With the 2015 World Series having concluded, baseball’s offseason is now upon us. For the next several months, rumors and innuendo about where free agent players will land will swirl about like winter winds. Following a disappointing season, the Boston Red Sox have a new front office regime; have money to spend and a number of holes to fill. Out of the dozens of players hitting the open market, who should the team target in an effort to make their way back to contention? Here are four candidates that should be given serious consideration.
Byung-ho Park, First Baseman: The 29-year-old has spent the past nine years playing professionally in Korea. The right hander has packed a punch, averaging .314, 43 home runs and 123 RBIs over the past four seasons. Given his age and the relative unknown of how his game will translate to the majors, he probably won’t command a super-sized contract. However, his status as perhaps the greatest hitter in the history of Korean baseball, and the Red Sox’s need for a first baseman should make him an intriguing candidate.
Travis Shaw will be coming off a nice rookie year but is far from a sure thing in terms of repeating that success. With his time with the Red Sox being the most productive he has ever been as a pro, he is either a late bloomer or just had a nice run. Either way, it’s too iffy to assume it will happen again. Pairing his lefty bat with Park, or letting a winner emerge could be just what the team needs. Additionally, with Shaw’s ability to play some third base, he will get some at bats regardless.
Jason Heyward, Outfielder: Forget the recent speculation that the Red Sox should go after Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon. Although he’d be cheaper, he is also five and half years older. Heyward is a tremendous defensive right fielder whose bat has not yet entirely caught up to his glove. Still just 26, there’s no reason the big left-handed hitting and throwing player can’t get even better. As it is, he sports 162-game averages of .268, 19 home runs, 68 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in his first six major league seasons.
Boston is currently flush with young outfielders but going after Heyward would allow them to have some additional chips for possible trades (although Mookie Betts should be considered untouchable).
Bidding could get high on Heyward but his 5.2 WAR average and four playoff appearances is just the type of young established player with remaining upside the Red Sox should be looking to add. Since he was recently given a qualifying offer, signing him away from the St. Louis Cardinals would require the relinquishing of a first-round draft choice. However, with him being such a young known commodity and Boston possessing one of the current strongest farm systems in baseball makes such a sacrifice very reasonable. This is especially so when considering the potential of an outfield headed by him and Betts.
Jordan Zimmerman, Starting Pitcher: Left hander David Price may be the sexier pick but Zimmerman is the better fit for Boston. The 30-year-old right-hander has top-of-the rotation stuff and not nearly as much wear as his free-agent counterpart.
Zimmerman has averaged 15 wins and 200 innings during the past four seasons with the Washington Nationals while displaying excellent control and an ability to limit the long ball. Despite playing his entire career in the National League, he has shown he can handle the Junior Circuit, given his 11-6 record and 3.05 ERA in 24 Interleague starts.
Zimmerman had Tommy John surgery in 2009 but has been remarkably healthy and consistent since his return. FanGraphs indicates his average fastball velocity has remained in the vicinity of 93-94 MPH since his rookie campaign.
He’d immediately become the Boston ace, making the $100+ million he is likely to get a steep but necessary price tag to try and repair the team’s tattered rotation.
Darren O’Day, Relief Pitcher: Something the Red Sox bullpen needed the most this past year was a power arm who can throw gas. However, that is not O’Day. With a fastball that averages around 87 MPH, the right-hander has forged an effective career with an unusual side-arm motion.
Despite his lack of intimidating power stuff he has averaged 68 relief appearances and a 1.92 ERA over the past four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles. It’s never a good idea to throw bags of money at your bullpen but at the age of 33 and not being a closer, there’s a good chance that he can be reeled in without breaking the bank. The stability to he could bring to the late innings would be well worth that investment and the team can pursue late-innings power arms elsewhere to round out the unit.
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