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How the Red Sox can make room for Chris Denorfia

Chris Denorfia would be a perfect fit in Boston...if there was a roster spot for him. How can the Red Sox open one up?

Norm Hall

Earlier today, I touched on Nick Cafardo's report that the Red Sox were interested in Padres outfielder Chris Denorfia. In doing so, I deemed Denorfia the "perfect fit" If you want to save a click, here's the pertinent bit:

Denorfia, frankly, is kind of a perfect fit, so long as he doesn't balk at playing a more marginal role on a team like the Red Sox. In 144 games last year, Denorfia hit .279/.337/.395 for the Padres. While it doesn't look like much, that grades out to a 108 wRC+ thanks to the pitcher-friendly environment he played in. Even beyond that, he provided a strong glove in all three outfield positions. UZR and DRS disagree on just how reliable he is in center field, but looking at his defensive performances as a whole it seems likely he'd be up to the task.

It doesn't hurt that Denorfia is a right-handed batter, either, making it easier to fit him in with the left-handed Jackie Bradley Jr. In fact, over the course of his career, Denorfia has produced a 134 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers, essentially the same as Jonny Gomes, who the Red Sox acquired last year specifically to platoon with the left-handed Daniel Nava.

In terms of what he would bring to the team, Denorfia is a perfect fit. He gives the Red Sox everything they're missing in a backup center/right fielder. He can even steal a few bases if it comes to that.

For being so perfect, however, it's awfully hard to actually fit him in. Barring the sudden expansion of rosters to 26 men, the Red Sox simply don't have the space. In other words, if Denorfia is in, someone else is out. But who?

Cafardo suggests the trade of Mike Carp or Daniel Nava. Carp is the obvious choice to go. While the Red Sox have said they don't want to give up a young player with the raw power Carp has, he simply doesn't work on the roster with Nava as the starter in left. Still, the possibility of starting Carp in front of the Monster and sending Nava elsewhere does exist, and with Carp better than three years Nava's junior, the Red Sox could see him as a better long-term investment.

There's a third way that Denorfia could find his way to Boston, too. Given that Denorfia hits left-handed pitchers just as well as Gomes, perhaps Gomes would be the redundant piece. Denorfia would get plenty of opportunities to play in that situation, spelling either Nava or Bradley against just about every southpaw the Red Sox come up against to say nothing of days off for Shane Victorino. In the event of an injury to Mike Carp or Mike Napoli, Denorfia even provides some semblance of depth there, allowing Daniel Nava to move to first as necessary with Denorfia taking over in left.

The issue there is simply that the Red Sox don't seem likely to be interested in losing Gomes. Even contributing just an average of 1.1 WAR (between Baseball Reference and Fangraphs), Gomes was a big part of the culture in 2013. From his first dialogue with Jake Peavy--"one day closer to the parade!"--to helmet-punting and beard-tugging, Gomes stands out larger than his on-field contributions.

The question is, what do the Red Sox value most? In terms of pure production, Nava is the one to keep. Mike Carp leads the pack in future potential. Jonny Gomes champions the cause of intangibles. It might be a moot point in the end if the price is too high or they simply decide Denorfia isn't so perfect a fit. But if he eventually does make his way to Boston over these next couple of months, the Red Sox have their choices laid out for them. All that's left is the hard part: deciding what matters most.

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