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Adalberto Mondesi signing might work out for Red Sox, but that’s the problem

Tomase: Mondesi signing exposes flaw in Red Sox’ roster strategy originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Adalberto Mondesi is the perfect Red Sox player — talented, injured, tantalizing, cheap, undervalued, flawed.

For every positive attribute, there’s a negative. Have you seen his wheels? He’s going to need them, since he’s not exactly an on-base machine. That glove is legit at short, provided he can stay on the field. His athleticism is off the charts, but he’s also recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL.

This has been the way under Chaim Bloom, who has never met a 10.00 ERA he couldn’t squint into a 3.00 or a low on-base guy he couldn’t envision hitting for power. Every seemingly bad player with encouraging underlying data is just one tweak away from being unlocked.

Were the Red Sox tinkering around the edges of a star-studded roster, the approach would make sense. Surround your highest-ticket items with affordable upside and then hope some of it hits.

The strategy feels doomed when it’s all you’ve got, with the risk/reward guys becoming necessary contributors.

Just consider all the hoping the Red Sox will do when spring training rolls around.

Maybe Mondesi will regain the form that briefly made him a breakout candidate in Kansas City five years ago. Maybe Chris Sale will stay healthy. Maybe Corey Kluber and James Paxton will, too.

Maybe career backup Reese McGuire can hold up as a regular catcher. Maybe Justin Turner turns back the clock. Maybe Kiké Hernández can be an everyday shortstop. Maybe Triston Casas won’t hit .197 again. Maybe Alex Verdugo is finally ready to crawl out of mediocrity. Maybe Masataka Yoshida is the real deal. Maybe the farm will help more than we think.

Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe.

Since Bloom arrived in 2019, the Red Sox have shed some serious talent, starting with MVP Mookie Betts and continuing straight through All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts this winter. It’s hard to argue the organization is in better shape now than when Bloom arrived, not without Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, and Eduardo Rodriguez, too.

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But that hasn’t stopped Bloom from building a roster that prizes versatility, depth, and value over pure talent. New center fielder Adam Duvall could be a legit corner outfielder on a contender, but he’s your starting center fielder. Hernández could be valuable as a super-utility guy, but he’s your starting shortstop. Don’t be surprised if the 38-year-old Turner becomes the leader of the offense instead of a supporting veteran.

That’s not setting guys up to succeed. It’s praying that they collectively somehow play well beyond their health or skill level. Just consider how Bloom described the Mondesi acquisition on Tuesday night.

He praised Mondesi’s athleticism, calling it “top of the scale of anyone who plays big league baseball.” He mentioned Mondesi’s knee surgery and noted that he could end up missing the start of the season, although he wouldn’t rule out a return by Opening Day.

He drilled down on why Mondesi is merely a lifetime .244 hitter with a .280 on base percentage, noting that it was a matter of opportunity, which conveniently skirts the fact that the Royals have averaged fewer than 65 wins a year since 2018. What does it say about a player who couldn’t crack that lineup?

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“The inconsistency of the opportunities he’s gotten has probably played into why he hasn’t been able to tap into those tools consistently at the plate,” Bloom said. “But it’s all there. He’ll show you everything you would ever want to see out of a major league player, and really one of the better athletes to play at the big league level in recent years, so we’re excited to get him in the organization, excited to finish this rehab, bring him along the right way, and he has the upside to really, really impact us.”

Gambling on upside is fine when it only takes one hit to transform a roster. But betting exclusively on long shots feels like a good way to leave the track without a penny to your name.