Before the first pitch is thrown at JetBlue Park in March of 2015, the Boston Red Sox will need to figure out how their outfield will align. While Boston’s image for next year became clearer after last weeks Yoenis Cespedes-for-Rick Porcello swap, the team still needs to trim the fat in the outfield. By all accounts, the starting trio of outfielders for Boston next season will be a combination of Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, and the newly acquired Hanley Ramirez. What the team is left with is a handful of historically serviceable players coming off injury plagued and/or under preforming seasons. After being a staple in the 2013 Red Sox run to the World Series, Shane Victorino played just 30 games in his second season in Boston thanks to nagging back and leg injuries. Daniel Nava, who also played an important role in the Red Sox championship season, took an offensive nose dive at the plate and was twice demoted back to Pawtucket in the first half of the season. However, the 30-year old did enjoy an offensive resurgence during the second half of the year and wound up hitting a .270, with a respectable .346 on-base percentage. There’s also Jackie Bradley Jr, whose 2014 rookie campaign featured miserable offense rivaling some of the best center field defense that Fenway Park has ever seen. However, with Bradley Jr., Boston has the luxury of stashing the 24-year old in AAA and letting him figure out his offensive shortcomings. Lastly, and most interestingly, is Allen Craig. The 30-year old outfielder/first baseman came over in a mid-season trade, and was in the midst of his worst season as a major leaguer. Most of what hampered Craig’s 2014 campaign can be attributed to a nagging foot injury that the former Cardinal dealt with for part of the 2013 season. Before positing awful offensive numbers last year, Craig hit over .300 in his first three major league seasons, and amassed an on-base percentage of .364 from 2010 – 2013. With an eye towards next season, Boston can afford to hold onto Shane Victorino as their bench outfielder and stash Jackie Bradley Jr. in triple-A, which leaves room for one more bench spot. By process of elimination, either Daniel Nava or Allen Craig will be the odd man out. Nava represents a cheap, high on-base bat with the potential to be a nice platoon option, but he also represents Boston’s only lefty outfielder. Craig, who’s under contract for a combined $25.5M over the next three seasons, has the offensive history to warrant a mulligan for 2014. With the reported interest in Craig being pretty high for a player coming off his worst season, Boston could expect to field a nice return for the California native.
- The Red Sox made a minor, yet potentially important deal on Wednesday, as the team acquired Anthony Varvaro from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for minor league pitcher Aaron Kurcz. Varvaro, 30, enjoyed a superb 2014 season in which he posted a 2.63 ERA and a 3.21 FIP over 54.2 innings pitched. Despite posting solid numbers last season, Atlanta designated the right hander for assignment in order to add the newly acquired Alberto Callaspo to their roster. (The Red Sox acquire Anthony Varvaro from the Braves)
- The Red Sox are still in the mix for veteran free agents David Ross and Craig Breslow, according to reports. Ross, who some believe will follow Jon Lester to Chicago, would make a nice tandem behind the plate with Christian Vazquez, should the 37-year old re-up with Boston. Breslow, who is also being courted by the Chicago Cubs, is looking to bounce back from a rough 2014 season in which he posted an ERA close to 6.00 in 54 innings pitched. (David Ross, Craig Breslow still in mix with Red Sox)
- Rusney Castillo, who’s currently playing in the Puerto Rican winter league, has received rave reviews from his manager Alex Cora about his work ethic both on and off the field. Along with boasting impressive defense and a promising approach at the plate, Castillo has exhibited a willingness to learn and improve his game. Unlike some high-profile international players, the 27-year old hasn’t put himself of anyone, and has embraced the challenges that have come to him this winter. (Cora on Castillo: “He’s not a prima donna”)
- While it would take a lot for the Red Sox to pry Cole Hamels away from the Philadelphia Phillies, Shane Victorino says it would be worth it. Victorino, who was a teammate of Hamels’ for 6 1/2 seasons in Philadelphia, praised the left hander for his work ethic and competitive mentality. In a win-now scenario, acquiring Hamels and his 4 year, $90M salary would make sense for Boston, but the teams dedication to the farm system doesn’t appear to be a path that they want to stray too far from. (Shane Victorino: “I’ll take Cole Hamels (on the Red Sox) in a heartbeat”)
- Tweet of the day: Rusney seems like a pretty cool dude.
Not only Rusney Castillo is a good player, he is a better person. Big fan of him and I wish him the best.
— Alex (@ac13alex) December 18, 2014