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15 possible fits for Red Sox in non-tender market

@IanMBrowne
December 3, 2019

BOSTON -- In this offseason of creativity for the Red Sox -- one in which they are unlikely to chase high-priced talent on the free-agent or trade markets -- a refreshingly new pool of players has become available for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. There were 56 players who were

BOSTON -- In this offseason of creativity for the Red Sox -- one in which they are unlikely to chase high-priced talent on the free-agent or trade markets -- a refreshingly new pool of players has become available for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

There were 56 players who were non-tendered by Monday’s deadline, and MLB.com has found 15 who could be good fits for the Red Sox.

The Position Players

Travis Shaw, 1B-3B-2B: You surely remember this power-hitting, left-handed bat who came up through the Red Sox farm system and beat out Pablo Sandoval as the starting third baseman in 2016. Shaw got off to a hot start that season, faded down the stretch and was traded for Tyler Thornburg that winter. You know the story. Thornburg was injured or ineffective throughout his time with the Sox, while Shaw belted 30-plus homers in his first two seasons in Milwaukee.

So why was Shaw non-tendered by the Brewers? Shaw lost his swing in ’19, slashing .157/.281/.270 with seven homers in 270 plate appearances. That 30-homer power is still in there, and the Red Sox have playing time available on the right side of the infield. A reunion could make sense.

C.J. Cron, 1B: Cron offers a power bat and the potential for more production than Mitch Moreland -- now a free agent -- provided the last two seasons for Boston. Cron hammered 25 homers for the AL Central champion Twins last year and 30 for Bloom’s Rays two years ago. The right-handed hitter could find the Green Monster very inviting.

Steven Souza Jr., OF: Bloom is plenty familiar with Souza from the three years he spent with the Rays. In fact, the right-handed hitter belted 30 homers for Tampa Bay in 2017. If the Red Sox trade Mookie Betts or Jackie Bradley Jr., there are worse ways to fill that void than with Souza, who didn’t play at all in 2019 for the D-backs due to his recovery from lefty knee surgery.

Kevin Pillar, OF: Speaking of outfielders, the Red Sox are plenty familiar with Pillar due to his years with the Blue Jays. But it was for the Giants last season that the center fielder had arguably the best season of his career, ripping 21 homers while driving in 87 runs. He has always been a strong defender in center and his familiarity with the dimensions of the AL East parks only makes him more attractive for Boston if either Betts or Bradley is subtracted from the roster.

Tim Beckham, 2B-3B-SS: Signing Beckham would come with a caveat -- but one that could make him more affordable. The infielder is ineligible for the first 32 games of the season while he serves the rest of his 80-game suspension for violating terms of Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Though he’s never fully lived up to his potential, Beckham is a productive enough player to be part of Boston’s solution at second base next season, while also offering depth at shortstop and third base.

César Hernández, 2B: The switch-hitter compiled 14 homers, 77 runs and 71 RBIs for the Phillies last season. If the Red Sox are looking for a primary second baseman rather than tackling the position by committee, Hernández could be a good fit. He has played 155 games or more in three of the last four years. His defensive metrics aren’t favorable, but Hernández is steady with the glove.

Kevin Plawecki, C: The Red Sox traded Sandy León to the Indians on Monday rather than non-tender him, which could put them in position to land Plawecki, who was non-tendered by, yep, the Indians. Plawecki doesn’t have much of a bat, but Bloom was part of a Tampa Bay organization that often placed a heavy emphasis on defense for backup catchers. Plawecki is known for being a strong pitch framer, a statistic organizations are valuing more these days.

Josh Phegley, C: Phegley is another potential replacement for León, and he would definitely represent an upgrade offensively as a backup for Christian Vázquez. The right-handed hitter belted 12 homers in 314 at-bats last season and was the primary catcher for a playoff team in Oakland, so that should count for something.

Kevan Smith, C: Smith is a career backup, and he could fit Boston’s need for a player who can effectively fill in for Vázquez. Smith will mainly hope to be a lot healthier in ’20 than he was in ’19, when he was slowed by a concussion as well as back and hand ailments. He was still able to contribute 12 doubles and five homers in 191 at-bats; however, his defense might be less than what the Red Sox are looking for.

The Pitchers

Aaron Sanchez, Starter: For a potential bounce-back candidate on an affordable contract, look no further than Sanchez. The righty struggled mightily at times last season and had right shoulder surgery that will lead to a late start in ’20, but the Red Sox are trying to build out their depth in the starting rotation and Sanchez -- who led the American League in ERA in 2016 -- offers intriguing upside.

Blake Treinen, Reliever: In 2018, the righty was simply marvelous, going 9-2 with an 0.78 ERA in 68 appearances for the A’s. Unfortunately, he didn’t come close to that performance last season, compiling a 4.91 ERA in 57 outings. The Red Sox are trying to give manager Alex Cora some more options in the late innings, and Treinen would be a strong candidate if he can regain his form.

Taijuan Walker, Starter: Due to major injuries, the righty has appeared in just four games over the last two seasons. He could be the perfect "buy low" candidate. Walker was a dependable starter for the Mariners and D-backs in a three-year run before injuries, and he could be an option to replace free agent Rick Porcello in Boston’s rotation.

Kevin Gausman, Starter: Thanks to his body of work with the Orioles, the Red Sox know the righty can, at the very least, hold his own in the American League East. That is no small thing. Gausman took off after being traded to the Braves down the stretch in ’18 but then subsequently regressed last season. He also has experience in the bullpen.

Jimmy Nelson, Starter: The former Brewers righty has been a victim of injuries and control issues, but the Red Sox could see enough in him to take a flier. The 30-year-old is coming off shoulder surgery which limited him to 22 innings last year. In other words, his price tag is going to be low.

Junior Guerra, Reliever: Yet another candidate from the Brewers who could be a fit for the Red Sox, the 34-year-old was a workhorse out of the bullpen last season, pitching 83 2/3 innings while registering a solid 3.55 ERA. He could fit nicely with Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman in Boston’s ‘pen.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.