The Red Sox have a problem. Okay fine, they have lots of problems, but this particular one is a good problem.
Victorino’s situation appears to be the easiest to figure out; Grady Sizemore seems the most likely to go, particularly with the emergence of Brock Holt in left field. But when Middlebrooks is healthy, the situation has a few more layers.
The Red Sox love versatility. That’s what makes players like Holt and Jonathan Herrera so valuable to the team and it’s what could drive Middlebrooks out of Boston.
Holt has proven that he has the ability to play just about anywhere; he’s gone from third to first and now to the outfield, excelling at all of them. And then of course there’s his natural position at second base.
Herrera has played third and shortstop, and can also fill in at second. What’s been interesting as well is that John Farrell has gone with Herrera at short, choosing to keep Xander Bogaerts at third, on the days Stephen Drew has been out of the lineup.
Middlebrooks on the other hand can play third and maybe first; two positions already covered well by the current roster. There have been rumblings from Farrell about testing him in the outfield, but that would seem to add an unnecessary body to an already crowded outfield.
So what do you do with Middlebrooks? It’s a difficult situation. Trading him right now would be the ultimate buy-low chance for an opposing team; if he can come back and produce anywhere near the level of 2012, it would be a steal. That’s a risk the Red Sox may not want to take.
If they decide to keep him on the big league roster, it’s likely Herrera who goes. Then though, you run the risk of having only one shortstop, if say, Stephen Drew were to go down with another injury. That’s not a situation the team will put themselves in.
The most likely scenario? Middlebrooks, who still has minor league options, is forced to go apartment hunting in Pawtucket. It’s not the best scenario; building value in the minors is not easy because hitting against lesser competition makes a player tricky to evaluate. But it’s the only viable option right now. The team can’t sell low and they can’t cut valuable players to make room for a question mark.
The only two ways I see Middlebrooks making it back to Boston this season are 1) injuries to the current roster or 2) the Sox sell Drew to a contender, moving Bogaerts back to short. Otherwise, Middlebrooks has no clear role.