The assumption has been that the Red Sox will sign Adrian Beltre, trade for Adrian Gonzalez, or make a similar move for a hitter if the deal sending Mike Lowell to Texas goes through, but recently general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona have both said that using Kevin Youkilis at third base and handing first base to Casey Kotchman is a legitimate option.
First, here’s Epstein:
I’d be very comfortable [with Kotchman at first base]. He’s a good example of a player who has a chance to go out and build some value by playing. He didn’t get an opportunity to play here, but he’s outstanding defensively, he’s somebody who’s a tougher out than the numbers indicate.
He can hit really good pitching. He’s really tough to get to swing and miss. We think there’s a lot of offensive potential there. If we end up with him playing a lot of first base against right-handed pitching, we have a chance to duplicate or build off what he did in 2007 for example, that’s a great solution.
Kotchman was with the Angels in 2007 and hit .296/.372/.467 in 137 games, which along with strong defense would make him an excellent all-around first baseman. Of course, in the two seasons since then Kotchman has batted just .270/.333/.398 in 269 games, which even with strong defense would make him little more than a nice bench player. And now here’s Francona on Kotchman:
I’m a big Kotchman fan. I think Kotch kind of goes under the radar because he came over and he didn’t play and he didn’t say anything and he just kind of went about his business. We can do just fine with Kotch playing first, hitting down toward the bottom of the order and catching everything in sight. I’m pretty comfortable with that.
I’d still be surprised if the Red Sox didn’t add another hitter, but based on those comments the team clearly believes that Kotchman is an elite defender. And he’d have to be, because however you want to spin his chances for improvement offensively he’s a 27-year-old career .267/.337/.406 hitter who’s averaged just 12 homers per 500 at-bats. Perhaps they see Kotchman as another Doug Mientkiewicz, who started regularly down the stretch in 2004 despite what was at the the time a .272/.363/.404 career line.
The Mets traded centerfielder Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers for cash considerations or a player to be named later, the teams announced late Friday night. Granderson was rumored to be drawing interest from teams earlier in the week, and found a landing place after slashing .256/.360/.721 since the start of the month. In a corresponding move, the Dodgers designated right-hander Dylan Floro for assignment to clear roster space for the outfielder.
As a whole, the 36-year-old’s 2017 campaign has been a tad underwhelming. Granderson entered Saturday batting .228/.334/.481 with 19 home runs and an .815 OPS through 395 PA, and accrued 1.7 fWAR to the 5.1 fWAR he produced during his pennant-winning, MVP-contending season in 2015. Still, with under $4 million remaining on his contract, another 20+ homer season around the corner and the defensive chops to man center field, it looks like a prudent deal for the Dodgers as they continue to bulldoze their way to the playoffs this fall.
The club has yet to outline their plans for Granderson, but his addition to a crowded outfield could displace centerfielder Joc Pederson, who turned in a meager .214/.329/.415 batting line through 292 PA in 2017. It could also have ramifications for fellow veteran Andre Ethier, assuming he’s healthy enough to compete for a starting role when he comes off the 60-day disabled list in September. The Mets, meanwhile, are expected to lean more heavily on rookie outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who’s made just five starts this season after struggling to get consistent playing time on the field.
Indians’ right-hander Corey Kluber was removed from the sixth inning of his start on Friday night, bringing a streak of 14 starts with 8+ strikeouts to an unfortunate end after he sprained his right ankle. Kluber stumbled off the mound while trying to field a base hit from Eric Hosmer and was seen visibly limping as he moved to cover first base. He was allowed to stay in the game for one more batter, but quickly yielded a three-pitch single to Melky Cabrera and left the mound with head athletic trainer James Quinlan.
It was a poor ending to another strong outing by the right-hander, who delivered 5 1/3 innings of one-run, four-strikeout ball and took his 12th win of the season after the Indians amassed a nine-run lead. Postgame comments by Cleveland skipper Terry Francona suggest that Kluber isn’t facing a serious setback after sustaining the sprain, however, and might even be good to go by the time his next start comes around on Wednesday.
While the Royals escaped Friday’s loss without injury, the 10-1 drubbing pushed them 6.5 games back of the division lead and half a game behind the Twins and Angels for the second AL wild card berth. They’ll host a rematch on Saturday at 7:15 ET, with left-hander Jason Vargas set to face off against Indians’ righty Trevor Bauer.