The Red Sox outfield will be a major reconstruction project
For the Boston Red Sox, taking care of the simple stuff first should clear up the offseason plate. The task I will explore is getting the outfielder situation squared away, and the issue starts with who will be the regulars in picket patrol.
Simple may be an understatement since the outfield needs far more than a tweak. It’s a rather depressing situation, considering the outfield is ranked 14th in the American League offensively and defensively.
The only solid guarantee is Alex Verdugo. Jarren Duran’s stock has fallen like World Com’s a few years back, and he may be on borrowed roster time. So who do they match up with Verdugo?
Tommy Pham earned his chops after being brought over from the Reds but will be 35 next season. The $12M option is a lot to pay someone whose best years are firmly in the rearview mirror. The Sox had no qualms about tossing $10 MM to Enrique Hernández for a less-than-spectacular season, and Hernández may or may not be stuffed into center. Is Pham worth the option?
Rob Refsnyder hit .307, plays an above-average defense, has an exceptional baseball IQ, and is cheap. Refsnyder is the ideal fourth outfielder, but circumstances may see Refsnyder get far more at-bats. Refsnyder may eventually be a combo choice with a lefty.
That lefty could be Franchy Cordero, who finished off his season attempting to kick down the Green Monster. His Bruce Lee moment put Franchy on the IL. But do the Sox keep him? I have lost count of times management has resurrected Franchy from Worcester.
Christian Arroyo did some reps in right field that were as informative as attempting to put Kevin Youkilis in the outfield. A showcase of defensive ineptitude in both cases and Arroyo is best served in the infield and primarily at second base. Cross off, Arroyo.
The latest Red Sox collection for the outfield is portly (I am being kind) switch-hitting Abraham Almonte. Almonte is 33 years old and has played for six organizations producing a less than remarkable .236 career average. I suspect Almonte will be with his seventh organization next spring.
Bringing back old friends starts and should end with Jackie Bradley Jr. JBJ hit .202 for Boston and even less for Toronto. Bradley still can “pick ’em” in the outfield but is almost a giveaway with the stick. Another ideal fourth outfielder.
The Red Sox minor league system has three outfield prospects among their top ten. That is good news, but the bad news is they are at least a year away, and being a prospect does not necessarily equate with immediate impact.
Scanning the free agent list, one name provides an instant solution to a multitude of Red Sox issues: Aaron Judge. When that level of talent becomes available, you should ignore the price tag, but I would expect Judge to choose his landing spot, and I doubt Boston will be it.
On the just tossing out names and see what sticks is Trey Mancini. Mancini has right-handed power, would be financially viable, and defensively I would feel more comfortable with a house plant at the corner outfield slots. A far better option at first base.
Andrew Benintendi (remember him?) is on the open market. Benintendi is a known commodity whose game veered back on track after being traded to Kansas City. He is a solid defender and respectable contact hitter (translation: No power) who could be a steady addition if he can avoid the IL.
Righty Mitch Haniger chose the wrong season to have a downturn after a 2021 season for the M’s that produced 39 home runs and 100 RBI. The lefty version of Haniger is Joc Pederson with a tick upwards offensively, or is it downward?
I’ll stop at this point since the list is a bit on the weak side this year. Several names would be intriguing if they were from five years ago, and the names and performance results are similar to what they already have, so the possible pathway is trade. Red Sox do have some prospect talent and Eric Hosmer.
One player into deep arbitration is the one that should not have been sent packing – Hunter Renfroe. The Brewers are cost-conscious (cheap), so Renfroe and his 29 home runs could be had.
The Red Sox and Phillies have become trading partners in the last few seasons, and Philadelphia has Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins is offensively similar to Renfroe but with more walks and strikeouts. The problem is just what would it take? Why would Philly do it?
I am sure this offseason, the hot stove league will be heated up with the ever-present trade scenarios, and the Red Sox will be well in that mix. At least for me, one clear thing is that the Boston outfield desperately needs offensive and defensive upgrades. The names I offered up are just symbolic of just what a task Chaim Bloom has to do to accomplish such an upgrade.
The first glance is depressing, and the options are limited unless management goes full throttle on Judge or makes a trade of significance. Otherwise, the Red Sox will continue to give away outs defensively and offensively with their outfield.