Red Sox searching beyond Todd Frazier for a third baseman

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 13: Todd Frazier
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 13: Todd Frazier /

For the Boston Red Sox to maintain their hold over the American League East, a move will need to be made at third base over the next two weeks.

On Saturday, reports surfaced that seemed to indicate the Red Sox were close to a deal with the Chicago White Sox to acquire third baseman Todd Frazier. His name has been linked to trade rumors all season, but the mention of an impending deal has really started to accelerate over the last couple days.

There’s still a solid chance that Frazier turns out to be their guy, but according to the Boston Herald’s sources, the Red Sox are doing their due diligence on at least six other infielders.

Those players are the New York Mets’ T.J. Rivera and Asdrubal Cabrera, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ David Freese and Josh Harrison, the San Fransisco Giants’ Eduardo Nunez and the Miami Marlins’ Martin Prado.

With the most offensive upside, Frazier remains the number one target for the Red Sox as they search for an everyday third baseman capable of adding a spark to their lineup. Through Sunday night’s game, Red Sox third basemen are batting .233/.288/.333 with just seven home runs and 39 RBIs this season.

The problem with Frazier, and the reason why the club isn’t limiting their search to just one candidate, is that he’s struggled mightily at times. After Sunday’s 0-for-4, the White Sox third baseman is batting just .207/.328/.432 with 16 home runs. The bright side is that nine of his 16 dingers have come since June 1, six over the past 30 days.

He also has that prototypical “Fenway Park Swing” that the team is seemingly always looking for.

With Brock Holt back on the major league club and Rafael Devers inching closer to a major league debut, the Red Sox can afford to explore every option for now. That doesn’t mean they should stay pat and ride with the platoon they have, though. As the only real contender with a glaring need at third base, the Red Sox will almost certainly make a move by 4 pm on July 31, it’s just a matter of who at this point.

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T.J. Rivera is a rookie slashing .303/.348/.454 for the Mets, who could sell high on the 28-year-old. But then again, he’s controllable for another five years, and in a win-later position, the Mets may see no reason to ship off an asset like that.

Asdrubal Cabrera is enticing because of his strong offensive season and the fact that, like Frazier, he’s a free agent after this season. His $8.25 million salary is significantly less than Frazier’s, but the 31-year-old isn’t native to third base. He’s played just one game at the hot corner in his career, splitting the majority of his time between shortstop and second.

David Freese is three years older than both Cabrera and Freese, but is proven at third base and is no stranger to postseason heroics. He is signed through next season, at $4.25 million, meaning the Red Sox would have to make a decision on either his or Brock Holt’s future in Boston. While Freese’s bat has been fading for years, he’s still more than capable of playing solid defense at third. From the Red Sox’ perspective, they could find similar production from one of the third basemen they already have.

Josh Harrison, a National League All-Star this season, is the most versatile and probably the most valuable player on the list. While he doesn’t hit for much power, he reaches base at a high clip (.352) and is capable of playing second, third, and the corner outfield positions. He’s basically Brock Holt from the first half of 2015. That will make him difficult to pry out of Pittsburgh, but he’s at least worth trying.

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Eduardo Nunez, the baserunning threat in San Francisco is another player set to become a free agent next season. He’s making just $4.2 million this year, so he comes without any risk really. The downside to Nunez is that he’s hit just four home runs while playing below average defense at third. He does offer the versatility to play up the middle or in the corner outfield positions, but that doesn’t really address the Red Sox needs.

Lastly, there is Martin Prado. Making a move for the 33-year-old would make no sense for the Red Sox and it’s not even apparent why they’re scouting him in the first place. He’s owed $11.5 million this year, $13.5 million in 2018, and $15 million in 2019. With core players Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Jackie Bradley approaching arbitration, the Red Sox won’t have the budget to pay a declining infielder that much money. That and he would needlessly block Devers’ path to an everyday position.

Prado’s only real drawing card is that he has a reputation for being a stellar defender. That remains somewhat true, but it won’t be enough to compensate for his .254/.283/.362 slash line and non-existent power. Any of the previously mentioned players would be a better fit.

Next: Brad Bach and Darren O'Day potential bullpen targets

If you were handicapping the odds of each player landing in Boston by July 31, Frazier would still be the favorite. His down year makes him less attractive than he would have been at the start of the season, but he still checks more boxes than any of the other available third basemen.