Red Sox News: Options to boost outfield offensive production

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 16: Jackie Bradley Jr. #19, Enrique Hernandez #5 and Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox run in from the outfield after their victory over The Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on April 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 16: Jackie Bradley Jr. #19, Enrique Hernandez #5 and Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox run in from the outfield after their victory over The Minnesota Twins at Fenway Park on April 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

Searching options to boost Red Sox outfield production

The Boston Red Sox are on a roll, at least from May 10th of this season. How quickly it can turn around in either direction, and this one has been a wonder. The Red Sox have catapulted themselves into the playoff hunt and have blasted through the .500 level of play.

Each broadcast, the ad nauseum banter mentions the remarkable change in the offense dynamic. Or, to quote Dennis Eckersley with his usual and now nerve-racking reiteration, “It’s a beautiful thing.” Yes, it is despite the tiring replication.

The numbers play it out since that fateful line in the sand day in May. The Red Sox are duplicating their historic brethren by clubbing teams and leading the American League or near it in every offensive category. And that pitching may not be stellar but more than passable, but something is amiss in the lineup.

Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Trevor Story (occasionally) are blissful pounding away. A juggernaut of offense that is fun watching unless you are on the hill overlooking a slider go into the night. Three of the aforementioned are infielders, and one is a designated hitter. Where oh where are the club brothers from the outfield?

According to FanGraphs, they are comfortably in 13th place among American League outfield contingents. Collectively they have a 0.5 fWAR. The 77 wRC+, .281 wOBA, .353 Slugging, and 15 home runs are among the worst in the AL. There is no need for cherry-picking stats since “It’s not a beautiful thing.”

There is a collective effort on this morass. Enrique Hernandez is well behind last year’s numbers as his 71 wRC+ is well below the 110 wRC+ of 2021. Franchy Cordero seems to have hit a snag or reverted to what Cordero has always been. Jackie Bradley Jr. is JBJ, which translates to a leather glove and rubber bat. Christian Arroyo is flirting with the Mendoza Line, and Alex Verdugo is another wRC+ casualty.

The defense is solid enough and, in metrics, among the best in the AL if you genuflect before the altar of UZR/150. In 2021 even without JBJ, the outfield was not defensive chopped liver with a ranking of seventh.

Last year the defense didn’t have Bradley, but the offense had Hunter Renfroe; now, the loss of Renfroe and a degrading performance by those previously mentioned have impacted the outfield numbers. Those Renfroe home runs and RBI are missing, and Jarren Duran and Rob Refsnyder are not going to replace them.

I did not care for the Renfroe deal but could understand it with the two prospects that were part of the package. Long term, it may be an exceeding smart move by Chaim Bloom, but short term, it is not. Is Jason Bay still available?

Where do you get a productive – preferably – right-hand bat with power and a glove that is not a decoration? Aaron Judge would fit perfectly, but so would I winning Power Ball. There are about 20 teams that have a reasonable target of being in the playoffs, so I tend to dismiss transactions in that direction. I look to the “Sisters of The Poor,” or those teams whose only slim chance of making the playoffs is to join the Korean Baseball Organization.

I would first go south for my speculation to Charm City and switch-hitting Anthony Santander. Santander has this season bumped up to an 11.2 BB%, has hit 11 home runs, and has not been a defensive disaster. Santander is approaching heavy money arbitration and could be a nice band-aid for a season or two.

The Reds have veteran Tommy Pham, and the 34-year-old could provide some reasonable power depth for the Red Sox outfield. He’s slashing .250/.346/.415 with eight home runs this season. Pham has some brutal Fenway Park numbers (.180), but age and salary ($6 MM) could make this a 10-20 range prospect deal. A better option than Santander.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have an “Oh my God, what would it take?” guy in switch-hitting center fielder Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds is in the first year of a two-year deal ($13.5 MM) and has good power numbers. Prying him loose from the Pirates would be quite a task. But, hey – I can dream.

Righty Randal Grichuk can bring back memories as Grichuck slugged 90 home runs (2018-2021) for Toronto before being shipped to the Rockies. Grichuck is a free swinger (career 5.6 BB%/26.6 K%) and has “meh” defensive stats, but it could be cheap, especially with the Jays funding some of the contract already. Grichuck, like Pham, is a former Cardinal, always a plus.

Is there buyer’s remorse in Miami after signing Jorge Soler? Soler is a former World Series MVP, AL home run champion, and AL whiff leader. Soler is a human mountain of muscle, demonstrated when he connects. Soler can also make Manny Ramirez look like the high water mark for outfield defensive competency (career -30 DRS). As much as Soler can provide the bat, there are far too many negatives to this DH full-time in waiting and a heavy contract. Nope.  A no-goes for me.

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That’s my shortlist, but there are undoubtedly possible free agents in waiting who could be tossed into the mix, but Pham would be my pick. The money is no crushing issue, and Pham’s cost in prospect gold would be limited. Pham won’t kill you on defense and still can smoke the ball enough to boost the Red Sox outfield offensive numbers.