For the past 5 seasons the Boston Red Sox have had the luxury of penciling in a name for their starting right-field job. While J.D. Drew didn't inspire the confidence that comes with a regulat 150+ game player, he did, at the very least, offer some stability as a defensive stalwart and solid bat. In 2012, things will be different and while RF is not the huge gaping hole that the back-end of the rotation is, it is still a critical part of the team and deserves discussion. In this article we will look at what we currently have, what's out there to be had and what the best options may or may not be for #9 position.
In-House Options: The cheapest and easiest option would be to hand the job over to either the 25 year old Josh Reddick or the 24 year old Ryan Kalish. These two guys have been climbing the system ladder near each other's heels for the past few years and it may be time to choose one and see what they can do with a full-season. The obvious choice here for a few reasons is Josh Reddick due to his experience with the parent club last year and his health. While many pundits believe he is the better all-around player, Kalish, coming off injury, will likely need some significant time in the minors to get his game going. In 2012 Reddick posted a 0.280/0.327/0.784 slash line in 278 PAs showing some line-drive power. Behind these numbers, however you will find a 42 PA barrage in May/June, a decent July and then a fall back to Earth in Aug/September. Can Reddick perform for a whole season? On large trouble-spot: his free-swinging ways led to 50 K's in those 278 PAs. Back in 1999 another young farm-hand was handed the RF job and while he never really learned to mash lefties, he turned in a pretty good career. The difference of course between Trot Nixon and Josh Reddick can be found in one stat - OBP (Nixon's career OBP in the minors/majors 0.366/0.364, Reddick's - 0.332/0.290).
Free Agents (Part 1): When scouring the available pool of free agents, it might be best to look at it in two ways. (1) I'm looking for a full-time starter and (2) I'm looking for a solid bat to platoon. Let's start with the first option. Below is a list of the outfield free-agents.
Ankiel, Beltran, Bradley, Burrell, Cameron, Crisp, Cuddyer, Cust, Damon, DeJesus, Drew, Fukodome, Gomes, Gross, Guerero, Hairston, Harris, Ibanez, C. Jackson, Jones, Kearns, Kubel, Ludwick, Matsui, McLouth, Michaels, Nix, Ordonez, Pierre, Ross, Sizemore, Stairs, Thames, Willingham
Out of this list you could argue are about 6 players that you could call "every-day" outfielders at this point in their career (and for some of these that might be a stretch): My list: Beltran, Crisp, Cuddyer, DeJesus, Sizemore and Willingham. Just about everyone else has some fatal flaw (can't hit righties, can't field, does not have knees, etc..)
Now that you've got that list whittled down to 6 - 2 of them do not really belong in the outfield due to porous defense (Willingham and Cuddyer) and one is probably best suited to being a 4th guy (DeJesus). This leaves us with Beltran, Sizemore and Crisp. Sizemore hits lefty and is an injury waiting to happen and while I like Crisp as a player, I think you're probably looking for a bit more in the power department (since we've got leadoff/speed covered).
As many have already posted - the best option here is Carlos Beltran, who at 34 still may have a few years in the legs, can still play solid defense, bats from the right and can poke a ball every now and again. A two-year contract here with some incentives might be a good play. This would relegate Reddick to 4th outfielder role or to the trade table for pitching.
Free Agents (Part 2): A third option would be to find a complimentary player to Reddick and platoon him. Here your would most likely want a guy who can still field decently, bats from the right and shows occasional power. On top of that you would be looking for a one-year deal to mitigate cost. Out of our above list the following names emerge:
Ross, Ludwick, Willingham, Ordonez, Jones
Willingham will most likely get a multi-year deal from somewhere but the others could probably be had for a one-year at a reasonable price. Looking at just OPS vs L over their career (Jones = 0.867, Ross 0.912, Ordonez = 0.936, Ludwick = 0.751). I'd rank them based upon potential cost, defense, age etc. - Ross, Ordonez, Jones, Ludwick
Discuss at will