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Victorino has Sox pondering trading Ellsbury

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  December 4, 2012 10:11 PM

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Red Sox, as you know, reached agreement with Shane Victorino on a three-year deal worth $37.5 million. But will he play right field or center field?

The 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. “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 make sense. But the door is still open and we’ll see what else happens,” Cherington said. “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 Braves, Phillies, Rangers and several other teams need a center fielder.

The Sox also have a surplus of catchers, creating more trade possibilities.

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 there.

That would give the Red Sox the flexibility of trading Ellsbury during the season and give them a replacement in center field if he 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 the Double A level 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 yet 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 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. In order to do that, we may have to use a little bit of our yearly flexibility to get accomplished,” Cherington said.

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.

See the Globe Wednesday for more on the signing.

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