By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox absolutely have to add a legitimate power hitter if they want to have a lineup on par with the Astros or Yankees in 2018. There’s a good chance that they make a serious run at a big-name free agent, but that doesn’t mean one guy would instantly solve all of their problems. They’ll have room for more, and will need to do more.
Names like Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Abreu will be thrown around as options to bring significant pop back to the Red Sox offense, which hit the fewest home runs in the American League (168) in 2017. There will also be calls for big-name free agents like first baseman Eric Hosmer (whom is rumored to be one of their targets) and outfielder J.D. Martinez. But they’re going to have at least one additional opening where they can continue to add power to the lineup, veteran leadership to the clubhouse, or a mix of both.
Chris Young is likely to hit the free agent market, meaning the Red Sox would be in the market for a fourth outfielder. It will be there and at first base where the team will make arguably their two most important moves. Preferably they add guys who can A) hit the ball out of the park, and/or B) lead the younger hitters in the clubhouse the right way, setting good examples and keeping them confident and focused on the proverbial tasks at hand.
The Red Sox won’t necessarily have to break the bank on a second power bat – they could opt for one of the following names, who would likely sign affordable one-year deals. None of them are perfect choices and they all come with potential drawbacks, but that’s why they would come cheaply in the first place. At the end of the day, one of them could be the right fit for the team’s most pressing needs.
Werth’s contract is up after seven solid years in D.C. He is a known commodity in terms of his 20-home run power (with the potential for 30), and assuming the 38-year-old is willing to take a fourth outfielder role, he could be a great fit for the Red Sox. The only major concern with Werth, who was limited to 70 games in 2017 due to a toe injury, is injuries – but a reserve role could certainly reduce his wear and tear over the course of the season.
Perhaps most importantly, Werth has something that no one on the Red Sox besides Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts have: a World Series ring. (Jackie Bradley Jr. received a ring for 2013, but did not play in the postseason.) Werth batted .444 in an MVP-caliber performance for the Phillies in the 2008 World Series and has hit 15 homers in 63 career postseason games. If the Red Sox’ offensive performance in the last two postseasons is any indication, they need more winners (preferably champions) in that clubhouse.
Werth also established a reputation as a “calming influence” in the Nationals clubhouse in recent years. He may not necessarily command the room like David Ortiz did, but he could still instantly earn respect from the Red Sox’ wealth of younger talent – especially the ones who haven’t won a thing in the postseason. Which is all of them.
The former Yankee doesn’t have a ring, but he’s played in two World Series, which is more than (again) everyone but Pedroia. He can give the Red Sox left-handed power when needed (he hit another 26 homers in 2017), and his experience on big stages could help the confidence of his younger teammates and lift the clubhouse.
The Mets traded Granderson to the Dodgers in a waiver deal in August. He didn’t hit very well when called upon (.654 OPS), but he did hit seven homers in 36 games (a 31-homer pace over a full season). He doesn’t blast the ball out of the park like he did in pinstripes, but his AL East history certainly can’t hurt – and he’s proven to be clutch as well, having hit three home runs in the 2015 World Series for the Mets.
Clearly, signing Granderson would be more about his veteran experience than his ability to save the lineup. But he is the kind of bat the Red Sox ought to target for the fourth outfielder spot, and his mere presence would be a welcome one.
Bruce is a known commodity at this point. He’ll hit you 30-plus homers and also have a horrid ratio of strikeouts to walks. But the power is certainly real and he would boost the Red Sox offense in an area where few guys can hit the ball as far as he can.
The outfielder also earned a reputation as a clubhouse leader in his recent stint with the Mets, who acquired him at the 2016 trade deadline. Michael Conforto described him as a guy who “has his opinions on things and he won’t just agree with you just to be a nice guy,” which sounds like a trait that the Red Sox’ younger (or less confident) players could use.
Bruce may have to transition to first base, where he’s played only 15 games in his career, to fit in Boston. (He sounded willing to do it with the Mets.) He also won’t come as cheaply as others on this list and could pull a multi-year deal. But besides that, he would be a nice fit for what they need in terms of both his bat and professionalism.
The 34-year-old Lind obviously isn’t the same guy who blasted 35 home runs in 2009 with the Blue Jays, but he could still come off the bench and give the Red Sox left-handed power, which has been sorely lacking since the departure of Ortiz (as has pretty much everything else). He hit 14 homers with a .513 slugging percentage (his highest since 2009) in 301 at-bats for the Nationals in 2017.
Lind also excelled as a pinch-hitter in D.C., hitting four home runs with a 1.040 OPS in 45 at-bats. He’s tough to strike out and can play first base or outfield, which would give the Red Sox the exact kind of flexibility they could use and make him a complement for either Hosmer or Martinez, should they sign here.
As for the clubhouse, Lind wouldn’t be the kind of vocal leader that the team may be seeking right now. But his quiet professionalism could have a calming effect on his younger teammates, making him a lead-by-example type that would also be useful for the current group.
To get a better idea of how Morrison could fit with the Red Sox right now, you need to go all the way back to 2011 in Florida, his first full season in the major leagues. Though he was just 22 years old at the time, he was already establishing himself as a leader in the Marlins clubhouse. And he did it in part by ripping Hanley Ramirez in front of the rest of the team.
Then boasting perhaps the biggest combination of talent and immaturity in all of baseball, Hanley had already begun earning his reputation as someone who lacks the consistency and attitude to maximize his limitless potential. He wasn’t even late to the Marlins’ team stretches that day in 2011 – but he was barely on time, the last to arrive. Not ideal for the team’s best player. Morrison wasn’t shy about letting Hanley know how bad of a look that was, despite being five years younger.
So if there’s anyone who could keep Hanley in line similarly to Ortiz, it’s Morrison. There’s no guarantee that he’d have the same kind of effect with Hanley seven years later, but he’s one of the only guys in baseball who has an actual track record of doing it. His leadership would be his true contribution to the team, as offensively he will intermittently hit some home runs while striking out a ton. He’d essentially be a less unhinged Jonny Gomes, but perhaps that clubhouse could use a bit of a Gomes-ian injection right now.
This post was updated to reflect accurate information regarding the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series championship.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at email@example.com.