Red Sox options for replacing Rafael Devers at third
What do the Red Sox do with Rafael Devers? The issue is certainly not related to Rafi’s ability to whack the small white sphere but to catch it. Once caught leads to part two, getting said sphere to the appropriate base without observing it careening around the field.
In the past, I have often compared Devers to a Butch Hobson defensive clone in waiting. Hobson had three special skills: Tape measure home runs, accumulating whiffs, and making errors – bushels of errors. In 1978 Hobson racked up 43, and the Red Sox ended up losing a one-game playoff to the Yankees.
I certainly believe the Red Sox would have won the title if manager Don Zimmer and GM Haywood Sullivan had replaced Hobson with a cement block at third base.
Like Devers, Hobson could be spectacular, and that would result in has he finally turned the defensive corner? Those hopes would soon be dashed by a crucial faux pas defensively, resulting in a contributing factor to a loss. But 75 bombs and 285 RBI from 1977-1979 gave a world of second, third, and fourth chances.
Devers is a far more accomplished hitter than the butcher of third base. From my fading memories, Devers is also a more accomplished fielder. Of course, compared to Hobson, Stevie Wonder would be a better fielder.
What do you do with Devers?
Is Devers a designated hitter in waiting? Not every player can adjust to being a DH, and with ego comes a further complication. The Red Sox lineup already has a DH unless J.D. Martinez chooses to opt-out – an unlikely situation.
Can Devers be moved defensively? First base would be the most likely option, but with the emergence of Bobby Dalbec, that could be squashed. Of course, Dalbec is by trade a third baseman, so that option still exists – maybe.
The Red Sox roster has Kyle Schwarber, who undoubtedly will exercise his option and test the market. If Schwarber stays, first base may await. Schwarber is an adventure in left field – not quite Manny Ramirez’s adventure, but the potential is there. Then comes the Big Kahuna.
Triston Casas is the Red Sox number one prospect. If murdering a baseball was a criminal offense, the slugger would be on death row. Casas is the real deal. He has potential 40+ home runs and a high batting average and can lock down the bag defensively.
If Dalbec is not an illusion, the 2022 Red Sox could have a cluster of DH candidates. But Dalbec has respectable reports defensively at third base. No Brooks Robinson but capable enough.
Moving Devers is a possible domino situation. He may not be the best option at third, but the shuffling could cause more issues at other positions. What is known at this point is the Red Sox are simply a substandard defensive team. Devers is the most apparent liability but not alone in the defensive morass.
Dalbec “is improving” at first base according to who you wish to believe. Still, Bobby D is collecting some less than impressive negatives in defensive runs saved. Would Devers be any better? Is just this moving a problem elsewhere?
Looking at the pure defense, recently reunited Travis Shaw would be just a stalemate compared to Dalbec. Shaw represents the past and not the future – a possible worthy addition to the bench but one not to take innings or at-bats from a Dalbec or Devers.
The more I mull over the situation, the more it comes down to a balancing act. Good (hitting) versus evil (defense). So far, the good is incredible regarding run production. Another year with Devers at third base as the roster sorts out changes, especially at DH and first base. Restructuring at this point has too many negatives – that could change with the next bonehead defensive mess.
One last option is a possible trade of Devers. Chaim Bloom moved Mookie Betts, and Devers is the next massive contract in waiting. I would not dismiss the trade possibility with the Red Sox now viewing their business model.
The Red Sox have defensive issues and Devers is a significant part of those issues, but regarding the infield, Devers has other accomplices. This team gives up far too many outs and that impacts pitching. They need to tighten up defensively.