Theo Epstein Needs to Acquire a Right-Handed Hitter

By Alastair Ingram

Despite a three-game losing streak, the Red Sox don’t have many glaring holes.

They’re 13 games above .500 and still have a half game lead on the Yankees for the best record in the American League.

With that said, the combination of Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald is leaving a lot to be desired.

Cameron is hitting .156 after an 0-for-3 night with two strikeouts against the Pirates on Friday night. McDonald was responsible for six of the 11 men the Sox left on base and he’s now batting just .122.

The two right-handed hitting outfielders came into the season as capable fill-ins for Terry Francona against left-handed pitching, but they’ve been anything but that in 2011.

Theo Epstein won’t be overly active before the July 31st trade deadline, but he should seriously look into acquiring a right-handed bat.

Coming into the season, Cameron and McDonald were valuable assets for the Red Sox because of their ability to feast on lefties.

Cameron has a .489 career slugging percentage when facing southpaws, while McDonald is a .280 hitter in those situations.

In 2011, Cameron (.158) and McDonald (.120) have been complete liabilities against lefties, failing to produce during J.D. Drew’s extended slump and Carl Crawford’s hamstring injury.

Crawford will be back within the next few weeks to play left field, but Drew doesn’t appear to be getting much better and he’s making $14 million in the final year of his contract.

For that reason, Cameron’s problems at the plate are a lot more significant than those of McDonald, who’s played left in Crawford’s absence but has only been off the disabled list for a week himself.

Not only has Cameron struggled with the bat, but he’s also been a weakness in right field despite his defensive track record. A key misplay ended up costing the Sox in Friday’s 3-1 loss in Pittsburgh.

Cameron is a three-time Gold Glove outfielder, but he won those awards in 2001, 2003, and 2006, and he won them while playing center field in his prime.

The veteran’s adjustment to playing right field as a 38-year-old hasn’t been a smooth one, and he currently owns the third-worst UZR defensive rating of his career according to FanGraphs.

So, who could Epstein target over the next month as the deadline draws near?

Among the right-handed hitting outfielders in the 2012 free agent class are Jeff Francoeur, Michael Cuddyer, Cody Ross, Magglio Ordonez, Ryan Ludwick, Josh Willingham, and Jonny Gomes.

The Sox emptied the top end of their farm system in the Adrian Gonzalez trade last winter but wouldn’t need to give up a high level prospect for any of those short-term options.

Unless Cameron and McDonald make a drastic adjustment at the plate or Drew locates the fountain of youth, the most complete team in baseball will have a hole to fill.

Alastair Ingram is the lead Boston Red Sox writer for the Rant Sports Network. For daily updates, follow on Twitter at @FenwayReport and join our fan page on Facebook.

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