The Red Sox knew coming into this offseason that they needed to address several different needs, including the outfield as the team spent 2010 experimenting with several different players like Bill Hall and Darnell McDonald due to injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.
This season, with Ellsbury's name floating around in trade rumors, and with Mike Cameron's health status still in question; the Red Sox could have a big hole in the outfield.
Recently, the Sox have been linked to Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton on the trade market. The Sox, however are not the only suitors for Upton, as the Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers, and even the Mariners have expressed interest in acquiring the 23-year old.
In addition to Upton, they have expressed interest in free agent outfielder Jayson Werth of the Phillies, and have already contacted Scott Boras, Werth's agent. Even though the Red Sox seem to have the most interest, the Angels or Tigers could jump on Werth if they lose out on the bidding for Carl Crawford as he remains their number one target. The Phillies even have entertained the possibility of re-signing Werth. But with the emergence of rookie outfielder Dominic Brown, the Phillies will likely pass on keeping the high-priced Werth.
Even though the Red Sox have been connected to Carl Crawford, they still remain reluctant to give Crawford the long-term deal he has been seeking. It seems they might not offer more than four years to any free agent this offseason, as proven by the limitations they have placed on keeping Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez.
Either way, the Red Sox need outfield help, and they will likely acquire either Justin Upton in a trade, or they will sign Jayson Werth this offseason. However, neither will not come cheap.
Let's make the case for both outfielders.
For Justin Upton, last season was a down year:
|2010 - Justin Upton||133||495||73||135||27||3||17||69||64||152||18||8||.273||.356||.442|
In 2010, Upton suffered a decline in almost every offensive category compared to his spectacular 2009, with drops in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, steals, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage.
Upton did spend some time on the disabled list last season, however he played 133 games compared to his 138 played in 2009, which would have increased his AB's. Upton also went from a 5.2 WAR in his 2009 season to a 3.8 WAR his last season--quite the drop off (for you Sabermetric guys).
Despite having a bit of a decline in numbers, Upton still has incredible upside as he is only 23 years old, and is also a great defender in right field. Like his brother B.J, he also is very quick on his feet as he can easily steal 25-30 bases a season. On a side note, Upton also only committed four errors last year, a career low.
Upton would fit well with the Red Sox as he is a very young, and complete player on both sides such as Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are for the team now.
Essentially, Upton would likely spend the majority of his time in left field for the Red Sox, a position that the likes of Manny Ramirez and Jason Bay, being terrible defenders, could play without the world coming to an end. Upton would also likely slide into the lineup as a number 5-6 hitter in a potential Red Sox lineup.
If the Sox were to acquire Upton, they would have to pay a big price. The Diamondbacks are reportedly seeking a Daniel Bard-Jacoby Ellsbury combo in order to pry Upton loose. Bard, to fix their line of horrendous closers since Jose Valverde departed, and Ellsbury for an established center fielder that could allow Chris Young to slide into a corner outfield spot.
The Sox seem willing to deal Ellsbury, however not so much on Bard. They are still evaluating whether or not Bard, or current closer Jonathan Papelbon is the team's best option at closer going forward. This season will mark Papelbon's final year under team control.
They could try to talk the D'Backs into a Papelbon-Ellsbury combination for Upton and allow Bard to become the full-time closer. Or they could sign All-Star closer Rafael Soriano, and allow Bard to develop a little more as the teams very good set-up man (which wouldn't be a bad idea). Either way, they would likely need to chip in for Papelbon's salary and add some prospects to make up the difference in age and control.
This potential trade could please Theo in that he could give up to players with declining numbers and an expiring contract, for a sharp, young hitter like Upton and still have the pieces to acquire Adrian Gonzalez if he so chose.
Jayson Werth seemingly found his career in Philadelphia after so-so seasons with the Dodgers and Blue Jays. Now that Werth is a free agent, here is what he will likely bring to the table for the Sox:
|2010 - Jayson Werth||156||554||106||164||46||2||27||85||82||147||13||3||.296||.388||.532|
In 2010, Werth put together a second straight season in which he hit for at least .270/.370/.500. Werth also has established himself as one of the best power-hitting outfielders as he has hit for over 27 home runs for the last two seasons and driven in at least 85 runs. Werth even set a career high mark in doubles with 46 out of the 5 spot in the Phillies lineup, doubling his previous mark.
Sabermetrics wise, Werth recorded a career high in WAR with 5.2 and also had a career high in Rbat with 39 above the average.
Werth has already drawn attention from the Red Sox, as they have already spoken to his agent, Scott Boras regarding Werth. Boras compares Werth to Cardinals' outfielder Matt Holliday, another client of his in terms of offensive production. Holliday received a 7-Year, $120 million contract from the Cardinals last season . Carl Crawford may not even see that kind of money. Werth will likely wait for Crawford to sign in order to gauge the market.
For the Red Sox, they are pursuing Werth beacuse of his ability to play all around the outfield, and because he could seemingly slide into the number five spot behind David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis in the possibility that both Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez depart for new teams.
Like Upton, Werth would fit in well, especially hitting in Fenway Park as a right-handed hitter. Werth could play left field the majority of the time, where he has experience (unlike Upton), and he could simply switch back to right field if/when J.D. Drew walks. The only thing is that Werth is older than Upton, and Upton could serve as more of a long-term option for the Red Sox in right field as he is only 23. However, many think that Ryan Kalish is the likely successor as a long-term option in right.
Although the Sox would like to get Werth for maybe a three-year deal, all indications show that they would be willing to give fellow future 32-year old Adrian Beltre a four year contact coming off a big year. So why not Werth?