Red Sox manager Alex Cora has been talking a lot about his team’s versatility early in Spring Training, and a big reason why is the signing of super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez, which was officially announced on Wednesday.
The Red Sox and the veteran Gonzalez agreed to terms on a one-year, $3 million contract with incentives on Feb. 1. With the deal finalized, Gonzalez was in uniform for the Red Sox for their workout Wednesday night.
To make room for Gonzalez on the roster, the Red Sox designated right-handed reliever Marcus Walden for assignment.
Over his nine-year career in the Majors, the 31-year-old Gonzalez has played every position but pitcher and catcher. The switch-hitter figures to see plenty of time in the outfield and at first base for Boston.
Look for Gonzalez to see a lot of action in the outfield against lefties, because newly acquired left fielder Franchy Cordero has struggled against southpaws throughout his career. Gonzalez could spot rookie first baseman Bobby Dalbec against tough righties. And he can also get third baseman Rafael Devers rest at times against lefties.
The combination of Gonzalez and Enrique Hernández -- who can also play all over the infield and outfield -- will allow such flexibility that the Red Sox are strongly considering going with a three-man bench and 14 pitchers.
“That’s going to be great for us. If we can actually go with less position players and more pitchers, so be it,” Cora said. “Because these guys are going to be part of this team, and they're going to help us to create matchups. We can move it around defensively, and they're going to help us to actually protect the pitching staff. It’s odd to say it, but our position players will give us room, margin to maneuver our pitching staff."
Cora is familiar with Gonzalez from their one season together with the Astros in 2017, when Cora served as bench coach.
Gonzalez is the rare switch-hitter who doesn’t seem to have a more comfortable side. He is a .261 hitter against both lefties and righties. His OPS is only slightly better against righties (.732) than lefties (.724).
Gonzalez spent the first seven years of his career with the Astros, before spending the past two seasons with the Twins. Like many players around the game, Gonzalez struggled in the shortened 2020 season, slashing .211/.286/.320 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 175 at-bats.
From 2016-19, Gonzalez had at least 425 at-bats each season while moving all over the field. He hit double-digit homers in every year from 2015-19.
In 962 games in the Majors, Gonzalez is a career .261/.317/.413 hitter with 96 homers and 369 RBIs.
The 32-year-old Walden has spent four seasons in the Red Sox organization after signing with the club as a Minor League free agent in December 2016. In 93 big league appearances (all in relief), he went 9-4 with a 4.50 ERA, making the Opening Day roster in both 2018 and '20.
Walden’s best season came in 2019, when he went 9-2 with a 3.81 ERA in a career-high 70 appearances.
With the addition of Gonzalez, Boston’s 40-man roster is full.