What Does the Future Hold for the Boston Red Sox's Lineup?

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What Does the Future Hold for the Boston Red Sox's Lineup?
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Cespedes should be an integral part of Boston's lineup.

The Boston Red Sox had a trade deadline to remember, trading away five vital pieces of the 2013 championship team after jettisoning two other pieces earlier in the week.

Instead of going after prospects, Boston focused on acquiring major league assets, especially on the hitting side. All told, five pitchers and two hitters saw their Red Sox tenure come to an end leading up to the deadline, while three hitters currently in the majors now call Boston home.

These players are outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, along with backup Kelly Johnson, a pending free agent currently on the disabled list. The additions of Cespedes and Craig represent major additions to the lineup.

The question is: What does the future hold for the lineup? Two outfielders joined the squad, but no everyday outfielders departed the team. How is Boston going to arrange its lineup for the rest of the season and, most importantly, in 2015?

Yoenis Cespedes' case is the easiest to figure out. He's going to be a fixture in the starting lineup from day one and could bring some serious firepower to the team. Red Sox outfielders this season have combined for 14 homers, while Cespedes more than doubled that in one day alone when he smacked 31 long balls in the Home Run Derby.

The back-to-back Home Run Derby champion had 17 long balls for Oakland on the season. In 2013, he set a career high with 26 home runs.

In 2015, Cespedes could net over 30 homers.

Neil Greenberg of The Washington Post looked at Cespedes' hit chart and noted that if Cespedes had played all his home games in Fenway Park instead of O.co Coliseum this season, he would have 24 home runs instead of 17. That would put him on pace to easily surpass 30 homers by the end of the season.

Right-handed power is the biggest deficiency in the game these days, as Joe Lemire of Grantland noted. "This is the Bronze Age of right-handed hitters," a scout told Lemire

Cespedes is enormously valuable with such a paucity of right-handed power and will be a linchpin in the middle of the order for Boston until he becomes a free agent after 2015.

While David Ortiz continues to defy the aging process, he will begin the 2015 season at 39 years of age. The cliff could come at any time for Big Papi, while Cespedes can be expected to retain his value in 2015 at age 29.

The Cuban could even be in store for bigger things, as Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote, noting that A's manager Bob Melvin "commented that at some stage of his career he’s going to pull all facets of his game together and become an even greater force."

For the time being, Cespedes and his gun for an arm will patrol right field with Shane Victorino on the disabled list, but he figures to move to left field once Victorino returns, giving Boston perhaps the best defensive outfield in the game.

Cespedes' arrival marginalizes Mike Carp's roster spot and will also send Daniel Nava's playing time into a nosedive to the point the team might be better served trading him in the offseason. However, there are other trades that could take place that will all hinge on one thing: Allen Craig.

Allen Craig's arrival in Boston is a bit more complicated to figure out as far as lineup implications are concerned. While he can technically play right field, it's best if he never steps foot in Fenway's right field, which is the biggest right field in baseball and tough to patrol, as MLB.com's Ian Browne wrote.

That leaves left field for Craig, where he figures to play in 2014 with Ortiz at DH and Mike Napoli at first base, per Brian MacPherson of The Providence Journal.

However, Boston has already been linked to Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, holding a private workout for the 26-year-old last week, according to NESN's Mike Cole. Even if Boston doesn't sign Castillo for more outfield depth, the team will have a decision to make with its outfield corps.

Boston has five outfielders for three spots. Jackie Bradley, Jr. is firmly in center field, while Cespedes will absolutely be part of the outfield, leaving Craig, Victorino and Nava to battle it out for the final spot. 

It's also possible Boston opts to move Craig to first base, which would leave Mike Napoli without a job and put him on the trading block. Or there's always the option of flipping Craig himself or converting him into a backup who can offer depth at DH, first base and the outfield. 

It doesn't seem like Boston acquired Craig just to sit him on the bench in 2015, however. Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen told Dennis & Callahan on WEEI that the team believes Craig can "impact the baseball in the offensive side."

Which of the five hitters limited to DH, 1B or LF should NOT receive playing time?

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Craig's best position is first base, which would open up a spot in the outfield for Victorino or Nava. With the shortage of right-handed power league-wide, that could result in a hot trade market for Napoli and fetch a return that Nava or Victorino would not receive.

And again, can the team really lean on David Ortiz to produce next season? Should they keep all their chips to prevent against a decline from the Red Sox slugger, even if it forces someone into a backup role, which would lead to discontent?

Lots of questions, not many answers.

Fortunately for Boston, the team has the rest of 2014 to evaluate the performances of its hitters and decide which direction to go in for 2015.

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