The Boston Red Sox's situation at second base this year was rough. Nine different players got the start at the top of the diamond in 2023, with the team never quite being able to decide who would take over for Christian Arroyo when he was hurt for much of the early-to-mid-season and was DFA'd in early August. Enmanuel Valdez and Luis Urias emerged as the most regular presences, with the occasional sprinkling of Cedanne Rafaela and Pablo Reyes. Suffice it to say, this wasn't an ideal position for the Red Sox to find themselves in.
The pickings on free agent position players are relatively slim, but the Red Sox have shown interest in a former division rival in Whit Merrifield, who became a free agent this offseason after a year and some change with the Blue Jays.
Veteran infielder Whit Merrifield is a candidate for the Red Sox's second base spot
Merrifield's defensive production waned significantly this year, which could be an unfortunate side effect of his age (Merrifield will be 35 through the 2024 season), but also could be because of the Blue Jays' choice to put him in the outfield almost as often as second. He appeared in 145 games, about half at second and the other half in the outfield, but finished the year with his first negative OAA since 2019 because of negative numbers in left and right fields. Age will be the rub on Merrifield, who has also never had an exceptional bat. He did slash .272/.318/.382 this year and had a low K% at 17.1, but his batting run value has been relatively low throughout his career.
Despite his age, however, Merrifield is still a capable runner on the base paths. He's a three-time AL leader in stolen bases in 2017, 2018, and 2021, with a 201 career total and 26 in 2023, and his sprint speed is still exceptional. His defensive numbers were also much more favorable when he played at second (4 OAA at second, -5 in the outfield), which is presumably where the Red Sox would put him regularly.
Craig Breslow even told the Athletic that his ideal second baseman would be a right-handed hitter who could provide defensive support, which Merrifield seems to slot into nicely. Breslow did mention "Gold Glove-caliber" with regard to defense, which he might have to concede with Merrifield, but he could also provide veteran leadership on a team which lacks a clear clubhouse leader.
The Red Sox aren't likely to be the only suitors in on Merrifield — the White Sox have also expressed interest since October — who headlines the second base offerings in his free agent class this year. However, given their evident lack of aggression this offseason, Merrifield might be a player they need to put some effort into.