The Boston Globe‘s Bob Ryan expressed his thoughts, yesterday, on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown, a Canadian sports radio show, about the Boston Red Sox winning the Yoan Moncada sweepstakes. Ryan mentioned how this signing would put pressure on second baseman Dustin Pedroia, in a few years, as the 2008 American League MVP’s numbers have “slipped” in recent seasons. That pressure could materialize, but more likely, in light of the 2014 season, Xander Bogaerts may have more to fear.
USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale reported, late yesterday morning, that Moncada’s services were bought by the Red Sox bid of $63 million, including “a $31.5 million bonus, according to a person with direct knowledge of the agreement.” With the money they are spending, the Red Sox will want a quick return on their investment, even though Moncada will likely start in minor league High-A ball. The 19-year-old Cuban can play second or third base, which alludes to Ryan’s words on Pedroia, and “held his own against much older players, posting a .414 on-base percentage in 172 plate appearances” in his homeland’s Serie Nacional. Moncada’s youth suggests that he still is developing, growing into his adult body, which already is switch-hitting for decent power.
However, with all of the money and trades happening this offseason, Boston’s general manager Ben Cherington and owner John W. Henry do not seem interested in waiting for success. They look like they want to win right now, and forget that 2014 ever happened.
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If Red Sox Nation had to pick only one thing that needed to be changed, besides the pitching, last season, many would pick the debacle that happened between third base and the shortstop.Will Middlebrooks
and Xander Bogaerts were brought up in Boston’s 2013 World Series championship season, and were expected to be the third baseman and shortstop for the foreseeable future. One year later, and Middlebrooks was sent to the San Diego Padres in a trade, as well as for some poor play, and Bogaert severely struggled to impress at both third and his more natural position.
The 22-year-old native of Aruba hit .240, with a .297 OBP, in 538 at-bats. Bogaerts’ slugging percentage of .362 was enough to belt 12 home runs and 46 RBIs, but it was not enough to hold off of bad pitches. He struck out 138 times to only 39 walks. Bogaerts was often the guaranteed out opposing pitchers were hoping for, challenging him on pitches. FanGraphs.com reports that Bogaerts would swing 68% of the time at pitches in the strikezone, and made contact with 78% of all pitches he attempted to hit. Combine that with his low batting average, and you have a hitter who put the ball in play with little success to show for it.
Defensively, Bogaerts also struggled in his time with the big club. He made 20 errors, 10 each at third base and at shortstop. His range factor per game at shortstop was the same as the league average (3.98), while he was well below the league average at third (2.30/2.55).
Pedroia’s numbers may have slipped in 2014, but his MVP award and four all-star game appearances, including in 2013, will afford him the benefit of the doubt for a while. If that isn’t enough, the seven more years at $96 million definitely spells out ownership’s desire for Pedroia to start at second base in the long-term future. Unless David Ortiz decides to retire sometime soon or Mike Napoli forgets how to play defense, making Pablo Sandoval the designated hitter or first baseman, third base and second base should be locked up for a while.
The shortstop is the only position with a cloud of doubt over its head. That is Bogaerts’ head, at the moment. If he has the same season that he had last year, don’t expect the Red Sox to sit back and let it happen. If Moncada quickly impresses, and makes it up the minor league system sooner than expected, that cloud could be dashed away along with Bogaerts, next season. Maybe even sooner than that, if Moncada is the phenom people expect him to be, and can make the transition to shortstop. Although, second base is his more natural position, talent can sometimes shine through in other places.
Then again, Bogaerts showed that same promise before, which made the Red Sox have him start in the World Series. Maybe he could show it again.