Here we are in the second half of May and discussions around Stephen Drew has not disappeared.
This is a sign that things are not going smoothly on the left side of the infield.
With the Red Sox only three games back in the divisional race is it time for a change?
Let us review the third base and shortstop positions to date and then look at the options moving forward.
The Red Sox have gone with Will Middlebrooks (over 21 games and 82 plate appearances, .197/.305/.324) as their starting third baseman, but he has been down on the disabled list twice so far this season. Once with a strained calf and now with a broken index finger on his throwing hand.
His backup as been Brock Holt (over 8 games and 31 plate appearances, .308/.387/.385) who is a valid option tearing up Triple-A with a slash line of .315/.380/.454 over 121 plate appearances. Where you can state a case for small sample sizes at the major league level, he is a valid success at the Triple-A level.
Right now it is not a fight to earn playing time at third base for the two players above, but how long can you wait?
The numbers could be out of whack with reality due to the short left field fence at Fenway Park, where he’s hitting just .225 with a .619 OPS, vs. a far more robust .284-.803 line on the road. He is a gap-to-gap hitter with power to center and right-center. If, and only guessing here, he is subconsciously trying to pull in Fenway then it could be hurting him.
The discussion around Stephen Drew has yet to abate with the Red Sox below .500 in a division that is turning out to be weak and for the taking. This might be the reason that the Red Sox have given the younger infielders so much time to settle into their positions.
Nothing has been lost with a current deficit of only 3.0 games from the first place Yankees.
The questions is how long to wait before you admit that something needs to be shaken up?
Rob Bradford noted that when asked about Drew on the Bradfo Show podcast (to be aired today), Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said, "“Right now we know we’re right in the middle of this division. We know there are a lot of strengths on the team. We have a lot of depth, even before the 25-man roster that we might be able to count on maybe later in the year. We know we have position players that are going to hit more because that’s what they’ve always done. And we know we’ve got an area on the left field of the infield where we’re missing a player, and where we haven’t gotten the total performance that we would like to get at this point in the year. I think what all that means is that we’ll continue to look at the information we have in front of us at the time and try to make decisions accordingly. There is always an interest in improving. The default position is always let’s see how much we can get internally first, and then consider external alternatives after that.”
This does not sound like a move to get Stephen Drew back at shortstop and have Will Middlebrooks fight with Xander Bogaerts for playing time at third base.
It would make more sense right now to wait out the division as three games is not too far off the pace to panic.
There is no guarantee that Stephen Drew will hit well after being out of baseball for so long, currently working out down in Georgia just to stay in shape. What is the value you place on him right now in the sense is he worth more than the $14.1 million qualifying offer that he turned down? What is he asking for now that he is quickly approaching the June draft date where his draft pick compensation will be removed and probably open up his chances of finding a good paying employer.
Watch Brock Holt closely the coming weeks as he fills in for Will Middlebrooks, will he continue to put up +.300 AVG?
If he does, he is a valid choice to leave at third base and let Will Middlebrooks learn how to tear up Triple-A again before bringing him back up.
A Will Middlebrooks and Brock Holt fight for third base and watching the progress of Xander Bogaerts at shortstop would be the road to take for now, but if the Red Sox fall off the pace on the divisional race then you can expect some changes.
Eric is a contributing writer since 2013 and a true Overseas Fan of the Boston Red Sox living in the Netherlands. He's spent years on baseball fields around the world pitching. His weekends are now spent helping the next generations of pitchers to find their passion and love for the sport. More articles by Eric: https://www.redsoxlife.com/search/label/ericschabell