Red Sox have options at third base for 2018 season

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 02: Eduardo Nunez
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 02: Eduardo Nunez /

Who’s on third base for the 2018 Boston Red Sox? Does Rafael Devers need to move to first? Who could platoon with Devers?

If Boston Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombroski read my previous post and moved Rafael Devers to first base, he would begin searching for a replacement at third.

Dave Dom would be seeking a player who can provide at least League average defense and above-average power.

With the Panda shipped “RETURN TO SENDER” back to San Francisco and Boston still obligated to pay him about $18.5 million in 2018 and 2019, the Red Sox would be looking within the organization, then at free agents and trade targets.

The Red Sox No. 2 ranked prospect is third baseman, Michael Chavis, picked in the 2014 Draft [1st (26)] and, if the projections are correct, he could be ready by 2019.

MLB Prospects says:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 45 | Overall: 55

"“Chavis has plenty of bat speed, strength and loft in his right-handed stroke, so he can hit home runs without selling out for power. He’s at his best as a hitter when he keeps his swing under control and uses the whole field, and he has stopped trying to pull everything out of the park. He has made significant strides with his pitch recognition, two-strike approach and ability to handle breaking balls.”"

His offense in his combined two Minor league years at SAL [A+] and POR [AA] shows promise:

AB:  471   BA:  .282   HR: 39  RBI: 84   Rs: 89   BB: 39   K: 113

If GM Dombroski is confident that Chavis will be ready that soon, he could be looking for a one-year place-holder at third.

The fill-in and wait plan would seem ideal, but the Sox may not want to count on another Devers’ “rookie miracle” in 2019, which would require a Plan B:  signing a proven player to a multi-year contract.

The Fenway Faithful who once yelled “Yoooook!” may be shouting “Moooooose!” if Dombroski signs Free agent Mike Moustakas (29), who bounced back after missing most of 2016 with a knee injury to lead regular third basemen with 38 homers — 16 more than his previous career high.

More from Red Sox News

Aging free agent Todd Frazier (32) would fit into the Red Sox clubhouse as a veteran gamer, but, while Baseball Reference lists a 162-game career average projection at .254 with 30 HR and sixth among qualified hitters in walk rate (14.4 percent), his 2017 stats were a dismal .213 with 27 bombs.

Then there’s Yunel Escobar, who didn’t play after Aug. 6 due to an [oblique injury], Trevor Plouffe and Jhonny Peralta at the shallow end of the FA pool.

Even if Devers’s defense improves and he claims third base for the long haul, a righty bat with some pop would prove valuable in a platoon and also serve as an insurance policy for late inning defense.

Enter Nunez (31), a “Super Sub,” at third second, shortstop and in the outfield, worth more than 2 WAR in back-to-back seasons, while batting .299/.332/.445 with 28 homers and 64 steals.

Nunez posted his highest career BABIP in 2017 [.333], .025 points higher than his career average and little difference from his 2016 and 2017.

Next: Free agents for Red Sox to avoid

Whether offensive sensation Devers cuts down his errors at third or slides over to first or promising prospect Michael Chavis shows up in 2019, a 2-year, $15 million contract with Nunez would be the smart move for the 2018 Red Sox.