Jose Iglesias was fading offensively, but he was still a major part of the 2013 Red Sox when he was shipped out as part of the three-team Jake Peavy deal Tuesday night. In announcing the trade, the Red Sox declined to discuss the particularly of how he’d be replaced as the team’s third baseman against right-handers and backup shortstop, saying only that they’d likely make a callup Wednesday.
Even before the Iglesias trade, the Red Sox were being talked about as a suitor for the Phillies’ Michael Young, and he now seems like a legitimate fit with Iglesias gone. He delivered his eighth homer for the Phillies on Tuesday, and he’s batting a solid .279/.345/.411 on the season. His defense, though, leaves much to be desired.
The Red Sox do have internal alternatives. Three of them, in fact:
– Will Middlebrooks – The team’s starting third baseman until a lengthy slump, combined with strong play from Iglesias, got him demoted to the majors in late June. He started off well for Triple-A Pawtucket, but he’s hit just .243/.297/.398 with 22 strikeouts in 103 at-bats in July. He came in at .192/.228/.389 with nine homers in 203 at-bats before being sent down.
– Brock Holt – Strictly a stopgap. Holt hasn’t hit up to expectations in Triple-A, coming in at .264/.328/.293 in 239 at-bats, but he did do a nice job during his stint with the Red Sox earlier this month, hitting .290 with three walks and just two strikeouts in 31 at-bats. Even though he didn’t have an extra-base hit, he managed to drive in eight runs. A nice thing about Holt is that he’s a left-handed batter, so he could be used in a true platoon with Brandon Snyder, who has been starting against lefties anyway. Unlike Middlebrooks, he also qualifies as a backup shortstop, though he’s not someone a team would want starting there for any length of time.
– Xander Bogaerts – The top prospect. The guy they wouldn’t trade for Cliff Lee. Bogaerts was left at shortstop all year until the Red Sox finally eased him over to third with five starts over the last couple of weeks. The 20-year-old has hit .295/.396/.491 with 14 homers between Double- and Triple-A this year, and he’s easily the hottest hitter in the group, coming in at .302/.423/.512 in July. He’s a better shortstop than Holt, and there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll prove adept at third base with more reps. Ideally, he’d get at least another 7-10 days to work at the position before his callup. The Red Sox, though, might not to wait.
Frankly, I don’t see how Middlebrooks can be Boston’s choice, not unless the team jettisons Snyder and replaces him with a backup middle infielder. Neither Middlebrooks nor Snyder can serve as a backup at shortstop and second. I suspect that the Red Sox will call up Holt and continue to work Bogaerts third base in Triple-A with the idea of giving him a look in mid-August, but I’d hardly be shocked if they just tried Bogaerts now. He’s a special talent, a lot like Manny Machado was last year when the Orioles called him up after just two games at third base in the minors. That worked out OK for them.
3:10 a.m. EDT update: Looks like the Holt guess was right. A Red Sox source told WEEI’s Rob Bradford that he’d be the initial choice to replace Iglesias on the roster.