When the Red Sox took Deven Marrero in the first round of the 2012 draft, many expected that he would one day take over as the team’s shortstop of the future. Various factors have made that hope a rather unlikely reality– the emergence of Xander Bogaerts as one of the top young players in baseball, the signing of Pablo Sandoval, and some frankly uninspiring minor league numbers– but Marrero can still be a useful piece for the Red Sox, potentially as soon as this season.
Marrero fits the prototype of the shortstop with a strong glove but questionable bat. His defense has drawn rave reviews throughout his professional career and he profiles as one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. It appeared that he had made a breakthrough at the plate when he slashed .291/.371/.433 in 302 plate appearances with Double-A Portland last season. However, he largely mitigated that possible breakthrough when he proceeded to hit just .210/.260/.285 in 198 plate appearances in Triple-A.
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While his fielding prowess is obviously attractive, concerns over his bat have led to many questions over Marrero’s longterm potential, particularly in Boston. With Bogaerts locked in at shortstop, Sandoval at third (prohibiting a move to third for Bogaerts, which could make room for Marrero), and Dustin Pedroia at second, there’s not a clear path to playing time for Marrero.
Plus, the Red Sox have Brock Holt locked in as their utility infielder, eliminating even that option. Anything less than a utility infielder role would be an insult to Marrero, who has the potential to be a solid starting shortstop. Whatever his future might be, though, it could very well be decided this season.
At some point, if Bogaerts goes down with an injury, the Red Sox will likely recall Marrero from Pawtucket to serve as the starting shortstop. If he succeeds, the Red Sox may keep him around as an “in case of emergency” piece. However, just as likely (and possibly more likely), the Red Sox will need Marrero this season as a trade chip. After a few terrible starts by Boston’s starting pitchers in recent days, it’s looking more like the team will pursue a frontline starter at the trade deadline.
Rental starters are generally not so expensive (see: David Price trade), but a player of Marrero’s caliber would be an excellent prospect to include in a trade. He’s blocked in Boston but still has the potential to be a solid everyday shortstop, and potentially more if his bat develops. Whether or not the Red Sox keep Marrero, they’ll need him soon, but right now it’s looking like he’ll play his most important role as a trade chip.