Cody Ross will be out for six-to-eight weeks according to general manager Ben Cherington. While Ross has fractured the same bone in his foot that caused Dustin Pedroia to miss nearly all of the 2010 season following the break, his own is smaller, and in a different area on the bone.
That's still two months, though, and for a team that's just now at .500, and has two outfielders that began the year in Pawtucket and one who was considered the primary bench option before it was known Carl Crawford wouldn't return, the thought of trying to acquire another outfielder is a tempting one. As Cherington put it, though:
"We've been banged up in the outfield before today. We were looking for ways to upgrade if we could; we'll continue to do that, but there's nothing imminent," said Cherington. "Other teams are banged up like we are. When you're depleted, it's hard to give guys up. We'll keep working at it. As always, look internal first and see if we could find solutions and we need the guys here to keep stepping up as they have been."
There are a few difficulties here that aren't mentioned by Cherington, but merit noting. Acquiring an outfielder in the middle of a contract is going to be difficult, as the team is already loaded with outfield options -- it just so happens that they're almost all on the disabled list. What happens when Crawford, Ellsbury, Kalish, and Ross return, and a roster already as crunched as it gets needs to create even more room from nothingness? It's likely that any outfielder in the midst of a contract is one that the Red Sox won't want long-term. (We're looking at you, Alfonso Soriano.)
Should the Red Sox acquire an outfielder, creating an eventual space issue on the roster, Daniel Nava and Che-Hsuan Lin can be optioned to Pawtucket, but Marlon Byrd would need to be designated or dealt, and Ryan Sweeney isn't going anywhere. If another outfielder is added to the mix, one worth keeping, then that's likely the end for Darnell McDonald in Boston, as he's out of options.
If the Red Sox could pick up someone still under team control who could be optioned to the minors when necessary, it would remove the roster crunch issue (at least on the 25-man, though, as has been discussed, there are plenty of fixes for space on Boston's 40-man roster), but would likely also inflate the acquisition price. When it comes to low-cost, team-controlled assets, time is most certainly money.
Who is out there to potentially acquire? A look at pending free agents says there isn't a lot of help there, as many of these outfielders (Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan, Andre Ethier, B.J. Upton, Shane Victorino) are on clubs that need the services of these players, are someone like Ichiro Suzuki, who is unlikely to ever go anywhere unless he wants to, or the player in question is Carlos Lee. That's not an appealing or realistic group, especially since they are all starting-caliber players, and Boston already has plenty of those -- again, they're just on the DL, but not forever.
Normally, someone like the Padres could come to the rescue: they're in the midst of dumping veterans for kids in a rebuilding year. But, thanks to their own injuries, the Padres are down to some of their own bench players. Carlos Quentin, rookie James Darnell, Jeremy Hermida, Mark Kotsay, and Kyle Blanks are all San Diego outfielders on the DL. That makes trying to pry away someone like Will Venable or Chris Denorfia, two players who aren't likely to be part of the next competitive Padres club, a difficult task.
The Athletics have an overabundance of outfield talent they could transform into a prospect or project at a different position, but with Yoenis Cespedes currently out, are less likely to make a move right now. Still, they're worth keeping an eye on, thanks to previous interest in Lars Anderson, and Boston's ability to give them something they might need, in the form of bullpen help. It's unlikely the Red Sox could take someone like prospect Collin Cowgill away on the cheap, but if it was something that also helped Boston clear some room on their 40-man roster -- a few pieces out, say, Anderson, Oscar Tejeda, Matt Albers*? -- it could be worth looking into, if Oakland's open to the idea.
*This is nothing more than a guess -- Oakland could think less of Cowgill than we know, and be willing to give him up for a package like this. Billy Beane could also put Cherington on hold and laugh until he turns blue upon hearing the offer. This is why you ask.
It's not a great outfield, by any means. But considering the number of outfielders on the disabled list (six, once Ross is placed), it's amazing that the current group doesn't have more duct tape and crazy glue holding it together to make it work. This is about as far as they can go with injuries, though, as what's left in Pawtucket isn't pretty: Scott Podsednik, Alex Hassan, Josh Kroeger, the aforementioned Anderson. One more injury, and it's going to take more than squinting to see an outfield that can still help more than it hurts. One more injury might even result in seeing how much J.D. Drew misses playing baseball.
In the meantime, we're left with a roster where Adrian Gonzalez just might be the fifth outfielder, especially once Kevin Youkilis is back and can fill in at first base. That's certainly a situation which merits exploring adding another outfielder, but, as Cherington insinuated, sometimes it's not as easy as just making a call.