The latest news concerning David Ortiz’s injury isn’t great. The last remaining member of Boston’s 2004 championship team has been prescribed several days of rest by Boston’s medical staff in order to help heal his heel injury.
After missing the last 72 games of the year in 2012, many Sox fans thought Ortiz would be close to 100 percent healthy for 2013 after an offseason of recovery and conditioning. Though that’s not the case, his situation may be even worse than many of us expected. Check out a quote from John Farrell that was featured in an Associated Press story published Sunday night:
Compared to where he was a year ago, we feel like there's progress being made. There's no question about that. Yet he's dealing we an issue, and we've got to give it time to clear up.
Compared to where he was a year ago? The fact that Farrell is measuring Ortiz’s present condition with how he felt last season has me deeply concerned. It might be time for the Sox to start looking toward a Plan B if Ortiz isn’t able to play for an extended amount of time.
Here are three players from outside the Sox organization that are likely to fill in much of Ortiz's production. I've thought of these players as midseason-replacement acquisitions if Ortiz were to go down for the year with the Sox within striking distance of a playoff spot.
Dunn hit .203/.333./.468 last season while launching 41 home runs. Before what was arguably the worst season ever by a MLB player in 2011 (Dunn accumulated negative 3.1 WAR and hit .159 with more strikeouts than hits, runs and RBI combined), Dunn hit at least 38 home runs for seven straight years.
Dunn’s splits are begging for him to be a platoon player. For his career he’s a .248/.383/.524 hitter against righties and .222/.341/.445 against lefties. Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli both feast on left-handed pitching, so either of them could be inserted into the DH spot for Dunn when facing a southpaw, while the Sox bench (Daniel Nava, Ryan Lavarnway, Xander Bogaerts if he’s called up) can fill in on the field.
Dunn should be available. He's owed $30 million over the next two seasons and Chicago doesn’t figure to be in the playoff picture. Baseball Prospectus projects them to finish 77-85 on the year.
Boston has the payroll flexibility to take back a large part of his remaining money. Chicago’s bullpen depth is lacking after Addison Reed, so they could likely acquire him for a mid-level prospect or a middle reliever, two areas in which the Red Sox have an excess of players.
Another high-priced player, Soriano’s on the hook for $36 million over the next two years as he finishes his eight-year, $136 million deal signed back in 2006. The former Yankee had a sneaky good year last season, hitting 33 doubles, 32 home runs and posting an overall line of .262/.322/.499.
Ben Cherington might want to call up his former mentor Theo Epstein if the Sox are in need of some power late in the season. After a subpar campaign in 2009 Soriano has not had less than 54 extra-base hits each year since, and for his career he reaches base 30 points higher against lefties than righties. With Jackie Bradley Jr. looking great in spring training, the Sox could mix and match between Gomes, Shane Victorino and Soriano to fill an OF and DH spot.
As for Soriano's trade value, it should be similar to Dunn’s. The Cubs aren’t winning anytime soon and would like the salary off their books for half of 2013 and 2014. It shouldn’t take more than picking up the majority of his salary and a mid-level prospect or two to snag Soriano from the Cubs.
Hart currently plays first base for the Brewers and has averaged 29 home runs and 31 doubles over the past three seasons while hitting .279/.343/.514. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, which makes this trade the most interesting for Boston.
The Brewers have some solid options for their first-base position going forward. Mat Gamel was expected to claim the position after a solid debut as a 23-year-old in 2009, but two ACL injuries, including one that will keep him out this year, have derailed his progress. Hunter Morris put up a .303/.357/.563 line in a full season of Double-A last year, and Sean Halton hit .274/.354/.497 in a full season of Triple-A.
So Hart may be expendable, and that was before he went down with a knee injury that will likely keep him out until May.
With Hart being a below average fielder (negative 1.3 dWAR last season) and having been injured for three straight springs, a DH spot may be the right fit for him at this stage in his career. Though Hart is a free agent, trading for him would likely cost the Sox more in terms of prospects and/or relievers. He is signed at a reasonable $10 million for 2013 and is a better player than the previous two discussed.
Yet, he might be well worth it. Hart seems like he would fit in with the new dynamic of guys the Sox are looking to acquire—loose, confident clubhouse leaders that will be able to handle the Boston media.
Depending on how his knee injury affects him, Hart could be a better version of Cody Ross from last year. And the Sox may be able to sign him to a discount in the offseason given his injury history. He’s put up similar stats to Mike Napoli, so why not give Hart the money they were originally going to commit to Napoli (three years, $39 million) and use him between LF, 1B and DH?
Members of Red Sox Nation certainly hope that none of these options will be need to be pursued. However, the Sox shiuld have a backup plan in case they lose their DH, and one of their top players, for an extended amount of time. Boston fans will be eagerly watching how Cherington performs if faced with the challenging prospect of finding new offense come midseason.
Stephen Sikora is a junior at Boston College. In addition to being a Red Sox FC, he also writes about BC sports for his school's student newspaper, The Heights.