Boston Red Sox: 5 Players Trying to Save Their Jobs for 2015
Boasting one of the deepest and most promising farm systems in all of baseball, the Red Sox can look forward to a bright future. It's made up largely of home-grown talent developed in recent years thanks to the excellent coaching staffs within Boston's minor league affiliates.
But with such a large cast of promising prospects, the invariable reality is that other players have to go. A major league roster is only so big, and the door needs to be in continuous rotation in order to maintain the legitimacy of a franchise over a long period of time.
We have seen the initial phases of this transformation. Some of Boston's trade-deadline deals have brought in younger, cheaper talent. Other transactions were intended to give the Red Sox openings for which prospects could soon fill.
Yet a number of current Red Sox remain on the bubble when it comes to formulating the team's outlook in 2015 and beyond.
Which of these players who end up staying may be directly attributed to their performances in the coming weeks? With Boston's 2014 season all but conceded, the focus now shifts to putting the best team on the field next year.
In this slideshow, we break down five of these players who are vying to save their jobs with the team in 2015.
We shall look at the various factors behind why each player is on the bubble. And we will try to predict what each player needs to do and what must happen in order to remain on the roster.
Let's have a look.
There are a few guys from the Red Sox's 2014 roster that should be wondering what the future holds for them next season. Lackluster or injury-plagued seasons may have thwarted their chances to have a legitimate impact for the team this year, so who knows what the implications may be entering 2015.
Unlike the other players on this slideshow, these players are relatively safe from losing a job next season. Let us evaluate who and why.
Shane Victorino, Right Field
30 games. That's all Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino has been a part of this season.
In what has been almost a lost year for the 33-year-old veteran, Victorino has posted a .268 batting average and .685 OPS in 123 at-bats. Unfortunately, the 2014 season will best be remembered for the multitude of stints on the disabled list over the course of the year.
His season came to a complete end on July 31, when back surgery forced him out for the rest of the year.
Victorino's injury problems were an issue for much of the season. The Red Sox's outfield was thin and needed help. Following the multitude of deals on the July 31 trade deadline, Boston's outfield suddenly found itself crowded. Additions like Allen Craig and Yoenis Cespedes fueled the competition.
Add these guys to young prospects like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts—not forgetting players like Daniel Nava and Brock Holt—and one has to question exactly how Victorino fits in next season.
If the discussion was based on injuries alone, Victorino would be in jeopardy for a 2015 job. But 2014 has marked the only season in his career marred by so many injuries. Granted he is a year older, but the track record is still mostly positive in this regard.
Additionally, the Red Sox are short when it comes to prospects in the corner outfield positions. If there were a number of promising developmental players in the Red Sox's farm system, Victorino's future would appear less certain.
Perhaps the biggest reason behind why Victorino is safe next season is his contract—he is signed on a three-year, $39 million deal that expires after the 2015 season.
Victorino is scheduled to make $13 million next season—a lot of money to move if the Red Sox plan to trade him during the offseason. They still could, but eating a sizable chunk of that would be likely. The amount due to him also should guarantee a starting spot in the outfield if he remains healthy.
Jackie Bradley Jr., Center Field
So hindsight may have proven many doubters correct: The Red Sox's prospective outfielder Bradley probably is not quite ready to handle major league pitching.
Over 338 at-bats, Bradley is batting a mere .213 with an OPS of .576. Had Boston's outfield been deeper this season, Bradley likely would have spent more time in Triple-A instead of at the major league level.
But necessity dictated that Bradley stayed. Even after the Red Sox's deadline deals, Bradley is still cemented as the team's starting center fielder, per CBS Sports.
Now there is promising prospect Mookie Betts waiting in the fold, but the team is likely waiting on his development instead of inserting him into a platoon role.
One could wonder if the Red Sox are close to giving up on Bradley. Sure, his offensive numbers have fallen far short of expectations, which are a certain setback for the 24-year-old.
Yet Boston would be wise to hold onto Bradley for at least one more season. Defensively, he is sure-handed, and teams always covet a defensive-minded outfielder on the roster.
Bradley should not be going anywhere during the offseason barring some huge trade which, of course, can always happen. Another season should provide the necessary indication as to how Bradley's eventual development plays out.
Brandon Workman, RHP
Brandon Workman, Right-Handed Pitcher
Right-handed pitcher Brandon Workman may have been the furthest along out of the Red Sox's long line of pitching prospects entering this season, but that does not always translate into him being a legitimate contender for Boston's future rotation.
Granted, he had a much better chance to impact the rotation since the Red Sox sent off veteran starters Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy, but Workman has not exactly met the challenge.
Over his last three games in Boston, Workman has posted a 6.10 ERA and 1.645 WHIP. His season-long numbers are not much better—a 1-6 record with a 4.45 ERA.
