The writing on the wall suggests that the Red Sox are out of the Carl Crawford chase. A reported $154 million extension for Adrian Gonzalez would be the primary cause. The fact that Jayson Werth’s major deal signed in Washington has apparently driven up the Crawford price is another.
Because of this scenario, general manager Theo Epstein has turned his attention to lesser, and right-handed, outfield options. While insisting he likes his lefty-righty balance in the current lineup and would be OK with the current group of outfielders, don’t believe for a moment that he is not after some upgrades on both fronts.
“Maybe integrate a right-handed bat into the mix if we can find the right one, the right spot,” Epstein said Monday night when asked what his priorities are for the remainder of the winter meetings andoffseason. “Our outfield, there’s been a lot of talk about our outfield, and we’ve talked about it internally. I feel like if we brought back the same group we’d be OK, [but] there’s some benefit to bringing in the right player into the mix.”
Although many Red Sox fans are likely hoping for one more big splash, a la Crawford, Epstein used the dreaded “depth” word when mentioning what he might need in the outfield. It makes sense, for multiple reasons. One, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron returning from injuries, he will need other options in the event they cannot give the team what it wants. Two, Epstein likes the idea of having a lineup with several lefties and a bench filled with guys who can hit left-handed pitching.
Given all that, there will be no shying away from the other “big” names after Crawford. As the second full day of the winter meetings progressed, three names have surfaced on the Red Sox’ radar.
1. Magglio Ordonez
The former White Sox and Tigers outfielder is approaching his 37th birthday and not the hitter he once was, but he’s still pretty darn good at the plate when healthy. In 84 games last season in Detroit, Ordonez hit .303 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs. If that played out over a full season it would have given the 2007 AL batting champ a pretty nice showing. Defense would be a question mark, but Ordonez could come relatively cheap. He would cost the club a draft pick, however.
2. Carlos Beltran
The Red Sox’ interest in Beltran was first reported by NESN’s Peter Gammons, and the veteran would represent the next in a line of reclamation projects by Epstein. In the sense that Beltran is an older center fielder, it would look a tad like the Cameron acquisition. Interestingly enough, those two were involved in one of the more sickening plays in baseball history. However, Beltran is a bit younger (he’ll be 34 in April) and has been a better player over the course of his career. What remains to be seen is how much he has left. Various injuries have limited him to 145 games over the past two years.
3. Josh Willingham
Boston has kicked the tires (a favorite expression at the winter meetings) on Willingham before. The 31-year-old has been a pretty consistent power threat, posting a career .475 slugging percentage. He is streaky, however. Willingham became available once Werth was signed. Baltimore was linked to Willingham as a potential first baseman. Reports surfaced Tuesday that the Red Sox were among a few teams considering Washington’s asking price, in terms of prospects, to be “absurd.” That wouldn’t be the first time this week that the Nationals drew such a reaction. Anyway, it would be unlikely that the Red Sox are willing to part with any high-end prospects after the Gonzalez deal. At least not just yet.