Potential Red Sox Lineups After Andrew Benintendi Trade, Reported Marwin Gonzalez Deal

Boston has a lot of flexibility

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A relatively busy offseason for the Boston Red Sox continued Wednesday night when Chaim Bloom traded outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Kansas City Royals as part of a three-team deal that also involved the New York Mets.

In exchange, the Red Sox acquired five players, including outfielder Franchy Cordero, minor league pitcher Josh Winckowski and three players to be named later.

Cordero figures to immediately factor into Boston’s outfield plans, even though the 26-year-old only has 95 games (315 plate appearances) of major league experience over four seasons, three of which came with the San Diego Padres before he was traded to Kansas City last July.

But piecing together how exactly the Red Sox will line up come Opening Day — against right-handers and left-handers — remains somewhat challenging.

In fact, as fate would have it, the Red Sox reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with free agent utilityman Marwin Gonzalez as we were performing this exercise Thursday, highlighting the fluidity of Boston’s offseason and, in turn, projections for 2021.

Alas, here’s how things might shake out against right-handers:

Alex Verdugo, CF (L)
Rafael Devers, 3B (L)
Xander Bogaerts, SS (R)
J.D. Martinez, DH (R)
Christian Vazquez, C (R)
Franchy Cordero, LF (L)
Hunter Renfroe, RF (R)
Bobby Dalbec, 1B (R)
Kiké Hernandez, 2B (R)

Wild card: Marwin Gonzalez (S)

Verdugo should lead off against both righties and lefties. He’s capable of hitting both.

The Red Sox theoretically could bump Bogaerts into the No. 2 hole and slide Devers down to the No. 3 spot to create a left-right-left-right balance at the top of the order. But that would go against the lineup manager Alex Cora leaned on in 2019, when Devers hit .334 with 19 home runs, 63 RBIs and a 1.032 OPS in 335 plate appearances while batting second and Bogaerts hit .322 with 20 home runs, 70 RBIs and a .985 OPS in 351 plate appearances while batting third.

We’re sticking with Martinez and Vazquez at fourth and fifth, respectively, for consistency’s sake, but that, too, could fluctuate if the former’s 2020 struggles linger into 2021 and/or someone else emerges as an offensive force worth boosting.

Cordero might start out facing only right-handers based on his career splits (.252/.322/.463 in 243 plate appearances versus RHP and .182/.239/.333 in 72 plate appearances versus LHP).

The most fascinating wrinkle here is the reported addition of Gonzalez, so much so that it’d feel wrong to leave him out of the above projection, hence the “wild card” designation.

Gonzalez is a switch-hitter whose career splits are almost identical against both right-handers and left-handers. And he’s capable of playing all over the diamond.

Gonzalez almost certainly will garner significant playing time, with the only question revolving around the specificity of his role. He could form a straight platoon with Dalbec at first base, facing right-handers, but the more likely scenario is he bounces around, presumably spending a decent chunk of time spelling Renfroe against righties, as well.

Hernandez can provide a nice jolt of energy at the bottom, and even shift to the outfield, if necessary, based on how Gonzalez is used.

Now, here’s a potential lineup when facing left-handers:

Alex Verdugo, CF (L)
Rafael Devers, 3B (L)
Xander Bogaerts, SS (R)
J.D. Martinez, DH (R)
Christian Vazquez, C (R)
Hunter Renfroe, RF (R)
Bobby Dalbec, 1B (R)

Marwin Gonzalez, LF (S)
Kiké Hernandez, 2B (R)

First five remain the same. For now. Simple enough.

The biggest difference you’ll notice is the removal of Cordero, for reasons mentioned, and the inclusion of Gonzalez, who, again, can fill any number of needs thanks to his offensive and defensive flexibility.

We opted to keep Verdugo and Renfroe in center field and right field, respectively, with Gonzalez manning left field. It’s entirely possible Cora messes around with his outfield configurations, though. After all, Verdugo performed admirably in right field last season at Fenway Park, and Hernandez is capable of sliding onto the grass if the Red Sox are more comfortable with Gonzalez in the infield.

Worth noting: Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis and Jonathan Araúz are depth options within the infield. How they’ll be deployed remains unclear, but Arroyo’s role might be most affected by Gonzalez’s arrival, as he seemed like a viable second-base option against southpaws.

Thumbnail photo via Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports Images

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