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Insider

Victorino's deal doomed to fail

12/4/2012

Shane Victorino's three-year, $39 million contract with the Boston Red Sox vaults to the top of the rankings of the worst contracts signed so far this offseason, giving him virtually the same total dollars that Angel Pagan -- a superior player -- will receive in a contract that's a year longer.

The Sox have now squandered a substantial amount of the payroll flexibility they obtained over the summer when they traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Dodgers just to rid themselves of two awful contracts, yet they have little to show for their recent spending spree.

Victorino is a platoon outfielder at this point, and paying him $13 million a year, even with the rapid salary escalation we're seeing this offseason, is mad as pants. His bat speed was noticeably slower in 2012, especially later in the season, and despite being a switch-hitter, he doesn't really hit right-handed pitching:

Against RHP

2012: .230/.295/.332

2011: .271/.333/.456

2010: .235/.306/.386

That's a .244/.311/.390 composite line over 1,388 plate appearances, and at age 32 he's extremely unlikely to suddenly learn how to hit from the left side. Victorino delivers the bulk of his value in the 150 or so plate appearances he gets against left-handed pitching each year and should be platooned against most right-handers, which means the Red Sox just paid $13 million a year for the equivalent of a fourth outfielder.

Victorino remains a good defensive outfielder, more due to his above-average arm and his foot speed than good reads on balls hit to him in center, and he can add value on the bases because he reads pitchers well, even though overall his instincts for the game are poor. He could handle center for a year if the Red Sox chose to trade Jacoby Ellsbury and wanted to give top prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. another full season in the minors before promoting him, and then slide to right or left, with Ryan Kalish in the other corner if he can stay healthy. But if Victorino plays mostly right field, he'll face a higher offensive standard, and they'll likely find themselves looking for a platoon partner for him sooner rather than later, while wondering what better values were available for the money they gave him.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies are the team most in need of a center fielder and their former farmhand Michael Bourn is the only major center fielder left on the market. So there should be room for a deal there, unless the team chooses to sign Josh Hamilton and hope he can hold up in center, or try to swing a trade for Ellsbury using their few remaining young assets, such Domonic Brown, Vance Worley, or Trevor May.