For the past 8 years the Red Sox have had well documented problems at shortstop. The list includes Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles, Nick Green, and Alex Cora. My personal favorite was Pokey Reese. That is the 100% truth. So what are the plans for the Red Sox this offseason when it comes to filling the void?
Most likely scenario: Mike Aviles gets arbitration and returns as the starting shortstop with Jose Iglesias serving as the backup.
Is that really what we want? Currently Mike Aviles is batting .252 with a .283 OBP and .392 SLG. He has 11 home runs and 11 stolen bases. He’s out of the top-10 for shortstops in all of those categories except home runs. In his defense, he is 5 out of all shortstops in defensive runs saved over average with 12.
Aviles is only making $1.2M but at 31 he’s most likely peaked.
What would make more sense with these players: Have Jose Iglesias as the starting shortstop next year with Aviles are a util/backup.
In triple-A this year Iglesias is hitting .259/.306./.301/.607. He has 1 home run and 12 stolen bases. Besides the average and steals, Iglesias trails Aviles in all other categories mentioned. However, it is well believed that Iglesias would already be one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball.
At 22, Iglesias still has lots of room for improvement and his bat isn’t that far behind Aviles. As a backup, Aviles can provide support at 2b, SS, and 3b, all positions that has started at in the past. Aviles even played 5 games in the outfield last season.
Best-case scenario: Trade for Elvis Andrus from the Rangers.
Many people believe that Jurickson Profar is the best prospect in baseball and rumors are that he could be up soon. The biggest thing holding Profar back is Elvis Andrus at shortstop for the Rangers. The projected infield (with Andrus) for the Rangers next year is Beltre, Andrus, Kinsler, and Olt. Not a lot of room for Profar. So there is a very good chance that Elvis Andrus will get traded this offseason. The biggest reason that I don’t see Andrus in Boston next year is that the Rangers might not want to trade him to a competitive AL team.
This season the 23 year old shortstop is hitting .297/.367/.395/.762. Andrus also has 19 stolen bases but is 18th for shortstops with only 2 runs saved above average. Offensively Andrus would clearly be the best shortstop that the Red Sox have had in years and he’s only one year older than Iglesias.
The question is, where would he bat in Boston? For the Rangers Andrus is a top of the order guy, but with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford on the team, the top of the lineup is pretty full. It’s possible that an Ellsbury for Andrus swap could take place with Josh Hamilton headed to free agency? Or Ellsbury could be dealt in another deal to open up room in the top of the lineup.
Other shortstop options: Some shortstop free agents (or with options that might not get picked up) are Jason Bartlett, Yuniesky Betancourt, Stephen Drew, Alex Gonzalez, Cesar Izturis, Jhonny Peralta, Marco Scutaro, and Ryan Theriot. These are shortstops that could start but I wouldn’t trust them all. The only player here I’d be comfortable with is Stephen Drew. Drew is an enigma. Every year of his career he’s batted over 15 points different than the year before. Every year with over 322 ABs he’s hit over 12 home runs. Much like the Drew brother that we know, Stephen has had his own injury problems. When healthy, Drew provides more pop than any other of the shortstop options. If drew was the starting shortstop next year, they’d have to make sure that they have a good backup (Iglesias of Aviles).
One problem with a Drew signing is that it would just perpetuate the shortstop carousel because he’s not a long-term fix. But he could be a hold over.
Long term fix: One shortstop I didn’t mention is Xander Bogaerts, who Conor wrote a piece on. Xander is only 19 and not ready for the bigs. However, he’s hit at ever level that he’s been at. This year in Single-A Bogaerts hit .302/.378/.505/.883 with 15 home runs in 104 games. He’s recently been called up to double-A. In 6 games he’s hitting .385/.385/.731./1.115 with 2 home runs. Bogaerts isn’t going to be big league ready to start next season but by the end of the year call ups he could be called up, and if he performs it could be permanent.
Looking at these options, I won’t be satisfied unless Iglesias or Andrus is the starting shortstop next year. With almost complete certainty that Ellsbury will test free agency as soon as possible, I’d really try the Andrus/Ellsbury swap. Both teams fill their whole in the field and keep a bat at the top of their lineup.