Commentary

Put Granderson on Sox shopping list

They have plenty of options to replace Ellsbury, but this one makes most sense

Updated: December 4, 2013, 3:55 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

Looking for a free agent who fits the profile the Red Sox found so appealing last winter when they signed veterans Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Ryan Dempster?

Ben Cherington doesn't have to invent a player who fits that bill: winning background, strong skill set, looking to rebound from an off-year, big-market tested, outstanding clubhouse presence, perhaps open to taking shorter years for more dollars per year. There's already one on the market.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyCurtis Granderson had a total of 84 homers over his past two healthy seasons (2011 and 2012).

While a free agent such as Shin Soo-Choo will get the long-term deal he is seeking, which eliminates him from the mix, and Carlos Beltran's age (37 in April) makes him a high risk for a three-year deal, Curtis Granderson satisfies all of the criteria that topped Cherington's shopping list last season.

"You can't rule him out,'' one Red Sox source said of Granderson on Wednesday in the aftermath of Jacoby Ellsbury's departure to the New York Yankees.

Before anyone gets too excited, if Granderson gets a guaranteed fourth year from another club, such as the New York Mets, who appear to be making a strong push to sign him, then the Sox probably will be out on him.

But Granderson is coming off a year in which he played just 65 games for the Yankees because of two freak injuries: He was hit by a pitch that broke his forearm in his first plate appearance of spring training, then was hit by a pitch that broke a finger in his eighth game of the season.

He also turns 33 in March, which makes him a year older than Victorino was when he signed his three-year, $39 million deal last winter.

Granderson played center field for the Yankees, but can play all three outfield positions. He's no longer the base-stealing threat he was early in his career, but he is an excellent baserunner. He also had back-to-back 40-homer seasons in 2011 and 2012 -- and before you ascribe that solely to the right-center porch in Yankee Stadium, 37 of his 84 home runs over those two seasons (44 percent) came on the road. He's also very durable -- in 2012, he played 160 games, and played in at least 140 games in six seasons.

He hasn't hit for average -- .245 over his four years with the Yankees -- and averaged a whopping 182 strikeouts per season in his last two full seasons with the Bombers. When healthy, however, he averaged a 4.3 WAR with the Yankees, which this season would have ranked him fourth on the Red Sox, behind Dustin Pedroia, Victorino, Ellsbury and David Ortiz (4.4) and just ahead of Mike Napoli (4.1).

And his intangibles -- personality, interactions with teammates, commitment to team concept -- are off the charts.

How would he fit in with the Red Sox? He'd give the team great insurance if Jackie Bradley Jr. falters. The left-handed-hitting Granderson could be a platoon partner for Jonny Gomes in left, and also could back up Victorino in right. He would give the Sox another power bat that could be slotted anywhere in the lineup. He has batted first or second most of his career -- the Yankees used him 90 times in the 2-hole in 2012, and in 56 games hit anywhere from fifth to seventh.

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The Sox thus would be able to give Bradley the chance to be an everyday player, but have the depth to protect themselves if he's not quite ready.

Here's another reason he might appeal to the Sox. He would also be insurance in case Napoli takes a better offer than the one the Red Sox make him.

Let's be clear here: It remains a priority for the Sox to re-sign Napoli, but if another club exceeds the parameters of how they value him, they have discussed other options. One would be to play Daniel Nava at first, perhaps in combination with Will Middlebrooks, especially if Stephen Drew doesn't get the multiyear offer he was anticipating elsewhere. In a Napoli-less environment, signing Granderson makes even more sense.

Signing both Granderson and Napoli would help ease the sting of losing Ellsbury, while preserving the depth the Sox considered so critical last season.

Here are a couple of variations of how the Sox lineup could look in 2014.

Option 1: With Napoli

1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Mike Napoli, 1B
5. Daniel Nava/Jonny Gomes, LF
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Option 2: Without Napoli/with Granderson

1. Shane Victorino, RF
2. Curtis Granderson , LF
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Daniel Nava/Will Middlebrooks, 1B
6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
7. Xander Bogaerts, 3B|
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. SS to be named later (perhaps Stephen Drew?)

Option 3: With Napoli and Granderson

1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
2. Shane Victorino, RF
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Mike Napoli, 1B
5. Curtis Granderson, LF
6. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Xander Bogaerts, SS
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Option 4: With neither Napoli nor Granderson

1. Shane Victorino, RF
2. Xander Bogaerts, SS
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Jonny Gomes/Mike Carp, LF
6. Daniel Nava, 1B
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

All of this is just hot-stove wheel-spinning at this point, but it is intended to illustrate the options still open to Cherington as he prepares for the winter meetings. But the critical component remains resolving Napoli's future.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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