With Dustin Pedroia getting ready to return, Blake Swihart may be on the chopping block. Is there a better option for the Boston Red Sox?
With Dustin Pedroia due back from the DL this weekend, the Boston Red Sox have a fairly big problem on their hands. What do they do with Blake Swihart? Brock Holt is playing extremely well again. Eduardo Nunez is not. Swihart hasn’t been given a fair shake. But one of the three has to go. The team cannot afford to roster three utility players, so who will it be?
As much as we might not like it, Hanley Ramirez probably isn’t going anywhere even if he can’t hit. And even though it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Jackie Bradley Jr.’s days as an above average hitter aren’t coming back, it seems the team isn’t willing to move him either. The obvious answer is to DFA Swihart. Maybe they can work out a deal for something of value, minimal as that would be. But what if the team got a little nuts and did something more radical? Here are four options that might be better than the more likely DFA of Blake Swihart.
DFA or trade Jackie Bradley Jr. instead.
His glove is amazing, right? Well, he’s only tied for 16th in outs above average (according to Baseball Savant). He has made 2 four star catches in 3 opportunities but just 1 five star catch in 10. He’s 1 for 2 in 3-star catch opportunities and 15 of 16 one and two star catches. So he makes all of the routine plays, but the generational glove hasn’t been on display this season. In fact, there’s probably a decent chance the team wouldn’t lose anything in center field if they had Mookie Betts out there instead.
Betts has made 2 out of 7 five-star catches, 1 out of 2 four-star catches and converted all of his one-, two- and three-star opportunities in a very difficult Fenway right field. The problem with replacing Bradley with Betts is that it moves J.D. Martinez into a corner permanently and would likely mean Andrew Benintendi in right field at home. Benintendi is a solid defensive left fielder, but the team would see a significant hit to their overall outfield defense with him in right regularly.
JBJ can’t hit, though.
He has looked better in the last week with a .753 OPS. But it’s starting to look like the guy we saw in 2016 was a mirage. The strikeout rate is back up, the hard-hit percentage is down, and he’s pulling everything. At 28 years old, chances are he’s probably what his career rates say he is. What we saw in a partial season in 2015 and the following season are looking more and more like outliers. And his 2017 wRC+ matches his career rate of 90 exactly. So, even though he likely has a hot streak in him at some point this season, I’d bet he’s more likely to end up there than above average.
If the glove isn’t superlative, and the bat is below average, that’s not a starting caliber player. Even if the team doesn’t opt to DFA JBJ, there’s probably a good chance he ends up a 4th outfielder before the season is over.