Front Office FutureCast: A Look At The Red Sox 2015 Outfield
As the Boston Red Sox play out the string of a lost season, the front office is hard at work, evaluating what needs to be done to bounce back next year. With a blockbuster trade for Yoenis Cespedes at the 2014 MLB trade deadline and a high-profile, record-breaking signing to win a bidding war for Rusney Castillo, the Red Sox 2015 outfield is shaping up to look nothing like the 2014 Opening Day version. Let’s take a closer examination.
YOENIS CESPEDES — Turns 29 years old on October 10, in the midst of 4-year, $36-million contract that runs through 2015. Though he will only have four years of service time when his contract expires, it contains a clause which prevents him from being offered arbitration, thereby not only guaranteeing him free agency, but making him a free agent without first-round draft pick compensation — the issue which kept Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales unsigned until midway through the season this year. This makes Cespedes a very attractive free agent and will drive up his price even more than similar players on the market. One reason Oakland was willing to part with Cespedes is certainly because they were unwilling to pay what it will take to extend him and felt his trade value was at its peak before he entered the final season of the deal.
Now, the ball is in Boston’s court and it will be interesting to see how they handle it. Some pundits are speculating he will be on the trading block this winter, as the Red Sox have resisted going longer than three years on any contract in recent years, with only one exception. That exception is homegrown Dustin Pedroia, who was given an eight-year extension which began this year (just as Pedroia experienced an alarming offensive drop off across the board) and must already be feeling like a potential albatross. While it may be tough for Boston to sign Cespedes to an extension, he could still be in their Opening Day lineup, batting cleanup and playing left field. While it is good to always have an eye on the future, sometimes teams have to go for it, and the Red Sox can start the season with Cespedes in the lineup, keeping him through his “contract drive,” as long as they are in the race, with the option to try moving him to a contender desperate for power at next year’s deadline if necessary. The shape of the Red Sox 2015 outfield will certainly play off of the status of the slugging Cespedes.
RUSNEY CASTILLO — Just turned 27 years old on September 7, signed to record-breaking $72.5 million contract after Boston won the August bidding war for the Cuban defector. Viewed as the “center fielder of the future,” the right-handed hitter is on the fast track to reach Boston. After banging out five hits in 14 at bats during the Double-A Eastern League playoffs, Castillo was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket for the duration of their post-season run, after which he is scheduled to join the big club in order to gain experience before heading into 2015 as the presumptive major league club’s lead off hitter and center fielder.
While it may be easy predict Castillo will quickly be a force in the lineup (based on the money it took to sign him), red flags are flying. First, he is not a big guy, listed at only 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. Despite his diminutive stature, however, he does not have a track record of drawing walks, instead profiling as a fairly aggressive free-swinger during his Cuban career. Also, while he is reported to be a plus runner, he does not have the reputation of being a prolific base stealer. Finally, due to suspensions (for suspicions–which turned out to be true!–he was trying to defect) and his eventual defection, Castillo has not played organized baseball in almost two years. Castillo certainly has a chance to contribute, but hopes of him becoming a star similar to Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu would seem to be far-fetched at this juncture.
ALLEN CRAIG — Turned 30 years old in July, acquired in the midst of a 5-year contract which runs through 2017 (with a $1 million buyout for 2018). Brought in with hopes he can hold down right field and be a fixture in the middle of the lineup, Craig has stumbled since joining Boston, posting an an anemic .109/.255/.217 line in limited time. Injuries are the presumed (by most) cause of Craig’s worst season in the majors, as rumors circulate of a possible second Lisfranc surgery to relieve discomfort in his left foot. However, a deeper look reveals more red flags. While 2014 marks Craig’s fifth year in the major leagues, it also marks another year of declining fly ball rates, resulting in a higher ground ball rate. Health issues, combined with declining skills concerns make Craig anything but a sure bet for a rebound.
SHANE VICTORINO — Turns 34 years old in November, owed $13 million in the final year of a 3-year contract. One of the reasons for acquiring Craig is the ongoing injury issues of the Flyin’ Hawaiian. Limited to only 30 games this year before undergoing season-ending back surgery, Victorino is expected to be ready for spring training. One other consideration with Victorino is the erstwhile switch-hitter has been reduced to batting only from the right side of the plate since becoming hampered by hamstring issues late in the 2013 season. With one more year of an unmovable contract on the books, Victorino will be in the centerfield-rightfield mix, provided he is healthy.
DANIEL NAVA — Turns 32 in February, under team control for three more years. The undrafted switch-hitter who burst on the scene back in 2010 continues to fill a valuable bench role. As the lone port-side swinger, he offers a valuable complement to the rest of the group. Though he slumped early this year, leading to a demotion to the minors, he has hit over .300 since his June 4 recall and inquiring teams were rebuffed at the trade deadline, showing how much the Red Sox value his contributions.
MOOKIE BETTS — Turns 22 in October. The hot-shot rookie (ROTOscouting Report) is making his mark down the stretch, showing he deserves to be penciled into the 2015 lineup. A converted shortstop who played second base in the minors, Betts has been playing outfield at the MLB level. If veterans are healthy and productive next spring, and Castillo comes through as hoped, at bats via the outfield will be hard to come by. However, his versatility should enable him to be a better Brock Holt if needed. Blocked at second base by Pedroia (and his behemoth of a contract), third base is a possibility as Will Middlebrooks sinks deeper into the abyss.
JACKIE BRADLEY, JR. — Turns 25 next April, has one more minor league option available. Continuing struggles to make the jump to the major league level, combined with the plethora of other options leave Bradley on the outside looking in. Will almost assuredly head to spring training as Pawtucket’s starting center fielder if he is not traded this winter, though his market value is at an all-time low. Probably needs a change of scenery if he is to reach the high hopes once held for him.
Front Office FutureCast: Summarizing The Red Sox 2015 Outfield
While the Red Sox 2015 outfield picture is filled with talented options, none are without their warts. So where does the value lie, and where are the traps for the fantasy owner? Extension or no, it will be a surprise if Cespedes is not hitting cleanup and playing left field for Boston on Opening Day 2015. As a slugging middle-of-the-order bat still in his prime, Cespedes has established a somewhat consistent track record during his three years in the Show, so fantasy owners should feel confident in investing accordingly, perhaps even giving a slight bump on any assumption that he will figure out how to take advantage of the Green Monster.
As for the rest of the group, it smacks of a potential mine field, filled with fantasy headaches. While the Red Sox brass would love to assume Castillo is ready to take the reins in center and run with it, their continued development of Betts in the outfield tells another story. Castillo certainly bears watching as he makes his major league debut later this month. However, with his versatility, combined with the ability he is showing to make the necessary adjustments at the major league level, Mookie Betts looks like the best place for fantasy owners to–yup, I’m gonna’ do it–place their bets for profit potential in the Red Sox 2015 outfield.
10 Sep 2014 / Brad Kullman /
Categories: MLB Analysis
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