Assessing Boston's other left field candidates

Chicago White Soxs Jermaine Dye homers against the New York Yankees
Jason Bay. Matt Holliday. Jason Bay. Matt Holliday. Matt Holliday. Jason Bay. Jason Bay. Matt Holliday. Matt Holliday. Jason Bay. Okay, let's take a break from the two obvious left-fielder candidates and focus on other free agents that could be manning left field for the Red Sox in 2010. I'm thinking that Theo's going to give this club another run with a fill-in left-fielder because as comprised, the team is still very good. As comprised, the team can still hit 95 wins -- if things go right. To compete in a transition year, however, we're going to need a left-fielder that can produce.

Jason Bay. Matt Holliday. Jason Bay. Matt Holliday. Matt Holliday. Jason Bay. Jason Bay. Matt Holliday. Matt Holliday. Jason Bay. Okay, let’s take a break from the two obvious left-fielder candidates and focus on other free agents that could be manning left field for the Red Sox in 2010.

Why? I’ll tell you why: because I personally think that the chances are lower than 50 percent either player comes to Boston.

Theo Epstein’s comments after the season seem to be preparing Sox fans for a transitional year. He alluded to the current crew being given “one more chance” to win it all. I interpreted it initially that he was unsure if they’d get that chance. Now, I’m interpreting as that he plans on giving them that chance.

Why could the team get another chance?

Easy. The Sox’s best prospects are 2-3 years away and Boston has expiring contracts of Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz (unless a club option is picked up — no certain thing) coming up after 2010.

Cobble that with J.D. Drew and Jonathan Papelbon being up in 2011, the 2010-2011 season could be looked at as a reloading year. Similar to 2005-6, you could say.

Theo Epstein is (smartly) not going to give Jason Bay five years unless it comes at a reduced price. I bet Bay gets that elsewhere. Matt Holliday has too many questions surrounding him and wants Mark Teixeira money (or more accurately, his agent Scott Boras does) for not being Mark Teixeira.

I’m thinking that Theo’s going to give this club another run with a fill-in left-fielder because as comprised, the team is still very good. As comprised, the team can still hit 95 wins — if things go right. As comprised, you would consider them playoff favorites. And then all bets are off. Would they be elite or transcendent? Well, no. They’d be a lot like 2009′s team.

I think that if transition years still give the team a great shot at the playoffs while waiting for the transcendent team to arrive, we’re in pretty good shape.

To compete in a transition year, however, we’re going to need a left-fielder that can produce.

So who could we go after if the transition information is accurate and we limit ourselves to free agency? Let’s quickly go through the candidates. I’ve left off anyone that couldn’t be considered a realistic signing to help Boston compete. (Sorry, Coco. Sorry, Gabe.)

Also, the vast majority would likely be signed for two years: the transitional period likely to take place. One-year deals would be great, but some of the higher-end names on this list would demand two.

Bobby Abreu – Abreu was considered the MVP of the Angels this season, showing the club how valuable working the count could be. While Abreu is a below-average defender in right, he’s not as bad as many make him out to be. Stick him in left with the Monster, and maybe he doesn’t post a negative UZR. You’d be lucky to squeeze out 20 home runs of Abreu, who hasn’t been the same since his Home Run Derby barrage. Signing him — or to be more precise, signing anyone other than Bay or Holliday — would represent a shift away from power by Boston.

Garrett Anderson – Abreu was the one to replace Anderson in the Angels outfield, with Garrett heading to Atlanta. He was essentially Abreu minus the plate discipline, and I don’t see Boston even sniffing Garrett. He might choose to latch on with a poor team and play the string out, but as far as being a legitimate player, Anderson is done.

Rick Ankiel – Ankiel is the highest-end player on this list. While he would demand three years, perhaps more, he may be worth it. Ankiel doesn’t have good plate recognition and is coming off a poor 2009. Having said that, he comes across as an average fielder and could provide some juice while the roster flips over over the next year or two. After Bay and Holliday, the best power bat on the market is Ankiel. Maybe the left-hander finds Boston inviting.

Marlon Byrd - I’m going to go ahead and let the Royals overpay here. Over the last three years, Byrd has cobbled together a .295/.352/.468 line. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but I’m weary of the impact of the Rangers’ ballpark on him, as well as it took him to age 29 to put things together. He seems like a flash in the pan to me. He does boast strong defensive credentials, and Byrd on a two-year deal isn’t terrible.

