Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Odd man out

 Mike Carp has been a valuable piece to the Red Sox since being traded to Boston before last season, but with a potentially overloaded roster forthcoming, somebody has to go

In a perfect world, Mike Carp remains a member of the Boston Red Sox for the rest of the 2014 season. But a Major League roster consists of only 25 players. So, as the Red Sox will soon find out, the world is anything but perfect.

The impending return of Shane Victorino from the 15-day disabled list means that somebody has to go, plain and simple.

Assuming that David Ortiz stays off the DL (he's been favoring his right leg recently), when Victorino gets back, the Red Sox will have one too many outfielders on their 25-man Major League roster.

When all are healthy, Victorino, Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley Jr, Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Carp are the six players in Boston who are outfield-ready. Of those six, only Nava and Carp can play first base.

Do you really need two outfielders who serve as backup first basemen?

Believe it or not, at the conclusion of spring training, that's the way the Red Sox had set their 25-man roster. Instead of moving either Nava or Carp, they chose to send Bradley Jr down to Triple-A Pawtucket.

As Victorino was diagnosed with a Grade 1 hamstring strain the morning of the season-opener in Baltimore, the veteran right fielder was placed on the DL, and Bradley Jr was called back up to join the team.

Initially, Bradley Jr was really the only story here: A top prospect who had a cup of coffee in Boston last year, destined to be the long-term replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in both center field and at the top of the Red Sox batting order.

Was he ready? Heck, did the Red Sox even need him to be ready?

The answer to those questions, initially, was, "No," in the minds of those making the decisions. That's why they sent him back down to the minors at the very end of spring training.

Sizemore's resurgence didn't help Bradley Jr's chances of making the big club. But the Red Sox would have been crazy not to take a chance on Sizemore if he could stay healthy and produce. He's done both. And nine games into the regular season, Sizemore is hitting .364 with eight hits, two doubles, and a home run in seven games as Boston's starting center fielder.

Now though, nine games into the regular season, Bradley Jr has played in eight of those games, and has been in the starting lineup for seven of them. He's hitting .400 with eight hits, two doubles, five RBI, and five runs scored.

Small sample size, sure. But along with his confidence at the plate (he walked three times in Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers) Bradley Jr has also shown his speed on the base paths, and has proved to be an above-average outfielder with great instincts. And that's exactly what he was projected to be. His success shouldn't come as a surprise.

Certainly, Bradley Jr is no longer the story here. He's not just earned himself a permanent spot on the 25-man Major League roster, but Bradley Jr is also making it extremely tough for Red Sox manager John Farrell to take him out of the every day lineup.

Even against left-handed pitching.

Entering their four-game series against the New York Yankees in the Bronx, which begins Thursday night, Bradley Jr got the start in two consecutive games against lefty starters to close out the previous series against the Rangers.

So as Victorino gets set to attempt a return (he's eligible to come off the DL April 15), the Red Sox will have a decision to make.

That leads us back to Carp.

If Sizemore and Bradley Jr aren't going anywhere -- which they shouldn't -- then the only way to make room for Victorino would be to do something with either Gomes, Nava, or Carp.

Let's be honest and not waste any time on Gomes. We all know he's not going anywhere.

So the decision is really between Nava and Carp. Both can play the outfield. Both can play first base. But that's pretty much where the similarities end. At the end of the day, this decision will come down to value. Value to the Red Sox, and value in the trade market.

Nava can hit from both sides of the plate, and he can be used in the lead-off spot, when needed. His season hasn't been very good out of the gate, but for someone who hit .303 in 134 games last year, the Red Sox shouldn't be willing to give up on someone who has shown as much perseverance as he has throughout his career.

Carp, the age of 27 (turns 28 in June), is three years younger than Nava. He hits strictly from the left side of the plate. His power potential is greater than Nava's. And the argument can be made that if Ortiz ever went down with an injury, Carp could be someone to assume that designated hitter role.

But we're having this conversation as if Ortiz is healthy. And even if Ortiz did go down at any point, it wouldn't be the end of the world if Napoli and/or Nava split time at DH and first base.

So it seems that, for the Red Sox, Nava has more valuable qualities than Carp. Meaning, Carp should be the odd man out. When Victorino is ready to return, Carp needs to be the guy to go.

Still in his late 20's, Carp would be more valuable in a trade than Nava. And the Red Sox would probably be able to get more in return for Carp. What's best for another team, might not be what's best for the Red Sox.

As I said on Wednesday's show on iTunes (RIP Ultimate Warrior-4/9/14), this idea that the Red Sox should send Bradley Jr back down to the minors when Victorino is healthy, because they NEED to hold onto Carp, is OUTRAGEOUS.

Think about what you're saying. You're falling in love with Mike Carp.

I even said this on Wednesday's show and in shows prior, I'm not here to run an anti-Carp campaign. That's not my goal.

My goal is to try and make the most logical decision for the Red Sox, if I had to put myself in the shoes of general manager Ben Cherington.

In a perfect world, in which 26-man rosters exist, Carp remains in Boston. But that's not the case.

Plain and simple, Carp has to go.

@DannyPicard

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