If the Boston Red Sox are actually trying to find a solution for their current outfield woes, they’ve swung and missed with the first pitch they’ve seen.
The worst kept secret in baseball is that Boston’s outfield has been a nightmare this season. The Red Sox let Jacoby Ellsbury walk during free agency, Daniel Nava has regressed mightily, Jonny Gomes hasn’t hit a thing, Jackie Bradley, Jr. has yet to hold his own from an offensive standpoint, Shane Victorino has been injured and the Grady Sizemore project has failed.
In terms of WAR, the Red Sox have the worst outfield in the majors, according to FanGraphs. Entering Wednesday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, Boston outfielders were hitting .214/.296/.320 with 11 home runs, 85 runs and 78 RBI while walking 8.9 percent of the time and striking out 24.3 percent of the time. It’s been hard to watch more often than not.
The Red Sox have had plenty of opportunities to bring players in to take the place of the struggling incumbents. But then you hear the arguments about how Boston shouldn’t gut the minor league system to acquire a high-caliber player. Should general manager Ben Cherington try to work out a deal to pry Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier from the Los Angeles Dodgers? No.
Cherington doesn’t need to complete a blockbuster move, but he has to understand that the small moves aren’t working. If the small moves were going to work, Nava would still be hitting, Gomes would still be hitting and Sizemore would still be one of the biggest comeback stories in baseball. But Nava isn’t, Gomes isn’t and Sizemore isn’t. A small move isn’t working in 2014.
So what does Cherington go out and do? He signs outfielder Andres Torres to a minor league deal on Wednesday — presumably with the intention of having him hit throughout the levels of the minors and then come up to Boston to aid those already on the big league roster. Don’t worry Red Sox Nation because Andres Torres is coming to the rescue. Although he isn’t.
Torres is a 36-year-old center fielder — who in theory could play one of the corners, too — who had one good season. That season was back in 2010 when he was with the World Champion San Francisco Giants. In 139 games that season, Torres hit .268/.343/.479 with 16 home runs, 84 runs, 63 RBI and 26 stolen bases. He hasn’t been nearly as productive the last three years:
- 2011 (SFG): 112 G, .221/.312/.330, 4 HR, 50 R, 19 RBI, 19 SB, 10.6 BB%, 23.9 K%
- 2012 (NYM): 132 G, .230/.327/.337, 3 HR, 47 R, 35 RBI, 13 SB, 12.0 BB%, 20.7 K%
- 2013 (SFG): 103 G, .250/.302/.342, 2 HR, 33 R, 21 RBI, 4 SB, 7.3 BB%, 20.3 K%
Just looking at those last three years, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that Torres is a below-average hitter who doesn’t get on base very often, doesn’t have any power, will score some runs, won’t drive in many, had some speed, doesn’t walk much and strikes out relatively often. In general, the Red Sox need the exact opposite of what Torres brings to the table.
Boston needs someone who is going to get on base, drive in runs and just not be an automatic out every time he steps into the batter’s box. The Red Sox have the fifth-worst on-base percentage among outfields in baseball, the second-lowest ISO, the fifth-fewest RBI, the worst wRC+ and the third-highest strikeout rate. How is Torres going to help this outfield?
The answer is that if Torres eventually makes it onto the active roster, and that could be a big if, he won’t be any help. But here’s Cherington’s angle: Torres is a cheap, low-risk move that won’t blow up in his face if it doesn’t pan out. If Torres plays at a crazy high level for a few months, Cherington looks like a genius. If he plays horribly, there’s no skin off his back.
But Cherington has to know that it’s going to take a notable move to improve the outfield enough to compete for a playoff spot. Sure, the entire team has to player better to make it back to the postseason, but the outfield is arguably the biggest thing holding the organization back at the moment. The signing of Torres confirms Cherington knows there’s an issue.
Cherington also said on MLB Network Radio, via Jim Bowden, that if the team were to add a piece between now and the July 31 trade deadline, it would be for an outfielder. He couldn’t have meant just Torres, so there is still some hope that he has something in mind going forward. If he doesn’t make a move in the next month or so, he’s going to regret it.
The Red Sox will fail to make the postseason in 2014 with the current outfield — or an outfield that includes Torres. While there are some reasons why signing Torres make sense, there’s no question that he’s just as bad as what Boston currently has playing on a daily basis. Cherington needs to make a bigger move that won’t break the bank.
If Torres is the move – which, you never know –it’s going to be a long final few months of the regular season.