What To Make Of Red Sox’s Rumored Interest In A.J. Pollock Before Trade

The Dodgers dealt Pollock to the White Sox for Craig Kimbrel

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April 1

Friday’s trade between the Dodgers and White Sox probably caught the attention of many Red Sox fans because of Craig Kimbrel’s inclusion. After all, Kimbrel spent three seasons with Boston from 2016 to 2018, during which he earned three All-Star selections and won a World Series title.

But the player dealt for Kimbrel — A.J. Pollock — is even more notable as it relates to the 2022 Red Sox, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Boston was among the teams with at least some interest in the veteran outfielder before Los Angeles shipped him to Chicago.

So, what should we make of this?

Well, it basically just confirms what we already knew: The Red Sox need a right-handed-hitting outfielder, and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is well aware of this flaw in an otherwise good-looking roster.

Bloom at the start of spring training voiced his desire to add a right-handed bat. He responded by signing Trevor Story — the best one still available in free agency — to a six-year, $140 million contract.

The move made sense for several reasons, not the least of which is that it allows Kiké Hernández to remain in the outfield on a full-time basis. Story will play second base in 2022, while shortstop Xander Bogaerts will continue to hold down his usual position.

Still, the Story signing didn’t exactly clear up Boston’s outfield picture. Because while Hernández and Alex Verdugo are penciled into everyday roles in center field and left field, respectively, the Red Sox face a rather precarious situation in right field, where a lot of weight sits on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s shoulders.

Bradley is an elite defensive outfielder, but he historically has been a streaky hitter and is coming off a 2021 in which he really struggled at the plate. Boston’s best course of action would be to install a platoon, with Bradley, a left-handed hitter, starting against right-handers and someone else garnering most of the at-bats against southpaws.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora already said J.D. Martinez, the team’s primary designated hitter, could see time in right field against lefties. And Christian Arroyo, an infielder by trade, is another internal candidate to move out onto the grass on days when the Red Sox would rather not start Bradley.

Neither is an ideal scenario, obviously. Martinez, who turns 35 in August, has his defensive shortcomings and is a threat to wear down late in the year if pushed too aggressively in that regard. Arroyo, meanwhile, has zero big league experience in the outfield.

As constructed, the Red Sox might be forced to rely on someone like Rob Refsynder, a non-roster invitee, to begin the regular season. He’s not a terrible option, as a versatile, experienced, right-swinging outfielder who had success against lefties in 2021. But his ceiling is limited, hence Boston’s rumored interest in Pollock, a 2015 All-Star who remained a solid contributor with the Dodgers the past three years after spending his first seven seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Among MLB outfielders with at least 400 plate appearances last season, Pollock ranked 22nd in fWAR (3.0), right behind Kyle Schwarber (3.1) and a spot above Martinez (2.9). Pollock ranked 11th in wRC+, posting an even higher mark (137) than Mookie Betts (131), among others.

Overall, Pollock slashed .297/.355/.536 with 21 home runs, 69 RBIs and nine stolen bases across 117 games (422 plate appearances) in 2021. He’s missed a lot of time due to injuries throughout his career, but he’s a productive right-handed hitter who also provides value defensively and on the bases.

Pollock would have been an excellent fit for the Red Sox, especially with a reasonable contract that pays him $10 million in 2022 and carries a $10 million player option for 2023 that includes a $5 million buyout. It stands to reason, then, that the White Sox simply weren’t interested in whatever package the Red Sox were willing/able to assemble.

Nevertheless, the larger point remains: While the Red Sox should feel good about their chances of contending in the American League East, as assembled, they’re not without holes, and Friday’s Dodgers-White Sox trade offered another glimpse of one area Boston might shore up at some point.

Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images
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