First, Ryan Kalish underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in November. Then, on Tuesday, Carl Crawford had an arthroscopic procedure on his left wrist — an injury he re-aggravated after intensifying his hitting activity.
As it stands now, Mike Aviles, Ryan Sweeney and Darnell McDonald will have to weather the storm alongside Jacoby Ellsbury. While that marinates, let's take a look at this week's mailbag.
Hey! With the Yankees getting Michael Pineda for the long haul to go along with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and possibly Phil Hughes, and with their quality pitching in Triple-A, do you think it is unlikely that they go out next offseason and sign [Matt] Cain, [Cole] Hamels or [Zack] Greinke? And is that good news for the Red Sox chances of signing one of them? Thanks!
By now, you can't ever count the Yankees out from any offseason race — even if they are loaded in Triple-A with pitching prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. As Bobby Valentine said last weekend, there's never enough pitching.
Look at the Red Sox last year. With Jon Lester, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield, the rotation appeared solified for the foreseeable future. Clearly, that didn't wind up being the case.
I say all of that with the idea that the Yankees could be in play for Cain, Hamels or Greinke next offseason depending on this year's developments. If the pitching lives up to expectations, then it's a safe to assume it improves Boston's chance at landing one of the prized free agents. That's if the team chooses to pursue them.
It's way too early to tell, though. But Cain could emerge as a possible target around the trade deadline.
I would like to ask what are top three position players [combined] in Double-A and Triple-A. Also how long do you expect each of them to take to get to the Red Sox?
–Douglas Merrill, Portland, Ore.
If we're looking at position players only in Triple-A and Double-A, I'd list catcher Ryan Lavarnway — since his big-league future remains up in the air — third baseman Will Middlebrooks and shorstop Jose Iglesias.
During his eight-game stint with the Red Sox last year, Lavarnway turned heads with his offensive skill-set. Earlier this week, Bobby Valentine said he visited the catcher in Arizona recently and came away very impressed.
Lavarnway still needs to hone his skills defensively, but a strong spring training could accelerate his transition to the majors.
As for Iglesias, the Red Sox are obviously still looking for him to polish his hitting, so this could be a very crucial year. His performance and progression could determine his future moving forward.
After a strong year in the minors in 2011, Middlebrooks is knocking at the door of ascending to the majors.
I can understand going with a Sweeney/McDonald/Aviles platoon in right field until Kalish is ready. But now if Crawford is going to be out for any length of time, it seems the Sox definitely need another outfielder. In your estimation, who are the better fits for them offensively, defensively, financially and in the clubhouse? Would it be someone like Ryan Ludwick or Cody Ross or possibly even Johnny Damon?
–Steve, Cranston, R.I.
Ryan Ludwick isn't an option since he signed with the Reds, but I think Cody Ross would be a suitable fit for plenty of reasons.
The 31-year-old is younger than Johnny Damon and he's just two years removed from being the National League Championship Series MVP. He won't produce gaudy numbers, but he's proven to be effective in clutch situations.
During his stints in Florida and San Francisco, teammates have raved about his positive influence in the clubhouse, a characteristic that could benefit the Red Sox. Ultimately, he's a low-cost option, which fits in line with Ben Cherington's recent acquisitions.
What's the word on [Jason] Varitek? Are the Red Sox going to offer him a contract?
Have to love the weekly Jason Varitek question. But in all seriousness, Dylan, don't get your hopes up. As each day passes, the odds of Varitek returning to the Red Sox look slimmer and slimmer.
Last weekend, Valentine said he couldn't imagine the veteran catcher, or Tim Wakefield for that matter, competing for jobs in spring training. On Tuesday, Cherington reiterated his stance that he wouldn't offer a contract if there isn't a plausible role for catcher.
For the time being, it appear both parties are headed toward a break-up. The goal is to make it as pain-free as possible.
When's truck day this year? And how much would I need to pay the drivers to make a pit stop in Folly Beach, SC? Maybe have them take out all the workout equipment and load it back up for me to recreate the moment?? I've got twenty, thirty bucks no problem.
–Evan, Folly Beach, S.C.
Truck Day is scheduled for Feb. 11, Evan. As for paying the drivers to stop in your neighborhood and recreate the moment, well … um … it would be easier if you use your imagination and picture it.