The Boston Red Sox have a logjam on the left side of their infield, going into 2014, and they need to make a decision.
Either they need to re-sign Stephen Drew to play shortstop and let Xander Bogaerts play third, or they need to collect the draft pick attached to Drew and play Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks together and see what happens.
Here is a vote in letting Drew walk.
Nothing against Drew and the solid, capable job he did last year at short. At Fenway, Drew regained his stroke—during the regular season, anyways—and provided his best defensive year since 2010 with the Arizona Diamondbacks—managing a career-high .984 fielding percentage.
Nope, the case has little to do with Drew and everything to do with giving Middlebrooks a healthy year at third to see what the 25-year-old can do when healthy. In Middlebrooks two seasons with Boston, he took over for Kevin Youkilis early in 2012 and missed time last season with an injury.
In his 169 career games with the Sox, he has 33 home runs. Are not the Red Sox looking for another power hitter to back up David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the lineup? There you go, give a healthy Middlebrooks the chance to protect the big boppers.
We know that Bogaerts will be given every chance to start next season, either at short or third. Unless he really fouls it up, Bogaerts will get the bulk of the playing time for, at least, the first quarter of the season.
If Boston re-signs Drew then Middlebrooks sits. You are not bringing Drew back to do anything but start at shortstop. Drew is too capable of playing every day for him to take any deal where he is not the starter.
That leaves Middlebrooks either as a trade chip or in limbo.
Benched in the World Series in favor of Bogaerts, Spring Training should be all about rebuilding the confidence of the young third baseman and not making him look over his shoulder. It cannot be reassuring for him to read and hear about Bogaerts earning the third base job or whether he will be traded.
If Boston does indeed intend to trade Middlebrooks, the best possible time to do that is now and let him mental prepare for the new season with his new team.
On the other hand, if you believe that the Sox are seriously going to replace the departed Jacoby Ellsbury with Jackie Bradley Jr., then why not cross that bridge in the infield?
The Red Sox have already pigeon holed catcher Ryan Lavarnway out of a job. Lavarnway will never get a full season of playing time in Boston next year because they have no place to play him.
They should not be doing the same thing to Middlebrooks.
Let Drew walk and assess where they are come next October. They might be pleasantly surprised at the results.
* * *
- REPORT: Stephen Drew to Reject Qualifying Offer
- REPORT:Stephen Drew Leaving Boston Red Sox
- Boston Red Sox See No One Accept Qualifying Offers
- Boston Red Sox Give Three Qualifying Offers
- 2014 Coming into Focus for Boston Red Sox
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