In what has been discussed here at OTM in the past, the Red Sox look to be "mulling" over moving Jacoby Ellsbury from center field to left field:
So what does this have to do with the 2010 Red Sox? While they see Ellsbury maturing into an excellent center fielder, they also have mulled moving him to left field, where they believe he would be outstanding. Such a move, though, means that the club would have to find an outstanding center fielder to replace him.
Michael Silverman writes about emerging defensive statistics -- something that you've found from our own E-Coli on a regular basis for months and years.
But outside of that, moving Ellsbury to left field would drastically improve the Red Sox's defense on the left side of the field. Ellsbury has a much better range than Jason Bay and his arm -- which is fairly weak -- would play less of a factor from the short left field.
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However, with that said -- and the name Jason Bay -- that means Bay would not be back with Boston. There's no way he could play center field (stop thinking that, whoever you may be). That brings another snag: who will the Sox get to replace Ellsbury in center?
There aren't a lot of great center fielders in baseball. There are some really good defensive center fielders. There are some really good offensive center fielders. But there is little to nothing in terms of really good defensive outfielders that also have a fantastic offensive output. It'd be great say, "hey, we'll re-sign Bay and he can play center and hit 36 home runs! Deal done!" No. Not that easy. Not that easy at all.
Silverman suggests Carlos Beltran:
One situation that bears close monitoring is Carlos Beltran with the New York Mets.
The Big Apple’s other team has descended back into the depths of mediocrity the past two years. There has not been a word about the team going into rebuilding mode, but Beltran, arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game the last few years, has $18.5 million left on each of his remaining two years in 2010 and ’11. He also has a full no-trade clause.
Sure, Beltran would be pretty solid. He probably fits that mold of everything-we-want-and-need, but it's just not feasible to take him off the Mets' hands. And while he would probably benefit from playing in Fenway Park, he would not put up the same numbers as Bay.
Basically, moving Ellsbury to left field would be a nice boost for the defense, but the ramifications of acquiring a center fielder would probably be worst in the end. Odds are, they'll play worst defense than Ellsbury in center (OK, not 'odds are' but it wouldn't be in the favor of whomever is acquired) and won't be able to match the production of Bay.
Ellsbury to left? Only if Bay or Matt Holliday are not signed to play left field for the Sox this offseason.
(Another option is Josh Reddick, but the jury is still out on him. He's still very young (23 in February) and his sample size in the big leagues is too small to just give him the starting center field job. If the Sox really want to save some money, they'll go this route, but it seems unlikely.)
But what do you think? Would it be smarter for the Sox to sure up the defense and move Ellsbury to left and find a replacement to center? Is Bay's production offensively that important to sacrifice defense? If Ells does move to left, who would you like to see in center?