Brandon Workman has gone 0-6 over his last six appearances with a 6.35 ERA. Fatigue, Farrell thinks. He's resting for at least one turn.— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) August 12, 2014
His recent struggles have forced manager John Farrell's hand. As Tim Britton of The Providence Journal points out, the Red Sox opted to give promising prospect Anthony Ranaudo the chance to pitch in Workman's stead on August 13.
Why it's Anthony Ranaudo and not Brandon Workman going tomorrow for the Red Sox: http://t.co/clHu8I4REX— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) August 12, 2014
Pitchers like Ranaudo, Allen Webster and top pitching prospect Henry Owens most likely have a much higher ceiling than Workman. They are all close to being major league ready, too, which forces Workman's hand.
The Red Sox could very well be nearing the end of the line in terms of their patience with Workman, at least in the rotation. At this point, Workman's best chances to stay with the team remain with his ability to come out of the bullpen.
Let's look at the numbers. As a starter this season, Workman is 1-5 with a 4.63 ERA in 56.1 innings pitched. In comparison, he has a 0-1 record with a 2.84 ERA out of the pen over 6.1 innings—numbers that are far more respectable even with the small sample size.
If Workman can prove to be a valuable member in relief, his chances of remaining with the team are that much better. The Red Sox still control him contractually next season, but at 26 years old, one has to wonder how long Boston will remain patient with his development.
Ryan Lavarnway, C
Ryan Lavarnway, Catcher
In a way, fourth-year veteran backstop Ryan Lavarnway's position on the roster bubble is nothing new. Aside from his 2012 campaign in which he saw 46 games at the major league level, Lavarnway has never totaled more than 100 at-bats during a major league season.
It might have been feasible to think Lavarnway had a chance to earn a roster spot during the offseason this year before the Red Sox signed A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal. He might have held a spot given the ages of both Pierzynski and No. 2 catcher David Ross.
Before the 2014 season, the Red Sox gave Lavarnway some work at first base, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. This was unquestionably a move to increase Lavarnway's versatility and, subsequently, his value to the team.
But an early-season injury landed Lavarnway on the 60-day disabled list, thwarting any chances to cement a role with the team for much of 2014.
Pierzynski is now gone, and the Red Sox have called up catching prospect Christian Vazquez to take over the No. 1 job. Lavarnway has since returned, too, but he will spend a few games in rehabilitation at Triple-A Pawtucket, per RedSox.com.
#RedSox today reinstated C Ryan Lavarnway from the 60-day DL and optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket. The 40-man roster is now at 39.— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) August 14, 2014
So now Lavarnway is essentially in the same position he was at the beginning of the year. He wants a roster spot, but the Red Sox's incumbent catchers, Vazquez and Ross, block the way.
Ross has missed the better part of August due to a foot injury, per CBS Sports, which potentially opens up the door for Lavarnway if his rehab goes quickly and/or Ross suffers setbacks.
As far as the future is concerned, however, Lavarnway's prospects for 2015 are not guaranteed either. Ross will be a free agent following this season, and at 37 years old, it is uncertain whether the Red Sox will want to re-sign him.
But Boston also has promising prospect Blake Swihart quickly moving up the ranks, so any long-term deal with Lavarnway seems all but impossible.
Still, he has an outside chance to earn a backup role in 2015, provided he finishes this season strong.
He has yet to do anything of the sort.
Daniel Nava, OF
Daniel Nava, Outfield
Earlier this season, 31-year-old outfielder Daniel Nava might have been among the favorites when evaluating expendable Red Sox players. His season got off to an atrocious start, resulting in a demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket early in the year. During the months of March and April, he was batting only .179.
Fortunately, Nava has done everything in his power recently to justify remaining on the Red Sox's roster next season. In July, he batted .349 with a .797 OPS. August has been relatively favorable, too. He is batting .281 with a .718 OPS.
Daniel Nava .350/.429/.398 since June 4 (34 games, 119 plate appearances). Back in 2013 form.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) July 22, 2014
The numbers are nice, but we still must evaluate the future situation in Boston's outfield. First, it is hard to envision a scenario where deadline acquisitions Cespedes and Craig do not hold starting roles next year. We've touched on the likelihood of Shane Victorino returning to a starting job next season as well if healthy.
Then there are players like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. The 21-year-old Betts may benefit from a full season at Triple-A next year in order to receive consistent playing time, but Bradley's defensive accolades could warrant him staying on the major league roster in 2015.
We also shouldn't overlook uber-utility man Brock Holt and how he may fit into the equation.
At best, there is likely only one more outfield slot to be filled in 2015, and Nava is the player most certainly on the bubble for this discussion.
Sure, teams love having switch-hitting outfielders that can play multiple positions, but does this guarantee Nava remains in Boston?
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe (h/t CSN New England), a number of teams have expressed interest in Nava post-deadline. This would mean waivers, of course, but the Red Sox have yet to place him on revocable waivers.
