The Red Sox made some noise this trade deadline. On a day that was similar to August 25, 2012 when the Red Sox and Dodgers completed the Nick Punto trade, Boston unloaded key pieces to the 2013 world championship team.
The players they acquired show a clear stance to contend in 2015, just as Dave and Paul stated before. Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig add something the Red Sox have lacked for quite some time now: right-handed, power hitting outfielders. However, these additions add question marks to the surplus of outfielders the Red Sox now have. With Mike Carp designated for assignment, they now have Cespedes, Craig, Victorino, Bradley, Holt, Nava, and recently called up Mookie Betts who have all seen time in the outfield this season.
Cespedes will occupy one of those spots, most likely in right field with Victorino moving back to the DL. Craig will probably take over in left. Holt will be a super utility man who can fill in for literally any of the seven positions not called catcher and pitcher. Nava will most likely be a fourth outfielder, or he could possibly platoon with Craig in left.
Craig has had a down year, but has had injury woes and still has a 110 wRC+ against LHP this year. He owns a career wRC+ of 136 against lefties. That figures to be an ideal platoon situation with Nava who owns a career 126 wRC+ against RHP. It was Nava and Gomes platooning in 2013, and with Gomes out and Craig in, it looks as if Craig could be an option to replace Gomes and provide an upgrade in that role.
That leaves center field: Betts or Bradley.
Bradley has shown he’s one of the premier defensive center fielders in all of baseball. He has been worth +17.7 runs defensively and has a UZR/150 of 28.2, which makes him the third best outfielder in the game behind Heyward and Gordon. The problem is his bat. He has a decent walk rate of 8.3%, but he strikes out far too often (27.6%) for a hitter with no power (1 HR, .083 ISO). If he wants to stay the center fielder of the Red Sox he needs to cut down on his strike outs and show that he can at least be an 85-90 wRC+ guy (he’s at 67 in 2014).
Betts figures to be more of an offensive force. Although he struggled during his brief major league stint, Betts has absolutely torn up the minor leagues. In 54 AA games he hit .355/.443/.551 and in 34 AAA games he has hit .321/.408/.496. He will not be what Bradley is in center field defensively, but that’s a lot to ask. If he can be an average to above average defender, he looks to be the better choice heading forward. With his recent call up, he will get two months to show what he can do at the big league level.
As far as 2015 goes, it seems like Shane Victorino doesn’t fit into what the Red Sox are planning to do. After a breakout 2013, he has just not been able to consistently stay healthy. He has one year remaining on his contract, but he may be dealt in August or sometime in the offseason. In my opinion, Betts will eventually win the center field job and Bradley could potentially be a part of a trade package in the offseason for a starting pitcher, which is another need for Boston moving forward. These new pieces will go along with their core of Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli to help boost an offense that has been abysmal in 2014. Boston also has money to spend and a boatload of prospects. According to ESPN Boston, Ben Cherington recently stated that “My expectation is that we would be active in the starting pitching market this winter with trades, free agency, whatever.”
Once they add some pieces to the top of their rotation, the Red Sox will be in prime position to contend again in 2015.
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