Not that the Boston Red Sox were going to do much buying for another third baseman, after already signing Pablo Sandoval last offseason. Yet, the way that Sandoval played into the angst of Red Sox Nation may lead some to think that the position issue has still to be solved. Judging by the list up for free agency in this offseason, even if they were not on the hook for Sandoval for a great deal of money, the third basemen inventory is pretty thin pickings.
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MLBTradeRumors.com published the 2015-2016 list of MLB free agents for every position, with nine players ready to feel out the market. That process may not be the most wonderful feeling that these men will go through, compared to third basemen in the past. While Sandoval made a deal for five years and $95 million, the chances that the following men will make the same or better are next to none:
- Joaquin Arias (31 years old)
- Mike Aviles (35 years old)
- Gordon Beckham (29 years old)
- David Freese (33 years old)
- Conor Gillaspie (28 years old)
- Maicer Izturis (35 years old) – $3 million club option with a $1 million buyout
- Casey McGehee (32 years old)
- Mark Reynolds (32 years old)
- Juan Uribe (37 years old)
This list is not counting any free agents whom could be converted into third basemen. However, the Red Sox may have had their fill of converting players into other positions after the Hanley Ramirez nightmare, which is still on-going.
The only way to approach this list, and be fair, is to look at Sandoval’s numbers, not his weight and other optics, to compare with the other gentlemen. Sandoval is presently at 29 years of age and had a slashline of .245/.292/.366 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 126 games in 2015. He is projected by Baseball-Reference.com to hit .264/.317/.404 with 13 homers and 58 RBIs, next season.
Defensively, Sandoval’s numbers included a .949 fielding percentage and a 2.42 range factor for nine innings.
Now, let’s look at the list and see what the free agents did in 2015, offensively:
- Joaquin Arias – .207/.207/.276, 1 HR, and 4 RBIs in 40 games
- Mike Aviles – .231/.282/.317, 5 HR, and 17 RBIs in 98 games
- Gordon Beckham – .209/.275/.332, 6 HR, and 20 RBIs in 100 games
- David Freese – .257/.323/.420, 14 HR, and 56 RBIs in 121 games
- Conor Gillaspie – .203/.250/.344, 1 HR, and 9 RBIs in 17 games
- Maicer Izturis – No 2015 data
- Casey McGehee – .198/.264/.274, 2 HR, and 20 RBIs in 109 games
- Mark Reynolds – .230/.315/.398, 13 HR, and 48 RBIs in 140 games
- Juan Uribe – .253/.320/.417, 14 HR, and 43 RBIs in 119 games
To note, Arias was designated for assignment by the San Francisco Giants after hitting a .262 batting average for them the past four years. Gillaspie was designated for assignment in August, after being traded to the Los Angeles Angels.
Izturis’ life has been one misfortune after another for the past couple of seasons. After tripping on the stairs in the dugout that tore his lateral collateral ligament in his left knee, he missed the rest of the 2014 season for the Toronto Blue Jays. Then, he suffered a groin strain in this season’s spring training which kept him from starting the 2015 season. While on rehab in the minors, he tore a muscle in his shoulder which made the team shut him down for the rest of the year. With the addition of Chris Pennington and the emergence of Ryan Goins at second base, the bringer of rain Josh Donaldson playing third base, and the trade that brought Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto, it is highly doubtful that Izturis fits into any of their future plans in the infield, if anywhere.
Based on the offensive numbers of the free agents, are the defensive numbers even material at all?
Offensively, either the free agents had similar numbers at an older age, were much lower in production, or were either designated for the minors or hurt for much of 2015. Hardly a list to inspire much confidence in a general manager shopping for a replacement for a man like Sandoval, who has won three World Series championships, two All-Star appearances, and MVP status for the World Series in 2012.
It’s very possible that the only place for Sandoval to go is down hill, for the rest of his career. However, personal feelings over what fans saw of him this season have to be held at bay so that the team doesn’t compound the problem. People want him to go, but at what cost? If the Red Sox release him, they will still have to pay him that money. And, it’s not like they can just buy a replacement so easily. Some type of trade and free agent combination would have to occur, thinking outside the box, if anything will be done at Fenway Park’s third base spot for the home team. Unless that happens, don’t expect much priority or action being held for it. The Red Sox may believe that they have bigger fish to fry.
Until then, third base is likely going to stink for a while.
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