The Boston Red Sox appear to be one of a few big spenders this offseason for two main reasons. The pandemic cut payroll for most organizations and many big market teams are attempting to reset the luxury tax. I believe Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox front office should play bully ball this offseason. After a last place finish Bloom needs to capitalize on the fact that the market will be totally different than years past.
This is going to be a strange offseason where Chaim Bloom may be able to sign some players on a bargain. There will be less suiters for premiere free agents than in years past. With Alex Cora back and the luxury tax reset, the Red Sox could put together a quality team behind their potent offense. Here is a list of players the Red Sox should target, ranked by position.
With Chris Sale slated to join the team mid-season, Boston is going to open the season with a lackluster group. Eduardo Rodriguez has developed into a very solid starter for the Red Sox, but is coming off a unique heart condition due to COVID-19 complications. Nathan Eovaldi is who he is, an inconsistent, injury prone flamethrower. Tanner Houck lit the MLB on fire in his short stint with the big league club (3-0, 0.53 ERA with 21 K’s in 17 IP). His potential is exciting but I’m not ready to crown him as an ace just yet. With Martin Perez likely being pushed out of town, the Red Sox will need to stick together the rest of the rotation.
2020 Pitch Breakdown: Fastball – 47% | Cutter – 20% | Slider – 17% | Curveball – 16%
Bauer is coming off a National League Cy Young Award winning season with the intention of competing for a World Series. If anyone can convince Bauer that this team is a contender coming off a 24-36 season, it’s Alex Cora. He has expressed interest in singing a one-year deal, which would be a slam dunk for the Red Sox. If you want to read more about how Trevor Bauer would fit in Boston, check out this article:
2020 Pitch Breakdown: Fastball – 36% | Curveball – 33% | Sinker – 21% | Slider – 9%
Charlie Morton is the definition of using a band aid to repair this rotation. At 37-years-old, Morton is not the long-term solution. However, he is a big game pitcher that the Red Sox could acquire on a short-term contract. Morton has a career 3.38 Postseason ERA with a 7-3 record in 61.1 innings. He came in third for the American League Cy Young in 2019 and would be a massive upgrade over Ryan Weber as an opener or Matt effing Hall.
Bloom and Morton have a connection from the Rays organization in 2019, which could lead to the signing. Morton could help the 2021 team compete and if all else fails, could be traded at the deadline, just like Bauer. Many of the top starting pitchers in the free agent pool are over the hill, the Red Sox should take the best one.
2020 Pitch Breakdown: Fastball – 37% | Slider – 22% | Splitter – 19% | Sinker 12% | Curveball 10%
Walker is only 28-years-old and had a notable comeback season in 2020. I was clamoring for the Red Sox to sign Walker prior to the 2020 season, and he is now available once again after completing his return from Tommy John Surgery. Walker went 4-3 with a 2.70 ERA with 50 K’s in 53.1 IP last season. He was traded from the Mariners to the Blue Jays to give the boys of Buffalo a boost, and he did just that. In six games for the relocated Toronto Blue Jays Taijuan Walker went 2-1 with a 1.37 ERA. Walker is one of the few free agent pitchers that could factor into the long-term plans of an organization. After a strong finish, the Red Sox should take a shot on Taijuan Walker in the midst of his prime.
The Red Sox need to completely tear down and rebuild this position group. In 2020, Red Sox relievers posted a 5.79 Team ERA, 27th in the league. The Phillies ranked last, but that is only because the Red Sox sent over Brandon Workman (1-4, 6.92 ERA w/ Phillies) and Heath Hembree (1-0, 12.54 ERA w/ Phillies). Fortunately for the Red Sox, relievers come fairly cheap and the free agent market provides some quality options. All the experts are reporting that the Red Sox offseason will be pitching, pitching, and more pitching. Lets hope they are right.
2020 Pitch Breakdown: Fastball – 70% | Slider – 22% | Curveball – 7%
Hendriks has been on an absolute tear since the 2019 season began. The 31-year-old right-hander is the best closer on the market. The Red Sox haven’t had a true stopper since Kimbrel left, and Hendriks is legitimately elite. Hendriks was 9th in Cy Young Voting and 13th in MVP Voting in the 2020 shortened season. He was also named the 2020 American League Reliever of the Year. Here are some stats since 2019:
2020 Pitch Breakdown: Fastball – 52% | Slider – 32% | Changeup – 16 %
Trevor May is a 31-year-old right-handed pitcher that has spent all six years with the Minnesota Twins. He has been a dependable reliever since his return from Tommy John Surgery in 2017. I believe May would have a large role should he decide to play for Boston. This is another player I actually expect the Red Sox to target.
Trevor May is not a closer but has proven to be great in the late innings. As you can see, May is 30/32 in hold opportunities. In other words, he has kept the lead in tact 94% of his appearances in close ballgames. May and Barnes could create a late inning tandem with someone like Hendriks slated for the ninth inning.
2020 Pitch Breakdown: Fastball 70% | Slider 22% | 8% Changeup
Rosenthal had Tommy John Surgery in 2018 and looked completely lost in his return in 2019. He had a 13.50 ERA in 15.1 IP. However, Trevor appears to be better than ever after a masterful 2020 season. What impressed me the most was his ability to put hitters away. Rosenthal struck out 41.8% of the batters he faced in 2020, which ranks 8th in the entire league (minimum of ten innings pitched). Trevor Rosenthal is another closer candidate, after going 14/15 in save opportunities between the Royals and Padres last season.
