While rumors of where the Washington Nationals’ Josh Bell and the Baltimore Orioles’ Trey Mancini will land run rampant, one MLB writer posed an under-the-radar solution for the Boston Red Sox’s lack of production at first base.
Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Christian Walker — who once won back-to-back NCAA championships alongside Jackie Bradley Jr. at South Carolina — could reunite with his former teammate at the major league level for a postseason run.
“Probably our early favorite for ‘trade that goes unnoticed but has a large impact,’ Walker is easy to dismiss because he’s hitting (.205) for a last-place team that most people don’t pay close attention to,” MLB.com’s Mike Petriello wrote Monday. “The 22 homers should tell you a little about the power he possesses, but mostly, there are just a ton of positive indicators that show he’s been a lot better than that low average would suggest.
“For example, consider this trio of skills. Walker’s walk rate (13%) is better than average; his strikeout rate (19%) is better than average; his barrel rate (a metric that shows hits with perfect combos of exit velocity and launch angle) is downright elite. If you put all of that together, combine the quality of contact with the strikeouts and walks, you get a hitter who rates as one of the 25 best, hitting like he’s (Houston Astros outfielder) Kyle Tucker.”
Walker, 31, would be an interesting addition who is under team control through 2024. His 2.8 bWAR is extremely high given his low batting average and lack of a premium defensive position. He has 35 extra-base hits, including the aforementioned 22 homers with 49 RBIs, and is an impressive first baseman defensively.
The last thing Red Sox fans want to hear is the acquisition of a first baseman hitting below his weight, considering Bobby Dalbec and Franchy Cordero have struggled mightily this season. But Walker has an expected batting average of .249, the fourth-biggest difference in Major League Baseball. In other words, he’s been one of the unluckiest hitters in MLB, alongside Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo, who has the 13th-biggest differential.
Walker also has one of the best barrel rates in the league, meaning he’s squaring up baseballs with the best of them. His 9.3% barrel rate is 18th in MLB, which would be the second-highest mark on the Red Sox, trailing only Rafael Devers (9.7%) by a hair.
Walker’s already much more valuable than Dalbec (minus-1.0 bWAR) and Cordero (minus-0.4 bWAR) this season, with underlying metrics indicating he’s only going to improve.
Bell is the top slugger on the market and would be the most exciting fit, but Walker would be more than a consolation prize should he land in Boston.