The Boston Red Sox are a team to keep an eye on this offseason. After winning the American League East for a second consecutive season, the team’s relatively young core will look to get out of the ALDS with Alex Cora as the team’s new skipper in 2018. Will they be attempting to do so with a new big-name bat or two?
After their 93-win 2017 season, the Red Sox are sure to get their hands dirty in the free agent market; it’s about allocating the money to the areas of need, which is exactly why they should pursue a top-flight first baseman such as Eric Hosmer, instead of prioritizing a blockbuster trade for Giancarlo Stanton.
When it comes to first basemen, the Royals’ homegrown product — Hosmer — stands out first and foremost in this free agent class. While the Indians’ Carlos Santana, Mariners’ Yonder Alonso, Rays’ Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison, and the Orioles’ Pedro Alvarez are proven commodities and poised to receive nice paychecks, Hosmer is at the top of the food chain.
While he’s not necessarily stellar in the field, Hosmer can rake and be a driving force of an offense. Hitting a career-best .318 at the plate in 2017, to go along with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs, Hosmer was a potent force in the middle of manager Ned Yost‘s order. In fact, compared to those at his position, Hosmer was first in hits (192), second in average (.318), fourth in runs scored (98), and was in the bottom half in total strikeouts. Hosmer’s 2017 surge comes after he drove in a career-high 104 runs in 2016.
Another very impressive and encouraging aspect of Hosmer is his durability. In both 2015 and 2016, the Royals first baseman played in 158 games, and he appeared in all 162 last season. Hosmer’s ability to stay on the field will only drive up his free agent value, as handing out an expensive deal is heavily reliant on teams trusting players to remain healthy — which Hosmer has done in years past.
Any team that is looking to snatch up Hosmer will likely have to give him nine figures, and then some. However, Dave Dombrowksi and friends may be thinking bigger than the All-Star first baseman — at least for the moment.
The hot stove is and will continue to circulate around Stanton, the Miami Marlins right fielder. With Marlins management looking to get the 2017 MVP’s hefty contract off the books (roughly $314 million over the next 11 years), Stanton has instantly become the best and most intriguing name on either the open market or available via trade. The three teams who’ve been linked to him the most include, but are not limited to, the San Francisco Giants, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Red Sox. However, despite the lure of trading for the home run hitting outfielder, the Red Sox should be prioritizing addressing their imminent needs, rather than falling for Stanton, which means improving at first base.
Stanton is probably the most feared hitter in the game. Whenever he steps in the box, there’s the legitimate chance of him hitting a fastball into the bleachers; he’s one of very few players who has the ability to hit two home runs on any given night. Hitting an MLB-best 59 home runs with 132 RBIs in 2017, Stanton was a sight for watching eyes and would, for sure, become a beloved player in Beantown. But his addition is not a necessity.
Last season, the Red Sox, for the majority of the year, were an inconsistent bunch at the plate. In their disappointing production on offense — hitting a combined .258, after hitting an MLB-best .282 in 2016 — their outfield was especially discouraging. However, that outfield is still young and has room to grow.
The brightest spot of the 2017 season for Boston was 23-year-old left-fielder Andrew Benintendi. Hitting .271, to go along wth 20 home runs and 91 RBIs, Benintendi played himself into being a Rookie of the Year finalist, and showcased his stout arm in left. Alongside the rookie, 25-year-old Mookie Betts saw his average drop from .318 to .264 and 27-year-old Jackie Bradley Jr. hit just .245. The trio, though, have still not peaked and are smooth at their respective outfield positions.
Barring yet another drop in production at the plate, Betts and Bradley should be able to bounce back from their disappointing 2017 seasons, while Benintendi looks to build off a superb rookie season — making acquiring Stanton unnecessary.
Would acquiring the NL MVP to hit cleanup in Cora’s lineup be huge? Of course, but upgrading their outfield is not this team’s most pressing need. Hosmer has come into his own as one of the game’s most well-rounded hitters and would instantly man first base for Boston in the foreseeable future. If the Red Sox can still find a way to swing a trade for Stanton after signing Hosmer, then they should definitely make it happen; adding the two of them could give Boston an overwhelming edge on the New York Yankees in the AL East.
Adding Hosmer fills a void in Fenway, assuming management lets Mitch Moreland walk; he can come in, hit in the middle of the order, and help complement a young lineup that, with a tad bit of improvement, can return to being one of the best in the majors. While Stanton would certainly help their efforts in doing so, his addition isn’t and shouldn’t be a pressing need.
Boston needs to prioritize solidifying its infield. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia (if and when he can return from his knee injury), and Homser can make for one of the American League’s best infields and put Boston in a position to make a deep postseason run.