Last week’s signing of Rusney Castillo provided a much needed spark for Red Sox fans as the team continues its downward spiral down the final stretch of the 2014 season. People are excited about his speed, athletic ability and most importantly, the fact that all signs point to him contributing immediately. Of course, Ben Cherington’s assertion that Castillo is projected as a center fielder will certainly have some repercussions down the line.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. had been given the keys by the front office in Boston to take control of the center field position for years to come, however his performance has been less than stellar. While his defense has been magnificent, there isn’t a team in all of MLB that can afford to have a player struggle at the plate like Bradley has all season long. This led to the recent demotion to Pawtucket for JBJ, allowing “Mookie Madness” to return to the big league club.
Mookie Betts is an exciting player that has taken advantage of every opportunity he has been given so far. In 54 games, he hit .355 in Portland with 34 RBI and 6 HR. He was promoted to Pawtucket where he hit .335 in 45 games, with 31 RBI and 5 HR. These aren’t huge samples, but the Red Sox haven’t had anything going at the plate this season. When you compare his numbers to Bradley, it’s apparent that Boston’s hand was forced – they had to promote Betts and at least give him a shot. While he hasn’t exactly been on fire, Mookie has shown flashes of greatness both in the field and at the plate (Betts hit his second home run in Monday night’s victory over Toronto).
However, let’s not forget that Betts is not a natural center fielder. So what is the ultimate end-game for the Red Sox in using Betts in the outfield? My contention would be that the Red Sox are showcasing him for an offseason trade, perhaps for the most coveted, current golden boy of baseball – Giancarlo Stanton. It’s getting to be a cliché – Red Sox clamoring over a guy that may not even be on the market, but the Marlins’ history in not signing big money, long-term contracts adds fuel to the fire.
In order to obtain Stanton, one would gather that it would have to take at least three, possibly four top-of-the-line prospects. It will most likely take a good combination of pitchers and position players. The argument over whether or not possible front-of-the-rotation pitching prospect Henry Owens or the struggling Xander Bogaerts are “untouchable” is for another day, but I truly believe Mookie could have a good deal of value in the Stanton trade.
The Sox know what they have in Jackie Bradley, Jr, and there is not a ton of value for a trade there, so they sent him to Pawtucket to gain some confidence. They weren’t exactly sure about Mookie Betts though, and he’s hopefully now catching the eye of Marlins executives. He is athletic, can obviously play multiple positions, isn’t easily fazed by off-nights at the plate and plays with an energetic style that can be infectious in a clubhouse.
The Red Sox have a lot of decisions to make with an abundance of outfielders heading into next season, so I’m not sure where Betts fits in. His true value to Boston may in fact be that he is a piece that can finally bring the future middle-of-the-lineup superstar to Fenway for years to come in Giancarlo Stanton. A guy can dream, can’t he?