Should the Red Sox elect to take the ‘Moneyball’ approach to the 2020-21 offseason, there are a handful of under-the-radar moves that make sense for them.
Think back to 2012; the last time this team indeed reset the roster. Out went players such as Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett. In came players like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Ryan Dempster. While not all of them lit it up statistically, much good can be done when you fill your roster with many good players.
Sure, having stars helps a lot, but depth is equally important. Who are some players that could help the Red Sox in the latter category?
Tyler Rogers – RHP – San Francisco Giants
Rogers is the kind of arm that doesn’t open many eyes. He’s a submarine pitcher whose average fastball velocity was just 82.4 mph in 2020. He also doesn’t strike many batters out, racking up only a 22.3 percent strikeout rate.
However, he’s been quite impressive in his brief, 46-game career.
Across two seasons, Rogers has a 3.15 career ERA, mixed with a FIP of 2.81, an xFIP of 3.34, and a SIERA of 3.17. While the sample size is small (45.2 innings), he’s been able to sustain success without a great need to miss bats.
Being in San Francisco helps him a lot. However, it’s worth noting that Rogers placed in the 89th percentile for exit velocity against, in the 99th percentile in barrel rate, in the 79th percentile in xwOBA, and the 88th for expected slugging percentage in 2020.
Seeing as he’s 29 and unlikely to see the other side of the Giants’ rebuild, he could be made available. And, given the fact he’s a middle reliever, he should come exceptionally cheap.
Craig Stammen – RHP – San Diego Padres
Much like Rogers, Stammen is far from a strikeout artist. Since 2017, Stammen is tied for 136th out of 218 qualifying relievers in strikeout rate (23.4 percent).
He’s a sinker-ball pitcher, which is a lost art nowadays as teams try to trend away from sinkers. However, it’s serviced Stammen pretty well over the years, despite underperforming expected stats in 2020. Since 2015, Stammen has only seen his ground ball rate fall below 49.3 percent once (2014––48.0 percent), which bodes well for someone who uses a sinker.
The righty who will turn 37 in March is set to return for his fifth season in San Diego and is on a price tag of just $4 million. While his peripherals––3.36 FIP, 3.42 SIERA––showed that he was much better than his 5.63 ERA indicated, a lot of teams are looking to cut some spending after the COVID-19-altered season. We’ve seen much better pitchers already see options not picked up; whose to say the Padres are unwilling to breach the trade market for their aging reliever?
Tommy La Stella – 2B – Free Agent
Since Dustin Pedroia’s career took a turn for the worst ahead of the 2018 season, the Red Sox have been getting barely any production out of the second base position.
Since 2018, Red Sox second basemen rank 28th in fWAR (0.6), 28th in defensive runs saved (-25), 27th in wRC+ (80), and tied for 23rd in walk rate (6.7 percent). Therefore, adding a stopgap at second base might be in the team’s best interest.
Enter, Tommy La Stella. The 32-year-old second baseman has always been a bit of a ‘sneaky’ good player. Since 2018, he ranks eighth in wRC+ (115), 11th in wOBA (.339), and has the best strikeout rate (9.0 percent) of any second baseman with a minimum of 700 plate appearances.
He’s not exactly a wizard on defense (negative seven DRS last season at second base), but his offense more than makes up for it. He’s a guy who doesn’t walk a lot but also minimizes swinging and missing. He would make a perfect stopgap for the position under a one- or two-year deal.
Potential Deal: one year, $4.5 million, club option for $5.5 million in 2022
Billy Hamilton – OF – Free Agent
It appears to be a forgone conclusion that Jackie Bradley Jr. will be signing somewhere else this offseason, leaving behind a massive hole defensively in center field.
While Billy Hamilton has shown impotence at the plate, his defensive background is astonishingly stellar. In his career, he’s logged 75 DRS and a UZR/150 of 11.6. He also has accumulated 9.6 defensive wins above replacement, prorating to 1.7 per 150 games.
This move would likely coincide with a more significant move to generate more offense in the Red Sox outfield, but Hamilton would bring elite speed and defense to a team that lacks the former and is losing a lot of the latter.
Potential Deal: minor league deal, Spring Training invite
Joc Pederson – OF – Free Agent
This one is a bit of a stretch in terms of an “under the radar” move. However, Pederson isn’t precisely a superstar either.
2020 was reassuring of that sentiment, as he slashed .190/.285/.397 with a .297 wOBA and a wRC+ of 88––all career-lows. With that in mind, it wasn’t entirely his fault; he endured some serious bad luck during the season. His expected batting average was .238, his xwOBA was .325, and he was in the 96th percentile for exit velocity (93 mph).
Outside of how hard he hits the ball, none of those other numbers are earth-shattering, but it just shows that he wasn’t as bad as his 60-game sample would indicate.
Pederson brings to the table the ability to hit the ball for power to all fields and is an above-average defender in right field. In 326 career innings as a right fielder, Pederson has six defensive runs saved, a UZR/150 of 6.2, and has three outs above average. It’s a small sample size as well, but the alternative is likely center field––where he is far less proficient (-16 DRS, -3.6 UZR/150, negative nine OAA).
Signing Joc Pederson would help solidify your lineup while also not creating a defensive liability in the outfield. According to Spotrac, his market value rests at roughly $6.5 million, though his market likely will be more competitive. Translation: it would be far from a financial burden on the team to pull the trigger on a deal.
Potential Deal: three years, $39 million, player option for a fourth year ($15 million)