” that somehow would be overlooked?

Getting Arauz was just building upon the fact that Brock Holt would be gone and the team needed to sort through infield possibilities. Tzu-Wei Lin would probably be back, Michael Chavis can play all but shortstop, Jose Peraza was signed. Arauz had some heavy competition but has stuck. Arauz will never be a Gold Glove candidate, but he is not embarrassing with the glove and knows his limitations offensively. Best of all he is cheap. Can Arauz keep his average around the current .308?  Highly unlikely.

When Jonathan Lucroy was cut loose that just about settled the issue of backup for Christian Vazquez. Light hitting Kevin Plawecki would be the guy. Plawecki is passable defensively and certainly can not match Sandy Leon in the caught stealing department, but he will suffice.

Plawecki has a very nice $900,000 contract that represents nice savings over Leon who priced himself out of Boston. What has been the shocker in the first half is Plawecki has hit (.313) and pitched if you consider his 0.2 innings – his fifth career appearance on the mound for the former Met and Indian. He’ll be back, but don’t expect that average to stay in such rarefied territory for Plawecki.

Another waiver claim that actually panned out is righty Phillips Valdez who makes Boston his fourth organization. Valdez has scuffled around in his career between the bullpen and the rotation with just enough success to get a job somewhere. Noted on his transaction info is the standard granted free agency and released. In his only albeit brief MLB action in 2019 with the Rangers was the usual red flag for me – 5.1 BB/9. Valdez’s two most prominent pitches are his fastball and change with the occasional showing of a slider.

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Valdez throws in the low 90s, has GB% slightly above 50%, and in MLB and high minors does not have the swing and miss stuff with an SwStr% hovering around 10%. What Valdez has had is success in the first half of the 37% season and shown enough to earn a few more high leverage situations from manager Ron Roenicke. Valdez may falter once hitters adjust to his quirky delivery or they may not. The eternal battle as hitter-pitcher adjust to each other.

Valdez may be a fluke or a guy that finally puts it together at age 28. The Red Sox bullpen needs a bright spot and Valdez has been one of the few. And his price tag is a bargain.

Pirates, Yankees, Padres, and now Boston in an ocean to ocean tour for righty Colten Brewer. Brewer came on board in 2019 in a trade with the Padres that had a big yawn. In 2019 Brewer did well enough in 58 games (1-2, 4.12/4.71 FIP) to get a welcome back. Brewer relies on a cutter, slider, and curve to stay in business with the occasional showing of a mid-90s fastball.

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With Brewer in his short career, it is the usual pitching plague with a 5.6 BB/9. Brewer’s GB% settles in around 50% and Boston has used Brewer as the occasional opener. What stood out last season was nine wild pitches in 54.1 innings pitched – a pace knuckleball specialist Tim Wakefield would have difficulty matching. Brewer – like Valdez – is in the minimum MLB salary department.