Oct 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks (16) warms up prior to game four of the MLB baseball World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox Should Not Trust Will Middlebrooks As Everyday Starter


There’s a good chance that this could be a quiet offseason for the Red Sox. They are essentially all set at every position except first base and catcher, and have exceptional depth throughout their roster– an attribute that helped them to win the World Series in 2013 despite a multitude of injuries. However, one position with a stark lack of depth is third base, where Will Middlebrooks will be the Opening Day starter barring any changes.

A year ago, that would be a good sign. The Red Sox’ young, power-hitting third baseman will be starting his second full season with the Red Sox as he begins to develop into a great player. However, his first full season brought more questions than it did answers about the 25 year old. In a season interrupted by a two-month stay in the minors, Middlebrooks slashed just .227/.271/.425, striking out in 26.2% of his plate appearances but looking lost in just about all of them.

Immediately after being promoted back to the majors, Middlebrooks did go on a tear. However, he also concluded the season on a terrible note as he recorded a sub-.200 average over his last two weeks. In other words, Middlebrooks is a wild card coming into the 2014 season. Nobody quite knows what to expect from him; was 2013 just a sophomore slump season or was it a trend that will continue for the rest of his career?

Because of all of these questions surrounding third base, the Red Sox should consider signing an all-purpose utility infielder that can step up when Middlebrooks struggles– a role filled by Jose Iglesias before he was traded in 2013. There are a few names on the free agent and trade market that the Red Sox should be interested in for exactly this role.

On the free agent market, names like Willie Bloomquist (.317/.360/.367), Kelly Johnson (.235/.305/.410), and Juan Uribe (.278/.331/.438) jump out at me as players who could make an impact in this role. Of the above, Uribe is clearly the best offensively and defensively and did an impressive job at third base for the Dodgers last year.

Uribe could probably be had for a relatively short term, inexpensive contract– perhaps something like 2 years/$14 million would bring him to Boston. He would not play everyday, but in his career, he has spent extensive time at every infield position. A player like this is very valuable when the Red Sox have no clear backup at any infield position and have a risky infield with young players at third base and shortstop and a guy who gives his all regardless of injuries in Dustin Pedroia. Uribe would be a useful acquisition to this team, and the Red Sox should make a play for him.

Tags: Boston Red Sox Featured Juan Uribe Popular Will Middlebrooks

  • Michael Macaulay-Birks

    Not trust? all the questions? come on….the kid has 660 total at bats…

    • Conor Duffy

      I’m not saying he shouldn’t start. I’m just saying that they should have a viable backup in case he continues to struggle.

      • Michael Macaulay-Birks

        you said “The Red Sox shouldn’t “TRUST” Middlebrooks as an “every day player”….that’s quite a claim….had you titled your opinion based piece “Red Sox lack depth in the infield”, there wouldn’t be comments like mine….the only way you could possibly justify that claim would be based on your “experience” as a talent evaluator….”experience” is something that takes time to develop and quite frankly Connor you haven’t lived long enough to possess that type of insight or you wouldn’t have used that “title” to describe a guy who has 660 plate appearances in the big leagues.

        • Conor Duffy

          Wasn’t this year evidence that they shouldn’t trust him as an everyday player? I’m not suggesting that they give up on him after 660 plate appearances. I’m just saying that they need a viable backup, who could fill in if he continues to struggle, because he took steps backward rather than forward in 2013.

          • Michael Macaulay-Birks

            no, Connor 2013 wasn’t enough of a sample size to make that judgment

          • Conor Duffy

            So, you’re willing to play the 2014 season with no backup to a 25 year old who has proven nothing?

          • Michael Macaulay-Birks

            Of course not Connor…Im saying Uribe is a terrible fit @ 8mm per, and I’m refuting, based on 35 years of avid baseball fandom that your assessment that “The Red Sox should not trust Will Middlebrooks” is hyperbole at best, simple wrong at worst

          • Conor Duffy

            Perhaps “should not trust” was the wrong way to put it. What I’m trying to get across is that the Red Sox should not give him quite as much slack as they would with an established everyday player. Also, I think Uribe is a great fit as somebody who can hit a little (and will be helped by the green monster). And his best defense is behind him? According to UZR, Uribe saved 24.0 runs at third base in 2013. That is just about as good as it gets. And I haven’t heard anything calling him a clubhouse cancer… Brock Holt wouldn’t be a terrible option as a pure utility man, but I wouldn’t trust him as a starter for an extended period.

          • Rick M

            Callaspo is suppose to be on the market. Not a bad bat but average glove. Can play some second and has a little time at SS. Big price tag (5M).

            Middlebrooks has that downside of a low average and a high K total but that power intrigues. You carry those out a full season and you get close to 30 HRs and 90RBI. Not bad in this age of careful what you ingest.

            I always thought that Middlebrooks would eventually post Hobson type numbers both with power and the propensity to strike out. At this point I view the Sox as looking at someone who can play some serious defense and not kill you with the bat. Someone like Pedro Ciriaco circa 2012.

