Is Kolten Wong a viable free-agent target for the Red Sox?
Another addition to the ever-expanding free agent list via declined options is Cardinal’s second baseman, Kolten Wong as reported here. Wong is a gifted defensive player in which the metrics bear out with a 3.8 UZR and six defensive runs saved (DRS) in 2020. In 2019 Wong led all second basemen with 14 DRS. Wong has also been the recipient of a Gold Gove in 2019. That’s just the tip of the iceberg but the Red Sox front office should be salivating at his free agency.
Offensively, Wong – a 30-year-old left-handed hitter – is not a fence buster but does have some occasional extra-base thump with 53 home runs in six full and one 37% season. Wong hit .265 last season and .261 for his career. In 2020 Wong posted a 1.3 fWAR, .305 wOBA, .350 OBP, and a 92 wRC+. For his career, Wong has a 7.7 BB% with a 15.2 K%.
Watching Wong in regular-season games and the playoffs I have been impressed with his ability to play within his talents – the “little things” that managers and other players speak of. An example is leading MLB with 11 bunt hits in 2019. And speed? Wong has it, but not blazing speed, an intelligent runner who in 2019 swiped 24 bases.
Wong reminds me a bit of Jerry Remy before his knees failed. This is a very good player and the best option not named DJ LeMahieu on the second base market.
The Cards declined to pick up Wong’s $12.5 MM option and are supposedly going to actively pursue Wong for a multi-year deal. Just what the market will be is the great unknown based on the substantial losses that MLB and each team had in 2020. The money direction is significant on just what the Red Sox have set as their fiscal bar considering they have now reset.
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The Red Sox remain in a quandary at second base and the probable solution for 2020 – Jose Peraza was a miserable failure. The Red Sox had quite a casting call and former first-round pick (Giants – 2013) Christian Arroyo finished off the season as the heir apparent. What Wong represents is the sure thing – a solid player defensively and smart offensively. Arroyo – at 25-years-old – may have finally put together that promise that made him a high draft choice.
Wong appears to be the type of player Bloom may seek out on the free-agent market since he will not be excessive in contract years or steep in money at least in the context of what may happen across the baseball fiscal landscape. A Wong signing would not require losing a draft pick and could give the Red Sox a bit more flexibility on their roster regarding trades and their roster alignment.
Not signing Wong the Red Sox could allocate that money elsewhere with the most notable need being pitching. The list is growing on available talent and some are quite tempting such as Brad Hand and Darren O’Day – two solid bullpen pitchers. But then the gap at second surfaces and if Arroyo becomes Peraza the Red Sox are back to problem-solving. Make an effort on Wong.