For you grammatical sticklers out there, yes I’m aware that the title should read Drew and Whom. Drew and Whom, however, doesn’t rhyme. So deal.
For all you JD Drew haters out there, grok this: only three Sox players have appeared in more games this season than the oft-injured and oft-criticized right fielder, and his presence in right field this season — though quiet — has been the only source of consistency the Red Sox outfield has had during 2010. With season-killing injuries (or, if you prefer, plagues) to Jacoby Ellsbury and Make Cameron, Drew has played alongside no fewer than ten outfielders this season, ranging from the forgettable (Jonathan Van Every) to the temporary (Bill Hall, Eric Patterson) to the promising (Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish). With Mike Cameron’s health and Jacoby Ellsbury’s status in question for the 2011 season, it’s worth examining the options for left and center fields this offseason. Aside from the bullpen, there is no more fluid position on the roster, and a strong outfield could help bridge the gap between the could-have-been of 2010 to the contender of 2011.
Every indication this year has been that many key members of the Sox roster and front office are royally unhappy with the speedy center fielder for his perceived disappearing act this season. The unhappiness has reached a point where there has been a great deal of trade talk surrounding Ellsbury this offseason. That’s certainly a possibility, though it’s hard to envision a team paying the kind of premium a player of Ellsbury’s potential should fetch, given his injury history and the aspersions on his drive and loyalty. Still, if the Sox could get an ace setup man and a couple of solid prospects, and assuming they had an adequate backup plan in place for CF, trading Ellsbury might not be the worst move. If he plays, he’ll have a great deal to atone for, as well as a year of development to make up; Ellsbury before his injury was an offensive force, but not quite as potent as he should have been given his tools.
Cameron is under contract for 2011, so in theory he should be penciled in at CF for next year. However, even forgetting his bizarre health issues this season, the fact remains that Cameron would be in his age 38 season, and simply might not be able to stand up to the rigors of a 162 game schedule anymore. Add to that his abdominal uncertainties and it’s hard to rely on Mike Cameron for a starting position. I still believe that if healthy, Cameron represents under-the-radar offensive production along with his fantastic defense — he is a player whose value has suffered from the perceived harm of his strikeout rate, but he consistently gets on base and has remarkable power for an older center fielder. If Cameron can come back healthy and play a full season, the Sox will have added production without any work at all.
Of all the fill-ins used in the outfield this season — and the list is a long one — Ryan Kalish may become the only one whose name will be heard at Fenway far beyond 2010. He’s shown, in his short time in Boston, that he belongs in the bigs; though his numbers are not yet at the level you’d want in a starter, the potential is plain to see. Give Kalish a starting job and a full season and he stands every chance of blossoming into a productive hitter whose presence in left field would give the Sox consistent production on both sides of the ball. Kalish in center, while an option, is not likely a long-term solution, but he is a natural fit for left and would improve defense in front of the monster in the same way Jacoby Ellsbury’s presence was supposed to this season.
Another potential farm system contributor, Reddick has met with less success than Kalish over more limited time. In two stints this year, he’s posted an OPS of just .609, though it’s worth noting that his numbers have improved dramatically in September after his call-up. Reddick lit the world on fire in Triple A this August, and additional playing time this September might yield results. Expect him to compete for the left field spot with Kalish next season, unless a free-agent acquisition or trade is made.
I’ve long seen Dunn as the type of player Theo might be attracted to. Despite a defense that is by all accounts horrific, Dunn is perhaps the purest power hitter in the game — a strikeout machine to be sure, but one whose production remains exceptional. What’s amazing is how even in an era where ‘sabermetric’ measures are accepted, Dunn remains a disrespected talent; a free agent this offseason, Dunn might get lost in the shuffle. He is just 30 years old and his closest comparisons according to Baseball Reference include three Hall of Famers, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa (and this without the aid of, um, supplements). If Dunn can be had for under $15 million a year on a two or three year deal, it would be almost criminal to pass it up; he would also a be a perfect fit at DH should David Ortiz’s tenure come to an end over the next couple of seasons. Dunn hasn’t played LF in some time, and he could just as easily be signed as a first baseman with Youk shifting to third, but the option exists.
Werth will likely walk away from the Phillies this year having established himself as a front-line offensive right fielder. He’ll likely be among the most sought free agents on the market, and his price might be too high for a Sox team that must focus more on 1B/3B, Bullpen, and Catcher holes, but he remains an enticing option. He’ll likely be seeking a deal of four years for $15 million or more, and chances are he’ll get it from someone. I doubt it will be the Red Sox, but stranger things have happened (see Lackey, John).
Other Free Agents
Something tells me that Carl Crawford can already be fitted for pinstripes, so let’s leave him out of the discussion for now. The rest of the free agent list reads like a 2001 All Star team: Garrett Anderson, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Scott Podsednik, And Pat Burrell are the real headliners. Possibly bargain picks might include Austin Kearns, who has never reached the potential he once had, Jason Kubel, or Andruw Jones (yes, Andruw Jones).
That’s a basic list; there are plenty of additional options out there. What would you do in the OF? Discuss in the comments.