Even though not much attention is paid to bench players, they are often an important cog in a team’s success. Right now, the Red Sox’s bench is looking terrible.
We have no backup catcher and the one with the greatest chance of returning hasn’t hit over .230 in three years and over .202 in two years. Doug Mirabelli’s career line is .231/.278/.360 and would most likely have been out of a big-league job long ago if not for a gift of catching Tim Wakefield.
Kevin Cash filled in admirably behind the plate but was horrific with the bat, hitting .111/.242/.148 and his career line is .167/.223/.265.
If the idea is for the backup catcher to be able to catch Wakefield admirably, Mirabelli is probably the choice because he’s not a cancer with the bat like Cash is, but it means that there’s one spot on the bench we can punt for offense.
We can pretty much punt the bat with our middle infielder, too. Alex is a great guy. I’m sure his wife (if he has one) loves him. He’s widely considered to be a future manager. He’s got a slick glove and can inexplicably bust out a string of triples from time to time. But he can’t hit. Cora hit .246/.298/.386 in 207 AB for the Sox in 2007 and that line is heavily weighted to the first half. How weighted? .198/.253/.296 in the second half. Yikes.
We then turn to the outfield. There’s no way they allow Coco Crisp to be the fourth outfielder because that would erase any positive trade value Coco has for the big-league club and also leave Coco an unhappy camper… and with all that’s been said and done so far, it’s really hard to believe the Red Sox would ask Jacoby to be a fourth outfielder. We’re going to be getting a new fourth outfielder.
This means that we need a replacement, and that very well could be Bobby Kielty. Kielty who is batting 1.000 in his World Series career would be welcomed back with open arms. He would be average defensively in center but could handle the corners. He’d offer protection in case J.D. Drew flounders against lefties again allowing Kielty to seamlessly step in as a platoon partner.
What can’t he do?
Hit. Against righties. He hit .162/.220/.270 this past year against them (.260/.333/.300 against lefties, .228/.329/.348 career against righties).
That’s three bench spots filled and one to go. The one that filled the resident “stick-swinger” last year was Eric Hinske who really didn’t do that bad in that role. He possessed a fine eye and had some pop, but saw his career .255 average tumble to .204 (hanging out with Mirabelli too much, maybe?) for a total line of .204/.317/.398. I wouldn’t be against him returning… however, he earned $5.6 million and while he won’t get even close to that in free agency, is highly likely to go where he can get the most at-bats, and that won’t be in Boston.
So what to do?
Complaining that we don’t have Wily Mo Pena anymore won’t rectify the situation. What to do? How can we put a bat on the bench?
Well, we may not have Wily Mo anymore, but we do have Chris Carter. For a closer look at Chris Carter, click here. Carter disappointed after the trade, hitting only .234/.308/.319 but granted, that was only in 12 games. For Arizona’s Triple-A team, he hit .324/.383/.521 in his second trip around the league and has been tearing the cover off the ball in the Venezuelan Winter League. At age 25, he’s ready.
He’s not great with the glove (shades of Wily Mo) but can play first base and left field. As an added bonus, he’s a lefty.
But wait, don’t forget about Brandon Moss. He can play all outfield positions and is trying to learn first base although he’s spending the bulk of his time in the outfield. He hit .282/.363/.472 for AAA Pawtucket in 493 AB and then made his big-league debut. He totaled 25 AB at the major league level, hitting .280/.379/.440 so we know we can hit at the big league level, but how confident are we in someone who’s only had minimal time playing first base?
Right now, the in-house options plus the clear candidates are Doug Mirabelli, Alex Cora, Bobby Kielty, Chris Carter and Brandon Moss.
If I had to pick, I’d go with Mirabelli, Cora, Carter and Moss. We need Carter for the threat of the bat and the ability to play first, and Moss is a more cost-effective and balanced solution than Kielty.
It’s not an inspiring bunch.