Shane Victorino: Red Sox trade candidate or centerpiece?


The Shane Victorino of 2013, the one who exceeded expectations in a big way, hitting .294/.351/.451 with Gold Glove defense in right field, was promptly forgotten during 2014. Victorino’s season was wrecked by hamstring and back injuries, causing Victorino to play in just 30 games for the Red Sox, in which he slashed a lackluster .268/.303/.382 with just 2 home runs and 2 stolen bases.

With 2013 and 2014 out of the way, we’ve likely seen the best and worst of what Victorino has to offer. His 2015 will probably fall in between the two extremes and, with a crowded outfield and ample spending capacity, it’s up to the Red Sox to determine what to do with Victorino this offseason.

Even at age 33 and coming off a lost season, he’s still good enough to start on a first-division team, mainly due to his elite defense in right field. However, the Red Sox just don’t have the room to immediately plug him into the outfield with a starting gig. Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, and Mookie Betts are currently likely to be the starting outfielders for the Red Sox and barring a trade of Betts or Cespedes, it should stay that way. Victorino would be a phenomenal fourth outfielder to have, offering excellent defense and solid hitting off the bench, but he may not be happy with taking such a reduced role on the team.

Of course, the other option is to trade Victorino. His contract is reasonable (the Red Sox are on the hook for $13M next season before he becomes a free agent) but his lost season last year does hamper his trade value. If that’s the route that the Red Sox aim to take, however, they could likely net a solid mid-level prospect, particularly if they were willing to eat some of his salary.

Ultimately, Boston’s decision on Victorino will hinge on how they seek to improve their pitching. If the Red Sox pursue a free agent starter like James Shields or Jon Lester to fill the gap at the top of their rotation, then Victorino could be expendable. If they trade to acquire a starter like Cole Hamels or Jeff Samardzija, however, they will likely have to part with Betts to make that deal. I’ve spoken before about why the Red Sox should not trade Betts at any cost, but that’s an argument for a different time and place, and if Betts is traded, then Victorino will be in line to start the 2015 season in center field.

Victorino’s role next season is one of the tougher topics to predict about the Red Sox offseason. In an ideal scenario, he would be the fourth outfielder behind Cespedes, Castillo, and Betts but with Allen Craig, Daniel Nava, and potentially Brock Holt also vying for time in the outfield, that may not be possible. Somebody will likely have to be traded this offseason and there’s a real possibility that it’s Victorino.