If the Boston Red Sox give utility player Brock Holt many at-bats this season, is it a good thing or a sign that something else is wrong with the team?
Rick Weber of ESPN went to Fort Myers, Florida and covered manager John Farrell‘s response to questions about Holt: “Manager John Farrell, asked whether it would be a challenge to get Holt enough at-bats given that Hanley Ramirez has taken over as the regular first baseman and the Red Sox added outfielder Chris Young in the offseason, answered immediately and definitively in the negative.”
Farrell said, “The game is valuing this type of player and the versatility he gives us. But he will get a huge number of at-bats from a high number of positions.”
At 27, Holt’s lefty bat has hit .277 with six home runs and 88 RBIs in 285 games scattered over his four-year MLB career. Holt was made an All-Star in 2015, the only player on the Red Sox to make that roster, hitting .280.
The problem with a player like Holt is that his appearance in the lineup is usually because someone else in the starting lineup is either sick, injured, or playing poorly. By Farrell declaring that Holt will get many at-bats at many positions, he may be foreseeing a need for a replacement instead of having his starters play without issue.
There’s nothing wrong with having a solid player, who could start at almost any position on any other team, to give veterans days off to rest; however, regardless of Holt’s words of doing what’s best for the team, it has to be rough on the player himself when everyone knows that he could be having a starting MLB career of his own. Holt has paid his dues and deserves a starting position.
For the Red Sox, Holt has played almost every position other than pitcher and catcher. He had a perfect fielding percentage at every position other than shortstop (.950) and third base (.955) last season. Having star shortstop Xander Bogaerts on the team means that Holt shouldn’t need to play there unless Bogaerts gets injured. Depending on how well Pablo Sandoval bats in his second season in Boston, Holt may see more time at third base if the Kung Fu Panda continues to be a bust of a free agent signing.
That’s not factoring in the outfield. Even with Young as the next man in line, Holt’s bat was better than Young’s .252 with the New York Yankees, making him potentially the better replacement. If the second Hanley Ramirez experiment works out at first base, or if the other Red Sox utility player Travis Shaw is deemed a better fit at the position, Holt should be free to assume duties in the outfield.
Anyone else noticing a pattern?
Holt’s present day with the Red Sox is very bright, getting his name discussed everywhere; however, his future is much more complicated.
Holt becomes eligible for arbitration in 2017, with free agency in 2020. Considering he has played better than many of the starters in Boston, his worth could be much greater than the $530.5 thousand he
made last year. Maybe even more than the Red Sox wish to pay a bench player, especially if it’s more than some of the starters.
Dustin Pedroia could get injured, once again, making Holt a needed asset. That’s until Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada is ready to move up to the MLB ranks to replace Pedroia. Hanley could get injured, once again, making Holt a possibility at first base, if Shaw doesn’t seem like a better and cheaper option. One of the outfield starters could go down for months, requiring Holt to make some highlight-reel catches of his own, if Young isn’t used first. Sandoval could be horrendous at third base, turning on the Bolt-signal for Holt to swoop in and save the day, if the Red Sox don’t replace Sandoval in some other manner, whether by trade or free agency.
If Holt doesn’t find a way to become a full-time starter with the Red Sox, Boston may find their All-Star utility player to be expendable, more valuable as a trade asset than a bench player. For Holt’s sake, the bolt who continued to jolt life back into the Fenway faithful in 2015 should take 2016 as possibly the most important season of his entire career. At this point, Holt has never been worth more to the Red Sox, or any other team for that matter.