Oftentimes when a player gets the “utility” label placed on him, it’s a label that follows him throughout his career and relegates him to a bench role, even if his talent suggests he could be an everyday player at a regular position.
This is the dilemma that Brock Holt will be facing next season. And if the Red Sox are smart, they’ll start to find a permanent position for him.
Holt has spent most of his time this season in the outfield, despite being an infielder by trade. He’s performed well all across the outfield, but it’s unlikely to be his permanent home.
While moves are sure to be made this offseason, the Sox will have Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts (plus maybe Giancarlo Stanton?) battling for the three starting outfield spots. That list could also include Rusney Castillo if the Red Sox win the bidding war for the Cuban outfielder.
This is where Holt’s versatility could work against him. Cespedes is the only one on that list that currently deserves a spot over Holt. But guys like Craig and Victorino, if healthy, are not going to be sat on the bench (because of money owed and potential impact) and can’t play many other positions (Craig could play some first).
Then we hit the infield. Holt is unlikely to take Napoli’s spot, especially with $13 million due to him next season. He’s certainly not going to take Pedroia’s spot at second. And all indications show that Bogaerts could hit .100 and Cherington will still be determined to keep him in the lineup, so shortstop is out.
That leaves third base. In my opinion, Will Middlebrooks has run out of chances. He’s had plenty of opportunities to prove himself since his promising rookie season, and he’s responded with poor play and injuries.
That’s not to say you can’t use him elsewhere if needed. Ben Zobrist has proven how valuable a “super-utility” player can be. But the way the Sox roster is currently constructed, there won’t be as much of a need for a super-utility player come next season.
Holt has earned his right to shed the “utility player” label. I hope the Sox recognize that too.