Jackie Bradley Jr. Still In Good Position To Land Red Sox’ Center Field Job (Mailbag)

Jackie Bradley Jr.It’s almost time to warm up the truck.

Spring training is rapidly approaching, and the Red Sox’ title defense soon will commence. Boston had a rather busy week, adding outfielder Grady Sizemore on a one-year contract and reportedly inking outfielder Scott Cousins and reliever Jose Mijares to minor league deals.

The biggest news since the last Red Sox mailbag, however, is Jon Lester‘s comments regarding his contract status. The veteran southpaw said that he’d accept a hometown discount to stay in Boston beyond 2014, which certainly is music to many Red Sox fans’ ears.

Will Lester indeed strike a deal with the Red Sox before hitting free agency next winter? That, and more, is discussed in this week’s mailbag. So, let’s have at it.

Any chance they name Dustin Pedroia captain any time soon? (Tek will always be my favorite captain, though)

– Carmela CL ‏(@carmacarmeleon)

This question isn’t going away, is it?

Dustin Pedroia absolutely has all of the leadership qualities that you look for in a captain, but I don’t think slapping a “C” on his jersey is really necessary. It’s essentially just a symbolic gesture, and everyone knows where Pedroia stands in the organization.

This isn’t to say that the Red Sox won’t someday consider bestowing the honor upon Pedroia, but Ben Cherington said after the second baseman inked his extension last season that it wasn’t discussed during negotiations.

Will Middlebrooks had a rough second season. I hope it was just a sophomore jinx. What do you think about it? Does Middlebrooks regain the form he was in before his broken wrist in 2012? Also, would you re-sign Drew as depth for the left side?

– Jim, Denver

The Red Sox better hope that Will Middlebrooks rebounds in 2014.

I’ve been an advocate for the Red Sox re-signing Stephen Drew all offseason — I’ve caught plenty of heat for it, too — and the biggest reason is because Middlebrooks hardly is a sure bet. Middlebrooks has the tools to be an excellent source of power — a la 2012 — but I’d like to see more plate discipline before throwing all of my eggs in that basket.

In an ideal world for the Red Sox, Middlebrooks will rebound, Xander Bogaerts will transition seamlessly into his new role as an everyday major league shortstop and everyone will live happily ever after. But if either (or both) of those expectations isn’t met, the Red Sox will have a problem on their hands. And that doesn’t even take into account a possible injury.

Jonathan Herrera is best-served in a utility role, and using Brock Holt and/or Brandon Snyder on an everyday basis isn’t enticing, either. The Red Sox used a Holt/Snyder combination at third base last season, and it coincided with reports that Boston was searching for infield help on the trade market.

Deven Marrero, a solid defender, and Garin Cecchini, an on-base machine, are possibilities for in-season call-ups, with Cecchini next in line if Middlebrooks really falters. The Red Sox would rather see those two spend the duration of 2014 in the minors, though.

Don’t be shocked if the Red Sox still look to add some infield depth before spring training.

What do you expect from Xander Bogaerts this year?

– Mikey Mayes

It’s important to remember this season that Xander Bogaerts is still 21 years old. Growing pains are part of any sport, but they’re particularly common in baseball, where the jump from the minors to the majors can be overwhelming.

That being said, I expect Bogaerts to be a very solid contributor in 2014, and be a legitimate star as early as 2015. I wouldn’t be shocked if the rookie posts something like 15-20 homers, 75-90 RBIs and an average north of .280, although his final stat line will be impacted by his spot in the order and how many games he plays.

Do the Red Sox need to pay Stephen Drew $14.1 million if they re-sign him?

–Pete Daignault, Guilford, CT

Negative. Drew’s $14.1 million qualifying offer has been tossed out the window. Any negotiations at this point are a totally different beast.

Who will be the No. 2 starter, Clay Buchholz or John Lackey?

– Riley Austin

Clay Buchholz, assuming he stays healthy.

Will the Red Sox give David Ortiz more than two years?

– Robin Sherry Fernald

I can’t see that happening.

The Red Sox absolutely would love to re-sign David Ortiz either during or after this season. A two-year deal would take him through his age 40 season. That seems reasonable, whereas a three-year deal might be pushing it.

Over/under on the Evil Empire wins at 85? I say under and can’t wait to see Masahiro Tananka suck.

–Brian O’Degnan

Over, although I agree that the Yankees still have some questions despite their offseason spending spree.

How do you see the Red Sox’ lineup shaking up? Do you see Daniel Nava leading off? What about Xander Bogaerts? According to John Farrell, he said that if Bogaerts has a hot spring, he could lead off. Could he be the second coming of Nomar Garciaparra in the leadoff spot?

– Sasha C. Handelman

The leadoff situation is one of the most intriguing (and underplayed, in my opinion) storylines surrounding the Red Sox right now.

Just to clarify, while John Farrell said Bogaerts could factor into the leadoff plans at some point, the skipper didn’t give any indication that it would be out of spring training. If Bogaerts ends up hitting atop the order, it probably won’t be until later in the year after the shortstop enjoys regular-season success. Even then, Bogaerts projects more as a middle-of-the-order type.

Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino are the two most likely candidates to lead off. My guess is that it’ll start out as a day-to-day, matchup-based decision until one of them takes the job and runs with it. Whichever player doesn’t lead off probably will bat second. For what it’s worth, I like Victorino in the leadoff spot over Nava because of his speed.

Farrell has shown a willingness to get creative, too. Don’t be surprised if someone like Jackie Bradley Jr. gets a shot if those options don’t pan out and the young outfielder makes strides from an on-base standpoint.

Speaking of Jackie…

Does the Grady Sizemore signing mean we’re letting Jackie Bradley Jr. develop at Triple-A for one more year before he takes over in center field?

– Danielle Ayube ‏(@bruinsgirl33)

Bradley is expected to be a part of the Red Sox’ major league mix in 2014. The starting center field job probably is his to lose despite the Grady Sizemore signing.

Sizemore certainly adds depth and should increase competition during spring training, but let’s keep in mind that he hasn’t played in the majors since 2011 and hasn’t played a full season since 2008. At this point, given his string of injuries, Sizemore is entering camp every bit as unproven as Bradley despite an All-Star past.

Expect both to get opportunities. But my money’s on Bradley to eventually lock down the gig.

You sound like a fan boy blogger, not an objective sports writer. The facts, my man. Report the facts, not your opinions about how much money the Yankees spent and their holes. You bleed Red Sox. It’s so obvious. Can’t you pretend you’re objective?

– daywalkz

You seem like a fun guy.

What do you see happening with Jon Lester in light of his recent comments?

– Maureen ‏(@msams1427)

Both sides will need to make sacrifices to get a deal done.

Jon Lester will need to abstain from the temptation of pursuing the richest deal possible on the open market, and the Red Sox will need to go beyond their comfort level in terms of years and length on a contract.

It’ll be interesting to see how serious Lester is about his willingness to accept a hometown discount. My guess is that he’ll stay at a reduced rate, but the Red Sox can’t just throw peanuts at him and call it a day.

…And speaking of calling it a day, that’ll do it for this week’s mailbag. Keep the questions flowing (@TheRickyDoyle). I don’t bite.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here.

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