Each weekday from Oct. 25 until baseball’s GM meetings Nov. 7, we will spotlight one key decision the Red Sox need to make this offseason that will help determine the success or failure of the 2013 team.
Today’s topic: Who’s the starting shortstop?
There’s been too much turnover at shortstop for the Red Sox in the last decade and the club will be looking for some stability at that position, especially now that veteran shortstop Mike Aviles was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays as the compensation for manager John Farrell and there is no obvious answer.
Defining the decision: Is Iglesias ready for the big leagues?
There’s no denying the defensive ability of rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, but he drastically needs to improve his offense if he has a chance to become a full-timer at the major league level. The Red Sox have already begun to evaluate the roster, especially the shortstop position.
“It’s something we’ll look at this offseason,” said Red Sox GM Ben Cherington. “We’ll see what the offseason bares. John and I have already started to talk about the roster and different positions and different needs, but we’ll get more into that now. We’ll have our eyes open if there are ways we can strengthen that position, build protection at that position, it’s something we’ll look at.”
When it was obvious the Red Sox were out of contention, upper management decided to begin its focus on 2013 and wanted the younger players on the team to get more playing time and that included Iglesias. He was given the opportunity, and while he wowed with his glove, his bat went silent.
In one of the easiest months to hit in the big leagues, when teams are out of it and pitchers are worn down, Iglesias still struggled and hit only .118 and struck out in 24 percent of his at-bats. He was clearly overmatched.
“We believe Jose is ready to be a major league shortstop, but we’re not ready to commit to that,” Cherington said. “We’re going to look at ways to improve the team and shortstop could be one of those areas and we’ll see what opportunities exist. If there are ways to improve the team in other ways, we’ll do that, too. He can help a major league team, particularly if the rest of the roster is set up right.”
Farrell saw Iglesias during those games in September and has already talked to Cherington about the shortstop position.
“(Iglesias is) a good defender and showed good range, particularly to his glove side. A couple of times you saw him get the bat head out and take some aggressive swings and there were other times when he got tied up a little bit offensively,” Farrell said. “Whether it’s a matter of strength, whether it’s a matter of timing in his swing, we’ll find out more about that as we get deeper.”
Option A: Make Iglesias the starter and hope he grows into the job
In order for the 22-year-old Iglesias to remain in the everyday lineup, he’ll need to hit at least .240 because the Red Sox can’t afford to carry dead weight at the plate at the shortstop position.
“We saw a lot of positive strides through the second half of the Triple-A season in (Iglesias’) approach,” explained Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen. “He was seeing more pitches, working deeper into counts, getting on base, driving the ball better, being more aggressive and attacking the fastball early in the count.
“It didn’t necessarily transfer up here right away because there was still that adjustment period. We saw some better at-bats as he moved into his time up here, certainly not from a results standpoint, but the consistency of contact and the approach started to show by the end of the season. Those are the things he’s going to need to build upon to be the offensive player he wants to be up here.”
Iglesias hit .266 in 88 games at Triple-A Pawtucket last season. If he could find a way to do that in Boston, he’d be their guy.
Option B: Find a stop-gap option until Iglesias blossoms
If the Red Sox determine that Iglesias just isn’t ready, they probably will need to sign a free agent this winter to a short-term deal to serve as both everyday shortstop and mentor for Iglesias.
An intriguing option could be Arizona Diamondbacks infielder John McDonald. The 38-year-old, 14-year veteran spent seven seasons in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s a defensive specialist and could serve that role well in Boston. He has one year remaining on his contact with Arizona, but the Diamondbacks recently acquired shortstop Cliff Pennington from the Oakland Athletics, so the Red Sox could pretty easily strike a deal for McDonald.
There aren’t many intriguing options on the free-agent market. The best shortstop available is likely old friend Marco Scutaro, whose value has risen since his trade to the Giants. A’s shortstop Stephen Drew (yes, J.D.’s brother) has a mutual $10 million option, so he could be available.
If the Red Sox decide to stay in-house, infielder Pedro Ciriaco could be an option, too. He produced in 2012 in any role he was asked to play and posted a .293 average with two home runs, 19 RBIs and 16 stolen bases in 76 games.
Long shot: Make a deal for a superstar
If Cherington wants to dismiss the stop-gap route and decides Iglesias is no longer the shortstop of the future, he could try to make a deal for Texas Rangers stud infielder
In order to pull off a blockbuster like that, however, the Red Sox would have to deal a player like center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury or a package of their top prospects. It doesn’t seem likely.
Your turn: What’s the best option for the Red Sox?
We’ve outlined the possibilities, now tell us what you would do if you were in Ben’s shoes. Vote in the poll above and leave your more detailed thoughts in the comments section. One commenter thinks the solution is actually prospect Xander Bogaerts, a shortstop prospect who starred at Double-A in 2012. He would probably be major league ready in 2014 at the earliest.