Johnny Damon - Part of me really wants to see Damon back to get the love he deserves. Look, Damon did say he wouldn’t go to the Yankees, but that was an emotional feeling at the moment that I don’t think you can hold someone to. He played the market and he took the most money available to him. He is not alone in taking the money. It doesn’t change that he’s widely considered to be a nice person. He took advantage of the new Yankee Stadium to hit 24 home runs. That’s nowhere his true value, but a homecoming to Boston for a year has a nice ring to it — only because he could still produce on what I’ll guess at Marlon Byrd levels. If it’s down to Damon for a year or Byrd for two or three, I’m heading Damon.

Chicago White Soxs Jermaine Dye homers against the New York Yankees

Jermaine Dye - Dye is another person with tremendous power value. His second half this year was on par with Craig Grebeck, but still managed a total line of .250/.340/.453. He’s still a 30-home run threat, and could be very similar to Jason Bay at the plate in 2010. Bay’s line: .267/.384/.537. And remember, Dye’s numbers are with a big dip in production the second half: .942 OPS in the first, ugly .590 in the second. With his stock having tumbled so low, he could be available on a one-year pact with a vesting option. I’m liking this.

Vladimir Guerrero - Sorry for those who still feel the sting of the ALCS. Gotta put Vlad as an option here. Putting aside the potential PR ramifications for signing a guy that you wanted to face with the season on the line in 2009, Vlad is no better or worse than any other player on the market. It simply comes down to years and dollars, and players like Dye and Damon are likely to settle for less.

Hideki Matsui - Second Yankee on this list, and we’re not done pilfering from New York. Matsui spent all year as the DH for the Yankees as they felt he was done as an outfielder. Matsui, on the other hand, would like to play the lawn again. Matsui bopped 28 home runs on the year and showed that after an aborted 2008 campaign that he can still swing it at 35. Statistically, he had the most impressive season. How much of that is a product of keeping his legs fresh at DH and the new park, though? Hmm… a .816 OPS home and .949 away gives me pause.

Xavier Nady - Nady got to see seven games in 2009 with the team before Tommy John surgery woke up and said hello. Nady was always an above-average offensive player who lucked in a scorching half-season with Pittsburgh, getting himself traded to New York. He returned to his career lines after that (obviously).. Nady isn’t likely to return to action until late in 2010, but he could sign a short deal with a club option for 2011. He wouldn’t be ready to help Boston in the beginning, but could be a nice late-season addition with a chance to contribute in 2011. That said, I’m not seeing a fit — Nady would want guaranteed playing time upon return.

Randy Winn - Winn had a forgettable 2009 at 35, but the two previous years was a valuable contributor to the Giants. He hit .300 both years, while knocking double-digit home runs and showing some wheels. Maybe getting out of PacBell Park or whatever it’s called these days could give him a nice resurgence. Winn used to be a poor defender according to UZR/150 but has really turned it around these past years. I’m not feeling this move, though. Not enough potential.

Now that we’ve made it through the list, let’s cull it down to people I felt could fit Boston’s transitional mode and produce, and go through a quick pro/con list.

  • Bobby Abreu - Pro: Would give Boston a very patient list. Con: Turned down a two-year, $16 million pact from Angels. Will Sox go higher? Doubt it.
  • Rick Ankiel – Pro: Young, gifted hitter who could really break out. Con: Might not want to move to left, has Scott Boras as adviser who will have no shortage of suitors for Ankiel.
  • Johnny Damon – Pro: Can still produce, would come back on a short contract. Con: Power might be a mirage, reducing him to Randy Winn circa 2008. Is that enough?
  • Jermaine Dye – Pro: Highest power ceiling of anyone on this list. Con: Fell apart in the second half. Is he done, or was it an aberration?
  • Hideki Matsui – Pro: Good power numbers ala Dye with no concern on Yankee Stadium helping. Con: Can he play left?

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m feeling Jermaine Dye as the perfect fit for the 2009 Red Sox. He’d come brimming with power and would come cheap enough that it won’t be a problem to cut ties with him should he fail to perform. Yeah, that second-half slump is scary, but in a transitional year and with names like these, you’re taking a risk no matter what.

Assuming Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are not options and the left-field vacancy must be filled by a free agent, who would you select?

