The Red Sox have interest in free agent corner infielder Trevor Plouffe, reports Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald, though their interest is contingent on Plouffe’s asking price. It’s not clear exactly what the career-long Twin is seeking at this time, but Drellich hears the BoSox are interested if Plouffe is willing to take a one-year deal worth $2-3MM.
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The 30-year-old Plouffe, Minnesota’s first-round pick back in 2004 (20th overall), was outrighted following an injury-riddled 2016 campaign that saw him endure three DL stints for an intercostal strain, a broken rib and an oblique strain. Projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a hefty $8.2MM via his final trip through arbitration, Plouffe didn’t perform well for most of the season, though he did bat .277/.345/.465 with five homers and four doubles across his final 113 plate appearances. However, the aforementioned oblique injury landed Plouffe on the shelf for the final three weeks of the year. His injuries, projected price tag and a crowded Twins corner infield/DH picture led new Minnesota execs Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to move on from Plouffe rather than tender him a contract.
Plouffe didn’t develop into a regular for the Twins until his age-26 season, as he struggled as a shortstop (the position he played in high school prior to being drafted), second baseman and corner outfielder before settling in as Minnesota’s everyday third baseman from 2012-16. In his first four seasons as a regular, he proved to be a roughly league-average bat, hitting .248/.312/.426 and averaging 23 homers per 162 games played. A right-handed hitter, Plouffe has been significantly more productive against lefties. His defense at third base was never exceptional, but he grew from a poor defender to a somewhat above-average defender in the eyes of both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved. (He posted poor numbers in both fields in 2016, though injuries may have impacted his maneuverability in the field.) He also saw more than 100 innings at first base in each of the past two seasons.
Drellich notes that the Sox “fully intend” to give Pablo Sandoval a chance to handle the lion’s share of work at third base, Plouffe would give the team a right-handed complement to first baseman Mitch Moreland and to Sandoval at third base. The switch-hitting Sandoval has long fared better as a left-handed bat in his career, and Moreland has never had much success against southpaws himself. And, in the event that Sandoval isn’t able to recapture his form, Plouffe would provide somewhat of an alternative at third base.
It’s not clear if there’s a team out there that would afford Plouffe a better path to playing time, though the corner market isn’t exactly robust at this time, and there aren’t too many clubs looking for an everyday option at third base. Plouffe could potentially be a fit with teams like the Brewers (platooning with Travis Shaw and Eric Thames at the infield corners), the White Sox (if they trade Todd Frazier), the Braves (pushing Adonis Garcia for playing time at third base) or the Marlins (platooning at first base with Justin Bour), but that’s just speculation on my behalf, and none of those teams necessarily has a clear everyday role.