Boston Red Sox: Will Middlebrooks a potential long shot third base option
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox have a dilemma at third base – no consistently sustainable talent. Maybe a revisit to patient zero on the problem would help?
The Boston Red Sox have a physics problem at third base – a black hole or maybe a rabbit hole? Looking at the season-ending statistics so graciously provided by numerous baseball statistical aficionado’s, you simply scan down the third base list…and down….and down. At last, one discovers at the very bottom the name emblazoned “Red Sox.”
How bad is it?
The numbers are an embarrassment for a team that prides itself on being somewhat of an offensive juggernaut. The fWAR was barely above what I assume is some type of metrics Mendoza Line at 0.8. A combined batting average of .238 was well below the team average of .282. Other statistics follow the path of need – home runs were a miserly 19 for 13th place among American League teams. I could rattle on, but suffice to say the Red Sox need a power boost or at minimal an average boost.
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There is, however, a nugget of success on third and that is the combined defensive efforts of all who were sent into the fray. The DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) was second in the league with an impressive 48. Overall the defense was ranked fourth in UZR/150.
The players or pretenders.
Aaron Hill was brought in to provide some semblance of order where none existed and failed. The usual suspects surfaced to plug the hole at third with the most notable being Brock Holt. The third base position had been in the capable hands and bat of Travis Shaw until Shaw decided to demonstrate why he was a career .261 hitter in the minors. Shaw’s second-half performance was forgettable.
The Red Sox decided that the potential solution was desperation and took a chance with Yoan Moncada. This is the proverbial “rush job” that was successful with Andrew Benintendi so just maybe? Moncada, a physical beast, was, to put it kindly, not up to the task.
What is the solution?
This is not a baseball rubrics cube. The Red Sox certainly could stagger along at third with a blend of new, old and hopeful, but with money and resources that is unnecessary. What is shocking is that the favorite for 2017 is actually Pablo Sandoval and no need to visit that history again. They need a possible patch until Moncada or Rafael Devers prove they are ready.
The free agent possibilities are as sparse as the salad on Dustin Pedroia’s dome. Justin Turner will undoubtedly stay with the Dodgers and the remaining options, simply keep the position stagnant. Of course, the trade winds could always blow and Dave Dombrowski could put together a decent package and solve the problem, but I will now place into the mix the very reason why we have this mess – Will Middlebrooks.
Middlebrooks was supposed to be the answer for ten years of relatively high production at third base and that appeared so. What happened is open for debate as Middlebrooks simply failed to hit. Shaw appears to be following a similar path only not as rapidly. Middlebrooks is now a free agent and open for bids. Somehow I do not expect a frenzy among buyers.
I would risk it with Middlebrooks. Sign him to one of those minor league deals that are tossed about. Bring him to spring training and see what happens. This is a very low impact situation with minimal investment. Another body for the scrum at third base during the spring.
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Middlebrooks was – eventually – a failure. Jackie Bradley went 0-for-35 a few years back and turned it around. Xander Bogaerts went from a borderline failure into a success. Sandy Leon came out of nowhere. Rick Porcello became a 22-game winner. You never know.
I will now go take my meds and hope that somehow this current eureka moment dissipates.