NASHVILLE — The Red Sox
reached agreement with Shane Victorino on a three-year deal worth $39 million Tuesday. But will he play right field or center field?
The Red Sox are not necessarily finished constructing their outfield, according to major league sources. General manager Ben Cherington is considering the idea of trading center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for a starting pitcher, playing Victorino in center field, and signing another player for right field.
Cody Ross and Nick Swisher are among the free agent right fielders still available. The Sox, those same sources said, are telling free agents to remain available.
Cherington did not discount the idea of the Red Sox signing another outfielder.
“Wouldn’t rule out adding two outfielders to the mix,” he said at the Winter Meetings. “We’ll see what’s attainable.”
When asked specifically about Ross, Cherington did not cross off the incumbent right fielder as a possibility for next season.
“As of now, we haven’t been able to find something that makes sense,” said Cherington. “But the door is still open and we’ll see what else happens. He’s got other options, too. I don’t think I can add anything to that.”
Ross has been seeking a three-year deal.
Ellsbury will be a free agent after the 2013 season and has not considered signing a contract extension with the Red Sox. The Phillies, Rangers, and several other teams need a center fielder.
The 32-year-old Victorino is a three-time Gold Glove winner in center field but has started 122 games in right field in his nine-year career. If Ellsbury remains on the team, Victorino would shift to right.
Victorino gives the Red Sox the flexibility of trading Ellsbury during the season and is a replacement in center field if Ellsbury bolts as a free agent.
The Red Sox believe in the promise of 22-year-old center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., but he has played only 61 games above Double A and may not be ready until 2014.
Cherington did not comment at length about signing Victorino, joking that he had to “speak in code” because it wasn’t finished. But Victorino went on Twitter a few hours later and announced it while in his native Hawaii.
“Just agreed to join the Boston Red Sox in the middle of paradise,” he said. “Blessed! Can’t wait to get to Boston!”
Red Sox players Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, and Jon Lester took to Twitter to welcome Victorino to the team.
“Congrats man,” Lester wrote. “Pumped to have you there behind me.”
The Cleveland Indians, according to major league sources, offered Victorino four years and $44 million. The Red Sox countered with a higher average annual salary and the appeal of playing in a larger market.
“There’s been a preference to try and keep the deal shorter,” said Cherington. “In order to do that, we may have to use a little bit of our yearly flexibility to get that accomplished.’’
Victorino, a switch hitter, is a career .275 hitter with 90 home runs and 201 stolen bases in his career. He was with the Phillies for parts of eight seasons, making the All-Star team twice.
Victorino was a prominent player on the 2008 World Series champions and helped lead the Phillies back to the Series in 2009, where they lost to the Yankees.
Philadelphia traded Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers in July for three prospects.
Victorino hit .255 with a .704 OPS last season. He was 39 of 45 on stolen bases and had 47 extra-base hits along with 55 RBIs. He has been primarily a leadoff or No. 2 hitter in his career.
If the Red Sox trade Ellsbury, Victorino could hit leadoff.
“The Flyin’ Hawaiian” also is durable, having averaged 145 games the last seven seasons.
The Red Sox, Cherington indicated, are comfortable with Victorino in right field at Fenway Park.
“We’d like to have somebody who has played a lot of center in right field at our ballpark if we can,” he said. “If you’ve played a lot of center field and played in different parks, it may be a little bit of an adjustment, but you can figure out right field at Fenway Park.”
Along with his speed, Victorino has the arm strength that would make him an effective right fielder.
Victorino has been a better hitter from the right side in his career. He has hit only .244 with a .701 OPS from the left side in the last three years.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.