Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew throws to first base on an infield single by St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay (not pictured) in the fifth inning during game six of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Love ‘Em Or Leave ‘Em: Red Sox Free Agents

What I found amazing about the ST. Louis Cardinals is the number of home grown players on their roster. Like any successful business they look to promote within first. This is sound bottom line fiscal strategy when you have an exceptional player development history. That has been a Cardinal trademark since the time that Branch Rickey fellow was their GM.

How good has baseball operations been for the Red Sox? Seems they have done a rather decent job during the Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington regime. Sound drafts, talent from the farm to the MLB roster and, of course, some valuable trade chips when the need arises.

Oct 28, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes (center, right) celebrates with shortstop Stephen Drew (7) and third baseman Xander Bogaerts (72) after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Red Sox won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

In Boston star power sells – or at least that was the mantra that seemed to be tossed around by some of the hierarchy. Hence you wander off for an Adrian Gonzalez or a Carl Crawford. You overpay with both talent and money. Sometimes you do hit the occasional home run in the risk taking such as Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling and even Josh Beckett leap out. On the free agent front we all saw what a Shane Victorino can do. That FA pool always is a risk both for talent level and emotional stability in an under the microscope market. Even a baseball bon vivant like David Wells spoke out about the Boston “pressure.” And sometimes you have a baseball angel like Magic Johnson to correct your mistakes.

You have the best prospect this franchise has had in decades and he happens to play SS. Let him play. Even in that small sample Xander Bogaerts has shown a level of plate discipline that is rare. Then you stick Will Middlebrooks at third for the season and see what happens. These are two players developed within your system and send a strong signal to those on the cusp of the future that you have a real future – and not trade fodder or shunted aside.

You want to reward players with contracts do it with known commodities such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Mike Napoli. We have already seen what a venture outside the box (Gonzo/Crawford) can do. For those four you have some options, but all four would certainly make the 2014 season a wee bit brighter on the repeat factor. However, it is always about the money. And that money factor has to influence who is expendable. Seems some baseball versions of Sophie’s Choice are present. Someone will stay and someone will go.

For Stephen Drew you already have someone ready to step in. Do it. Let X-man play. And if the Ellsbury thing gets into Crawford contract land then give Jackie Bradley the chance. Let him play. If you can get Ellsbury in that five year time frame then go for it. He’s earned it. For Salty you have a young (28) player who could give you a solid three or four years. If Carlos Ruiz can get 3/26 you have a market value set. Do it. Forget the far more pricey Brian McCann. Napoli wants to stay. let him. Forget Mike Carp and Daniel Nava at first. Finish off that initial contract and see if he really wants to stay. If not, back to the others.

The next few weeks will tell all. How serious were the Sox with any of their free agents? The rumor mill will certainly supply multiple option but for me, make some decent offers and if it works fine. If not give some of the kids a chance to play.

Next Red Sox Game View full schedule »

Tags: Boston Red Sox

  • John Fahrer

    Would rather keep Drew and have Bogaerts move to 3B while trading Middlebrooks for a reliever or two. Not really optimistic about the defensive capabilities of a left side of the infield with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks. They’re going to need to up the efforts on run prevention next season and it’s not likely to come from having a catcher who can consistently throw out baserunners. So they need a top-notch SS/3B combo.

    • Rick M

      Middlebrooks appears average defensively and X-Man has excellent reviews for his glove. No Jose, but not a stiff.

      Middlebrooks has plenty of power and that is a plus and I am not willing to give up on him. His trade value is at a low point so I’m for holding.

      Drew will get a long term deal but not in Boston. IMO X-Man will be far superior to anything Drew can do with the bat. He already has a keen sense of the strike zone. In a few years you will see his name in the MVP results.

      • John Fahrer

        Doubtful Drew would get more than three years elsewhere and the Sox could be willing to match that offer.

        Middlebrooks can’t walk and Bogaerts is way better at third than at SS. A left side of the infield with Bogaerts and Middlebrooks will cost the club several wins.

        They can get some solid bullpen help for Middlebrooks now.

