The injuries keep coming for the Boston Red Sox. The most recent victim is off-season acquisition Cody Ross, who is out indefinitely with a fractured bone in his foot. With Ross now on the disabled list, all three of the Red Sox projected starters in the outfield are currently injured. While the Red Sox have struggled this season, they are only 6.5 games out of first place. But the injuries will make it difficult to close the gap.
The fact that the Red Sox are only 6.5 games out is truly amazing considering all the injuries they’ve already been dealt. Carl Crawford has yet to play a single game for the team this season, and Jacoby Ellsbury lasted just seven games before injuring his shoulder. With Ross now injured, the team will have to get by with some combination of Ryan Sweeney, Daniel Nava, Marlon Byrd and Che-Hsuan Lin in the outfield.
While an injury to Ross wouldn’t typically be reason for panic, the Red Sox had high expectations for him this season. Even though Ross came in with a spotty track record, he got off to a pretty good start. With the Red Sox already experiencing injuries to other players, Ross kept the team afloat. Before his injury, Ross rated as the fourth best offensive player on the team.
His performance was somewhat surprising, considering Ross has been a useful — but never great — player throughout his career. Over the past five seasons, Ross has accumulated 11.1 WAR, putting him in the same category as Aaron Rowand, Mike Cameron and Kevin Kouzmanoff. That’s hardly the type of player who should become a premier acquisition for a club. But it was a strange off-season for the Red Sox, and Ross looked like the team’s best offensive addition this year.
Ross’ injury only complicates how we should look at the Red Sox’s off-season. Many of the players they acquired — Ross, Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon — have disappointed this year. Bailey has yet to play a game for the team, and Melancon gave up 11 runs in 2.0 innings before being sent down to Triple-A. But while the more heralded players have failed to contribute, the team is being held together by some of their more shrewd moves this off-season.
The decision to trade away both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie was met with a lot of criticism, but Mike Aviles has filled in admirably in their absence. Aviles’ 1.7 WAR leads the team this year, and while it’s highly unlikely that he’ll keep up the pace, the decision to go with Aviles has paid off early on.
The same can be said of Ryan Sweeney, who wasn’t expected to play as big a role after he was acquired. But injuries have forced Sweeney into a more prominent role, and he’s responded well. While his offensive production is unsustainable going forward, he should be able to provide solid defense in any spot while Crawford, Ellsbury, Ross and Ryan Kalish recover.
With Ross out, Sweeney and Aviles will have to step up even more. Unfortunately, neither player is capable of performing at a much higher rate. For all the grief the team has received about their less-than-stellar off-season, they’ve also made some shrewd acquisitions that have kept them within striking distance.
But without a major signing this year, the team doesn’t have the depth to handle all of their injuries. But with another significant injury, the team is quickly running out of depth. Ross’ injury wouldn’t normally be viewed as such a big deal, but the Red Sox couldn’t afford to lose anyone else. Unless Crawford and Ellsbury can make miraculous recoveries, the team is going to need a lot of luck if they want to get back in the race.