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.