The most important result of the swap of Josh Reddick and Andrew Bailey is that the Red Sox have a dramatically improved bullpen situation. The void at closer left by Jonathan Papelbon has been filled.
Today's trade with the A's, however, also shook up the Boston outfield situation. As part of the deal, the Red Sox acquired outfielder Ryan Sweeney, a left-handed hitter.
GM Ben Cherington is likely not done tinkering with the outfield. With Sweeney, the Red Sox's top four outfielders are all left-handed hitters. The only right-handed hitting outfielders on the 40-man roster are Darnell McDonald and minor leaguer Che-Hsuan Lin.
McDonald has had his moments, especially in 2010 and Lin is a good prospect but needs more time at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Cherington had the chance earlier this offseason to go after a free-agent outfielder to either complement or supersede Ryan Kalish, however the top names are off the table, with Jason Kubel (Diamondbacks), Michael Cuddyer (Rockies) and Carlos Beltran (Cardinals) all signed.
Passing on these free agents and trading away Reddick is a clear vote of confidence in Kalish by Cherington. The right field job in 2012 is Kalish's to lose, barring a major shakeup.
It should be noted that this faith in Kalish was no sure thing after his battle with a rash of injuries last season. Kalish only played 24 games—all in the minors—in 2011, a season that ended with surgery in September to repair a bulging disc.
At this point, Cherington can now (1) look for a righty that could possibly platoon with Kalish, (2) pull off a blockbuster trade or (3) go for broke and acquire Cuban defector Yoennis Céspedes, a right-handed hitter.
The chances of options No. 2 and No. 3 happening are slim to none. The addition of a relatively cheap right-handed fourth outfielder is a far more likely scenario.
Jones is probably the best fit for the Red Sox. He was a solid reserve outfielder for the Yankees last season, so it would seem to be a relatively easy transition to fill the same role for a team in the division.
All in all, it would be very surprising if the Red Sox headed to Florida in February without, in some form or another, adding a right-handed hitting outfielder.
The left-handed hitting Ryan Sweeney is not the final answer.
A low-end option like Jones is both attractive and realistic considering the Red Sox still have room for improvement in the pitching department.
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