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Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Post Mortem Continues - Outfield, Catcher and DH

We spent some time on the infield yesterday.  Today we look at the rest of the position players; outfielders, catchers and that DH guy;

General Thoughts

It’s hard not to love what exists in the outfield.  If the Sox do nothing but renew contracts they have a talented outfield in place through the 2020 season.  That’s a pretty useful situation to be in.  Add in the presence of Chris Young for another year as the almost perfect fourth outfielder for this team and you gotta feel pretty good.

I hated the Manuel Margot trade a year ago and Craig Kimbrel didn’t exactly improve my mood on the matter.  The performance of Benintendi and his rapid ascent turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered.  The Sox don’t really have any meaningful depth in the system so it is good that these guys have panned out so far.

LF – Andrew Benintendi, Chris Young, Brock Holt, Rusney Castillo

Benintendi was very impressive in his call up.  If I have one criticism it is that he seems like a fairly poor baserunner.  His injury happened on a play that he botched badly and there were a few other times where I wondered what was going through his noodle.  He almost certainly is a starter in 2017 and I think there is a chance he is in center field.  If the Sox are going to make a big move, trading JBJ would be it.

Young was as advertised.  He is back in 2017 and is almost the perfect player for this team giving the club depth and leadership off the bench.  He’s basically Gomes without creating that desire to duct tape his mouth shut.

Castillo…sigh.  I wanted it to work out so badly.  I wonder if he had been healthy enough to get some regular PT in the winter of 2014/2015 if that could have made a difference.  The lack of regular game time just is tough to overcome.

CF – Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi

JBJ is similar to Bogaerts in that his season was a bit maddening.  In the end I think while Bogaerts’ season was a bit disappointing Bradley’s was encouraging.  A year ago we were all thinking if he could be a .250 hitter with 10 homers and Gold Glove caliber defense that he would be useful.  .267/.349/.486 and 5.3 WAR is a heck of a lot better than that.

Look, he was never going to be a great bat but if he is a genuine 15-20 home run hitter with a proclivity for striking out that’s just fine in my book.  From the time the hitting streak ended to the end of the season he hit .234/.322/.430 and a .273 BABIP.  With his defense that’s a pretty solid ballplayer and throw a little BABIP improvement and you have a very good player indeed.  Benintendi probably could fill his shoes (or Betts if the club wanted to go that route) and Bradley would probably be the guy the club would move if they were going to go after a Chris Sale, Zach Greinke or someone similar to that.

RF – Mookie Betts

What a year.  The guy he puts me in mind of is Nomar.  While the 31 dingers was nice I don’t think he’s a 31 home run guy, I think he’s a 20 homer guy who just ran into a few this year.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he challenges for a batting title in coming years but never quite reaches these power heights again.

It seems like John Farrell and the Sox are not quite sure what to do with him in the order.  I wonder if the 2 spot might be his landing place.  He’s got great bat control so he could pepper the open hole and the speed to stay out of double plays.

C – Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan

For about two months Leon was a HUGE story.  He reminded me of Alex Cora hitting about .450 in April, 2007 while Pedroia found his way, exactly the guy the Sox needed at exactly the right moment.  Not surprisingly it all came undone for Sandy but I think he is still a solid guy.

Swihart quite simply got screwed.  I’ll be stunned if he is in a Red Sox uniform in 2017.  There was a lot of talk last winter about the importance of getting off to a fast start and the Sox rushed to a decision on Swihart based on a small sample because of that.  I still think he can be a solid MLB catcher but like with Castillo missing time, I gotta think spending a year (effectively) not catching isn’t going to help.

I remain unconvinced that Vazquez will hit enough to be a regular.  The defense is top notch but unlike Bradley who had a minor league track record of offensive competence Vazquez offense is just offensive.  I think a combination of he and Swihart makes too much sense.  Use Vazquez as a defensive replacement, let Swihart do his thing and I think the Sox will benefit.

Hanigan has a club option and I would be surprised if it got picked up.

DH – David Ortiz

Good lord what can be said that has not already been said?  There is going to be much discussion about how best to fill his shoes but make no mistake, the shoes are sizable.  There are reasonable arguments on the go big or go home side (Edwin Encarnacion), reasonable arguments on the rotating players side and using the money to extend young stars (Mookie, X).

