Given the state of how the season quickly turned for the Boston Red Sox, it is almost second nature for both the fans and the management to start looking toward 2013 and beyond. And while it may be easy to take solace in knowing that this year's edition has been more successful than their 2011 equivalent, fans nonetheless want to put 2012 behind them as quickly as possible.
As one such fan, I found it interesting to hear that the Red Sox were entertaining the notion of bringing James Loney back in 2013. Loney, who was the only acquired by Boston in the August 25th blockbuster deal that send Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles for a slew of prospects, is equally receptive to the idea of returning to Boston.
But should the Red Sox be so eager to bring him back?
Certainly, Loney represents the youngest of what is an extremely dry free agent pool at first base. However, he does not stand out above the crowd that includes Aubrey Huff, Carlos Lee, or return engagements with Carlos Pena or Casey Kotchman. As a matter of fact, his .634 OPS would rank him below each of the above peers, including Pena, who has put up a .690 OPS despite batting just .199 on the season.
So, for a team that is wisely in a rebuilding process, does it make any sense at all for them to entertain spending $6 million on a player that does not currently rate better than a minor league replacement player?
Instead, barring any major trade by Boston, the suddenly fiscally conscious Red Sox should perhaps look at an in-house replacement level player to hold down the fort at first.
Specifically, they should give Mauro Gomez a deeper look.
Over the course of the last two seasons, Gomez has shown the ability to hit Triple-A pitching fairly well, hitting .304 with 24 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .878 for Gwinnett in 2011 and then following that up with a .310 average, 24 home runs, 74 RBI, and a .960 OPS for Pawtucket.
The two combined performances earned the 28-year-old Gomez his first call-up to the big leagues in 2012. In just 33 games, Gomez responded with a .292 average and a .783 OPS for Boston.
Of course, the knock against Gomez is that he is better suited as a designated hitter, where his defensive short-comings will not hinder the ball club. However, Gomez's time at first base in Boston has not been bad, as he's committed just a single error in 89 chances. Combined with his 6 errors at Pawtucket in 439 chances, Gomez put together a respectable .987 fielding percentage.
Now, Gomez is no man's idea of the perfect option at first base. Still, Boston has shown that they want to build from within as much as possible. A decision like this fits into their current financial scheme while also giving them more production from the position than the current incumbent Loney.
It is not a perfect plan, but 2013 is going to be far from a perfect
Kyle Fragnoli is a lifelong Red Sox fan living in Vermont with his wife and twin sons. When not writing for the Yahoo Contributor Network, you can find him on Twitter (@bballbigbrother), The Baseball Big Brother Project, or Call to the Pen.
James Loney, baseball-reference.com
James Loney, fangraphs.com
Carlos Pena, baseball-reference.com
Mauro Gomez, baseball-reference.com
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