On the heels of the Sox’s fourth disappointing offensive game in a row, it’s becoming abundantly clear that despite the team’s top five offense, it’s a top five incapable of sustaining any sort of playoff-caliber offense.
With that in mind, I have compiled a list of the 15 bats the Red Sox may have interest in. As the trading deadline approaches, I am keen to see if Theo has the “killer instinct” in him to make a strong move instead of holding onto his prospects with an iron fist. There’s no question he possesses such a “killer instinct” — after all, he’s the one that traded Nomar.
However, the only other major trade Theo has partaken in was with Manny Ramirez, and his hand was forced in that trade. Any other trade Theo has participated in has been of the garden variety. (The Beckett/Lowell trade was when he was not general manager, although he did consult on the trade.)
With Jason Bay a free agent and his agent seeking a Mark Teixeira-type deal, is the time now to get a bat for now and the future? Here are some names that could don Sox uniforms sooner rather than later — you’ll see eight names in this article (in alphabetical order). On Friday, the final seven will follow, plus a summary of what the best fits seem to be.
First, it’s key to remember where the Sox can fit in a new hitter: First base, shortstop, third base, and any backup position. Players the Sox shouldn’t concern themselves with (for various reasons) in terms of making sure they stay on the roster are: C George Kottaras, SS Nick Green and Jed Lowrie, OF Mark Kotsay.
GARRETT ATKINS — 3B, Colorado
HOW HE IS A FIT: Atkins has fallen out of favor in Colorado, being benched in favor of Ian Stewart. Atkins can step in at third and field first base as well. Atkins could play liberally at third, platooning with Mike Lowell.
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: We need a bat, right? A .632 OPS doesn’t exactly qualify as a bat.
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: The Rockies would likely move him for a couple mediocre prospects just to get out from under his salary (making about $7 million on the year, will be a free agent).
JORGE CANTU — 1B, Florida
HOW HE IS A FIT: Cantu might be available as the Marlins are tilting towards being sellers after a recent skid. Cantu has only played first this year but has experience at third. He’s cranked out 10 home runs and is hitting .285 on the year. His offensive stats are very similar to what Lowell is doing, making him a great option as a bench bat.
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: This is a popular refrain you will hear in this series, but how exactly does he help the Sox besides deepening the lineup? Why give up what it would take to acquire Cantu just to play him off the bench?
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: If we are willing to give up a blue-chipper, Cantu can be ours. If we’re looking to deepen our bench and improve our ability to settle into a rotation with Lowell, Cantu is the better choice over Atkins.
JJ HARDY — SS, Milwaukee
HOW HE IS A FIT: Hardy has been a popular name at Fire Brand these last few years. With the Brewers having phenom Alcides Escobar in the minors, the Brewers will have to make a decision in the next several months: deal Hardy or Escobar or move Hardy off short. The Sox would probably have loved Hardy as a long-term solution at shortstop, if not for…
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: .. his slump this year. He’s at .226/.293/.374 on the year, a far cry from his .283/.343/.478 just a year ago. If we want to improve our offense, we can’t really take chances on hitters: we need to get proven bats.
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: The Brewers need a starting pitcher and probably would be open to a Penny+ (Green?)-for-Hardy deal. If they were to request Buchholz, Theo would walk away: Buchholz is only available for a young slugger. Hardy, via his slump, is not that hitter.
MATT HOLLIDAY — LF, Oakland
HOW HE IS A FIT: Holliday is one of the game’s premier sluggers, but his stature has dimmed quite a bit thanks to having to adjust to American League-style pitching plus the cavern that is Oakland’s home park. Throw out April, however, and suddenly he’s the hitter everyone expected him to be.
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: Where does he play? Sure, Bay may not have a future in Boston, but his future in Boston is secure through at least the year.
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: Beane will ask for at least two premium prospects as he can always offer Holliday arbitration, see Holliday reject it and get two draft picks for him. Theo won’t give that up, not with no easy place to play Holliday.
AUBREY HUFF — 1B, Baltimore
HOW HE IS A FIT: Huff was one of the game’s better hitters last year, but has stumbled so far this year. He can play third, but is largely relegated to first. He could serve as a very nice bat off the bench.
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: As I just mentioned, he’s basically limited to first base. Plus, the Orioles would ask for a return commensurate with Huff’s stature as a starter.
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: I say it’s not likely at all, mostly because Cantu and Atkins present better options.
NICK JOHNSON — 1B, Washington
HOW HE IS A FIT: Johnson has been a popular refrain for us Sox fans so far this year. Johnson can compete with JD Drew and Kevin Youkilis on taking walks and would help the Sox wear out opposing pitchers.
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: One problem: Johnson is a first-baseman, so that would mean Lowell is out of the lineup. Yes, his .305/.414/.422 line is very nice… but I think the Sox are far more in need of pop then they are of getting on base. In that category, Lowell bests NJ rather easily.
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: The Nats won’t just give him away, but I would believe the Delcarmen-for-Johnson swap could still happen.
ADAM LAROCHE — 1B, Pittsburgh
HOW HE IS A FIT: Unlike Johnson, LaRoche can send the ball deep: he cranked out 25 home runs and 32 doubles last year. LaRoche would slide in beautifully at first and send Lowell to the bench.
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: Again, the idea here is to improve our offense. LaRoche, notoriously a streaky hitter, is at .247/.330/.441 on the year and we would not be able to depend on him at all: he could be ice-cold or searingly hot.
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: The Pirates would have no qualms about dealing LaRoche. However, with the question marks surrounding him, the Sox wouldn’t give up what the Pirates would request.
ALEX RIOS — RF, Toronto
HOW HE IS A FIT: Rios is young; just 28. His 2006-7 years suggested a player on the verge of stardom. 2008 saw a slide back, and eyeing 2009 as a whole would suggest another significant slide back. And you would be right. But Rios still has all that talent inside of him, and whichever team is lucky enough to have him once he re-figures things out will benefit.
WHY HE ISN’T A FIT: Told you it would be a popular refrain: as much potential as Rios holds, he would not represent an upgrade.
HOW LIKELY WE CAN GET HIM: Well, the Blue Jays obviously have decided to rebuild. Dealing Rios and the $60 million due him over the next five years would help the Jays with payroll flexibility. The price would be higher thanks to being a division rival, but not prohibitive.
And so concludes part one. Part two, as I mentioned, will be Friday. This part wasn’t exactly rosy, was it? It was full of potential bashers that are having off years or ones that have no fit in the lineup. Perhaps now we gain a better understanding of the inflexibility Theo has: it’s not going to be easy to find an upgrade to the lineup barring a shocking trade (along the lines of trading/benching Jacoby Ellsbury, for example).
We’ll see if part two has any answers Friday, but for now, do you see any possible fits in this list above? Who and why?