PHOENIX, Ariz. -- This was a day for learning how versatile a player can be if there is enough money involved. Yasmany Tomas is an outfielder, but he can also play third base, according to his agent, Jay Alou Jr., who said that when the Red Sox worked out Tomas at their Dominican academy, they had him take ground balls with his outfielder’s glove.
Alou acknowledged that the Red Sox outfield probably doesn’t have room for Tomas, but that didn’t keep him from outlining a scenario in which the Sox could join the auction for the 24-year-old Cuban, who hit one ball after another over the trees in right-center field in an epic workout attended by Sox talent evaluators Allard Baird and Dave Finley, among others.
You think Cuban outfielder Jose Abreu, who hit 36 home runs and was unanimously chosen the American League rookie of the year Monday, has power? Wait till you see Tomas, said Alou, whose father, Jesus, is director of the Sox academy in the D.R. “The Red Sox have a lot of outfielders," Alou said here Monday. “Don’t see how they’d have room for him there unless they make a trade."
The Sox, according to a team source, will not be signing Tomas. The Phillies and Padres remain his most likely landing spots.
Hanley Ramirez, meanwhile, is a shortstop by trade, but he would be willing to play third base or the outfield in the right circumstances, a baseball source said Monday. The Sox don’t need a shortstop, and the oft-injured Ramirez might actually project better at a less demanding position. What he is, unmistakably, is an elite hitter, which is why the Red Sox are at least kicking the tires on a player they originally signed as a 16-year-old in 2000 and who turns 31 on Dec. 23.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington took a pass on formally meeting Monday with the nine members of the Boston media covering the general managers meetings here; he is scheduled to do so in each of the next two days. You can reasonably assume that Cherington is among those executives who would prefer that teams could conduct their business, especially in these preliminary stages, without having to deal with the 24-7 rumor mill that seizes on the slightest thread (the 230-pound Tomas can play third?) and runs with it.
Meanwhile, Will Middlebrooks, the man whose position has been all but given away in the public sphere, is trying to keep his distance from the noise.
“I'm getting better every day," he wrote in an e-mail Monday night from his home in Dallas. “Working out five days a week, and physical therapy twice a week.
“I honestly haven't paid any attention to any off-season news. Just here focused on what I can do to make Will Middlebrooks a better all-around player. I want another ring."
Injuries have deprived Middlebrooks the chance to build on his promising debut in 2012, when he hit 15 home runs and 14 doubles in just 267 at-bats. At 23, Middlebrooks averaged a home run per 17.8 at-bats. That ratio would have ranked 13th in the major leagues in 2014 (Houston’s Chris Carter at 1 per 13.7 at-bats was first), and second on the Red Sox, behind only David Ortiz (14.8).
This season, Middlebrooks hyperextended a finger in training camp, strained a calf in April that put him on the disabled list, then fractured his left index finger while fielding a ground ball in May and did not return to the Sox until Aug. 1. He ended the season unable to play because of a sprained right hand he sustained in batting practice, and finished with a .191 batting average and 2 home runs in 63 games.
With the Sox finishing tied for 11th in runs scored (634), 12th in home runs (123) and tied for 13th in batting average (.244), they are understandably hesitant to gamble that Middlebrooks will bounce back in 2015. They also could use a left-handed bat, which is why they have been linked with switch-hitting third baseman Pablo Sandoval and left-handed hitting Chase Headley.
But according to a report from ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, the Giants are optimistic they will re-sign Sandoval, while ESPNNY.com’s Wallace Matthews wrote Monday that the Yankees have prioritized re-signing Headley, due in great part to the uncertain future of Alex Rodriguez.
So perhaps Middlebrooks should not be written off just yet, though the Red Sox could also look to add another third baseman, like Luis Valbuena of the Cubs, another left-handed hitter, in a trade -- perhaps even as a platoon partner for Middlebrooks. The Sox also have left-handed hitters Brock Holt and Garin Cecchini at third base, though Cecchini probably needs more time, especially to work on his defense, and Holt’s greatest value is his ability to play all over the field.
Other tidbits from Monday:
-- Former Sox lefty Craig Breslow is attracting considerable interest from other clubs, agent Bob Baratta said, his career numbers suggesting that his poor performance in 2014 was an outlier and not indicative of permanent decline. Cherington has not ruled out bringing Breslow back.
-- The Sox retain definite interest in left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, have made calls on right-handed starter Justin Masterson and right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson, and have told David Ross they plan to stay in touch as they consider their options for backup catcher. Some, like ESPN.com’s Keith Law, predict that Masterson may best be suited as a reliever because of his tremendous success against right-handed hitters.
-- It’s not official, but Sox executive Dave Finley appears to be in line to be hired by the Dodgers as their vice president of scouting, replacing Logan White. Another top Red Sox scout, Galen Carr, is also reportedly headed to the Dodgers. Both Finley and Carr were most recently involved in the signing of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.