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.
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?