          • Conor Duffy

            Callaspo would be fine if the Red Sox could get him for cheap.

          • John Fahrer

            Would like them to re-sign Drew, sign Jeff Baker, move Bogaerts to third, and trade Middlebrooks for Ryan Doumit.

        • Michael Macaulay-Birks

          I deleted my post that basically mirrored yours…thanks for having the guts to post yours, I was afraid I’d offend someone…I shouldn’t have….you are spot on about insight and perspective

  • Rick M

    Can’t give up on a RH power bat. His average is low but he hits the long ball. I’d give him an entire season to sink or swim.

    • Michael Macaulay-Birks

      I agree, Rick though Connor is correct in saying we need some infield depth….I just don’t see Uribe as a viable option…Kelly Johnson has some pop, but has only played 3rd 16 times

      • Rick M

        I believe Sox will want a bit more versatility in a potential backup and that just about shuts out Uribe. This guy has put on some pounds after he hit age 30. His price tag will not exactly be cheap.

        This season will be a make or break for Middlebrooks. His power potential is there and has been demonstrated. Big thing is can he better define the strike zone. IMO his value is rather low so trading him is a risk.

  • John Cate

    If the Red Sox don’t have confidence in Middlebrooks, then they should trade him while he’s still got value as a trade chip, rather than destroy his value themselves by signing other players over him. We’re taking about a guy who, despite his struggles in 2013 (a lot of that BABIP-driven regression after being above his head in 2012), has 32 homers and 103 RBI in 615 MLB at-bats.

    Either play Middlebrooks or Bogaerts at third. Don’t drag in some guy at the end of his career to take at-bats away from them.

    • Conor Duffy

      Again, I’m not suggesting that they take at bats away from him. I’m suggesting that they should have a reliable backup in case he does struggle. I want Middlebrooks to succeed as much as anyone but he has a skillset that has not produced a huge number of successful players. I want him to prove me wrong and have a good season, but I want a good backup in case he does not prove me wrong.

      • John Cate

        I understand what you’re saying, but that’s not realistic. If you sign someone for $14 million over two years, that player is going to play. First of all, he won’t sign with you unless you guarantee that he will play. Second, the Red Sox can’t afford a backup at such a price. Even the Yankees can’t sign players for that much money just to sit on the bench.

        The second you sign a player like Uribe, Middlebrooks’ value in a trade drops to near zero. I don’t think he’s a budding superstar, but I do think he can help you win. He’s got a full season of MLB at-bats and his BABIP in them is .295. He is exactly what his career line shows him to be–a streaky hitter with real power who will hit for a low average and OBP, but a slugging percentage in the high fours. The worst he’s going to be is Butch Hobson with a competent glove. If you’re lucky, he might be Matt Williams. Either way, he’s not going to keep you from winning the pennant.

        The Red Sox should do one of two things:

        1) Use him as a trade chip while he still has value as a cost-controlled young player with potential; or
        2) Play him every day, deal with the slumps, and hope he improves his plate discipline.

        Dragging in some past-his-prime veteran to take at-bats from him is the worst thing they could do. It will hurt his value and hinder his development.

      • John Fahrer

        What about Jeff Baker?

  • http://bosoxinjection.com/ Earl Nash

    I want to see him start at 3b on Opening Day and let him show what he can/or cannot do. With Cechinni coming on strong [and a LHB], the Sox many only need to patch at 3b for 2014. Michael Young might be the Super Sub for 2014. If the Sox do not plan to give him his shot, then trade him. I would send him and a P to the Tigers for Nick Castellanos.

  • madmc44

    I don’t see the Sox as “pretty set.”
    I feel there comes a time when players surprise and show what they have. Brock Holt to me plays a decent game. SS is his natural position. To me I would want him to show me what he has in ST. I don’t feel the need to sign Drew who has, for some reason, been poorly received in Boston. He makes all the plays, granted not with the pazazz of Iggy, that being said we would not have won the WS without him. He has not felt the love in Boston so unless he gets a blown away offer from BenC. he’s gone.

    It appears BenC feels Xander is his SS yet there is some slight hesitation, “…what if it’s too soon and he bombs”–do we then have a 3 B and SS that need more PawSox time?
    So my take: Xander starts at 3 B, try WMB at 1 B–initially platooning with Carp, and they look to bring another SS in–maybe it’s Brock, maybe it’s Aybar or maybe it’s a defensive whiz, like an Iggy. Or who knows with the money saved from not signing Ells, Nap, Salty and Drew they sign Peralta for SS, Beltran for LF and AJ to work with Ross behind the plate. Install JBJ in CF and Uribe or Young as the Super Sub.

  • John Fahrer

    What happens to Middlebrooks will really come down to what happens with negotiations with Stephen Drew. Could really see both sides coming to terms on a new deal for two or three years. If that happens, they “Machado” Bogaerts over to third and probably trade Middlebrooks for pitching and possibly get a utility type in there as well.

    What about Jeff Baker as a backup?

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