Red Sox interested in Diamondbacks’ outfielders
The Red Sox recently looked into the group of left-handed outfielders from the Arizona Diamondbacks, writes Alex Speier of The Boston Globe.
The Diamondbacks made significant strides in 2022, and despite their solid lineup and deep prospect farm, they could look to trade from their surplus of outfielders. The Red Sox’ current outfield candidates include Alex Verdugo, Jarren Duran, Kiké Hernandez, and Rob Refsnyder. They could make it work, but the Red Sox have been linked to multiple other outfielders, including Masakata Yoshida and Bryan Reynolds, so they seem committed to upgrading their outfield.
There are quite a few interesting free agent options – including familiar faces Andrew Benintendi and Tommy Pham – but who could the Red Sox acquire if they focus on a trade with the Diamondbacks? In this article, we’ll look at four guys – Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, and Daulton Varsho – and see who is the most likely trade candidate, or the best candidate, for the Red Sox.
Diamondbacks unlikely to trade Corbin Carroll
It’s worth mentioning Corbin Carroll – just about every team in baseball would be interested in acquiring Carroll, who is ranked as the #3 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. However, not only would the return from the Red Sox have to be massive, but the Diamondbacks are likely not going to entertain offers on the 22-year-old outfielder. In his 32 games in the MLB in 2022, Carroll slashed .260/.330/.500 with a 133 OPS+. He also accumulated 5 OAA between CF and RF and topped 100th percentile in sprint speed. Carroll has all of the makings of a superstar – almost no one should be off limits if the Red Sox chose to pursue him, but it’s too unlikely that the Diamondbacks would consider it.
Red Sox may consider Alek Thomas
Alek Thomas entered the year as the Diamondbacks’ #3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, but he produced pretty underwhelming results in his rookie year. In 113 games, he slashed .231/.275/.344 with a 76 OPS+. It wasn’t all bad for Thomas, as his 6 OAA in CF put him in the 90th percentile, and he finished in the 95th percentile of sprint speed. If nothing more, Thomas is a defensive specialist and one of the fastest players in baseball.
Thomas is comparable to former Sox CF Jackie Bradley Jr., but with one difference – Bradley was never as fast as Thomas. Bradley was always closer to a 65th percentile sprint speed on average, and while he topped Thomas’s 6 OAA with 10 in his rookie year, Thomas still looks like an elite centerfielder with much more speed.
Thomas’s lack of offense is definitely concerning, but it’s a striking contrast to how he hit in the minors. Thomas never had an AVG below .300 in the minors, and his OBP topped out at .395. He was never known for hitting for power, but he elevated his SLG by hitting doubles and triples, though that’s more due to his speed than any power. The 5.4 BB% is also well below what was expected. Even his BABIP, which sat between .335 and .439 in the minors, plummeted to .263. The only thing that went right for him at the plate is he limited his K% to 18.0%, which was around his average in the minors.
Would the Diamondbacks be willing to move on from Thomas? Well, all of the above reasons are a case for the D-backs to give him another chance. His season wasn’t even bad all around, he’s an excellent defender and adds plenty of value with his glove and on the bases. But Daulton Varsho was an even better defender in CF (8 OAA) and could slide over to center. And, before too long, the Diamondbacks will have a problem with Druw Jones ready to take over in center, though that could be years away. I think the Diamondbacks could be convinced to part with Thomas, but it could require parting with a top-5 prospect.
Jake McCarthy is much likelier to be moved
Jake McCarthy enjoyed a breakout year in which he slashed .283/.342/.427 with 8 HR and a 118 OPS+ in 99 games. McCarthy’s a below-average defender (-1 OAA), but he’s elite on the bases (23 SB, 7.7 BsR, 98th percentile sprint speed).
Despite the strong rookie campaign that earned him 4th place in NL ROTY voting, McCarthy feels like the odd man out in the Diamondbacks outfield. He’s the worst of the four defensively, he had the second highest OPS but with poor metrics to back it up, and his elite speed doesn’t stand out as much among Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll. Looking at those metrics, he’s a pretty lightweight hitter. His 33.7 HardHit% is in the 16th percentile of all hitters, and his .298 xwOBA (.337 wOBA) is in the 26th percentile. McCarthy is likely due for some regression.
The good thing about McCarthy is that he’s probably the cheapest of the bunch to acquire. It shouldn’t require a top-5 prospect to acquire the 25-year-old, but maybe a few mid-range prospects. McCarthy’s glove is below average, so a move to DH could work best for him considering the Red Sox have an empty spot where J. D. Martinez used to play. Even if McCarthy sounds underwhelming, he’s an upgrade over all of the current internal options.
Daulton Varsho should be the top priority
Another shining breakout on the team was former catcher turned outfielder Daulton Varsho. Varsho was a poor catcher, putting up a negative DRS each year, a negative FRM the past two years, and possessing about an average pop time. However, he moved to the outfield full-time in 2022 and put up 19 DRS and 17 OAA between CF and RF. He slashed .235/.302/.443 at the plate while hitting 27 Home Runs and posting a 109 OPS+. He also stole 16 bases with a 3.4 BsR. He was nearly a 5-win player (4.9 rWAR).
Truthfully, Varsho is not the best hitter on this list. However, that OPS+ would be 3rd highest among active Red Sox, behind just Rafael Devers and Triston Casas, so he becomes one of the better hitters on this team. The real catch is his defense. Varsho is an elite defender, showing glimpses of a good glove in years past before breaking out in a big way in 2022. Baseball Savant actually ranks his arm below average, but he’s in the 99th percentile of Outs Above Average and 97th percentile of Outfield Jump. His 69th percentile sprint speed gives him the ability to roam centerfield, though he spent more time in RF with better numbers.
The outfield with Varsho could look something like LF Alex Verdugo, CF Kiké Hernandez, RF Daulton Varsho, with Jarren Duran lurking as a fourth outfielder. It’s an outfield that prioritizes defense over hitting, and while it doesn’t bring the Sox back to the days of 2018 (Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts), it’s a definite improvement from last season and allows the Red Sox to allocate free agent money elsewhere.
Conclusion – Will the Red Sox and Diamondbacks make a move?
After the Diamondbacks acquired former Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis from the Seattle Mariners, a trade from their outfield surplus feels even more likely. Even rookie Stone Garrett is an emerging option who could make the Diamondbacks feel comfortable moving a starter.
Think back to the D-backs 2019 swap of Zac Gallen for Jazz Chisholm Jr. They traded from their middle infield backlog to acquire a pitcher and fill a need. Years later, the Diamondbacks have two good starting pitchers, but not much else. The Diamondbacks could look to make a similar move this year, cashing in for another pitcher.
Herein the problem lies – the Red Sox don’t have much pitching to give up. Bryan Bello and Tanner Houck are the two major leaguers that stick out, but both have potential and would be tough to part with. Houck could make more sense, as while the Red Sox seem to be using him as a reliever going forward, the D-backs could value him as a starter. If the Diamondbacks are just looking for prospects, Nick Yorke (MLB Pipeline #4), Bryan Mata (#6), Brandon Walter (#7), or Blaze Jordan (#9) are a few names the Red Sox could offer.
It’s a tough offseason for the Red Sox. Priority #1 has to be resigning Xander Bogaerts, but the outfield has never fully recovered from *that* trade a few years ago. The Red Sox could be in a prime position to strike and could find a trade partner with plenty of outfielders to trade.