Where can Red Sox turn for outfield help?
CLEVELAND — Entering Tuesday night’s game, the Red Sox outfield is hitting a collective .215 with a .614 OPS. It’s simply awful. According to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, it is on pace to be the Red Sox’ least productive outfield in the 162-game era.
The Red Sox are ranked 24th in the majors in left field production (.241/.680), 30th in center field (.189/.582), and 28th in right field (.213/.580).
They have their scouts out looking hard for an outfielder, a guy who can play defense and be steady at the plate. As they gave Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts as long as they could to solidify the left side of the infield before pulling the trigger on Stephen Drew, they are now giving Daniel Nava, Grady Sizemore, and Jackie Bradley Jr. every opportunity to call off the wolves.
Right now, the wolves are howling.
The Red Sox would love a David Murphy type. Murphy himself would be great except he’s having a good season in Cleveland (.282, 5 homers, 32 RBIs, .778 OPS), and the Indians aren’t giving up on anything at the moment.
The Phillies are always a possible trading partner. It’s no coincidence that for the past five series, three Philadelphia scouts have been following the Red Sox. They and others know that the Red Sox are trying to fix things one by one and get ready for the run that most people in baseball feel they still can make to take the division.
According to major league sources, the Phillies are making pretty much everyone on their roster available in trade. Chase Utley has 10/5 rights and he’s still a very good player the Phillies could rebuild around.
The Phillies would deal John Mayberry Jr., a big righthanded hitter who has found himself in that Mike Carp area — never able to truly show what he can do with a full-time shot.
There’s the underachieving Domonic Brown (.206, 4 homers, 27 RBIs), another talented player who simply hasn’t performed to his skill.
The Red Sox have been there/done that with Marlon Byrd, but who knows if they would do it again? Byrd could provide righthanded power.
Another team to watch as a possible trade partner is the underachieving Kansas City Royals. They may not be ready to fold their tent, even though they’re last in the AL Central. If they do, the Red Sox always have coveted Alex Gordon (.277, 5, 30), but the Royals entered Tuesday with the same 27-30 record as Boston. The oft-injured Lorenzo Cain is also an attractive player on that team.
There aren’t a lot of great choices — or teams willing to trade players even after the amateur draft this week — but here are a few possible options:
■ Carlos Quentin, RF, Padres —You would have to commit to the oft-injured Quentin as a left fielder and therefore eliminate a significant role for Jonny Gomes, so we don’t see this as a fit, even though he would provide more righthanded power. He’s a good player when he plays.
■ Josh Willingham, LF, Twins — Another guy who has been banged up a lot. Again, the Twins have probably performed a little bit better than they thought they would, so it’s hard for them to give up players at this juncture. They, too, have an underperforming outfield, and they aren’t completely happy with Willingham.
■ Cody Ross, OF, Diamondbacks — Arizona is likely to be open to dealing a few players since its season is going nowhere. Ross has come back from a bad hip injury and is playing every day. He is a guy who performed well for the Sox in the past but who may not be the player they let go to free agency a couple of years ago.
■ Martin Prado, 3B, Diamondbacks — Prado is a very upbeat, energetic player who is currently playing third but certainly can play the outfield. This is an intriguing righthanded hitter who has played 252 games in left field.
■ Nate Schierholtz, RF, Cubs — Somewhere in that .212 average is a good player who hit 21 homers for the Cubs last season. He’s 30 years old, a good outfielder, a lefthanded bat. He’s definitely on the Red Sox’ radar.
■ Emilio Bonifacio, CF, Cubs — He can be the worst-looking player and then the best. Very uneven performer, but scouts say he’s a much better outfielder than infielder. Bonifacio hit .337 in April, .214 in May. He’s very fast.
■ Andre Ethier, CF, Dodgers — This is a name that pops up a lot. But the money owed to him, coupled with the fact that he doesn’t hit lefthanders very well, doesn’t make him an attractive choice. The Dodgers would have to eat some of the $40 million-plus owed to him . . . and who doesn’t hit lefties?
■ Chris Denorfia, OF Padres — He is hitting .270 and will become a free agent after this season. A Connecticut native who attended Wheaton College in Norton, Denorfia could become available as the Padres start to fade.
■ Seth Smith, LF, Padres — Another Padre outfielder having a good season (.310). Smith has become a very good starting player after years of platooning. Could he be a good platoon with Gomes in left?
■ Jose Tabata, OF, Pirates — When the Pirates bring up Gregory Polanco, Tabata will be expendable. He’s hitting .281 with no power but is a righthanded bat and a guy who can play the outfield. Not sure this does much for the Red Sox.
■ Reed Johnson, OF, Marlins — A solid outfielder/righthanded bat hitting .324. Don’t know why the Marlins would deal him, but for a mid-range positional prospect, they could do it.
■ Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies — Dickerson, 25, is a lefthanded hitter having a good season playing part-time. He’s hitting .341 with seven homers, all of which have come vs. righthanded pitchers. He has played 12 games in left and nine in center while DHing five times in interleague play.
The Red Sox don’t like parting with prospects, and they don’t want to have to trade for an outfielder. Yes, Shane Victorino will return at some point, and if he can have a long stretch of good health, that would help stabilize things.
Prospect Mookie Betts has been promoted to Pawtucket, so he could be an option, in time.
How long can they wait?
In the AL East, you probably can exercise some patience with a few teams bunched up and the possibility that Toronto isn’t going to run away.
The outfield should be the most offensively productive area of any baseball team, but it has been Boston’s biggest Achilles’ heel so far.
The Red Sox, like the rest of us, don’t understand it. But they’re looking to do something about it soon.