The Red Sox are considering a number of position player targets, including a pair of outfielders. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Sox are interested in Lourdes Gurriel Jr., KPRC’s Ari Alexander reports that Michael A. Taylor is another player of interest, and Boston is also looking at help behind the plate in Martin Maldonado, according to The Athletic’s Chandler Rome. (All links to X).
Even after the trade of Alex Verdugo to the Yankees earlier tonight, the Red Sox technically still have a set starting outfield in Jarred Duran, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Wilyer Abreu, with Masataka Yoshida available for part-time duty in left field when he isn’t a designated hitter, and utilitymen Rob Refsnyder and Pablo Reyes in the mix. That said, the projected starting outfield doesn’t carry much MLB experience, making a veteran addition like Gurriel (for left field) or Taylor (for center) very sensible.
Gurriel will be the priciest of the group, as MLBTR predicted a four-year, $54MM contract for the 30-year-old while ranking Gurriel 14th on our list of the winter’s top 50 free agents. Over his six Major League seasons with the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks, Gurriel has been a streaky but generally productive bat, hitting .279/.324/.446 for a career 113 wRC+ over 2456 plate appearances. Settling in as a regular left fielder after some poor defensive showings as an infielder at the start of his career, Gurriel’s glovework has been somewhat mixed, yet public metrics were very impressed across the board with his fielding in 2023. It could be that the move to Chase Field from Rogers Centre helped Gurriel’s defense, though dealing with the Green Monster in Fenway Park could be a trickier endeavor.
The Red Sox got a first-hand look at Gurriel during his days in Toronto, and Gurriel has a solid .811 OPS over 180 career PA at Fenway. Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow also crossed paths with Gurriel on a personal level, as Breslow’s last pro season (2018) was spent in the Blue Jays organization when Gurriel spent time at Double-A and Triple-A before making his MLB debut that season.
Since defensive improvements are a stated goal of the Red Sox offseason, signing a former Gold Glover like Taylor would provide immediate help. Taylor’s +5 Defensive Runs Saved, +8 Outs Above Average, and +4.3 UZR/150 over 960 1/3 center field innings with the Twins last season were actually down from some of his elite totals earlier in his career, yet obviously Taylor is still among the best defensive center fielders in the sport. He added to that glovework with one of his better offensive seasons, hitting .220/.278/.442 with 21 home runs in 388 PA for Minnesota in 2023 for a 96 wRC+.
With Byron Buxton unable to play center field due to recurring knee problems, Taylor ended up being very valuable in solidifying Minnesota’s center field situation. The same could be true in Boston, as having Taylor up the middle on even a part-time basis would allow Rafaela to perhaps contribute at second base — another known target area for the Red Sox this winter.
Taylor and Maldonado could come at much lower price tags than Gurriel, and could be had at one-year contracts despite quite a bit of interest in their service. For instance, Maldonado has drawn interest from at least four other teams besides the Red Sox, though a reunion with the Astros now looks to be scuttled given Houston’s signing of Victor Caratini.
Though Maldonado has never contributed much as a hitter, his ability to handle pitchers and call games has been widely praised throughout his career. This allowed Maldonado to continue getting regular at-bats in Houston, and his work with the Astros’ pitchers was seen as a major reason for their development and the peak that was the 2022 World Series title. However, as Yainer Diaz started to break out as a catcher of the future, the Astros ultimately decided to move on from Maldonado, leaving the veteran in search of a new home.
Connor Wong and Reese McGuire already form a catching platoon, so there would seem to be less immediate opportunity for playing time in Boston than Maldonado might find on another team. Signing Maldonado might open the door for the Sox to make a trade, as Kyle Teel could make his MLB debut in 2024 and is seen as Boston’s catcher of the future. If Wong and McGuire are seen as shorter-term placeholders anyway, Maldonado could then become a veteran mentor to Teel as the top prospect gets acclimated to the majors.