By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
For the past couple seasons, I’m usually the first person to roll my eyes when someone suggests Mookie Betts get moved to second base. He’s an elite gold glove right fielder who plays in one of the biggest right fields in all of MLB, and has one of the best arms to boot. Before you proceed with the rest of this article, keep in mind this plan is only temporary. Dustin Pedroia will be back in mid to late May. For the meantime, the Red Sox appear to be stuck between a rock and a hard place as far as adding some power to their lineup. They do not have an obvious solution within their system. Certainly Marco Hernandez or Brock Holt could fill in for the time being, or even platoon. But can either of those two present a real power threat against opposing teams?
If Dave Dombrowski is dead set against over paying for J.D. Martinez, he can sign a more inexpensive player for less years and money. One personal favorite free agent of mine is Jay Bruce. If Mookie is moved to second, Bruce can fill in at one of the corner outfield spots, as well as first base. Another relatively inexpensive option would be Lorenzo Cain, who is also a borderline elite defender, and comes from a championship organization.
Another ulterior motive behind this plan could also be to keep Hanley Ramirez out of the line up often enough so he will fail to reach 497 at bats. If Hanley reaches or exceeds 497, his $22M option for 2019 would trigger. If the Red Sox released him from the organization this week similarly to Pablo Sandoval last season, then Hanley would be eligible to sign with any team he chooses for the major league minimum (approx $550K), and the Boston would still be on the hook for the balance of his contract. The Red Sox would also still be on the hook for the 2019 vesting option if Hanley reaches 497 at bats, despite the fact he’s playing for someone else. So it’s too risky to trade or release him at this point.
If Hanley Ramirez by hook or by crook is not on the Red Sox roster by the time Pedroia returns, it would free up the DH spot which could give Boston a few flexible options. For one, Mookie would go back to the outfield, which would allow Mitch Moreland and a Jay Bruce type player to alternate between DH and 1B. If Alex Cora decides he simply wants to ease Pedroia back into game action, he could start Pedey at DH for a couple weeks with Mookie spending some extra time at 2B. Another benefit is that Jackie Bradley Jr remain with the Red Sox organization.
There are no guarantees Pedroia’s knee will hold up the remaining four months the season, October playoffs, or even if he will play at all in 2018 should any setbacks arise. Both short and long term contingency plans must be drawn up.
Ideally Pedroia will come back healthy, with Benintendi, Bradley, and Betts becoming the primary outfield once again from June forward. With a power hitter to be named later at DH, crushing moon shots over the monster.
The Yankees essentially have a lineup loaded with Greek Gods, especially if Manny Machado ends up in pin stripes. The Red Sox cannot afford to start the year under gunned. It would be easiest if they finally ponied up the money for J.D. Martinez. Ultimately, if he does not wind up with the Red Sox, they will have to find a way to maximize all of the power hitting in their system. In a 162 game season, you have to be versatile, and sometimes make decisions which are unpopular.
If Jason Kipnis can go from second base to center field for the Indians during a high stakes ALDS playoff matchup against the Yankees, then Mookie Betts can hold down Fenway Park at second base.
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