Monday, July 18, 2011

Trade Deadline Targets: Right Fielders

Mike Cameron telling Carlos Beltran that Boston is a scary place
It’s a walk-off! It took 16 innings and almost 6 hours, but the Red Sox scored a 1-0 victory over the Rays last night to capture the series win. As exciting as this marathon was, the game highlighted one of the Sox’ most glaring holes, outfield depth. Last night, Red Sox outfielders combined to hit 0-17 (with 5 walks). Granted, only 3 members on the whole team got hits and Jacoby Ellsbury, one of the team’s top performers this year, accounted for 8 of those 17 hitless at bats, but it was another night of poor performances from a group that appeared to be, at worst, league average before the start of the year. The team will get some help tonight when Carl Crawford returns from injury, but they could probably still use more reinforcements. Crawford (.659 OPS), J.D. Drew (.637), Darnell McDonald (.520) and Mike Cameron (.477 and since released) have all performed far below expectations. Crawford is in the first year of a massive 7 year deal so he is not going anywhere, but the team could look to add a starting right fielder or at least a right-handed-hitting outfielder to compliment the all-lefty group of Crawford, Ellsbury and Drew. Today we will look at the options that Theo Epstein might consider over the next few weeks and place them in groups near and dear to my heart, burgers.

Brasserie Jo's Grand Jo Burger topped with crispy pork belly and braised beef cheeks (Hall of Famer, wicked expensive, but it’s only money)

Carlos Beltran, Mets

I had this burger this weekend for the first time. It was the best burger I have ever had. Though it cost almost $20, it was worth every penny. It was a beef burger topped with pork belly and beef cheeks (I still have no clue what either of these are), lettuce, tomato and cheddar cheese because I asked for it. And that was it. No ketchup, mayo, mustard or any of the crazy condiments we use at Sexy Burger. It was simple and sophisticated all at once and it almost made me cry with its incredible taste.

Beltran is the crown jewel of the outfield trade market. This potential Hall of Famer is having a resurgent (.893 OPS) and, more importantly, healthy season in the final year of his huge contract. Like the Grand Jo, Beltran has always played the game with a quiet elegance. He has a smooth, but powerful swing. He glides after balls in the outfield. He is the most efficient base stealer of all time. He plays without a lot of the flash of lesser players. As a switch hitter he would be a great fit for this lineup, probably behind David Ortiz. He would also push Drew to a bench role or maybe, as the Boston media hopes, into retirement. Best of all, it may not take much besides picking up his full salary to get him away from the cash-strapped Mets. Even though the team is surprisingly at .500, they are still miles behind the Phillies and Braves for the division and Wild Card leads, respectively, so they should be sellers at the deadline. Would a package of Josh Reddick or Ryan Kalish and Kyle Weiland or Michael Bowden be enough to get this done if the Sox pick up the rest of his salary?

In-N-Out Burger’s Animal Style Burger (potential franchise players that would be very difficult for Boston to acquire)

Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Andre Ethier, Dodgers; Hunter Pence, Astros

In-N-Out is a franchised burger chain that is almost exclusively located on the west coast. People who have had an In-N-Out burger, particularly the Animal Style, swear it is the best franchise burger they have ever had. Since there are no locations east of Texas, it would be very inconvenient for people from Boston to get this burger.

All three players in this category would be franchise players for any team that didn’t already have about 4 or 5 like the Red Sox. They are each signed beyond this year so they wouldn’t just be rental players. Because of this, they would all be extremely difficult to acquire. Kemp is the best and youngest of the group. He plays center for the Dodgers right now, but is much better suited for an outfield corner. He is on pace to join the 40/40 club (40 homers and steals) this year. He would only become available if the Dodgers decide they need to have a fire sale because of the ownership mess. Of this group, Ethier is probably the worst hitter, worst fielder, worst baserunner and the oldest and hits left handed so he may not be a fit. However, he is a good hitter and great friends with Dustin Pedroia (they went to college together) so he will always be connected with the Red Sox. Finally, Pence is a very good hitter and decent fielder. He is also signed the longest (through 2013). I think he has become a little overrated, but he is definitely a good piece. He probably would be the most difficult to acquire because the Astros vastly overrate their own players and tend to hold on too long. I think acquiring any of these players would take at least Jose Iglesias and Anthony Ranaudo and potentially even Clay Buchholz, so I don’t think we see any of these guys in Boston this year unless things go from bad to worse in Los Angeles.

