Shane Victorino might have to go on the disabled list. He doesn't seem to have a serious injury, but he's missed time with a back injury, and now he has a hamstring issue, and it just might be in the best interests of both the Red Sox and Victorino for him to get a couple of weeks to kick back, rest up, and heal before anything else goes awry. If that happens, though, there will be an open spot on the Red Sox roster, one that presumably would have to go to an outfielder. The thing is, just who that call-up would be is not such a simple thing.
The presumed call-up would normally be Jackie Bradley Jr., as he's in Pawtucket and already on the 40-man roster. However, he's just recently returned from his own stint on the disabled list, and is working his way back towards playing everyday. As it is, he's not even spending all of his time in the outfield, as he was dealing with a shoulder injury, so he's also slotted in as a designated hitter.
Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal says that the PawSox will decide, following back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday, if Bradley can once again be in the lineup on an everyday basis. PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina says that Bradley could certainly go to the majors, but if something popped up, health-wise, while in the majors, where do the Red Sox go from there? The safe course of action might be to leave Bradley alone for a bit and make sure he gets back to 100 percent before pushing the issue, if the issue needs to be pushed at all.
If Victorino ended up needing an extended stay, though, and the Red Sox wanted to give Bradley another shot in the majors this year, at least the service time concerns are over -- he's been in the minors long enough, at this point, that Boston would have him under team control for 2019, making any playing time in 2013 something of a freebie above and beyond the six years a team is supposed to have a pre-free-agency player around for.
Photo credit: Jim Rogash
So, if not Bradley, then who? Mike Carp is already on the Red Sox, and could slot into left field *(along with Jonny Gomes) with Daniel Nava in right once more. That cuts into Boston's depth at designated hitter and first base, however, leaving their bench a bit short -- Carp is around in the first place to keep that very thing from happening, given the health concerns surrounding both David Ortiz and Mike Napoli. It's something they can do, but then you just shift the question around from "who plays the outfield in Victorino's absence?" to "who do the Red Sox call-up to keep the status quo?" -- plus, then Jacoby Ellsbury is the only center fielder on the roster once more.
From the sounds of it, if Bradley isn't the answer, then the Red Sox are going to have to add a non-roster player to the 40-man in order to answer the above question(s). Who would get designated to make room for such a player is a column unto itself -- in short, though, they might use the opportunity to try to sneak Alfredo Aceves through waivers -- but there are options to be added.
Brentz is probably not big-league ready just yet. He's hitting .275/.326/.500 at Triple-A Pawtucket this year, with eight homers and 19 extra-base hits in 40 games. He's cut down on his strikeouts, punching out 20 percent of the time in 2013 -- a good sign, given the wind he tends to generate at the plate -- but still hasn't figured out how to consistently draw a walk. In the majors, at this point, he'd probably get a hold of a ball or two, but also strike out quite a bit against big-league secondary stuff, and as a right-handed hitter, wouldn't change their options at the plate all that much, given Carp has been better against lefties in his career and Gomes is a lefty mashing left fielder.
Defensively, they might get a boost compared to some of the other options. Brentz doesn't have great range or instincts in right, and is probably a left fielder in the long run, but he does have a powerful arm, and that's something they would miss with Victorino on the DL. Nava in left, Brentz in right, and the duo of Carp and Gomes continuing their bench roles makes a certain kind of sense. Brentz would get a 40-man spot a bit before his time, but he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this upcoming off-season anyway, and was a lock to be protected so long as he wasn't dealt before then.
If the Red Sox don't care as much about finding another starting outfielder, and just want to make sure someone is there for defensive purposes and in case of Ellsbury-related emergency, there is Mitch Maier. Maier is 31 years old, and is a well below-average hitter in his career. He's walked 10 percent of the time in his career, though, and owns a .327 on-base percentage despite a .248 batting average, so he does know how to get on base at a decent enough clip.
Maier isn't a stellar center fielder, but Boston lacks any option whatsoever after Ellsbury if Bradley remains in Pawtucket and Victorino is injured. He's also someone they could add to the 40-man and designate for assignment afterward if they had to, likely retaining him. If not, it's not a huge loss: Bradley will likely be healthy (and further along in his development) the next time they need a center fielder, and if not, and you're in a position where Mitch Maier would have been your savior, then things have taken a dark turn, anyway.
Editor's note: As our own Kevin Pereira reminds me, Maier is on the minor-league DL with a quad injury, so he's not an option, either.
One other option: don't call up an outfielder at all. Let Carp and Gomes play in left, leave Nava in right, and leave worrying about a center fielder until you have to. Brandon Snyder could come up as depth for first base, designated hitter, and even third base if they want to give Will Middlebrooks a day off without putting Pedro Ciriaco's bat in the lineup. Snyder is a career .276/.324/.418 hitter in the majors, good for an average-ish OPS+, and the 26-year-old is doing very well at Triple-A for the first time in his career, putting up a line of .288/.379/.525 with 19 extra-base hits in 39 games.
Snyder has options remaining -- he was non-tendered by the Rangers last off-season, and then released this spring after signing a minor-league deal -- so the Red Sox wouldn't lose him once they were done with him on the big-league roster. Given the lack of depth at third base and the fact Carp is all that stands between Napoli and nothingness at first, they might need him on the 40-man eventually, and as the only players on the 60-day disabled list at the moment are ones who aren't going to come off in 2013, there's no worry in place about needing to find room later on for additional help they had already planned on.
Snyder would also allow them to leave players like Bradley and Brentz in the minors to continue their development that much longer, rather than bringing them up temporarily while Victorino is on the shelf. It's not a perfect solution, but nothing the Red Sox are looking to do at the moment seems to be, either.
Read more Red Sox:
- Stephen Drew’s presence is key
- Daniel Nava strengthening Red Sox’ outfield’s present, and maybe future
- MLB’s time problem: Rain delays, not long at-bats or replay
- Starting pitching the difference in 2013
- What's wrong with Jacoby Ellsbury?