Farrell tabs Victorino as starting right fielder
Injuries derailed Shane Victorino’s 2014 campaign, as the Wailuku, Hawaii native made three separate trips to the disabled list. The final stint required an early-August surgery on two bulging disks in his back. However, Victorino’s lost 2014 season won’t cost him a spot in Boston’s 2015 starting lineup, according to manager John Farrell, who told the media on Friday, “If Shane Victorino is fully capable and fully healthy he's our right fielder. I mean, that’s pretty simple."
Health is something that is becoming harder to count on from Victorino, who turned 34 in November and in recent seasons has an injury log littered with ailments that can be attributed to his all-out style of play. However, when he’s been on the field, Victorino has been one of the more reliable all-around outfielders in the game, averaging 4.7 WARP between 2010-2013, including a five-win effort in his most recent full season. A considerable portion of Victorino’s game throughout his career has been tied to his legs, with value added both on the basepaths and as a plus defender roaming the outfield. As he enters his mid-30s, it’s reasonable to expect a drop off in performance, but for now Farrell is willing to give the veteran the nod with the hope that he’ll resemble the catalyst who propelled the Red Sox to their 2013 title.
Even so, Farrell’s announcement may come as a surprise to some given Mookie Betts’ assault on the upper minors and his promising major league debut. Victorino's surgery opened the door for Betts to hit .303/.386/.458 over the final two months, leading many to believe the 22-year-old had earned himself a spot in the 2015 starting lineup. Back in December, Farrell himself called Betts the strongest candidate to be the club’s opening day leadoff hitter, but that’s looking less likely after the skipper’s most recent announcement.
Barring injury, Victorino and Hanley Ramirez appear to have the two corner outfield spots locked down and the Red Sox aren’t about to send Rusney Castillo to Pawtucket after committing $72.5 million to him last season. That said, Castillo is an unproven commodity and both Victorino and Ramirez have had trouble staying on the field in the past. The path to playing time for Betts may not be clear as of this moment, but he probably won’t have to wait too long for his presumed part-time role to expand.
Rangers may pick up Beltre’s 2016 option before this season
When the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre to a five-year, $80 million contract in 2011, a $16 million option for 2016 was included that would vest if the third baseman accumulated 1,200 plate appearances over the final two years of the contract. The 35-year-old stepped to the plate 614 times last season en route to a .320 True Average, so if he fails to reach 586 plate appearances next season the Rangers have the right to void his 2016 contract.
Beltre has had quite the unusual career path, going through the most dominant stretch of his career after turning 30. In fact, the 33.3 bWAR that he’s accumulated the past five years is the 15th most ever by a player between the age-31 through age-35 seasons and the most since Barry Bonds from 1996-2000. He turns 36 in April and has seen his power trend downward each of the past four seasons but it would take a massive decline in skills to imagine a scenario in which he wouldn’t be worth committing $16 million to at the start of 2016.
With that in mind, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels indicated on Sunday that the club is considering picking up Beltre’s option before the start of this season, if for no other reason than to avoid it becoming a distraction or storyline throughout the year. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram also writes that Beltre and the club both have a mutual desire for the third baseman to end his career in a Rangers uniform, so such a gesture of good faith would presumably go one step further in making that notion a reality.
An extended stay in Texas for Beltre would also increase the chances of an eventual move off the hot corner for mega-prospect Joey Gallo. Scouting reports have indicated that Gallo’s glove and footwork at third continued to take a step forward this past season and that talent-wise there isn’t reason to move his plus-plus arm off the position just yet. However, with an expected ETA of 2016 for Gallo, retaining Beltre for at least one more year and possibly longer would make a move to either first base or right field all the more likely for Gallo upon arrival.
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