Stephen Drew’s signing is a clear sign that the youth experiment on the left side of the infield as less than successful. With Xander Bogaerts showing his capability of playing third base during last season’s World Series title run, it would appear that currently injured Will Middlebrooks is left without a position once he returns from the Disabled List.
A move was needed to shore up the Red Sox defense. The numbers are clear – Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks combined for a subpar 0.961 fielding percentage. Red Sox shortstops rank 28th in total fielding runs above average (the number of runs above/below average a player is worth). At third base, the defense has been equally as poor, ranking 26th in total fielding runs above average.
Offensively, Xander Bogaerts’ bat has been acceptable (.270 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI). Plus, at only 21 years old, Bogaerts still is viewed as having a much larger upside.
Middlebrooks, however, has struggled since his breakout 2012 season where he hit 15 HRs in 267 AB. His 2013 season was marred by injury and poor performance (98 strikeouts in 348 AB), leading to a demotion to AAA. Now in 2014, Middlebrooks has been on the field less than half of the Sox’s games as of May 22, hitting .197 with 28 strikeouts).
Adding to the dilemma is that in AAA, 23 year old Garin Cechinni is waiting for his turn. Hitting .295, 1 HR, 6 SB in AAA Pawtucket, the Red Sox think very highly of him. Baseball America ranked him as Boston’s sixth best prospect. With Drew now in the mix, the chances of his arrival in 2014 may be slim. But, with the Red Sox front office saying that Bogaerts is the shortstop of the future, Cechinni’s arrival in 2015 is not be out of the question.
Further hindering Middlebrooks is that the Red Sox seem comfortable with Brock Holt on standby in the event of that Bogaerts falters. Able to play multiple positions, Holt is solid enough defensively to fill in when needed.
With the Red Sox only being four games back as of May 22, the Drew signing indicates that they are far from giving up on 2014. While Stephen Drew is not the “end all – be all” answer to Boston’s woes, he does partner with second baseman Dustin Pedroia to provide the 2014 Red Sox with a stronger defense up the middle. Assuming Bogaerts settles down at third base, it appears Middlebrooks is the odd man out of the now and future of the Boston Red Sox.
All statistics referenced are from http://www.baseball-reference.com/. Robert Morgan is a keen observer of major and minor league baseball based out of New England.