Friday, November 28, 2014

Sorting out the Red Sox position players

According to my untrained observation, the Boston Red Sox have eleven Major League starting players for eight positions on the field. Then there is David Ortiz who is as designated a designated hitter as there is in baseball. So after signing and anchoring Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez to third and left field with free agent signings, what happens to everyone else? What should happen to everyone else?
Judging from the question marks surrounding the starting rotation, you would figure that some of the excess will be traded for pitching. But what if the Red Sox round out their rotation with free agent signings? You still have to deal with a logjam on the roster.
And I am not even including here guys like Garin Cecchini, who I am convinced is the next Wade Boggs if given a chance. With Sandoval at third for five years, what happens to him? We already know that Will Middlebrooks has fallen out of favor with everyone except Jenny Dell. So he will either be traded or designated. With his power potential in a power bereft MLB, traded seems more likely.
I am also not including catchers here. With David Ross gone, two young unprovens (Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler) are projected for the 25-man roster, so then we have eleven fighting for seven spots.
Perhaps we should list out what we know. Dustin Pedroia will (of course) be the second baseman. There has to be worry about his recent surgery though. Xander Bogaerts will be the shortstop. There is no way the Red Sox are going to give up on him yet. You have Sandoval at third, Ramirez in left, Mookie Betts will get the first crack at center field and David Ortiz will be the DH.
Over at first, you have one year remaining on Mike Napoli's contract. His face has been wired shut all winter with his weird operation, but the guy was worth 3.2 rWAR in only 119 games last season. It would appear that he would be your first baseman with perhaps Sandoval taking over in 2016?
Right field is interesting. There is Yoenis CespedesShane VictorinoAllen Craig and Daniel Nava. Baseball-Prospectus has Victorino projected as the starter. But I'm not on that train. He might be healthier now that he has had a back operation, but I wouldn't count on him being a productive player again. And even if he is healthy, you can't risk him in center field.
Allen Craig forgot how to hit last year, which is weird because he was fantastic in prior years. His ankle has to have been a factor. Is that chronic moving forward?
I think you can count Nava out, which is sad because Jerry Remy won't be able to say, "Nahver." anymore. Cespedes has to be your guy, right? After all, he was the big chip in the big trade last year. Rumors are out there that the Red Sox hate the guy. Who knows. Despite his lack of on-base skills, Cespedes makes a lineup deeper just with the threat of him.
Nava is out of options so he can't be sent down without losing him. Craig is too talented to give up on. Perhaps Craig is your swing guy with time at first and right with hopes of getting him 400 PAs. Or perhaps you just trade both Nava and Craig.
Brock Holt is your most likely utility guy. He played seven different positions last season and despite a fade in September, was productive at the plate. If he isn't overexposed, he is the perfect utility option.  I don't like him at short though, so Deven Marrero or Jemile Weeks (who is out of minor league options) make sense as a roster spot.
If we recap here, we have the following extra players or trade prospects, if you will. They would be Middlebrooks, Craig, Cecchini, Nava and one of Victorino or Cespedes. My gut is telling me that the Red Sox will trade Cespedes if the rumors are true. But we'll see.
I have always heard it said that there is no such thing as too many pitchers. And I agree with that. Pitchers are remarkably fragile. But what about position players? It seems that the Red Sox have too many Major League ready guys for too few positions. You hate to see guys with offensive talent like Craig and Cecchini go to waste. If they do not have a position on the team, then trading them makes the most sense. Cecchini might be the next Jeff Bagwell, though, as the one that got away.

P.S. I haven't forgotten about Rusney Castillo. Baseball-Prospectus has him projected as the starting center fielder. But we'll see what the spring brings.

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