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.