The Red Sox is outfield about to get very crowded

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Jacoby Ellsbury homered in his rehab game Monday, Carl Crawford is moving his rehab up to Double-A Portland with an eye towards returning right after the All-Star break and Scott Podsednik is rehabbing at Triple-A just awaiting his activation. Ryan Sweeney (toe) will probably be back before the end of the month, too.

In the meantime, the Red Sox have the following guys playing outfield right now:

Cody Ross – .287/.358/.575 in 181 AB
Daniel Nava – .294/.411/.462 in 143 AB
Ryan Kalish – .250/.286/.300 in 40 AB

Obviously, something is going to have to give. Kalish’s demotion is inevitable, but even so, that’d only free up one spot for four players. The Red Sox are going to have a difficult time squeezing either Podsednik or Sweeney back on the roster, at least once Ellsbury and Crawford are ready to go. Here’s what those two have done this year:

Scott Podsednik – .387/.409/.484 in 62 AB
Ryan Sweeney – .292/.330/.404 in 171 AB

Nava has options and can be sent down, but the Red Sox would be crazy to do that while he’s hitting like this. Not only has he been outstanding offensively — he’s scored 26 runs and driven in 26 runs in just 143 at-bats — but he’s also vastly improved defensively from a couple of years ago.

The truth is that the Red Sox really won’t have any business playing Crawford until either Ross or Nava hits a rough patch. It will be interesting to see if they do it anyway. It’s not that Crawford is incapable of bouncing back; it’s just that his replacements are performing so well.

As for Podsednik and Sweeney, they may turn into waiver bait. The Red Sox could keep one of those two in addition to Ellsbury, Crawford, Ross and Nava, but that would mean jettisoning the newly acquired Brent Lillibridge, someone who offers much more versatility with his ability to play the infield.

My guess: Podsednik replaces Kalish sometime this week, then gets designated for assignment when Ellsbury and Crawford return after the break (the Red Sox are at 13 pitchers right now, which should change next week).  When Sweeney returns in late July, Lillibridge will likely be dumped, provided he’s still struggling offensively. If Lillibridge starts hitting, the Red Sox could try to slide Sweeney through waivers and send him to Triple-A.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.