With five outfielders already on the disabled list, the Red Sox were already spread thin in a position once thought to be a strength. Then Cody Ross factured a bone in his left foot in Monday’s game. Adding insult to injury is the promotion of Scott Podsednik just a couple of hours before game time, a move which portends a trip to the 7-Day DL for Ryan Sweeney (concussion).
As a result, the Red Sox have two options: play bad outfielders like Podsednik and Che-Hsuan Lin and wait for the cavalry to return, or get creative. Bolstered by the return of Kevin Youkilis, Bobby Valentine has chosen the latter with his lineup for tonight’s game. Youkilis will man first base, shifting Adrian Gonzalez to right field for his first outfield action in a non-interleague game.
The Red Sox have made a choice of offense over defense, but given the options available, it’s difficult to dispute. The choice is either Che-Hsuan Lin in right field and Adrian Gonzalez at first or Gonzalez in right field and Kevin Youkilis at first. Lin hasn’t posted a professional wRC+ above 112 in full-season ball and is projected for just a .289 wOBA. Youkilis, despite his struggles, has done so in every season of his major league career save one (2006) and is projected for a .364 wOBA. For Lin to be worth playing, he’d need to save roughly 40 more runs in the outfield than Gonzalez per 150 games, or the difference between Adam Dunn and an average major league outfielder.
Although it’s not inconceivable for the gap between Gonzalez and Lin to be that large, the Red Sox don’t need to keep Gonzalez in the outfield the entire game. Should they build a lead late in the game, the defensive replacement is available. With proper management, Boston’s mix-and-match approach to solving their outfield woes should be adequate until Sweeney and others can make their return.