Who should be the fourth outfielder in 2009?

This is the introduction to a three-part series on the Red Sox’s options for a fourth-outfielder.

Click the names to read the cases for each player…
Candidate 1: Rocco Baldelli
Candidate 2: Brad Wilkerson
Candidate 3: Eric Byrnes

With JD Drew, Jason Bay, and Jacoby Ellsbury all under contract for 2009, the Red Sox starting outfield is set in stone before pitchers and catchers report. Unless you consider Jonathan Van Every, Chris Carter, or Jeff Bailey a long-term solution, the team still needs to acquire a fourth outfielder via free agency or trade. Needing to acquire a fourth outfielder may seem like an exercise in gluttony, but let’s be candid about our current situation. JD Drew has played 135 games or less seven times in his ten year career and the Red Sox can afford to pay above market on some spare parts to sit the bench.

In 2007, Eric Hinske and, to a lesser degree, Bobby Kielty, filled the role. Last year it was Coco Crisp, with Jacoby Ellsbury filling in on the corner spots when needed. In 2009, there are players available who could potentially exceed the production of the past two seasons from the fourth outfielder roster spot. Three specifically stand out to me, and none of these names should be a surprise if you’ve been following the hot stove season: Rocco Baldelli, Brad Wilkerson, and Eric Byrnes. The former two are free agents, the latter reportedly available in a salary dumping trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Before you go off on me (again) in the comments, let’s be realistic about why I chose these three candidates. Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreu, Milton Bradley, Pat Burrell, and even Gabe Kapler are not going to come to Boston without a starting position. The Red Sox are not going to bench Jason Bay, JD Drew, or Jacoby Ellsbury, who will continue to roam center field at Fenway with a silver spoon attached to his mouth.  That leaves two tiers of players, the second tier comprised of the Jerry Hairston, Jrs, Moises Alous, and Garrett Andersons of the world; worthless, old, or both. What’s left after you filter out the “never going to happens” and “never want to happens?” A slim tier one of available players.

As part of a three-day special, I am going to examine each of these candidates, starting today with Rocco Baldelli. If you feel there is an important player I have left out of my top three, I encourage you to write up a community post for a “fresh take” on your thoughts for the fourth outfielder role in 2009. I will link your post at the top of this article along with my three candidates!