Categories: Bobby Abreu Garrett Anderson Hideki Matsui Jermaine Dye Johnny Damon Marlon Byrd Randy Winn Rick Ankiel Vladimir Guerrero Xavier Nady

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

32 Responses to “Assessing Boston's other left field candidates” Subscribe

  1. Gerry October 21, 2009 at 9:55 AM #

    Dye may be the answer to this riddle, by default. The Yankees will surely re-sign at least two of Damon/Matsui/Nady because their production at the wind tunnel is real. If they have another good year in them, the NYY will get it. You don't include game changing Figgins with huge OBP & 40SB and the dimension and versatility he would bring, but even if you did, the Angels would be foolish to lose his remarkable skill set, or Abreu's. Abreu & Figgins will both get paid by Anaheim. So, between the question marks of Ankiel/Boras and the power of Jermaine Dye for a year or two, my vote is with Dye. If he struggles again in the 2nd half, perhaps the heir to LF, Josh Reddick, will be pounding the ball in AAA and, at 23, move into his role as the next great Sox left fielder.

  2. M.A.G. October 21, 2009 at 10:32 AM #

    If we fail to sign Bay or Holliday, then trading for A-Gon is absolutely imperative. Bay is our main power bat, and without him, our offense is gonna drop significantly.

    Of the options listed above I vote for Matsui or Dye. But just for a one year deal, of course. Just as a stop-gag to a real solution.

  3. Gerry October 21, 2009 at 10:33 AM #

    I agree Theo will stick with the team, not making a major trade for AGon or Felix. Raw indicators show a productive Lowell, Ortiz, Martinez, Alex Gonzalez, Lowrie available for a full year, and a slightly better year from Pedroia, Ellsbury, Baldelli, producing 20-30 more HR, depending on LF, without AGon. Defensive stats will be superior with a healthy Mike, a year of Gonzo, Jed & Victor. A full year of revitalized Beckett, Buchholz, Matsuzaka, Wake with Harden &/or Sheets in reserve is more that we hoped for in 2009. This Pen with wiser, driven Papelbon & Bard should improve. In other words, in 2010 the team we had on paper in 2009 could actually show up. If not, the rebuild will be in motion by 8/1.

    This 95W, 220HR, 120SB team used 50+players to get there. That Theo wants to 'give them another chance' is not kindness. He knows with the confidence this gang, could do next October what they should have done this October. Yes on Bay. Yes on Dye. Yes on Harden and Bedard/Sheets. Yes on Gonzo/Lowrie. I still like this team.

    • M.A.G. October 21, 2009 at 7:17 AM #

      With all do respect, Gerry, I think you are dead wrong. You are simply assuming everything is gonna work in our favor, but I don't think that's reallistic. Sticking with this team, is the worst mistake possible, because this team is simply not good enough. Let's face it: this team is aging and declining. This year, it was clear we were not a competition for the Yanks at all, and this is not gonna change unless we do something about it. So, we need to be proactive, and not just sit on our hands.

      Last year I was dissapointed Theo played safe and failed to make any serious upgrade. If he fails to make a significant upgrade this year, I'm gonna be pissed. I don't want to lose another offseason in the name of optimism.

      • Gerry October 21, 2009 at 11:37 AM #

        Absolutely see your point. I think Harden & Sheets would be a huge upgrade. A full, healthy year from Lowell, Ortiz, Lowrie, Gonzo, Beckett, Buchholz, Matsuzaka, Wake, Bard would also, I think, be a huge upgrade. The Yankees had huge surprise years from Damon, Matsui, Jeter, Cano, Cabrera, Posada, Swisher, Hughes, Rivera. They came together as the Sox fell apart. I think the Yankees will have much the same team in 2010. Why do we assume their aging players will repeat, while our gang won't? I'm not saying no AGon. After some reflection, however, this team will be better even if he stays in SD . . . and, like the Twins with Mauer, if the Padres trade the local boy face of their franchise they will be in a world of hurt.

        • M.A.G. October 21, 2009 at 8:28 AM #

          I see your point, Gerry, but I don't share your optimism . In first place you cannot ever assume a full healthy year of anyone. We don't know what to expect of Lowrie, he still has to demonstrate he is an everyday player; all we know at this point is he is injury prone. Lowell is unreliable, and his defense and OBP are not gonna improve with age. Ortiz is a shadow of his former self, maybe he rebound somewhat or maybe he sunk even more. Tek is dead. Drew is also injury prone. And if we lose Bay we are gonna lose our best power hitter.

          So, in sum: we have huge question marks in many positions. This lineup looks very shaky IMO.

          I admit everything has worked for the Yanks this year. But we cannot deny they have effectively upgrade their team either. And I also don't see why they cannot upgrade their team even more this offseason. Certainly they have the money. So I don't see why they cannot make a run for Bay, Holliday, Bedard or Sheets. They can all fit well with the Yanks. And they can go after Mauer for next season. So, if we want to have a chance against them in the future, I think we have to be very proactive.

