Who's in Right? Analyzing the 2012 Options for the Boston Red Sox
J.D. Drew is, God bless him, finally off the books and the Boston Red Sox have a vacancy in right field for the first time since 2006.
ESPN Boston's Jeremy Lundblad points out that Boston's right fielders finished last in the majors in batting average (.233), OBP (.299) and were only better than Seattle in slugging percentage (.353).
So there's some room for improvement.
Addressing pitching concerns remains Boston's top priority, but the Red Sox will all but surely turn to the free-agent market to address some of their outfield needs.
Heck, they could even bring back Drew...just kidding.
Here's an analysis of Boston's options for filling the hole in right for the 2012 season.
In 2010, Ryan Kalish looked to be the heir apparent to J.D. Drew.
The then-22-year-old Kalish spent the final two months of the season with the Red Sox, playing in 51 games and making 44 starts, the bulk of them in center, filling the void left by the injured Jacoby Ellsbury.
Over that stretch, Kalish flashed his five-tool potential in the majors, notably with his slick glove, solid arm and plus speed.
Kalish's good fortune took some knocks this season though. Between a partially torn labrum suffered in April and bulging disc diagnosed in August and surgically repaired in September, 2011 was truly a lost season for him.
All told, Kalish played in only 24 games this season. He's on track with his rehab, however, and all signs point to him being more than ready to compete for the right field starting job next spring.
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After two seasons of sporadic stints in the majors and even less predictable playing time, Josh Reddick, 24, found regular playing in 2011 following being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on May 26.
Reddick had a torrid first half, hitting .393 with a .427 OBP. His pace dropped off considerably in the second half, in which he hit only .244 with a measly .293 OBP.
While GM Ben Cherington is inclined to let Reddick compete with Ryan Kalish for the starting right field job, the Red Sox may elect to trade Reddick this winter.
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Among free-agent outfielders, Michael Cuddyer's 3.1 WAR is second only to Carlos Beltran's 4.7.
Cuddyer, who turns 33 in November, seems to be a much safer bet than Beltran with regard to durability.
Cuddyer would give the Red Sox a steady veteran presence and reliable right-handed bat with slightly above-average power.
His services can probably be attained for no more than $10 million a year.
Cuddyer's presence, however, would seemingly block either Kalish or Reddick from the starting job in right field. In other words, the Red Sox would not sign Michael Cuddyer to be their fourth outfielder.
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Michael Cuddyer may be a more attractive option than Carlos Beltran, but Beltran could be a good fit with Boston, too.
Whereas Cuddyer would be a starter, Beltran, perhaps could be utilized in a reserve role.
Even with his strong 2011, Beltran's only future with a contender like Boston is as a fourth outfielder.
Beltran's strength from both sides of the plate is a solid asset. He'd stand to pick up some time at DH, even if David Ortiz is back.
If the price is right, Beltran could be an okay fit for the Red Sox.
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David DeJesus, who turns 32 in December, is another free-agent option.
DeJesus had a down year in 2011 after being traded by the Royal to the A's last November. DeJesus hit only .240, well below the .289 career batting average he had to begin the season.
One strike against DeJesus, however, is that he's a lefty.
The Red Sox are very heavy on left-handed hitters right now.
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Josh Willingham, 32, has played left field for most of his career, however the Red Sox would be foolish not to take a look at him.
A right-handed bat with plus power, Willingham hit a career-high 29 home runs this season with the A's, 18 of them in the second half.
Willingham, however, is not a particularly skilled fielder.
Willingham still projects as an everyday outfielder with his offensive skill set, however the Red Sox would probably want to use him as a fourth outfielder and as a DH option.
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A legitimate and attractive fourth outfielder option would be Cody Ross, he of last fall's postseason heroics.
At various times in his career Ross has also stepped into a starting role and performed respectably.
His right-handed bat, plus power and solid fielding seem to be exactly what the Sox are looking for, especially given Cherington's aforementioned inclination to let Kalish and Reddick duke it out for the starting job next spring.
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It's worth mentioning Boston's internal option of involving Darnell McDonald more prominently on the roster.
A right-handed reserve option, McDonald was pretty unproductive this season. McDonald's overall .236 batting average looks even worse considering he hit .382 in September—indeed, McDonald began the final month of the season batting a lowly .182.
McDonald is arbitration eligible and it wouldn't be much of a surprise if the Red Sox choose to non-tender him.
So, What Will Boston Do?
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I see GM Ben Cherington sticking to his word and giving Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick a shot at the starting job next spring. And I see Kalish taking it.
The Red Sox are going to shop Reddick all winter, but I bet they won't move him before next March. I do see Reddick getting traded in the long run though, but perhaps not until next March or April.
I think Cody Ross is the best move for the Red Sox. He gives the Red Sox the right-handed outfielder they want. His experience and his proven ability to be a productive everyday player is nice insurance against Kalish.