The Boston Red Sox have too many outfielders, too many corner infielders and not enough pitching.
The Red Sox have Ramirez, Rusney Castillo, Yoenis Cespedes, Shane Victorino, Mookie Betts, Daniel Nava, Allen Craig and Jackie Bradley Jr. among their MLB-ready outfielders.
Sandoval joins Will Middlebrooks and Garin Cecchini at third, while Mike Napoli blocks Nava and Craig at first base.
If you figure that the Red Sox will roster one backup outfielder and one backup 1B/OF type, that leaves 14 players for seven roster spots.
Assuming that four of those spots are guaranteed to go to Ramirez, Sandoval, Napoli and Castillo, the Sox are left with three open spots for 10 players, meaning trades and demotions are on the horizon.
In light of these developments, we've seen several rumors pop up indicating that Cespedes is being shopped. Even before the deals, The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that the Sox could move Cespedes in an effort to open up playing time for Betts.
If the Red Sox can get a solid No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher back for Cespedes, it certainly makes sense to deal him in light of their recent acquisitions. Especially since his inclusion in any deal would likely mitigate any loss of prospects the Sox would otherwise suffer in their attempts to trade for a good MLB starter.
However, the Red Sox shouldn't feel pressured to trade Cespedes, and if the perfect deal doesn't come along, they should be more than content to open the season with the former Home Run Derby champ on their roster.
There are many reasons why this is the case, but let's look at three of the most prominent reasons why a Cespedes trade shouldn't be a given for Boston in the coming weeks.
1) Yoenis Cespedes is good
Simple enough? Cespedes is a well-above-average player, and keeping his bat in what figures to be a potent Red Sox lineup is an appealing option.
Cespedes hit .260/.301/.450 in 645 plate appearances last season, notching 22 homers and 100 RBI in 152 games. His walk rate dropped to a career-low 5.4 percent, but Cespedes also posted the second-best strikeout rate of his career at 19.8 percent.
If he's your team's best offensive player, you're probably in trouble. But if he functions as a complementary piece, he's quite valuable.
Here's one projected lineup the Red Sox could roll with if they keep Cespedes in the fold:
2B Dustin Pedroia
LF Hanley Ramirez
DH David Ortiz
RF Yoenis Cespedes
1B Mike Napoli
3B Pablo Sandoval
SS Xander Bogaerts
CF Rusney Castillo
C Christian Vazquez
Cespedes is probably a better fit in left field than in right, and he's going to pile up the strikeouts. But he's right at home in the midst of so many talented hitters, and keeping him in the lineup would give the Red Sox one of the most powerful offensive cores in the game.
2) The Red Sox can reassess trading Cespedes at any point during the season
This is another simple reason, but given the false sense of urgency one detects when scrolling through Twitter, it's worth repeating nonetheless. The Red Sox have until July 31 to trade Cespedes, and they don't need to be in a particular rush to do so until then.
Right-handed power is one of the rarest commodities in the game today. If the Red Sox find themselves out of contention or needing to make room for a player like Betts later in the season, they can be virtually assured that someone will need a middle-of-the-order bat like Cespedes.
That's not to say the Sox have to wait until the year begins to trade Cespedes; if they come across a deal that makes sense now, they should pull the trigger.
But the worst thing that happens to the Red Sox if they start the year with Cespedes is that they own another talented outfielder, and they should be in no rush to usher him off the team.
This is especially true considering Cespedes already has a clause in his contract that prevents a team from making him a qualifying offer.
That means he wouldn't lose draft-pick compensation like other free agents-to-be who can be traded, as that lack of pick is already factored into his value.
3) Keeping Cespedes protects the Red Sox from injury and underperformance
Aside from the desire to acquire pitching, the most pressing motivation behind dealing Cespedes seems to be to free up time for Betts. This is reasonable, given that Betts hit .291/.368/.444 in limited MLB duty last season.
However, the Red Sox don't lose Betts if he doesn't start the year in the majors. In fact, keeping Betts at Triple-A would protect the Red Sox at four positions while allowing the 22-year-old to receive even more seasoning in the upper minors.
Consider the checkered health histories of players like Pedroia, Ramirez, Victorino and Craig. The likelihood that all of these players remain healthy for an entire year is slim to none.
Add in that Castillo is an unproven player, and it's easy to see how Betts could start the year in Triple-A and still amass 300-plus plate appearances.
Plus, the Red Sox saw last year how dangerous it can be to rely on young players without suitable backups. When Bogaerts and Bradley failed to perform well right off the bat, the Sox were unprepared to replace them with veteran options.
There's no guarantee that Betts will fail as Bogaerts and Bradley did, of course, but there's also no guarantee that his 200-plus plate appearances in the majors means he's completely ready for everyday duty in Boston, either.
Retaining Cespedes would allow Betts to prove that the minor leagues aren't a challenge for him anymore in Triple-A, and if he truly forces the issue, Cespedes or another outfielder can be moved down the road.
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