          • M.A.G. October 21, 2009 at 3:19 PM #

            And, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are in the top of the list of Holliday's preferred teams…

      • radiohix October 21, 2009 at 11:53 AM #

        Yeah it's true that this team is aging but saying that it was "clear were not a competition for the Yanks at all" is an over statement! Why? Because in baseball, things change year to year even with the same personnel. Injuries and fluctuations do this.
        In 2008 we were an excellent defensive team. In 2009 we were horrid.
        In 2009 the Angels had a team .322 BABIP
        The Yanks got career years from 4 35+ players (Jeter, Matsui, Damon and Rivera), excellent years from 2 37+ players (Posada and Petite), and near career years from Cano and Swisher.
        Playin' it safe, is the right route IMO.

    • donna October 21, 2009 at 11:05 AM #

      agree 1,000 %

  4. -marcos- October 21, 2009 at 10:34 AM #

    Didn't Nady have surgery in April? Plus he's a outfielder. I think he should be ready for opening day.

  5. Cliff October 21, 2009 at 11:33 AM #

    I like Dye but also think Vlad could be a better option than you're giving him credit for. I think he could be got for the same money as Dye. He still has a lot of power. And if nothing else, watching him gun people out trying to take second would at least add some entertainment in a transitional season.

    None of these guys are going to turn us into World Series contenders, we might as well get someone who is actually entertaining to watch play.

    • -marcos- October 21, 2009 at 10:38 AM #

      Vlad is the anti Red Sox. The guy swings a everything. I think they'll sign Abreu, and Nick Johnson. Now that's what I call OBP in human form, along with Drew.

  6. Barroomhero October 21, 2009 at 11:46 AM #

    I have been thinking Dye would be the perfect guy for this year for a while. The second half slump concerns me, but I am doubting he just lost it that quick after being so strong earlier in the year.

  7. -marcos- October 21, 2009 at 12:11 PM #

    This may or may have anything to do with the the topic, but Hoyer is about to get the San Diego job. I'd say our chances of getting AGon are going up. Although he might kill us with the prospects, cuz he knows everything Theo knows about these prospects. Now we need the Arizona guy to give us Drew. After all these guys are getting these jobs because of Boston's success. The least they could do is give the FO a couple gifts. Lol

    • -marcos- October 21, 2009 at 4:14 PM #

      *may not

  8. Daern October 21, 2009 at 1:40 PM #

    I wouldn't be terribly sad to see Winn in left. He's got decent speed, decent wheels, and he's a fairly good contact hitter. He'll come cheap, without an expectation of a long deal, he's been, barring this year, a very consistent player, and if one of the power bats who slept this season wake up/we get a full year of the offense that Victor gave us, the loss of power shouldn't be too bad. Especially with a guy like Winn slapping doubles off the wall.

  9. Kurt October 21, 2009 at 3:14 PM #

    I can see Dye as a definite possibility. The Red Sox have tried to acquire him in the past, albeit as a fourth outfielder, so it's obvious they covet him. I think you may be overvaluing Ankiel a bit. Additionally, although he is not a fee agent I would be interest to see what it would take to get Adam Dunn from the Nats. I think Dunn would likely have the lowest prospect cost when considering the other possible trade options (Agon, Fielder). Dunn is a near lock for 40 hr and has the kind of OBP ability the Boston loves.

  10. donna October 21, 2009 at 5:36 PM #

    ok i am dreaming still… but if we can get Damon back, and he grows that gorgeous beard again… something tells me i would feel much better. i guess i argue "the devil you know" thing. Matsui is an interesting proposition, and with our influx of Japanese players it would make sense.
    i am still on the bandwagon that says no to any offloading of farm talent just to get one star player. the RS have more than enough money to pay for temp FA's to stopgap and if 2010 is "transitional" with possible benefits…( the team comes together, hits together/carries rallies past two hits in a row, finds the gold glove play that they DO possess and gets lucky with a) health, ours … b) slumps of other teams/other teams going thru what we did last year ). i still believe 2009 was an aberration and when this team plays to its potential it will be very hard to beat. gotta hope for ego/pride to kick in for some to return in better physical shape than last year, and gotta hope for the luck of playing healthy – look at what 2009 team DID do despite multiple issues.

  11. bob October 21, 2009 at 9:24 PM #

    The only guys I would consider on the list are Dye and Abreu and only to 1 or 2 year contracts. Ankiel has plenty of power, but he had an awful year and really has only had 1 good season and that was in the pathetic NL Central, Dye and Abreu have proven themselves in the big boy league. The fact is that the Sox aren't winning anything next year, there are no free agents or realistic trade possibilities , they'll be good, but I suspect it'll be a lot like '06. The best move is to let Bay walk, sign a bridge to Reddick and hope to make a splash in free agency in '10, who knows maybe the Twins let Mauer slip through. In the mean time, add some depth with Harden on a 1-year with an option and Chapman. Also, pray that at least one of the Reddick/Anderson combo pans out in the next two years.

