Red Sox: Murky future for backup outfielder Chris Young

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 06: Chris Young
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 06: Chris Young /

Outfielder Chris Young wishes to stay with the Boston Red Sox, a noble choice that may fall victim to fiscal concerns. Does he have a future here?

When their playing days are starting to hit the twilight years players have a natural desire to remain as long as possible. Who can blame them? The accumulation of pension credits, luxurious travel accommodations and oh, that money!

As the player ages and skills diminish the role dramatically changes as a one-time All-Star can be relegated to being a bench or part-time player. This is often a natural progression and no professional shame should accompany it. Boston Red Sox outfielder Chris Young now is just such a player.

Young recently spoke out regarding his future with the Red Sox. He’s now entering the last few weeks of a two-year contract that paid him $13 million. Young’s total career compensation is near $50 million so one can understand his self-promotion to stay with Boston.

"“It’s been a good relationship but I’m not sure about their plans,” Young told the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo."

The second part of Young’s career is as a part-time player. Young’s skills may not be on the level of his salad days with Arizona, but he does fill a need – especially when outfield help is needed. In 2016 the right-handed hitting Young hit .276 with nine home runs and 24 RBI despite missing time with injuries.

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This season, Young’s average is down, but his power numbers just about duplicate 2016 with another month to go. Defensively, Young generally is consigned to the corner positions but is capable of center field duty if necessary. What Young does provide is a solid number four outfielder and a decent bat off the bench.

Despite Young’s desire to remain in Boston he most certainly will be gone. The Red Sox will look elsewhere, which usually means cheaper. The cheaper option exists with Bryce Brentz, who was once believed to be the next solid right-hand power hitter for Boston. That never happened and the former first-round pick (2010) finally was designated for assignment.

Brentz will be 29-years-old next season and may have suddenly put it together by leading the International League in home runs this season going into the last week of IL play. Brentz also won a Home Run Derby at the Triple-A All-Star Game and continues to be a creditable outfielder at Pawtucket.

Brentz does what Young does for a fraction of the cost. Can he do it at the MLB level? Brentz has had a taste of “The Show” with a .287 average, but that is only a small sample based on 87 at-bats. The Red Sox will certainly give Brentz ample opportunity to replace Young unless Young is willing to accept a significant reduction in salary or the Red Sox could check other options.

The Red Sox could also consider having an abundance of players that can fill almost any role – including the outfield. The low-cost option is Tzu-Wei Lin, who was impressive in his dip into the MLB pool. Lin is reportedly capable of playing all positions and did show some reputable defensive skills when brought to the big club.

Brock Holt is the next pay grade up from Lin. The Brock Star is in his first season of arbitration. Holt is on the 2017 books for a shade under $2 million and with arbitration that generally means a hike in pay. How much is debatable. Holt has played all three outfield positions with Boston, but his comfort zone is the corner positions.

Free agency also offers the opportunity and the potential prize for a fourth outfielder would be Daniel Nava doing a three-peat with the Red Sox. Nava has had a stellar season with the Phillies and can play some first base when needed. A true dirt dog.

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The Red Sox acquired Rajai Davis to alleviate some temporary outfield misery. Davis brings plenty of speed, but his light hitting – as in home run light – is of concern. Davis is also a free agent, but will probably be signed somewhere in the range of his current $6 million.

The Red Sox could go the pricey option and that is Eduardo Nunez, who is also quite capable of picket line duty, but his defensive resume is only 49 games in the outfield. Nunez is considered first and foremost an infield specialist. Nunez is a free agent so the money issue may mean a signing other than Boston.

The fiscal top shelf is Rusney Castillo. Castillo has finally displayed all the skills that brought him a $72 million contract. The problem is the display took place in the International League and not the American League. Would Boston risk adding Castillo’s salary and the luxury tax ramifications?

The Red Sox have a potential smorgasbord of choices. If they want cheap it is available. If they wish speed, then that is also available. If it is power the look may be towards Brentz. For ultra versatility, the choices are Lin, Nunez, and Holt.

Next: Starter Doug Fister finding new life

Whatever the Red Sox finally decide I believe Young will be on the outside looking in. A veteran with a big paycheck is a fiscal target and that is Young. Young’s days in Boston were what one would expect since he just did his job.  By all accounts, Young is a solid baseball clubhouse guy as possible.