Daniel Nava has not yet been put on waivers yet but is starting to draw interest from teams like the Royals and tigers looking for a bat.— Nick Cafardo (@nickcafardo) August 11, 2014
But the rumors could be indicating that the Red Sox do not see Nava as a long-term figure in their future plans. He is on the bottom rung of Boston's future outfield and, in spite of his recent surge, could very well be on his way out in 2015.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B
Will Middlebrooks, Third Base
Another Red Sox player boasting a lost season is third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
Injuries have certainly been a factor when evaluating the lowly .181 batting average over 105 at-bats this season, but after three years at the major league level, one has to wonder how soon until the Red Sox turn the page on this once promising power hitter.
This is the first time Will Middlebrooks has started three major league games in a row since May 16. Still time to turn season around.— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) August 10, 2014
Disappointed is probably an understatement from Middlebrooks' perspective. Here's what he said to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe:
The last two years haven’t been easy. This is a good opportunity for me to put together some good at-bats and leave the season with a good taste in my mouth and go into next year with a little momentum.
But Cafardo goes into detail about how much more important these last final weeks are in determining Middlebrooks' future role with the team. He writes:
It has been a dream of the 25-year-old Middlebrooks since he hit the majors with such aplomb in 2012. He’s projected as a 30-home run/100-RBI man. And while his career numbers over 162 games project out to 28 homers and 94 RBIs, Middlebrooks hasn’t quite been that player.It’s been a finger, a hand, a calf, a back.It’s been not making those young hitter adjustments. It’s been up and down from Pawtucket to Boston from DL to DL. It’s been losing his job twice. And now, he gets what could be his final chance.
'The last two years haven’t been easy,' Will Middlebrooks says. 'I want this stuff behind me once and for all' http://t.co/pe3UFIAtji— Boston Globe Sports (@BGlobeSports) August 9, 2014
Indeed, Middlebrooks' final weeks this season need to be stellar if he has any hopes of remaining with the team beyond 2014.
Boston could easily pencil in Brock Holt as the starting third baseman next year if it decides to keep Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. Developing prospect Garin Cecchini is also eyeballing a chance to earn a major league roster spot at third.
So where would this leave Middlebrooks?
The only way he can ensure a spot next season is by putting together numbers so impressive over the remainder of the season that the Red Sox simply cannot overlook him.
Judging by his numbers and setbacks so far, that will be a big hill to climb.
Clay Buchholz, RHP
Clay Buchholz, Right-Handed Pitcher
For starters, it has been marred by injuries—nothing new—which has limited him to just 19 starts this year. But the bigger concern has been his inflated ERA—5.99, up from 1.74 a year ago. His 2014 WHIP is 1.568, also considerably up from last season.
Those numbers may be marginally acceptable for a No. 5 starter on a bad team, but after Boston dealt essentially four-fifths of its Opening Day rotation, Buchholz suddenly found himself as the No. 1 starter in the new-look Red Sox rotation, per CBS Sports.
Okay, so Buchholz's greater body of work still needs to be accounted for. When he is healthy, Buchholz can bring some incredible stuff. The two-time All-Star may still have plenty of talent left to showcase, and this season could simply be a gaffe.
But some feel that Buchholz's tenure in Boston is in doubt.
Chad Finn of Boston.com is one who feels this way, stating the Red Sox should try to deal the eight-year veteran this offseason:
RadioBDC: Is Clay Buchholz Worth Keeping Around Beyond This Season, or Should Red Sox Deal Him? http://t.co/fPkeB1b0QM— Chad Finn (@GlobeChadFinn) August 11, 2014
Such a move makes sense when considering the plethora of talent Boston has in its farm system. Young arms like Henry Owens and Anthony Ranaudo are promising and on the verge of being major league ready.
There is always the possibility of adding a free agent during the offseason. A talented arm like Detroit Tigers' starter Max Scherzer would be this author's prime target.
But the biggest issue in dealing Buchholz would be his contract. Buchholz will enter the final year of his four-year, $29.945 million contract in 2015—a contract that provides club options for 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The options would be of interest to teams looking for an oft-injured, but talented starting pitcher. But the finances would be difficult to move. He is slated to earn $12.25 million next season, and the Red Sox would likely have to eat a sizable chunk of that deal in order to move him.
It is a similar contractual situation the Red Sox find themselves in with outfielder Shane Victorino. But the primary difference is that Boston has plenty of pitching depth as opposed to the depth at the corner outfield positions.
In short, Buchholz is more expendable. Victorino is not.
At any rate, Buchholz's hold on a rotation spot is far from guaranteed at this point. His season numbers are not inspiring, and the history of injuries certainly helps cast doubts.
Moving him may not be easy, but it is a likelihood the Red Sox should entertain once the offseason begins.
All statistics are accurate as of August 14, 2014. Statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the Boston Red Sox. Be sure to check out his entire archive on Red Sox news, insight and analysis.
Follow @PeterMcShots on Twitter.