(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
In is Sunday Baseball column, Nick Cafardo wrote: “Don’t buy that Shane Victorino will be Boston’s right fielder on Opening Day. If he’s healthy, he will draw interest and be traded.” Cafardo went on to say that John Farrell’s statement that Victorino will start in right was done mostly to increase his trade value.
Before we deal the Flyin Hawaiian, however, let’s take a step back. First of all, we must remember how valuable Victorino was in 2013. Playing in 122 games, he showed speed, power, and good defense. His .294 average included 140 hits, 26 doubles, 15 homers and 61 rbi’s. He was part of the Jacoby Ellsbury-led base stealing group, with 21 steals and only 3 CS’s. His .451 SLG and .801 OPS were big contributions to the Red Sox World Championship. Though injuries slowed him last year, his 11-year career gives some strong numbers, including an SLG of .431. He is 34 years old, but I see his experience as a plus. He also is a fine clubhouse presence, and could be a steadying influence in an unsettled outfield.
If Victorino goes, the field will contain Hanley Ramirez in left, Rusney Castillo in center, and probably Mookie Betts in right. Ramirez, 31, has put in 9 seasons since leaving the Sox in 05. His hitting achievements are undeniable- a .300 lifetime average featuring 40 doubles, 25 homers and 35 stolen bases per season. His .873 OPS is excellent. He has been an NL Rookie of the Year, a batting champion, and a three-time all-star. But injuries always have seemed part of the equation. Between 2011 and 2013, various ailments limited him to an average of 81 games. His .284 average in those years featured lower power numbers. In addition, Ramirez, an infielder most of his career, is being asked to take over Fenway’s tough left field.
Betts and Castillo have strong potential, but neither has put in a full major league season. Castillo’s stats in Cuba are imposing, but he has only appeared in 10 major league games and missed most of 2014 after defecting. Betts was the Sox’ most impressive youngster last year, but has only 30-plus games in Triple A behind him. This could be a handicap, as we saw with Jackie Bradley Jr and possibly Xander Bogearts. Even Mookie is quoted as saying that he doesn’t see Victorino ahead of him being a problem.
If Shane alone could bring a stopper like Cole Hamels, it might be a good gamble. But the Phillies will want more. The Sox outfield is far from settled. For the time being, the team should think deeply about the effects of a Victorino trade.