While the Red Sox continue to fill out their major-league roster, one area of concern they would like to address between now and Opening Day is bench depth, or more specifically, adding a left-handed hitter who could come off the bench, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.
Per Cotillo, it would be ideal if this left-handed bat could complement the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec at first base. Among the free-agents who could do this, Cotillo notes that Marwin Gonzalez, Brad Miller, and old friend Mitch Moreland stand out above the rest.
Gonzalez, a switch-hitter, spent the 2020 season with the Twins and played 23 games at third base, 21 games at second base, nine games at first base, and eight games in right field.
When facing right-handed pitching as a left-handed hitter last year, the 31-year-old slashed .209/.295/.357 to go along with five home runs and 16 RBI over 132 plate appearances.
For his career, which spans nine seasons, Gonzalez is a lifetime .261/.321/.411 hitter off of right-handers when hitting from the left side of the batter’s box.
Cotillo linked the Venezuelan-born utilityman to the Sox earlier this month, citing that Boston ‘was in’ on Gonzalez. One reason for this is likely because of the relationship Gonzalez has with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as the versatile veteran’s bench coach for the Houston Astros in 2017.
Miller, meanwhile, hits strictly from the left side of the plate and is also capable of playing several defensive positions.
Last year with the Cardinals, the 31-year-old played every infield position besides first base, which he has done in the past.
In 48 games (171 plate appearances) with St. Louis, Miller posted a solid .807 OPS while clubbing seven homers and 25 RBI.
Narrowing that down to what he did against right-handed pitching — when he got most of his playing time — in 2020, the Orlando native proved to be quite effective by posting a .240/.364/.464 slash line. Six of his seven home runs on the year came against righties.
Over the course of his eight-year big-league career, Miller owns a lifetime wRC+ of 111 off of right-handed pitching, which pales in comparison to his lifetime wRC+ of 84 off of left-handed pitching.
Unlike Gonzalez, Miller does not have a connection to Cora, but he does have one to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.
That being the case because the former Clemson Tiger spent 2 1/2 seasons with the Rays from 2016 until June 2018, so it’s likely he and Bloom got to know each other a little bit during their time together in Tampa.
On Friday night, Cotillo tweeted that Miller was a guy the Red Sox “are looking at,” so there’s that.
Finally, we arrive at someone who has a connection to both Bloom and Cora in Moreland, who spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Sox on three separate contracts before being dealt to the Padres in late August.
That trade turned out to be a win for Bloom and Co., as they received prospects Hudson Potts and Jeisson Rosario in exchange for Moreland while San Diego declined the 35-year-old’s club option for 2021 in early November.
The move also cleared up a spot for Dalbec to get the call up from the alternate training site and make his major-league debut. It’s safe to say the 25-year-old made the most of that opportunity.
Before said three-player trade went down, Moreland was on an absolute tear to kick off his 2020 campaign in Boston after re-signing with the club in January.
Over the course of 22 games, the Mississippi native slashed a robust .328/.430/.746 in addition to clobbering eight homers and driving in 21 RBI in just 79 plate appearances.
Moreland’s playing time decreased when he arrived in San Diego, as did his on-field performance, but the former All-Star could still prove to be a valuable, veteran addition to the Red Sox if he were willing to embrace a bench role and maybe even mentor Dalbec.
While being limited to just first base, designated hitter, and pinch-hit duties, the left-handed hitting Moreland does carry with him a career OPS of .794 against right-handed pitching.
He was also one of Bloom’s first free-agent signings as Boston’s CBO last January and is lauded as an impact leader and veteran presence by Red Sox players and coaches — Cora included — alike.
Last week, Cotillo wrote that a reunion between Moreland and the Sox cannot be ruled out at this point, so that is also something to monitor.
At the end of the day, it would appear that while the Red Sox may be ready to make Dalbec their everyday first baseman, they do not want to put too much on his plate to at least start off the 2021 campaign.
The power-hitting prospect did well against both lefties and righties in his first go-around in the majors last September, but there remains a a possibility that Boston would like to see him play some third base (his natural position) in addition to first base as well.
In that scenario, if there was a game where the Red Sox wanted to sit Rafael Devers for whatever reason, they could slide Dalbec over to third while Moreland, Miller, Gonzalez, or another free-agent/in-house candidate could man first base in his place.
That is all just speculation, though. We will just have to wait and see what Bloom and Co. actually have in mind for Boston’s infield plans moving forward.
(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)