In this edition of Red Sox in 2020, Kreighton Baxter takes a look at the Red Sox outfield outlook next year.
Over the last three to five years, the Red Sox outfield has seen few changes. Homegrown talent has consistently manned the three spots, with Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi being outfield staples for years. The Sox have acquired some “outfield” talent such as JD Martinez, but the bulk of the work has been done by guys the Sox drafted.
Much like the majority of things in life, the good times must end. Martinez can opt out of his contract after the 2019 season, and Betts and Bradley Jr. are free agents after the 2020 season. It looks pretty obvious that the Sox are going to have a massive overhaul in the outfield over the next year or two.
Let’s start with JD Martinez. Martinez can exercise the aforementioned opt-out of his contract this offseason, but I just don’t see that happening. With how rough it was last season for free agents to find homes, JD leaving $23.75 million on the table is just not wise on his part. Ultimately, I see JD sticking around a minimum of the remainder of his deal.
Andrew Benintendi is under club control until 2023. Much like what the front office did with Jackie Bradley, I don’t see the Sox trading Benintendi. He is still young, and while this year has looked frustrated more than comfortable at the plate, he still has plenty of time to mature into the power hitter fans have witnessed before.
Benintendi has been consistent in his hitting during his three years as the everyday left fielder, with the exception of strikeouts and stolen bases this season. He has struck out a career-high 125 times and has stolen a career-low nine bases so far this season. I’m willing to chalk it up to being young, growing, and finding his identity.
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Now is when things get interesting. Jackie Bradley Jr. has always been polarizing for Red Sox fans. On the one hand, fans want to trade him because he can’t hit the broad side of a barn, while the other side says he is worth his weight in gold because of his glove.
I, personally, am split on this. Bradley is, in my sole opinion, the best center fielder in the game. Jackie even beats Mike Trout when it comes down to just a glove and the ability to make plays.
What absolutely wrecks Jackie is his bat. He has not hit over .250 since 2016 and has never hit over .275 in his career. In big moments, fans simply cannot count on Jackie to come through. With that said, his glove outweighs his bad bat. I think the Sox try to keep Jackie, offering him a contract extension that is club-friendly. If he turns that down this offseason and depending on where the Sox are come trade deadline time next year, I am trading him for young talent. It’s time to rebuild our farm system.
The biggest fish in the outfield of course, is Mookie Betts. To many fans, he is the untouchable and must-have piece to the Sox regardless of price. But I am not one of those fans.
Trade Mookie Betts. Trading Betts this off-season will add some much needed high-value prospects to a depleted farm system. A farm system that Dave Dombrowski has drained in order to compete now.
Now, I agree that if Boston can get Mookie to sign at a “hometown discount”, then, by all means, do it. With that said, the Sox cannot afford a $300-plus million contract. With Legacy Agency as his agent, Mookie is set to get an offer in that neighborhood.
Boston is a team with a history of large signings that don’t work out. Trading Mookie Betts is the move I would take if he refuses to sign at a “discounted” rate. If that happens, who steps up to fill the void? This is where I once again make the case at resigning ultra-utility man Brock Holt. Holt can play every outfield position, making it easy to move Benintendi, Martinez, and Bradley Jr. around.