The simple matter is the Sox have to replace a 5 WAR (BBRef) player so what they cannot do is treat this as a small change.  To give this some perspective Johnny Damon was a 4.0 win player in 2005, Mike Lowell 5.0 in 2007, Jason Bay 5.2 in 2009.

This is not a minor loss.  I am skeptical that filling this hole with a rotating cast of characters is the way to go.

Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 13, 2016 at 01:26 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Toby Posted: October 14, 2016 at 07:25 PM (#5324744)
I guess no one can argue with that, Jose! I can't. I'd like to see Swihart back and JBJ back. To me, the best addition to this team would be a Bill Mueller type --- Matt Carpenter lite, maybe? Or maybe a Kevin Millar. In other words, to paraphrase Dan Duquette, I'm interested in replacing Papi'a on base percentage, more than in replacing the power.

On a different topic, I wonder if come spring Pedroia is sporting a C. Thoughts?
   2. villageidiom Posted: October 17, 2016 at 11:21 AM (#5326145)
On a different topic, I wonder if come spring Pedroia is sporting a C. Thoughts?

C issued to white catcher
C dropped when white catcher retires
dark-skinned DH recognized as team leader, but not given C
dark-skinned DH retires
C immediately issued to white 2B

Optics on that won't be good at all, which is why I totally expect this team to do that.
   3. villageidiom Posted: October 17, 2016 at 11:22 AM (#5326147)
Worth noting that Swihart still has options, and Vazquez does not.
   4. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 17, 2016 at 11:27 AM (#5326150)
Thanks vi, I hadn't looked at that. That is probably for the best because I think Swihart can benefit from working in the minors more than Vazquez.

Toby - I don't think Pedroia will have a "C" next year. Remember, Varitek got that immediately after 2004 and it was part of re-signing him and I think the Sox did that as an incentive to that contract.

I was thinking about the DH issue. Let's assume for the moment that Encarnacion would project as about a 13-15 WAR player over the next four seasons. If he was a third baseman I don't think there would be a lot of dispute about signing him to a big money deal. The fact that he's a DH should not preclude that signing.
   5. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: October 17, 2016 at 11:31 AM (#5326157)
Whether they give Dustin the captaincy this year or some day in the future, I just don't want to see the C on the jersey.
   6. Textbook Editor Posted: October 17, 2016 at 01:21 PM (#5326247)
I sure hope they let Swihart C in AAA to start the season and not dump him. Hell, if you want him to do 3 G a week at C and 1 in LF, that's fine--such a player would be useful to have on the roster--but let the guy C and see if Leon pumpkins more in 2017; if so you dump him and go with Swihart/Vasquez as your tandem mid-year and go from there.

Again, with Swihart while I do think they might have been down on his defense as a C, I also think they were trying to be clever and fill the LF position after Young/Holt's injuries while also getting some down-the-road positional flexibility/experience for him, but of course it all went badly because Swihart got hurt.

To be honest (and I know you've not gotten to the IF yet), it feels like a lot of decisions might hinge on the Sandoval situation. If they're able to unload him and get back a stud 3B (TBD, haven't looked at who's available; assume Jose will cover this :), then some of the concern about production at DH and C (as far as production) might go by the wayside. Until you figure out Sandoval, I don't think you run out and sign an EE or anyone else to be a DH-only.

Naturally "figuring out" might be simply calculating internally he's a very expensive PH/spare part and a sunk cost, and moving on from there, but if he figures into your offensive plans at all, then all the other moves you may make would have to take this into account. Naturally dumping the contract (just so you don't have the distraction) is one option, but it's not clear there's any motivation to only get 5 cents on the $1 for him by trading him right now.
   7. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 17, 2016 at 01:29 PM (#5326251)
To be honest (and I know you've not gotten to the IF yet)

Shhhh...don't tell anyone.
   8. Textbook Editor Posted: October 17, 2016 at 02:25 PM (#5326282)
D'oh! I'm a dope with too little coffee in his bloodstream and not enough spice in his life...
   9. Dan Posted: October 22, 2016 at 02:51 PM (#5331638)
Signing Encarnacion to DH seems like such an obvious move that it almost has to happen.

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