Two years ago, Carl Crawford was the prized signee.
The Red Sox had seemingly locked up the All-Star in left field for years to come with a seven-year, $142 million deal. But
like first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who Boston also acquired that offseason,
that plan has gone by the wayside.
Crawford was injured for most of last season, leaving a hole in left
field. The Red Sox tried filling the vacancy with a combination of Daniel
Nava, Cody Ross, Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald and Scott Podsednik.
Of that group, Nava played the most, and while he developed into an on-base machine for Boston, he's likely
not the full-time solution moving forward. Nava, who will be 30 when next season starts, is near the end of his prime years. The outfielder is definitely capable
of contributing off the bench, considering he collected six home runs and 33 RBIs in
88 games, but he likely won't be a solution for Boston.
Instead, the Red Sox could consider banking on Kalish's health to hold up for a full season. Despite
being sidelined for most of the past two seasons with neck and shoulder
injuries, the 24-year-old showed potential in 2010, hitting four home runs and driving in 24 runs in 24 games.
Last season, Kalish failed to replicate his success as he continued to recover from offseason surgeries. The Red Sox
shut him down in September to give him an extended offseason.
However, with the financial flexibility the Red Sox gained by trading Crawford and
Gonzalez, the team will likely stabilize its left field situation via
free agency. The Red Sox will have a bevy of options to choose from if they go that route, with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Nick
Swisher, Michael Bourn, Torii Hunter, Melky Cabrera, Ryan Ludwick and Shane
Victorino set to hit the market.
While Hamilton is the biggest name out there, the chances the Red Sox would pursue the outfielder are miniscule.
After trading a 31-year-old outfielder with a monster
contract in Crawford, Boston likely wouldn't put itself in another bind by signing
another 31-year-old outfielder — an injury-plagued one with well-documented alcohol and drug issues at that.
Hunter would be an appealing option. The 37-year-old is
close friends with Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz — dating back to
their Minnesota days — and also trains with third baseman Will Middlebrooks
over the offseason.
While someone that age isn't ideal for the Red Sox, Hunter's
defense is above average, and he managed to deliver 16 homers and 92 RBIs while
batting .313 in 140 games for the Angels last season.
Bourn could also aid the Red Sox, especially as they attempt
to transition into an aggressive team on the basepaths. The 29-year-old
speedster, who was a center fielder in 2012, swiped 42 bases for the Braves.
It would take a sacrifice on Bourn's end to shift to left
field, but that could come at the right price. Needless to say, however, there
will certainly be left field options on the table for the Red Sox.