The Boston Red Sox are uncomfortable with their outfield heading into the 2014 season.
That is the conclusion you can draw based on recent rumors that the ball club has talked with the San Diego Padres about reserve outfielder Chris Denorfia and the website Masslive.com reporting Scott Posednik possibly returning on a free agent deal.
Last season, Jacoby Ellsbury was the everyday starter in center, Shane Victorino in right with the combination of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava sharing left field. Ellsbury has departed for New York, leaving Jackie Bradley Jr. as the heir apparent in center with Victorino and Nava the likely everyday corner outfielders.
Judging from the front office’s interest in Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Matt Kemp this winter and kicking the tires on Posednik and Denorfia, Ben Cherington and company must feel they are lacking the depth that they had last year.
Yes, Bradley is not Ellsbury on offense. He is not your prototypical leadoff hitter and certainly will not swipe the number of bases Ellsbury did. However, no one in the 114 seasons of Boston Red Sox history stole bases at the success rate of Ellsbury. True base stealing artists are rare and expecting Bradley to fill that role is not fair.
Posednik offers some of the potential base stealing ability that Ellsbury left, but Posednik is also 38 and did not play last year. Denorfia could not crack the starting outfield at spacious Petco Park, a trade to send him east is not going to make him a starter at quirky Fenway.
Boston is not looking for a starter, they are looking at adding depth. Back in the days when a team carried 15 position players and 10 pitchers on their active 25-man roster, six outfielders would not be a big deal. In today’s 13-12 position to pitcher rosters, however, six outfielders is a big problem.
Consider David Ortiz takes one of the five bench spots open as the designated hitter never goes out in the field. All teams need to carry backup catcher—David Ross in the Sox case—leaving three extra spots to fill.
Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes will take two of those spots as outfield and first base super-utility roles. Recently acquired Jonathan Herrera will fill the other infield bench position leaving room for?
Well, you get the picture.
Let us not forget that Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts could be sharing a bench spot if Stephen Drew agrees to come back for a one-year cameo deal.
The question the Red Sox must answer is if they feel they need to lug around an extra outfielder, do they carry only 11 pitchers, effectively shortening their bullpen to six?
If Boston is not sold on Jackie Bradley Jr. handling the everyday load now, then they should go ahead and make the deal for Kemp or potentially with the Yankees for Brett Gardner and let Bradley make the transition without the pressure. If they truly felt that way, however, why did they make s little effort to keep Ellsbury?
The prudent play would be to see what Bradley would do during Spring Training. If he struggles, then bring in a Posednik or make the big trade.
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