  12. E_Rock October 21, 2009 at 9:40 PM #

    figured i'd throw this out there, like a pickle at a drive thru window: what about Bengie Molina for a year so VMart can DH/1B and of course spell at C??? man that almost isn't worth posting… ok it isn't but i like watching pickles slide

  13. Steve October 21, 2009 at 9:46 PM #

    Chone Figgins makes more sense than any of these candidates- He's younger than Dye or Abreau and he can move over to third base after next year (When Lowell's contract is up).

  14. bob October 21, 2009 at 9:58 PM #

    that might be the worst idea ever, I take solace in the fact that you're definitely kidding

  15. E_Rock October 21, 2009 at 10:23 PM #

    at least i got a chuckle out of the idea

  16. @hellohynes October 22, 2009 at 12:15 AM #

    I agree with Steve. Not only are all those options horrible, but why wasn't Chone Figgins considered at all?

    Look, Jason Bay is not the engine that makes this offense turn. He had a great 2nd half in 2008 but regressed to career lines in 2009. He's a below average left-fielder playing in probably one of the easiest left fields in the league.

    Knowing that offense is going to be hard to find by way of signings, I suspect Theo will most likely redouble his efforts to solidify a solid rotation, fine-tune the bullpen and turn the team's defense around. So guys like Holliday and Figgins will be considered. Also I wouldn't be surprised if the Sox went after someone like Adrian Beltre, who's one of the best defensive 3B in the league.

    I realize that talking about trading for A-Gon or Felix is exciting and sexy, but it's honestly unlikely. This team has never traded top prospects for established players while Theo's in control, and I just don't see him doing it this off-season.

  17. Gerry October 22, 2009 at 12:17 AM #

    IF the Sox get AGon's power bat at 1b, and J.Bay walks, I agree that Figgins would be a great addition for LF. He and AGon are on base machines, and the combination would add 25-30SB and 10HR, provide three perpetual base stealing/pitcher tweaking threats with Ells and Ped, and provide the best Defense in LF for years; perhaps the best defenisve OF in the AL. The gaps would practically disappear. AGon would compensate for JBays run production. With a couple more minor pieces (Gathright & Dye as bench OF??) this could be a 200+HR, 200+SB, high OBP team with awesome defense. That might work.

  18. Jason Werth October 22, 2009 at 12:41 AM #

    Theo hates latinos. Cross all the latinos off the list. Look at Pedro celbrating in Philly while Matt Clement is masturbating elsewhere. Look at Manny in the LCS while Jason Bay is masturbating elsewhere. Theo is a racist.

  19. UVMike October 22, 2009 at 1:26 AM #

    Holy shut up. this year, our entire infield left of Youk was latino. Substantiate it or stop saying it, Theo has never shown a bias against latinos.

  20. 080808 October 22, 2009 at 10:30 PM #

    Ortiz, Molina, Lowell together would make airtight double-play trio!

  21. M.A.G. October 23, 2009 at 10:12 AM #

    I'm not a fan of Massarotti, but I like his last article: "All about the money".

    In the article, Mazz shows the Red Sox have a ton of money to expend, and they are gonna have a ton of money to expend next year, even if we go after Bay or Holliday. Something tells me Theo preffers Holliday. He could have signed Bay by now, so I think he is his second option.

    In any case, I see no reason to fail to sign one of the two this year. We have a lot of money, and we are gonna have a lot of money next year too, to go after another big name (Mauer please). And I don't see better FA outfielders available next year either.

    • Gerry October 30, 2009 at 12:17 AM #

      Almost hate to bring this up, but in talking with some lifelong, gear-wearing Cards fans, they believe Holliday is as important to the team as Pujols. They are convinced Pujols will take a home town discount and stay, and that to compete they will sign Holliday, who wants to stay on the team if possible . . . which shoots down Boras' Teix money scam. When I asked them about his playoff error they replied that he feels as badly as the fans, and that the fans gave him two standing ovations AFTER the error to make sure he knows he is welcome to stay. I asked if all Cards fans were like that, and the response was "of course. That's why players like to stay there. We love our players and we let them know it." Could this be why Julio and Joe Thurston went from doghouse to performers? Maybe Boston fans could actually get behind their team?


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