I've been thinking about our options at 4th OF. Not exactly our highest priority over the offseason, but I've needed something to distract me from the impending Bobby Valentine announcement. Looking at the 2012 Free Agent list, things actually look fairly optimistic for us, with players like Scott Hairston, Andruw Jones, Ryan Ludwick and Cody Ross all eligible for free agency.
Initially, in my suggestion for what the Red Sox would do this offseason, I suggested that Scott Hairston should be the 4th outfielder in 2012. This of course will not happen, because the Red Sox have never acted on any suggestion I have ever offered in all my years of being a fan. Maybe I should start suggesting the Sox sign high priced speedy free agent outfielders to near 150 million dollar contracts and aging not-so-great pitchers to five-year, 80 million dollar contracts huh?
Anyway, my first choice is Scott Hairston. He's almost the perfect 4th outfielder for the Sox. Right-handed with a little pop, and the ability to steal a couple bases, he's a pretty balanced player, on base woes aside. What we're really looking at though is his .348 wOBA against lefties, which we'll need since we have at least one platoon player in the outfield. His defense in left and right has always been a bit above average, with career UZRs of 6.3 in left, and 7.3 in center.
Where Hairston's candidacy falls down is in that he does not play right field. If we are starting Josh Reddick, we would need a 4th outfielder who can play right, since our other two outfielders don't have the arms to make throws in from right field.
The popular option might be Andruw Jones, but after an .851 OPS season off the bench in New York, I have to think that someone offers Jones a starting job. If we could sign Jones as our 4th outfielder, he has a 9.3 career UZR in right field, so he might be the perfect option. Again, if we can get him.
An option I thought about the last week or so is Tigers OF Brennan Boesch. Boesch is a notoriously hot starter who falls off in the second half, but with a team of notoriously slow starters who get hot later in the season, that might not be a bad thing. Boesch is a lefty, but in two years in the major leagues he has better stats against left handers than right handers. Like Hairston, he has a negative UZR in right, but instead of a -52 like Hairston, he has a score of -11.8, with a -6 last year, a major improvement from -15 the year before. With practice and stability, he could greatly improve his defense. Boesch could be had for someone like Jed Lowrie, who could replace Wilson Betemit and Brandon Inge as their third baseman. Boesch's pre-arbitration salary would allow us to use big money elsewhere, such as the rotation and bullpen.
It's possible that the guy we want as a 4th outfielder has been in our system the whole time. If we believe that Ryan Kalish can succeed and stay healthy he would be a cheap option that does not cost prospects. However, Kalish is a lefty who doesn't have great numbers against lefties. He would be used purely as an injury replacement and as a guy to play when one of our outfielders needs a day off.
The last guy I'll touch on in this post is Cody Ross. Ross might be the best batting option here, posting a .912 OPS and a .384 wOBA against lefties. However, his right field defense has been rather schizophrenic, dropping to an abysmal -23 UZR in over 250 innings last year. His defense is negative across the board, and after suffering through two years of Darnell McDonald and Bill Hall, I would really rather have someone who can play defense on the bench. Still, his bat could make up for it, and give us a legitimate bat off the bench against lefties. Someone we wouldn't mind batting 5th in the lineup.
Like Andruw Jones, Ross's numbers the last couple years might get him a starting job somewhere. He is also a type B free agent, not that that means anything, as he was not offered arbitration.