As players begin arriving to spring training, the Red Sox are still looking to add to their roster. Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports that the Sox have been in active pursuit of outfield options recently, suggesting a right-handed bat is the preferable addition. (Notably, he adds that Boston was not “meaningfully” involved in Jorge Soler’s market in the late stages of his free agency before he agreed to a three-year deal with the Giants.)
A right-handed outfield bat is a generally sensible addition for the Sox, whose current outfield alignment features three lefty bats (Jarren Duran, Wilyer Abreu, Masataka Yoshida) and one right-handed bat (Tyler O’Neill). Manager Alex Cora said today that Yoshida will see the most time at designated hitter of any of his current outfielders, but he’ll still see some work in the field as well (X link via Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe).
Top prospect Ceddanne Rafaela will get a chance to make the Opening Day roster as well and would add a right-handed bat to the bunch, but it’s also possible he’s ticketed for Triple-A to begin the season. Rafaela made his MLB debut last year but posted a tepid .241/.281/.386 slash with a 31% strikeout rate in 89 plate appearances. He’s still only played 48 games at the Triple-A level, and good as they were (.312/.370/.618 in 219 plate appearances), that’s a relatively small sample. He’ll need to earn a spot with a strong showing in camp. If Rafaela does make the roster, Cora noted that he’ll be the primary center fielder (X link via the Globe’s Alex Speier). “The defensive game is elite,” Cora said of Rafaela. “It’s a game-changer.”
As things stand, the Red Sox have a pair of right-handed outfield options on the bench in Rob Refsnyder and Bobby Dalbec. Refsnyder is a 32-year-old journeyman but does have a solid track record against lefties, including a .308/.428/.400 slash in 145 plate appearances last season. Dalbec, 28, has a minor league option remaining but has long seemed like a change-of-scenery candidate as a former top infield prospect who doesn’t have a clear role with the club. Neither player came up as an outfielder, and neither is considered to be an especially strong defender on the grass.
If the Sox prefer to turn to the free agent market, there are plenty of righty bats still available. Randal Grichuk, Michael A. Taylor, Tommy Pham and Adam Duvall all remain unsigned. Pham (2022) and Duvall (2023) have both played with the Red Sox recently, though they were acquired under now-former chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s watch. All four members of that quartet have experience across the outfield, although at this point only Taylor is considered an above-average option in center field (where he rates as one of the game’s premium defenders at the position).
While none of the free agents remaining in this tier of players is a star by any stretch of the word, each is affordable and can fill a clear role on a number of teams. As such, the Sox have competition for signing any of the bunch. The D-backs, for instance, have been tied to Grichuk, Pham and Duvall as they seek a right-handed complement to Joc Pederson at designated hitter. The Twins have been on the lookout for a righty outfield bat for much of the offseason after seeing Taylor become a free agent. Minnesota has reportedly shown interest in Duvall, specifically, but has had interest in Taylor throughout free agency as well. The Phillies could conceivably be in the mix for an outfield bat after an injury to Brandon Marsh. The Padres have considered a reunion with Pham.
Speaking of the Padres, it’s at least worth pointing out that San Diego has reportedly expressed interest in a trade involving Duran, though there’s never been any indication the two parties are close to a deal. But as the Sox look for ways to add to their collection of outfielders, it bears mentioning that the addition of a free agent could at least make the idea of moving Duran a bit more palatable. Boston would presumably prefer MLB-ready pitching in such a swap, however, and that’s an area the Padres themselves are also a bit thin, which complicates the scenario.
The Red Sox currently project for a $177.5MM payroll with about $198MM worth of luxury tax considerations, per Roster Resource. That $177.5MM projection is more than $20MM away from last year’s year-end payroll of about $199MM and miles away from the franchise-record $236MM, set back in 2019. Over the past month, the Red Sox have been specifically connected to Duvall, Pham and first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper (who is reportedly nearing a decision in free agency).