Another look at the Boston Red Sox second base puzzle for 2021.
In baseball terminology, a utility infielder has a subtext meaning the player is simply not good enough to corral a regular position. Usually, it is the result of a weak bat and not a weak glove, but there are historic Boston Red Sox exceptions for a utility player shifting around and that means Billy Goodman. In 1950, the lefty-hitting Goodman player just about everywhere and hit .354 to win a batting title.
The Red Sox second base situation continues to be a sore spot on defense and offense with the best solution being Dustin Pedroia. I doubt a dip in the healing waters of Lourdes will help Petey recover from an increasing string of knee surgeries. An active Pedroia would also be significant since his $12 million will be used and not unused, but I don’t expect Pedroia to come through that clubhouse door.
What the Red Sox do have is a number of players capable of playing multiple positions with one being second base. In Pedroia’s absence, many have tried and apparently many have failed. In 2019, it was the usual box of chocolates with Chris Owings being a disaster, Eduardo Nunez sent packing, Michael Chavis blasting his way into contention before the combination of slump and injury took over, and Brock Holt playing the bulk of the games.
In 2020, an influx happened with Jose Peraza deemed the future second baseman. The future lasted until Peraza was sent with his .225 batting average and his -0.4 UZR/150 to the alternate training site. What is left is a smorgasbord of players with the aforementioned Chavis, surprising (so far) Yairo Munoz, light-hitting Jonathan Arauz, long time spare part Tzu-Wei Lin, Christian Arroyo, maybe the released from gulag Peraza, and the potential of number one prospect Jeter Downs.
All those mentioned are capable of multiple positions – even catcher Connor Wong from the Mookie Betts deal can play the infield. Mix and match is already happening with manager Ron Roenicke as Chavis and Munoz have seen outfield duty. Lin can play anywhere. So whoever “wins” the second base job has that versatility the Red Sox seem to prize. The issue now is who will be at second?
With the Red Sox, it is not the flavor of the month but the flavor of the day or maybe two days and that is Arroyo. Arroyo has been a bust in his MLB career hitting just .220 with little power. The former first-round pick quickly moved up on the depth chart with a pair of home runs. The great hope is at age 25, Arroyo has suddenly had a eureka moment and will nail down second base. Based on the conga line of misses at second I would certainly hold off on anointing Arroyo.
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Munoz seems like a hitter and the Red Sox had a bit of good fortune when Munoz went AWOL from his previous employers and Boston picked him up. Munoz looks like a hitter despite a strike zone that would make even Roberto Clemente look like the former “Walking Man” Eddie Yost. The reason Munoz is in the outfield is the kid is a defensive train wreck at second.
Lin has that very good glove and as far as hitting he has a very good glove. But Arauz’s early numbers are not promising as far as defensive prowess at second, but it flips when he plays short. Arauz and Lin – just not much choice as neither seems to anchor down second.
Chavis is getting time in the outfield a position that has developed a sudden need with the absence of Andrew Benintendi and the trade of Kevin Pillar. Jackie Bradley Jr. may or may not return so Chavis – surprisingly competent at second will remain in contention, but a just my opinion he gets the nod only by default. Maybe the Red Sox will trade off Benintendi?
Than never to be overlooked is the free-agent market and what stands above all others is DJ LeMahieu, but after that, it becomes the usual mix of questionable talent for questionable money. I just cannot see Chaim Bloom dipping into the free-agent market.
This seems to come down to Downs and with a team that may lead MLB in losses Downs should get a look, but with Arroyo hitting that look may be in the spring of 2021. I am beginning to just go all-in on Downs and hedging it with Arroyo.