Myth, busted: It is not true that after last week’s signing of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, 29 of the spots on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster are now taken up by outfielders.
It just seems that way.
The actual number is nine, which is high in itself, especially when you recognize that seven of them have a decent claim that they should or could be starters in the major leagues next season.
That doesn’t even include Brock Holt, who has played 44 games in the outfield this season. He’s over there with the infielders.
Castillo’s signing clarifies the Red Sox’ outfield picture in some ways — center field is not Jackie Bradley’s job to lose, it’s his job lost — and muddles it in others.
So let’s try to sort out what Castillo’s arrival means for the rest of the potential outfielders, Holt included.
We’ll organize this from most likely to contribute to the Red Sox as an outfielderYoenis Cespedes: He’s been a godsend. not because he’s been some kind of salvation — he actually has some glaring flaws — but simply because he’s fun to watch during this toilet-bowl-circling season. He’s not Manny Ramirez, because no one is replicating that. But his stance is eerily similar, and every now and then he destroys a baseball in the same manner. I’m glad he’s here, and I hope he stays a few years beyond the end of his current deal.
Shane Victorino: Sure, worry about some things. He’ll be 34 in November, played just 30 games this season because of injuries that seemed to accompany him to Ft. Myers, and he’s coming off back surgery, a daunting recovery for a player 10 years Victorino’s junior. Yet … we can’t write him off. He was so valuable in so many ways last year, and so dearly missed during this season, that he’s going to be given every chance to prove he can recapture some of that ’13 magic. I will say that I’m skeptical that it happens, and I don’t buy buy the he’ll-play-well-because-it’s-a-contract-year line. The reason he ended up with the Red Sox in the first place is because he didn’t play well in a contract year with the Dodgers, and Boston got him for 3/$39 million, which felt like an overpay. It wasn’t, because last year was worth the entire deal all by itself.
Allen Craig: Let me ask you: Do you have any idea what to expect from this guy next year? He’s 29-years-old, has just 10 homers in 144 games and 596 plate appearances since the All-Star break last year, and can’t seem to exorcise the injury demons. Yet he was such a superb hitter from the second half of 2011 through the first half last year that the Red Sox are practically obligated to find out if he can be that player again. I just don’t know where he plays if Victorino is healthy. I’m not among those conspiracy theorists who think the Red Sox may shop Mike Napoli and move him to first base. Too bad Craig can’t play third.
Mookie Betts: My first immediate takeaway from the Castillo signing: Jackie Bradley Jr. is buried. Right behind that was this: It is now much easier to justify trading Betts in a major deal. I love this kid, love his swing and his energy and his aptitude in learning new leagues and defensive positions so fast. I hope he’s a part of The Next Great Red Sox Team and believe he is fully capable of doing that. But I don’t think he will be. The Red Sox are set up to make a couple of huge trades. Betts is going to have a ton of appeal, and because of Castillo’s presence (not to mention Dustin Pedroia’s tenure at second base, Betts’s natural position), I think he’s the one out of the Bogaerts/Swihart/Betts/Owens superprospect quartet who is the most likely to get moved.
Jackie Bradley Jr. Question: Has a player ever received his Gold Glove award from the previous season while playing in Triple A the following year? Could conceivably happen to Bradley next April. No player on the roster is more affected by the Castillo signing — and Cherington’s proclamation that they see him as a center fielder — than the quintessential good-field, no-hit Bradley. It’s hard right now to envision him as anything more than a backup outfielder next year, and that’s a tough, if self-inflicted, spot for such a young player. I wonder if he ends up being the third or fourth player sent elsewhere in a big trade, to a team that believes his bat will come around enough that his golden glove is playable every day in center field. Given that it is widely suspected that Ruben Amaro’s “farm director” is actually a copy of Baseball America’s 2012 Prospect Handbook, maybe Philly is a possible destination.
Brock Holt Here’s what we’ve learned about the 26-year-old jack-of-all-trades above all else: He belongs. When he arrives in Ft. Myers next year, he should already have a lock on the utility job, and there’s a chance, despite his second-half regression and his lack of power, that he gets the majority of playing time at third base to start the season. (Seriously, how many opportunities is Will Middlebrooks going to get?) But if Holt shows up in the outfielder again next year for anything more than an occasional inning in a blowout here or there, something — some things — has gone wrong. He’s made some terrific plays, but many of his great catches are the product of inexperience. Tim Wakefield had knuckleballs that took straighter routes.
Daniel Nava: This should be his last week with the organization that signed him for a buck out of the Frontier League six years ago. That’s not a sad thing; Nava has established himself as a certified major-league hitter with a specific, valuable skill-set — he can hit righthanded pitching for a high average and gets on base at a better-than-average rate. He should be helping a contender right now rather than playing out the string here. The Red Sox once gave Nava his baseball future. But he doesn’t have one here now.
Alex Hassan/Bryce Brentz Neither has a future with the organization beyond being a Quadruple A-type. At least Hassan got a few major league plate appearances with his hometown team out of the deal. Definitely beats shooting yourself in the leg.