Bobby Dalbec learning to play second base shows how little the Red Sox have figured out
The Boston Red Sox’ handling of Bobby Dalbec is a microcosm of their entire season:
Making it up as they go along, and not successfully.
After essentially being replaced at first base with the arrival of Eric Hosmer last week, the Sox need something for Dalbec to do. He came up playing third base, but the hot corner belongs to Rafael Devers. And since they didn’t trade JD Martinez, the DH spot is full.
So, Dalbec is learning second base, a role currently shared by Christian Arroyo and Yolmer Sánchez, since Trevor Story is one of the team’s several injured players. Dalbec began his college and pro career playing third, first, the outfield, and even pitching, but this is the first year he’s ever played second.
Dalbec is one of many things that makes the Sox’ decisions at the trade deadline so perplexing. The Hosmer trade fell into their lap when he refused to be part of the Padres’ Juan Soto deal, but what will the Sox do with him when Triston Casas is ready? And what will happen to Dalbec?
Speaking to the Boston Globe (subscription required), he doesn’t seem happy about his current situation:
"“Nobody has said anything to me. I really don’t know what they’re thinking. I need more consistency. I felt like I was hitting the ball hard early in the season and taking my walks, but not getting rewarded.The more I play, the better I’ll do. It’s always been like that. I’m used to being an everyday player. It’s hard to have success when you get at-bats here and there.I’m not the player I will be. This is all part of the learning process. In terms of the organization, I don’t know how they view me. I just want to help the team win. Honestly that’s all that matters.“I don’t see myself as a platoon player, but right now that’s what I am.”"
In terms of the Red Sox direction, in general, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I really don’t know what they’re thinking’ have been common refrains. Bogaerts and Pedro Martinez are among the current and former players questioning this team’s priorities and plans. Dalbec is one piece of a puzzle with no picture on the box to guide them to a finished product.
And there’s another factor at play here that most fans won’t like. Teaching Dalbec to play second could be taken as yet another sign of the Sox preparing for Bogaerts to move on. The Sox signed Trevor Story to a five-year deal ahead of this season. A natural shortstop, he’d been playing second base before getting hit on the hand by a pitch. But presumably, he is Chaim Bloom’s contingency plan for Bogaerts opting out. If he does, the Story will shift back to shortstop. Dalbec would still be competing with Arroyo, who won’t reach free agency until 2025, for playing time, though.
But why create an expensive and overcomplicated contingency plan when the Sox could simply retain Bogaerts, their homegrown success story and clubhouse leader? It should’ve been a no-brainer to build the roster around Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, especially with all the financial flexibility after this season. Instead, Chaim Bloom gave the money to Story, tendered some questionable pitching contracts, and insulted Bogaerts and Devers in extension negotiations. How’s all of that working out?
While it’s hard to see Dalbec being a competent second baseman when he already struggled in baseball’s easiest spot, it’s really beside the point. Rather than retain their longest-tenured, invaluable, proven talent in Bogaerts, they’ve actually pushed him further out the door.
Early in the season, sources intimated to me that if Casas got off to a strong start in Triple-A, the Sox were prepared to call him up and trade Dalbec before the deadline. When Casas got injured, that plan went out the window.
The plan now – for Dalbec, and for the team as a whole – is anyone’s guess.