The Boston Red Sox, according to most rumors — not to mention common sense — will be looking to thin out their surplus of outfielders this offseason, dealing at least one of the group away as part of a package to pull in a front-line starting pitcher such as Cole Hamels or Chris Sale.
But reports of new rumors around Boston say that the Red Sox may actually add a new name to the outfield mix — Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper, a superstar in the making. Some would say Harper is a superstar already, with a 2012 Rookie of the Year award and two All Star selections already in his brief, three-year career.
When Washington made Harper the top overall draft pick in Major League Baseball back in 2010, the then-18-year-old was already one of the most-hyped prospects in decades or at least since Ken Griffey Jr. more than 20 years ago.
Harper actually dropped out of high school after his sophomore year and completed his GED, allowing him to enroll in junior college and play baseball at a higher level right away.
However, while Harper’s performance has been impressive, especially considering he turned just 22 years old only last week, a string of injuries limited Harper to just 100 games and 395 plate appearances in 2014 — and 118 games with 497 PAs the year before.
Hamels once hit Harper with a pitch on purpose, by his own admission, just to teach the kid a lesson.
Considering that both Hamels and Harper are now the subject of Boston trade rumors, the prospect of both players in the Fenway Park clubhouse would be like Christmas from April to October for the Boston media, which thrives on that sort of personality-driven coverage.””
Presumably the Red Sox — or for that matter, the Nationals — would hope that Harper’s scheduled marriage in January to college women’s soccer star Kayla Varner will help ground him, at least somewhat.
So why would the Red Sox be willing to deal for Harper? For starters, even with their over-supply of outfielders, they still have a significant hole in right field — despite five players who could take that spot in Fenway, perhaps the trickiest right field in baseball.
Unless the Red Sox are unable to extend the contract of Yoenis Cespedes and end up dealing him, the Cuban star who arrived from Oakland in the Jon Lester trade appears to be locked into the left field position.
Boston’s other Cuban import, Rusney Castillo, will take center field duties — unless the Red Sox don’t trade Mookie Betts.
Jackie Bradley Jr. has not yet shown he can hit consistently enough to take an everyday roster spot in Boston.
Castillo could conceivably man right field, but the position would appear to play against his strength, which is the ability to cover huge amounts of real estate in a hurry.
That leaves the chronically injured Shane Victorino, an also-gimpy Allen Craig and role-player Daniel Nava as the remaining options. But a trio of Cespedes, Castillo and Harper would transform the Red Sox outfield from among the worst in baseball in 2014 to perhaps 2015’s best, overnight.
Naturally, Harper won’t come cheap. But with the Red Sox rumored to be resigned to dealing one or all of Betts, top catching prospect Blake Swihart and leading lefty minor league pitcher Henry Owens, Boston General Manager Ben Cherington is one of the few execs in baseball with both the resources at his disposal to put together a package that could tempt Washington — and the willingness to make the deal.
Will Bryce Harper end up patrolling the Boston Red Sox right field come April? For now, the talk is all just rumors — but after the disastrous first-to-worst 2014 in Boston, nothing should seem too crazy.