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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Boston Red Sox: Possible 2018 Free Agent Targets

Ticker tape is practically still being picked up from the victory parade of the World Series winning Houston Astros. However, as we head into the offseason, eyes have already turned to the 2018 major league baseball season. Nearly 150 players have become free agents and teams will shortly begin jostling to add new pieces in an attempt to field an even better team than the year before. Let’s take a look at some of the available talent that could be good fits for the Boston Red Sox, who won 93 games this year and may not be too far away from planning another parade of their own in the near future.

The Red Sox have eight players of their own who are now free agents (Fernando Abad; Blaine Boyer; Rajai Davis; Doug Fister; Mitch Moreland; Eduardo Nunez; Addison ReedChris Young). Given how they produced with Boston last year, and the holes they would create by leaving, it seems like Moreland and Nunez are two of the better bets to return if terms are mutually agreeable. That being said, there are plenty of other players that could potentially help the Red Sox in 2018:

Outfielder Cameron Maybin: After a nice first season as the Sox’s fourth outfielder in 2016, Young’s production dropped significantly this past year. In particular, he lost his ability to beat up left-handed pitching (a primary reason he was brought on board in the first place), as his batting average against them dipped from .329 to .200.

Although he doesn’t have the power of Young, Maybin could be a worthy replacement. The 30-year-old has excellent speed (33 steals in just 114 2017 games) and can all play all three outfield positions. He is also a pretty darn good defender, which would only add to the reputation of the stout Boston outfielders. He has played for seven teams in his 11-year career, mostly as a starter. He may not do enough with the bat to command starting dollars on the open market but could be a nice option to shore up the Red Sox bench.

Outfielder JD Martinez: Despite the team’s success it was obvious that the Red Sox sorely missed retired slugger David Ortiz this past year. They were in the top half of the league in runs scored but dead last (by a decent margin) with 168 home runs. They relied more on stringing together hits to score runs than one big blast, as had been a frequent occurrence throughout the career of Big Papi.

There aren’t a lot of great power options on the free agent market but Martinez is clearly the best. He hit 45 home runs in just 119 games this past year, including a Ruthian 29 in just 62 games after joining the Arizona Diamondbacks following a mid-season trade. He has a 1.222 career OPS in 14 games against Boston, so they would likely breathe easier if he didn’t have to face them any longer.

A pretty abysmal fielder, the 30-year-old right-handed hitter is an outfielder by trade. There is no place for him to play his natural position in Boston. However, one solution might be shuttling him between DH and first base, as disappointing/oft injured Hanley Ramirez plays out the final year of his $88 million pact in 2018. He has not played at first during his career but such shortcomings would be much more forgivable if he was around to put 40-plus homers over the fence on an annual basis. Once Ramirez’s contract runs its course he could slide into a full-time DH role.

Obviously, money will be an issue when considering the plausibility of signing Martinez.  It is rumored that he may be asking for upwards of $200 million. Given his age and defensive limitations that should be out of the question for any team that might mind spending 200 cents on the dollar. However, if the Sox don’t land slugger Giancarlo Stanton in a trade, he would be the next best option to see what might be worked out.

Relief Pitcher Bryan Shaw: Boston doesn’t typically throw a lot of money at higher-priced middle relief options. Shaw might be worth the exception. The 30-year-old right-hander has been a lynchpin of the Cleveland Indians’ bullpen for the past half decade, and has led the American League in appearances in three of the past four years. A slider/cutter man, he kills right-handed hitting, holding such batters to a .621 OPS for his career.

With the Red Sox currently possessing a pretty full bullpen, signing Shaw would be more about making an upgrade than addressing a need. His availability could also be determined by his market, as it is possible some team could make a run at him in the hopes of making him their closer, which would certainly eliminate Boston from any contention for his services.

Pitcher Yusmeiro Petit: A much less sexy but potentially as valuable option would be the right-handed Petit. A journeyman with a propensity to give up to many long balls for much of his career, he had a career year in 2017 with the Los Angeles Angels. He appeared in 60 games (one start) and had a 2.76 ERA, a near career-best of 10.0 strikeouts/9 and halved his home runs/9 from the previous year.

With a fastball that averages less than 90 MPH, he throws breaking balls a majority of the time and is the definition of a crafty pitcher. However, he has the ability and track record of both starting and relieving. He is the Swiss Army Knife type of pitcher that could be of immense value to the Sox staff, especially with free agent Doug Fister likely to hit the road and the healthy return of Steven Wright still unknown at this time.

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