Let’s look at Darin Erstad for a while. He was the number one overall draft pick by the (then) California Angels in 1995. In addition to playing baseball at Nebraska, he was the kicker on the football team. His career peaked in 2000 when he had 240 hits, 25 homers, 100 rbi, 28 stolen bases, and batted .355. He has not hit 20 homers in a season since. In fact his slugging percentage has been below .400 every year but one since Erstad won his single Silver Slugger. The Sox want Erstad to play center field this year. He’s played 27 games in center since 2003. He played a lot of first base with the Angels since he was injury prone in the outfield.
Brian Anderson was the starter in center field last year. He was terrible at the plate, hitting .225 with a .290 on base percentage. His defense wasn’t much of a drop-off from Aaron Rowand, traded to the Phillies in the Jim Thome deal. Anderson could develop into a .260, 15 homer type guy. I don’t love picking up an over-the-hill veteran to block the path of a young guy with potential. It happens in baseball all the time. Even if Anderson doesn’t start, he’ll play a lot since Erstad will make a few highlight-reel catches then break something.
Jermaine Dye has had an interesting career. He was part of the Braves’ sickeningly young outfield in 1996. Then the Braves let him go to the Royals, where he floundered for two years before finding his power stroke. He went to Oakland, missed most of 2003, came back pretty well in 2004, and moved on to the Sox. His 2006 was a career year for sure, although his 2000 stat line in KC was nearly as good. When Konerko slowed down and Thome missed time, Dye kept the team going. He’s going to be a free agent after the season, and he’ll be 34 next year, so I doubt that the Sox will keep him. Ironically, Dye was born on the same day as Magglio Ordonez. As a somewhat cheap fill-in for Ordonez, who signed with the Tigers two years ago, he’s been a surprise.
Rob Mackowiak and Pablo Ozuna are backup outfielders. Mackowiak has a gun in center but must have other deficiencies because he’ll probably only back up the corner spots.
With guys like Ryan Sweeney and Jerry Owens as the next wave of outfielders, the Sox might have to go the free agency route to replace Dye next year. Hopefully it goes as well as when Ordonez left for supposedly greener pastures.
I’ll be at the Sox/Braves exhibition game tonight. Considering that I’m writing this at 5:45 a.m., I doubt that I’ll see the whole thing.