What’s Next for the Red Sox Outfield?


Any way you look at it, this season was a bust for the Red Sox.

The outfield one-two punch that Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino created in 2013 is long gone. Ellsbury went to New York, and Victorino has been out with injuries. A major problem for the Red Sox this season has been attempting to adequately replace both outfielders, both on the field and on the top of the batting order.

To fill the holes, the Sox made major deals, the most prominent being the Lester trade just before the deadline that shipped slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston. A few months later, they gave a $72 million contract to Cuban Rusney Castillo, another outfielder to throw into the mix.

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But now that this season is behind us, how next season goes in the outfield will be the deciding factor on whether the Red Sox made the right trades and pickups.

The Red Sox currently have seven outfielders who can make a case to why they should be on the 2015 roster. Truthfully, the exact futures of all seven is uncertain. But how the Red Sox sort out the outfield will be a major storyline this offseason.

The next few months is bound to have some trades. The Red Sox simply cannot go all next season with four very capable MLB outfielders sitting on the bench. Let’s take a minute to go through all seven and predict what next season holds in store for each.

1. Shane Victorino

The Flyin’ Hawaiian was injury plagued for much of this season. His absence in the number two spot and in the outfield put pressure on Jackie Bradley to produce. And when JBJ couldn’t even hit .230, we missed Victorino even more.

Jul 25, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Shane Victorino (18) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Next season, Victorino will be in the last year of his contract. He’s 34 years old and is injury prone. The Flyin’ Hawaiian probably won’t be the one you see in right field next season. Expect him to either be involved in a package deal this offseason or play a pinch role in 2015.

2. Jackie Bradley, Jr.

In a way, Jackie Bradley could be compared to former Sox shortstop Stephen Drew. He can make spectacular fielding plays in center field, yet when he steps up to the plate, he can’t reach first base almost 80% of the time. I compare him to Drew mainly because I have a hunch that it will end in the same way – with him on another team.

Unless there is a miraculous breakthrough, Bradley is most definitely not the Red Sox’s future center fielder. But because of his fielding talent, however, Bradley could be intriguing to other teams. If there is going to be a major trade this offseason, which there most likely will be, I think Bradley will be a part of it. If there isn’t, Bradley will most likely remain in Triple-A until the Sox think can hit better than .230 in the Majors.

3. Yoenis Cespedes

Cespedes is probably the outfielder who has the highest chance of landing a spot on the Sox roster in 2015. That’s mainly because they want to get their money’s worth for the guy they traded Lester for. He’s also shown that he is simply the best player out of the group. Over the past 3 seasons in the Majors, he’s hit an average of 22 home runs. He’s shown throughout his Major league career that he can be the one to hit in the middle of a lineup with lots of RBI and homers.

Boston Red Sox left fielder Yoenis Cespedes at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The rumors about Giancarlo Stanton coming to Boston for Cespedes and others in a package deal are still swirling around the media, but nothing has formulated with the Marlins to this point. For now, that trade really remains a dream. Excluding any thoughts of a Stanton trade, Cespedes will most likely  remain with the Sox and will be the main power bat in the lineup next season.

4. Allen Craig

Allen Craig is a mystery on how good he really can be. The Lackey trade for him and Joe Kelly has really been an experiment from the start, as Craig is 30 years old and has suffered through injury through parts of this season. But this year, Craig has been terrible at the plate. Nobody really knows whether he will be able to bounce back in 2015 or if he is really just a bust from here on out. Since the Fourth of July, Craig has had the worst batting average in the league (.121) for anyone who has stepped up to the plate more than 100 times in that span.

Craig is blocked by both Mike Napoli and David Ortiz to be either the DH or 1st baseman, so next season his real position will have to be a corner outfield spot. There, he will have to fight for playing time with Mookie Betts, who, in the past few months, has shown that he can be a very talented young Major League player. For Craig, there is a tough path ahead to earn the starting job in any position on the Red Sox unless he can get his bat working again.

5. Daniel Nava

For some time in 2013, we could count on Nava to sometimes even hit in the number 2 slot and be a major factor in getting hits and runs for the Sox. But this season, its been a whole different story. He just never found his groove at the plate, only hitting a .268 with 4 home runs on the year. Obviously, those numbers are better than some of the other outfielders you could have put in his spot, but you still would have liked more from him this season. His performance in general was sort of underwhelming.

Sep 14, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Daniel Nava (29) at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Nava now has some serious competition in the outfield with Rusney Castillo in center and Yoenis Cespedes in one of the two corner spots. He will have to step up his game if he wants to beat out Victorino, Mookie Betts, and Allen Craig to start consistently. My guess is that with all of the chaos trying to sort out the outfield, Nava will get left behind. I’d expect him to either play a pinch role in 2015 or be packaged in with a trade this offseason.

6. Mookie Betts

What we’ve seen from Mookie this season was essentially what we hoped for from Jackie Bradley and Xander Bogaerts. He’s shown to the Red Sox that he can play almost any position, first of all. He can also hit Major League pitching far better than anyone expected he could at the beginning of this season. On the year, he’s hit 4 home runs with a .292 batting average. These stats encouraged the Red Sox to throw him in the batting order at the number 1 or 2 spot at the end of the season. He has really brought some energy and spark to the team – something that the Sox have been lacking in all season.

There are really only two options for Mookie this offseason, and I’d say both are about equally likely. The first thing that could happen is that he could be involved in a major deal this offseason for either a star pitcher (Chris Sale?) or a power guy (Giancarlo Stanton?). The Red Sox have been playing him a lot lately. That could be an indication that they are trying to showcase him to other teams. But at the same time, maybe Mookie has convinced them that he is really going to be a very talented young player in the future. In that case, he stays on the Sox and most likely starts in a corner outfield position. Whatever happens, Mookie is a valuable guy to have on the team. He’s going to help the Sox, whether it be through a trade or through his own talent.

7. Rusney Castillo

At this point in time, not much is known about Rusney Castillo. Some people thing that the Red Sox payed too much money for him. Others think he is the Sox’s new ‘center fielder of the future’. To most fans, he is a talented Cuban outfielder who has recently started playing center field for the Red Sox. And to the Red Sox organization, he could be one of many things.

Sep 27, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Rusney Castillo (38) steals second base past the tag of New York Yankees shortstop

Jose Pirela

(67) during the second inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A trade chip, maybe. Or maybe he is the Sox’s center fielder of the future. They payed $72 Million for him, so whatever they do with him, they have to make sure it is the right decision. If a trade comes up with, say, Giancarlo Stanton, involving him, I’d say goodbye to Castillo right away. But if nothing comes up this offseason, I’d keep him and see how he develops as a player in 2015. We still have to see how he can hit Major League pitching, and how good he is in center field.

The Red Sox have some very important choices to make this offseason that will influence how 2015 plays out in a dramatic way. Hopefully next season’s outfield can be better than this year’s. Although I wouldn’t say that that will be very hard to accomplish.