As one after another of the free agent outfielders signs with other teams, should Red Sox Nation be worried?
After all, one of the top items on the offseason wish list was another outfielder with some pop, preferably someone who could play right while the BoSox sorted out the Kalish/Reddick situation.
Then the Phillies traded for Ty Wigginton, and the Indians re-signed Grady Sizemore. Josh Willingham has signed with the Twins and Michael Cuddyer agreed to terms with the Rockies, and David DeJesus went to the Cubs.
Dodgers' GM Ned Colletti told ESPN's Jim Bowden in October that he isn't inclined to trade Andre Ethier, and even if he did, the asking price would probably be more than the Red Sox would be willing to pay. Besides, Ethier hits left-handed, and the Red Sox would prefer a right-handed bat.
The biggest names still out there are Carlos Quentin, Carlos Beltran and Jason Kubel.
Quentin is still relatively young; signed out of Stanford by the Diamondbacks, he's only 29, and 2011 was his sixth big-league season.
The White Sox control his rights for one more year. He is third-year arbitration eligible, earned a little over $5 million for 2011. He projects to earn in the vicinity of $7.5 million for 2012.
Although he did not hit for average, he did hit 107 home runs in his four years with Chicago, so he has some pop. He has a career slugging percentage of .490, and an OPS of .836.
The Sox went hard after Quentin before this year’s trade deadline—although some of that interest undoubtedly stemmed from the fact that Quentin had an excellent first half.
And therein lies the rub. His last two months were funk-like and forgettable, and his season ended after he suffered a nagging injury (sprained AC joint in his left shoulder) which just never completely healed. He played only seven innings of Chicago's last 37 games.
William Yoder of the Nats Blog points out that while Quentin's power numbers aren't bad when projected out to a 162-game season, the problem is that he never plays 162 games. "In fact over the past three years, he has averaged just 116 games each year."
Multiple trips to the DL over the last four years should make the Red Sox extremely cautious about Quentin, especially given the injury problems they had with J. D. Drew.
Switch-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran is the fourth-best hitter to become a free agent in 2011, behind Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes. Beltran will be 35 next year, but he is still an all-around performer who can produce. However, knee injuries cost him parts of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, which may make some teams cautious about a multi-year deal.
Boston—where he would have a real shot at a World Series—would seem to fit the bill. Beltran is a powerful switch-hitting outfielder who can still play well defensively. However, Beltran’s 2011 salary was $18.5 million. Even considering his age and injury issues it is still likely that he will command about $15 million per year on a multi-year deal in a situation that is to his liking.
Given the Red Sox problem with the luxury tax for 2012 and 2013, I strongly doubt they are prepared to take on that much new salary on a multi-year deal.
Jason Kubel is a name that has been mentioned in some circles because he's only 29, but he's another left-handed batter who hit only 12 HR last year for the Twins. He's a Type B free agent who declined Minnesota’s offer of arbitration.
The Red Sox did put in a waiver claim for him last summer, but Kubel is overpriced and does not fit the Red Sox needs.
So, I think it's time to look beyond those names and find alternatives. The suggestions to follow may not be ideal long-term solutions, but each offers a short term benefit.
Besides, the outfield free agent class for 2012 is particularly strong (Quentin, Curtis Granderson, Josh Hamilton, Torii Hunter, B. J. Upton, Shane Victorino among others), so the best solution for the Red Sox might be to mark time for a year…or at least until the trading deadline.
Here are five ways to do that…and in some cases, kill two birds with one stone.