Red Sox speed could be enhanced with Whit Merrifield or Trea Turner.
The Red Sox need Jacoby Ellsbury but will have to settle for an Ellsbury clone since the injury-plagued former Red Sox and Yankee is retired. Ellsbury, when healthy, was a terrific player, a competent hitter, excellent power, and intimidating speed. A great combination that eventually rewarded Ellsbury with an ill-fated seven-year $153 million contract from the Yankees.
Ellsbury first appeared on the Red Sox scene in 2007, and the impact was noticeable. Two sojourns from Pawtucket (AAA) and finally a blistering September. That September showed the speed with eight steals, hitting a .361 batting average, and power with three home runs and 17 RBI.
Ellsbury had a checkerboard career with Boston since he was as tender as a Faberge Egg. Injuries sought out Ellsbury as a pig would a truffle, which meant extensive missed time and a collection of debilitating injuries that ended his once-promising career.
Enough of my ode to Ellsbury. So, where is the new Ellsbury? Is there a player in the system that can bring forward that combination of hitting and intimidating speed? If there is little promise with prospects, the free-agent market and trade market is a viable option.
After the 2022 season, Trea Turner will be a free agent unless the Dodgers sign the 30-year-old righty to an extension. Last season, Turner won the National League batting title (.328) and led the NL in steals (32). He also slammed 28 home runs, so the combination of speed, high average, and power is there.
Turner will not win any Gold Glove Awards but is no embarrassment either at shortstop or second base. He has seen picket line duty as a center fielder early in his Washington Nationals career, but another option is available. Another player with second base and outfield credentials has the prerequisite speed. No need to wait a year for Turner to possibly test the market.
Trade rumors circulate during the 2021 season regarding the Royals Whit Merrifield. Just what would be the price for the 33-year-old American League 2021 stolen base leader (40)? Merrifield has less power than Tuner but still can hit the ball out and provide gap power.
The Red Sox are building up their farm system and accumulating trade chips. I seriously doubt the Dodgers would be a willing trade partner, but the Royals facing an ever-increasing bill for Merrifield could be a willing partner.
Neither Turner (7.4 BB%) nor Merrifield (6.1 BB%) will dazzle one with OBP from the leadoff position, and I would picture both as suitable at that spot or batting second. The age factor with Merrifield could make him the more viable choice over the length of contract.
The Red Sox lack team speed, which puts pressure on defenses. Speed is a remarkable asset that is noted in the historical record of 2004. That disappeared with Ellsbury, and it is a concept that needs to be revisited. Then there is Cedric Mullins. But for my money, the target for the now would be Merrifield.