Acquiring Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford or Both Won’t Answer All Questions in Red Sox’ Outfield

Acquiring Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford or Both Won't Answer All Questions in Red Sox' Outfield Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox have begun courtship with Jayson Werth, one of the two star outfielders available on the free-agent market. Eventually, they will do the same with Carl Crawford.

If and when they land one of the two, it will likely be hailed as an elixir for an outfield that struggled mightily in 2010 due to injuries and has a heavy dose of uncertainty going forward.

But just because they add star power to their outfield, it does not mean that the Red Sox will have solved each and every problem at those positions. In fact, due to the nature of the players they already have in the fold and the flexibility of both Werth and Crawford, some decisions would need to be made to determine who plays where, and when.

Consider the many ways the Red Sox could go when laying out their outfield this year and beyond, keeping in mind that J.D. Drew and Mike Cameron are both under contract for just one more year:

1. Sign Crawford to play left field, put Jacoby Ellsbury in center and, after letting Drew go before 2012, install Ryan Kalish in right.

On the surface, this is the most appetizing option. Provided Crawford’s transition to Boston is seamless, Ellsbury is able to get past the 2010 season and improve in center and Kalish continues to blossom, the Sox could have an incredibly athletic and offensively gifted outfield for years to come.

For those concerned that Ellsbury will never be a great defensive center fielder, consider that he was just 25 the last time he had a full season out there. And with a Gold Glover in left and a Kalish, who has speed and a cannon for an arm, in right, any defensive issues in center will be largely masked by those in the corner spots.

2. Sign Crawford to play center field, move Ellsbury to left and install Kalish in right after a year.

Crawford’s exceptional speed will make him a consideration to play center at all times, but this is unlikely. He has mastered left field to the point where moving him doesn’t make much sense. And who’s to say Ellsbury would ever be better in left than he was in center? We didn’t get to find out in 2010.

3. Sign Werth to play left and then transition him into Drew’s position for 2012.

This presents a handful of minor issues. For one, Werth would be playing one year at left, a position at which he has started just over 100 games in his career. (Not that big of a deal, but still.) Plus, you then have a hole at left field once you move Werth into Drew’s spot. That could be filled by Kalish, but sticking a player as explosive as Kalish in the cozy confines of left field at Fenway almost does him a disservice.

Another option would be to install Kalish in center and Ellsbury in left in 2012.

4. Sign both Crawford and Werth and find at-bats for everyone in 2011.

Since Werth has always hit lefties well (.292/.394/.550 for his career), he would be the perfect guy to spell Ellsbury, Drew or designated hitter David Ortiz against tough lefties. But there would be a struggle for playing time when right-handers are on the mound, at least until Drew leaves. That might present some hairy moments for Terry Francona.

5. Sign neither, start Kalish right away in left or center, move him to right in 2012 and hope for a fix elsewhere.

This doesn’t seem very appealing, especially when one considers that there may not be an outfielder of Crawford or Werth’s caliber on the 2012 free-agent market and you would still need to fill positions after Drew leaves.

The short list of potential free-agent outfielders next offseason includes Jose Bautista, Carlos Beltran, Corey Hart, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Ludwick and Josh Willingham.

Flexibility is always a good thing. But the Red Sox will want to have a plan in place if and when they make a big move to upgrade their outfield this offseason. Just making the move alone doesn’t answer every question.

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