Five Guys Cheeseburger (decent, but if you are expecting All Star performance you will be disappointed)

Jeff Francouer, Royals; Melky Cabrera, Royals; Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs; Michael Cuddyer, Twins

Every player on this list is either a former All Star (Fukudome, Cuddyer) or a player who has received so much unwarranted praise you would think they were an All Star (Francouer, Cabrera). All are about average players having pretty good years so they would definitely be useful to the Red Sox. Francouer would be the perfect platoon partner for Drew as he crushes lefties. Cabrera would be one of the better defensive options (he’s really bad in center but would probably play well in right) and a third outfield stolen base threat. Fukudome would fit the Sox mold the most as an on base machine and very good defender (though he is a lefty). Cuddyer has excellent versatility with his ability to play all four corners and second base and has the biggest power in this group. But just like a burger from Five Guys, these players may all be a little more expensive than they are worth. The Royals are notorious for over-valuing their veterans; Fukudome is on the last year of a very big contract; the Twins are actually creeping back into the playoff race so they may be reluctant to give up their All Star. Fukudome could probably be had for a lower tier prospect like Weiland if the Sox take on his salary. The Royals and Twins would probably start off by asking for Iglesias or Ranaudo, but they may settle for a package of Reddick and Bowden.

Wendy’s Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe (Value Menu options; some value but like fitting a square burger on a round bun)

David DeJesus, A’s; Josh Willingham, A’s; Luke Scott, Orioles; Emilio Bonifacio, Marlins; Ryan Ludwick, Padres

I don’t think anyone on this list should play full time over J.D. Drew, but some could be good platoon partners.  DeJesus had an excellent season last year that was cut short to an unfortunate injury. Whether that injury is still bothering him or Oakland’s huge park is playing a role, he has had a horrible season this year. He is still a good defender but as a lefty bat he wouldn’t be a great fit for this team. Willingham is a right handed power bat who has had some of his power sapped this year probably from Oakland. Though his bat would look nice, I don’t think the former catcher would be able to handle Fenway’s big right field. Same goes for Scott, who should have been Baltimore’s every day DH this year before they got starry-eyed and threw a bunch of money at aging Vladimir Guerrero. Bonifacio is fast and versatile on defense, but (current 15 game hitting streak notwithstanding) can’t hit a lick. Ludwick has experienced a steep decline since being traded to San Diego last year and it is not just in home games as his home/away OPS are only .003 different. All of these players could probably be had for some cash and a player to be named later, but none would really provide the Sox anything they can’t get in house.

What the Red Sox should do

Trade for the Cubs’ Reed Johnson (I didn’t include Johnson on any of the above lists because I couldn’t think of a burger that is cheap and underrated). As one of Drew’s biggest defenders the last 5 years, it pains me to say that he is probably done. The team clearly needs to move on. In his place I would give Reddick the majority of the playing time to see what the team has. He appears to be a very capable defender and if he shows that he is over matched at the plate, the Sox offense is still the best in baseball even without a good hitting right fielder. To help ease the rigors of playing every day in the Major Leagues, Boston should look for a right handed hitting platoon partner. Johnson is having his best year at the plate this season and has always killed lefties. Though the Cubs would prefer to trade Fukudome or Alphonso Soriano, the Red Sox should be able to get Johnson with some cash and a mediocre prospect. Also, they need to release Darnell McDonald immediately. He should never see another at bat with this team. Seeing him batting fifth on the interleague road trip was an embarrassment to this team.

What the Red Sox will do

I have no friggin’ clue. This is a tough position to decipher because of Theo’s love for Drew. My guess is that they get a right handed option off the bench like Johnson, but keep Drew as the starter against righties and move Reddick to the 5th outfield role. But I could see the Mets getting desperate with Beltran, the Dodgers getting desperate with their players and Billy Beane really working the phones to unload his underperforming players. Desperation produces unpredictable results so for all I know we could see Jason Bay clumsily patrolling right when all is said and done. Either way, I’d say this is the position most likely to see an addition, I just don’t know what caliber.

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