        • Rick M

          The defensive metrics for X-Man are just 52 innings. A very small sample and they show nothing that stands out. Sox have projected him for third or SS and I would be comfortable for him at either position. Where he stands out is on the offense. Drew had some nice numbers – if one compares it to the position – but I really think Xander will be something special. Drew is another in a long list of one year and out players.

          Who would you get for Middlebrooks? Are you really ready to toss it in on his potential? This could be a 30+ HR guy. In fact, he just about is, even if two huge slumps.

          • John Fahrer

            Bogaerts at SS is not what worries me. I feel he could handle the position. And if there was a solid 3B market, I’d say keep Bogaerts at SS and sign a FA.

            What worries me is Middlebrooks at the hot corner. There’s a reason they left Drew in and kept Middlebrooks (who costed us game three) on the bench.

            Yes I am ready to give up on his “potential” as the 25-30 homers will feature average at best defense at third and a Trumbo-esque OBP and OPS.

          • Rick M

            That is where we disagree. I’m ready to give him a real shot. He gets to that .250 level I’d be happy – especially with the power. Be interesting to see how Sox view him.

          • John Fahrer

            How has he not had a real shot? He slumped for two months. And because of that he got sent down. According to Willy who comments on here occasionally, he has a friend working in the FO and says they are none too pleased with Middlebrooks.

            The guy strikes out over five times more than he walks. And with Bogaerts still maturing physically as well as a dynamic hitter on the rise in Cecchini, Middlebrooks may be on his way out soon. Though he’d be a superior defensive player at first, that dismal OBP and OPS will leave a lot to be desired (ProJo had a good article about that recently) as the standards for first are much higher than that of third, especially when it comes to OBP. So it’s more likely they cash him in for help in another area than devalue him on the other side of the diamond. Unless he miraculously breaks his unbreakable habit of free-swinging.

          • Rick M

            Middlebrooks has 32 home runs. That is some serious power. He had 17 in 2013. When he returned to Boston he hit well and slumped. As far as having a friend unless his first name is Ben I place no faith in it.

            By a shot I mean you go with him for half a season. At least. Give him every opportunity to show if 2012 was a fluke or 2013 was. The fact is this team loves a RH power bat so you give that RH bat the big chance. You just do not walk away from that. If he fails then you move on. You bring the guy up in your systemn and put him on the fast track. He has a tough 2013 so you close the book? Not to me. As far as an minor league talent that is exactly what they are – minor league. Fun to discuss but do not plan your future on those projections.

            Value? Do you really think another GM is not aware of the Sox situation with Middlebrooks? This guy is not exactly on the top of the market as he was in 2012.

            So the solution is what? Drew? Sign him for 4 years? Toss Middlebrooks to first or ship him out? Frankly, I’m not a big fan of a long term deal for Drew. A .196 average against left handers with almost a 6/1 K/BB ratio. That even makes Middlebrooks look good.

          • John Fahrer

            The longball is overrated. Especially when the guy hitting them doesn’t have a patient approach at the plate. The organization likes good OBP guys and Middlebrooks isn’t one of them. He did have half a season. Even at a lower value he could bring in a reliever or two.

            Drew (who has a better OPS than Middlebrooks) can be had for a three year deal. I proposed sitting him vs LHP while having Bogaerts play SS, and a guy like Jeff Baker filling in at third. Plus it would be a much more efficient defense with Drew at SS and Bogaerts at 3B. Especially if the team will remain without a high CS% catcher.

            Middlebrooks will not be moved to first. Check out the ProJo article: http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/red-sox/content/20131106-a-handy-guide-to-why-will-middlebrooks-isn-t-going-to-play-first-base-for-the-red-sox-next-season.ece. It goes back to what I mentioned about Trumbo. He would have an below average OBP among first basemen.

  • http://bosoxinjection.com/ Earl Nash

    Nice to know that someone else remembers that Branch Rickey essentially invented the “farm system” and the Cards have generally relied on that tradition.
    With Ruiz signed and McCann too pricey, the Sox are in a jam; Salty is a great backup, but not a starter [CS%, catcher's instinct] and Lavarnway remains an enigma.
    Yes, if Ells, Drew, Nap take a walk, then “go with the kids” and the fans will have to suck it up and wait for 2015 for their Next Great Red Sox team.