3 Quick Reasons Why the Red Sox Made a Mistake Signing Shane Victorino
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The deal is already being widely lampooned, with ESPN.com’s Keith Law saying the deal “vaults to the top of the rankings of the worst contracts signed so far this offseason,” in his insider column.
As of right now, Victorino is slated to be Boston’s starting right fielder, while providing backup depth in center field. However, the Boston outfield could continue to change as additional signings or trades are pondered.
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that entering the offseason, it was estimated by at least one front-office man that Victorino would be lucky to get a one-year contract for modest money.
One team guesstimated early in offseason that Victorino could be a good value buy at about $6-7 million on a one-year deal #explodingprices— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 4, 2012
The proof will be what is produced on the field, but right now there aren't a lot of positive feelings about the Red Sox signing Victorino.
Click through to see three quick reasons why signing Victorino to such a large contract was a bad idea.
Coming off a 93-loss season, the Red Sox should be looking to get younger.
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Having just turned 32, Victorino is closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning. With the team coming off a 93-loss season, the Red Sox needed to leave this offseason having established a new base to build on. It’s hard to imagine him being one of those building blocks.
Victorino has averaged just a 107 OPS+ the past three seasons, meaning he has produced offensively at just slightly above an average level during that time. His OPS+ of 91 this past season tied his 2006 season as the lowest he has produced in his career, and it could signal the start of a downward trend.
FanGraphs.com showed that Victorino lost his way at the plate last season, as he swung at 33.5 percent of pitches out of the strike zone, the highest mark of his career. His 86.6 percent contact rate of pitches he swung at was also very close to his career low of 86.2, indicating he is already starting to experience slower bat speed.
Much of Victorino’s value is tied up in his speed. While he stole a career-high 39 bases last year, it’s not a stretch to imagine that his speed will diminish during the life of his Boston contract.
Simply put, it's always a risk to invest in a player on the wrong side of 30.
It Blocks Younger and Better Players
Victorino's arrival makes the potential departure of younger and better players more likely.
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The signing of Victorino leaves the current Red Sox outfield with him, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonny Gomes as the starters, with Daniel Nava and Ryan Klalish as likely backups.
Two of the most promising Red Sox prospects, who are closest to the majors, are outfielders Jackie Bradley Jr. and Bryce Brentz. The signing of Victorino clogs the outfield and muddies the future and how these young players might be handled.
It’s possible that Boston may trade Ellsbury or even Brentz or Bradley, but it seems that doing so at the expense of Victorino is bringing the Red Sox poor value.
Ellsbury finished second in the 2011 AL MVP race, and because of an injury-riddled 2012 season, he's at an all-time low in value. Bradley and Brentz are both talented youngsters, who would be under cheap team control for years. Making these players possibly expendable at the expense of an aging Victorino is a real head-scratcher.
He Struggles Against Righties
Victorino has struggled mightily against right-handed pitchers of late.
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The switch-hitting Victorino has traditionally been at his best against lefties, putting up a.301/.508/.881 batting average/OBP/OPS split against them during his career, as opposed to a .265/.328/727 mark against righties.
He became nearly unplayable against right-handed pitchers in 2012, hitting just .229 with a .629 OPS. If this trend continues, the Red Sox will have acquired a platoon-level player for $13 million per season over the next three years.
For the kind of money Victorino will be making over the next three seasons, it will be important that he is able to be on the field for the majority of the games. However, if he continues to struggle against right-handers, the Red Sox will have no choice but to sit him for better options.
Statistics via BaseballReference.