2020 Pitch Breakdown: Curveball – 52% | Fastball – 48%
Keone Kela is a 27-year-old right-handed reliever that has already expressed interest in playing for the Red Sox. When the Red Sox announced that Alex Cora was returning on Instagram, the free agent showed his approval. One of many opportunistic fans asked Kela to come pitch for us (BOS) and Kela said “I’d love too.”
Many players around the league have respect for Alex Cora and he appears to be one of them. Kela only pitched two innings in 2020 after battling a forearm injury all season. However, he has been a very solid relief pitcher with the Rangers and Pirates. Keone Kela has a career 3.24 ERA in 216.2 IP since being called up as a 22-year-old in 2015. He has really found a groove during his time in Pittsburgh, posting a .249 ERA in 51 appearances. Keone Kela could factor into Chaim Bloom’s long-term plans as one of the youngest productive players in the free agent class.
The second base position has been up in the air since Dustin Pedroia’s injury. Even the 2018 Red Sox featured a washed-up Ian Kinsler after the trade deadline with a heavy dosage of Eduardo Núñez and Brock Holt throughout the season.
José Peraza is currently sitting in free agency, and is unlikely to return to Boston. The Red Sox have a few options at second base, put none of them stand out. Christian Arroyo and Michael Chavis appear to be the favorites as far as playing time goes in 2021. Jonathan Araúz showed flashes of his ability, but will likely need time to develop in Worchester. At 22-years-old, Araúz could factor into the Red Sox longer term plans at some point. If the Red Sox could find a diamond in the rough at second base, it would really improve the overall team. That is the exact type of move Chaim Bloom was brought here to do.
Kim is a 25-year-old Korean phenom that has to be posted by the KBO by December 14th. Rumors around Kim will likely start swirling after Thanksgiving. Ha-Seong Kim is a great all around player with serious pop in his bat. He spent most of his time in the KBO at shortstop, with some reps at third base as well. He is more than capable of handling second base for the Boston Red Sox. Teams like the Angels, Cubs, and Indians seem to be leading the rumor mill, though nobody appears to be a legitimate favorite to sign Kim.
One thing that jumps off the page is his blend of consistency and development. His stats with Kiwoom are almost exactly the same with the exemption of his power numbers. He hit a lot of home runs in 2020 that would have been doubles in 2019. His OPS jumped .041 as a result.
Here are some numbers that stood out over the last two season with the Kiwoon Heroes:
César Hernández is a veteran second baseman that could provide stability to the lineup while Arroyo and Chavis develop. If Ha-Seong Kim is taken off the market, I’d like Hernández to as my second option. He would be much cheaper and take pressure off the younger second base options.
The Red Sox have some holes to fill in the outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr. in free agency, and no established fourth outfielder either. Verdugo and Benintendi are slotted into the lineup, with two missing pieces still up in the air. When the Red Sox traded Pillar to the Rockies, the outfield became merry-go-round of bench players filling in to crack into the lineup. Boston used guys like Michael Chavis, Yairo Muñoz and Tzu-Wei Lin to do their best out there.
The team ranked 18th with a .742 OPS last season. While Boston cannot replace Bradley’s defensive ability, they could increase the overall production of the centerfield position while adding a quality fourth outfielder.
Now I realize that Springer and Bauer on this list seems a little ridiculous, but this is a wish list. Springer is considered one of the top free agents in this years class. However, Ken Rosenthal told us at WTF Sports that he could see Springer in Boston on our zoom call. George Springer would be a massive upgrade over Jackie Bradley Jr. in centerfield (overall not defensively). The Red Sox would lose a draft pick, but gain an All-Star. He is projected to make less than J.D. Martinez did a few years back due to the economic climate. Getting Springer for roughly $20M per year for four to five seasons would be a solid deal. He is entering his age 31 season in 2021.
In the tenth edition of Making Connections, Scott Neville and Scott Edwards interview NESN’s Pat McAvoy. Pat is an alumni of Merrimack College where he was the Editor-in-Chief at the school’s newspaper called The Beacon.
Michael Brantley continues to be one of the most underrated players in this game. Springer was more of a wish list item than anything else, but I strongly believe Brantley will be on the 2021 Red Sox. Brantley has a great connection with Alex Cora and has reportedly shown interest in playing for him again. Michael Brantley would be a great player to fill the void left by Jackie Bradley Jr.
Brantley is already 33-years-old, but still has plenty in the tank. He is one of the best pure hitters in the MLB, with a similar approach to hitting as Alex Verdugo. In other words, he hits for a high average and rarely strikes out. In the 2020 shortened season Brantley hit .300 with 5 HR, 22 RBI’s and an .840 OPS. He was an All-Star the last three full seasons (2017 to 2019). During that time he hit .307 and averaged 32 2B, 16 HR, 73 RBI’s and an .842 OPS. He averaged 127 games played during that three-year span due to a lingering injury in 2017 that held him to only 90 games played.
Kevin Pillar proved to be a perfect fit in Boston during his brief stint with the team in 2020. He seemed to really appreciate the organization despite playing for the worst team assembled in decades during a pandemic. I would love to see Pillar back in a Red Sox uniform. Here are some numbers from Pillar’s 2020 season with the Red Sox and Rockies: