By Jeff Louderback
How important is the second round pick (No. 44 overall) in next summer’s draft for the Boston Red Sox? The answer to that question will determine if the club signs someone like Nick Swisher or Josh Hamilton to fill the right field void, bring back Cody Ross or perhaps ink Shane Victorino, or complete a trade.
Swisher and Hamilton received qualifying offers from their respective 2012 teams so signing either player will require the Red Sox sacrifice their second round selection. Boston’s first round pick, which is No. 7 overall, is protected.
Mike Napoli – who signed a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox today – was appealing to Boston because he did not cost a draft pick compared to another alternative, Adam LaRoche, who received a qualifying offer from Washington.
The Red Sox appear reluctant to trade top prospects like Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Matt Barnes and Bryce Brentz, and with good reason. All four players have high ceilings and are close to being Major League ready. Boston will get a potential impact player at No. 7, and the No. 44 selection can yield a difference maker, too.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has reiterated that the club will refrain from long-term deals (meaning contract of five or more years). He has also indicated that the team wants to build a roster of versatile players for added depth in case of injuries. Swisher is a switch-hitter who can proficiently play right field, center field and first base. Victorino is a switch-hitter who can adeptly play all three outfield spots.
Since Hamilton has one of the most potent left-handed bats in the game, Boston could sacrifice the second round pick if the slugger would agree to a four-year deal. Swisher’s versatility could lead the Red Sox to hand over the No. 44 pick to the New York Yankees and sign the affable veteran to three-year or four-year contract.
The Red Sox are reportedly interested in former Cleveland Indians standout Grady Sizemore. Boston could sign Sizemore as an extra outfielder and re-sign Ross. If the 30-year-old Sizemore’s knee has recovered, he could play left field or right field when right-handed pitchers are on the mound.
An outfield of Jonny Gomes, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ross and Sizemore would offer versatility and not cost the Red Sox their second round pick. It would also not interfere with the arrivals of Ryan Kalish, Bradley and Brentz since none of the aforementioned outfielders would be signed to long-term deals.
A four-year contract with Hamilton would be worth giving up the No. 44 pick. Swisher at three years or four years would be palatable as well. Otherwise, the Red Sox should pursue outfield options that won’t cost the second round selection and/or trade for young players under team control for at least two more seasons.