Blake Parker

Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

Red Sox non-tender possibilities include a number of relievers -- would they consider a two-way player?

John Tomase
December 01, 2018 - 1:46 pm

Baseball’s non-tender deadline came and went on Friday and the Red Sox didn’t make anyone available, instead agreeing to a one-year contract with reliever Tyler Thornburg.

Roughly three dozen players were set free, however, and one of them may end up being of interest to the Red Sox, who hit it big with what was effectively a non-tender when the Twins released David Ortiz in December of 2002.

All-Stars like Edwin Encarnacion, Jayson Werth, and Justin Turner were once non-tendered, too, though this year’s crop of players wouldn’t seem to feature anyone with that potential. Here are some high-profile players who became available, and others who might interest the Red Sox.

The name everyone recognizes is Reds speedster Billy Hamilton. In the days before every team in baseball recognized the value of on-base percentage – like, say, the ‘70s – Hamilton would’ve had tremendous value as a stolen base threat.

But in today’s game, Hamilton’s combination of a sub-.300 OBP and diminished effectiveness on the bases (career-low 34 steals in 44 attempts) makes him a reserve at best, and that’s taking into account his ability to make highlight-reel plays in center field.

A similarly flawed player is 2017 All-Star Jonathan Schoop, a Curacao native and World Baseball Classic teammate of Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts with the Netherlands. Schoop’s power (32 HRs, 105 RBIs in 2017) makes him viable, but the former Orioles second baseman also reaches base at a sub-.300 clip, and he was a disaster after joining the Brewers at the trade deadline, hitting just .202 in 46 games.

Schoop’s age (27) and power (26 HRs/year since 2016) will make him attractive to someone, but his deficiencies – lack of patience, lack of loft, lack of exit velocity – make him a poor fit in today’s game, and though the Red Sox could use insurance at second base with Dustin Pedroia’s status uncertain, giving Schoop a major league deal with Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez already on the roster doesn’t make much sense.

A name that’s likely to interest a lot of teams is right-handed reliever Blake Parker. A late bloomer after being drafted by the Cubs out of the University of Arkansas in 2006, he bounced around before finding a home with the Angels in 2017. The 33-year-old is 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA and 22 saves since then, with 156 strikeouts in 133 2/3 innings.

He was due to earn about $3 million in arbitration, which led the Angels to pull the plug. It also didn’t help that his average fastball velocity dipped from 94 mph to 92.8 last year, while his home run rate nearly doubled. But with a track record of success, he’ll appeal to someone.

In the longshot category, let’s include White Sox third baseman Matt Davidson. The 27-year-old’s primary skill is power – he hit 26 homers two years ago – but what makes him intriguing isn’t his bat so much as his arm. Davidson tossed three scoreless innings of relief last season while featuring a 91 mph fastball and legitimate plus curveball, as Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton learned while striking out on one in the dirt.

With the game trending towards bullpenning, a true two-way player would have some value. No one’s saying Davidson will suddenly pitch the eighth inning, but a position player who can help in long relief would make a roster more flexible. In a perfect world, he’d probably sign with a more progressive organization, like the Rays.