July 13, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Boston Red Sox defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1B and OF: Sox Answers and More Questions to Boston's Gaps and Cracks

In the past week the Red Sox have come to terms with Mike Napoli. As a result, we’ve learned a lot more about Napoli’s hip injury and what it could potentially mean to Boston’s first base options. As of Friday we also learned that fourth outfielder Ryan Kalish will undergo shoulder surgery, likely to be the labrum, on his non-throwing shoulder. In both cases and for very different reasons, the Red Sox will need to make plans to ensure they’re less vulnerable during the season.

Sweeney: A band-aid who can’t fill the power lefty hole Boston needs filled. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

In response to Kalish’s surgery, Boston signed 2012 Sox retread and clubhouse door combatant Ryan Sweeney to a minor league contract. While Sweeney provides a small measure of insurance, he’s not the answer that Boston is looking for when making left-field platoon moves with Jonny Gomes, which is a power hitting lefty outfielder. Sweeney is a band-aid at best. True, Sweeney is a lefty and an outfielder but for whatever reason the 27-year old 6’4″ 220-pound journeyman has averaged just three homers and a .715 OPS  per year during his uninjured and/or five full MLB seasons. Those are for real numbers, more likely to occur in, well, well, no position in baseball at this point. The mlb average for second baseman in 2012 was 14 homers and a .730 OPS. Short-term, switch-hitter Daniel Nava should get plenty of playing time as the season opens.

Gomes insists he can be Boston’s every day left fielder. Not true. Gomes has a career slash line of .284/.382/.512 against left-handed pitching compared to a .223/.307/.425 against right-handers, which further underscores the need for a power lefty in the lineup on days when good righties face the Boston lineup.

The signing of Mike Napoli helps with but does not solve Boston’s first base hole. Napoli, signed to a $5 million one-year deal by a cautious Sox management team after a physical revealed his avascular necrosis condition, will continue to be a question mark both from a health and durability perspective. Boston could use a power hitting lefty that plays first base to supplement Napoli’s play. Hey wait, what about that Ortiz guy?

Think about it. While stellar defense certainly isn’t Big Papi’s trademark, neither is it Napoli’s so there’s no real trade off there. With Bill James firmly back in the fold Boston could get all Sabermetrics about this, platooning Papi at first on days when a pitcher he particularly has trouble with is on the hill. Simply switch up Ortiz and Napoli. Napoli becomes the DH, gets a rest at first and Papi takes a hitting day off against a tough opponent. Additionally, the more regularly cadenced work at first base would keep Papi fresh and sharp when the inevitable inter-league play monster rears its ugly head and forces Boston to go without the services of a DH.

If Boston really wants another power hitting lefty at first base they could explore options with Casey Kotchman, Lyle Overbay or Nick Johnson.

All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.
- Another Brick In The Wall, Pink Floyd 

Tags: Boston Red Sox

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