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Red Sox should pursue Padres’ outfielder Chris Denorfia

The Boston Red Sox are in need of stronger outfield depth after former center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $153 million deal with the New York Yankees. While some appealing options on the free agent market have since signed, there does exist the possibility that the Sox could make a trade with the San Diego Padres for veteran outfielder Chris Denorfia. The 33-year old right-handed hitting New England native could be an excellent fit, and would likely be a regular in the Boston outfield.

Denorfia has improved as a big league outfielder as his career has progressed. In 2012, at age 31, Denorfia had the best year of his career, hitting .293 while playing 130 games. While his average dropped last season (.279), Denorfia played a career-high 144 games. He is largely considered an above average outfielder, though tasking him with an everyday job in center or right field at Fenway Park would be a challenge. Still, Denorfia has experience playing all three outfield positions in his major league career, making him a versatile option.

Across the board, Denorfia would be the second best outfield option for the Red Sox, just behind Shane Victorino. While Daniel Nava had a breakout 2013 season, he’s still a fairly unproven player when compared to Denorfia. Still, the team would hardly have to choose between the two.

As of today, the ideal Red Sox outfield next season would have Shane Victorino in right, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center, and a platoon of Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes in left. That’s a solid outfield assuming Bradley Jr. is able to contribute something offensively, which is far from a guarantee after he hit .189 in just over a month’s worth of games last year.

So what happens if Bradley isn’t big league material come April? The Sox would likely play Victorino in center field, with Nava and Gomes at the corner spots. There is some lost defensive capabilities with that outfield, but the need to rely upon Nava and Gomes everyday could wear the two down at the plate. The key is that the Sox need a backup center field option other than Victorino.

Center field at Fenway Park would be a challenge for Denorfia, but he would be an excellent fit on the roster, likely replacing someone like Mike Carp. While Denorfia has value, the San Diego Padres have a very crowded outfield, making it likely they’ll be looking to make a trade. San Diego currently has seven potential outfield options; Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Seth Smith, Alexi Amarista, Kyle Blanks, and Denorfia.

Add in the fact that Denorfia will become a free agent following the 2014 season truly makes him an ideal fit. The Sox won’t have to make a commitment to the veteran, who can use the 2014 season to attempt to prove his value in the later years of his career to the rest of the league. If Jackie Bradley Jr. is ready to go, Boston can rotate between Denorfia and Nava in left. And if he isn’t, the outfield doesn’t become a disastrous situation, and Bradley can reclaim a regular roster spot in 2015.

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