Mazz: Easy or not, Red Sox have a decision in left field
In the simplest sense, it comes down to this: left field for the Red Sox isn’t big enough for both Masataka Yoshida and Jarren Duran.
But before we call the position an area of strength for the Red Sox, let’s call it an area of … er … possibilities.
There was a time, of course, when left field at Fenway Park possessed a certain pedigree. Ted Williams begot Carl Yastrzemski who begot Jim Rice who begot Mike Greenwell … blah, blah, blah. But the truth is that left field at Fenway Park is a good place to hide bad defense. In that way, Yoshida and Duran are both perfect fits, the Red Sox posting an .821 OPS through July to rank fourth in baseball at that time. But defensively, for the year, Duran and Yoshida ranked a respective 38th and 68th among 74 players with at least 150 innings at the position, which was, to put it kindly, below average.
And before your wheels start spinning, let me save you the trouble: in center field, Duran ranked 59th in a field of 67.
Here’s the point: if defense is any priority in 2024, one of them has to go in a trade. The obvious odds are on Duran because he is younger, cheaper, more dynamic and, perhaps, simply better, which makes him far more appealing to prospective buyers. Trade Duran and you might be able to get something. But trade Yoshida and the Red Sox would likely pay a good chunk of the remaining four years and $72 million ($18 million annually) on his contract or get nothing in return.
After a solid start to the year offensively, Yoshida faded badly in the second half. The Red Sox seem to believe he simply wore down, which suggests he’ll be back. And if Yoshida gives the Red Sox any type of advantage in the pursuit of free agent pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto – the two are reportedly close friends – then he may be worth keeping exclusively for that reason.
In the end, the Red Sox have a decision to make here. At the moment, it certainly feels like Yoshida is destined to stay and Duran is destined to go. That feels like the best way for the Sox to still get reasonably good production in left field and address other needs on the roster, all while leaving room to improve the defense in the middle of the field.