The left side of the infield, 2014 and beyond

Saints Rest

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Chad Finn is predicting that Drew will sign a multi-year deal with the Sox.  Should that happen, and I'm not convinced it is even likely, but it certainly is defensible, what happens in 2014 and beyond in terms of the ramifications of that deal?
  • Certainly seems VERY likely that we would see X take up home at 3B.  I imagine that based on how quickly he took to it in mid-season, that an offseason of prep (both mental and physical) combined with a full spring training, would make him a very good third baseman in the field.
  • Assuming that to be the case, whither WMB in 2014?  Trade?  Backup corner IF (who like X would need to spend his offseason and ST learning at least one, if not two, new positions that were thrust upon him in mid-season in 2013?  Could he be the platoon partner to Carp should Napoli take his talents to greener pa$ture$?
  • Then in 2015 (if not sooner) whither Cecchini?  If WMB finds a home at 1B, and/or as utility guy on the bench, does Cheech move to the OF?  Trade bait?
  • Then, way down the line, when Drew's presumptive multi-year deal ends (Finn posits a 3-year deal, so we'd be talking 2017!), who is the SS then?  Because I imagine that If X plays 3B almost exclusively for 3 years, it might be hard to move back to SS.
 

67WasBest

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I think moving X to 3B happens only if they have a highly desired target that requires Middlebrooks in the deal.  X at shortstop gives the Sox such a production boost at the position, I can't see them diminishing that value without a forced move to 3B.  At the same tiume, I can see them having more faith in Drew / X than X / WMB, I just don't think that faith is worth the lost draft pick and the funds for Drew.
 
As far as who would be the SS in 3 years?  Marrero should be ready by then, or they shop.
 

JimBoSox9

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just, seriously, fuck fuck fuck these quote boxes.  Brian Butterfield thinks Xander can stick as SS, per Scott Lauber, and Gammo quotes a Sox official saying they are not close to giving up on Middlebrooks, and I dunno how to square that with the signing-Drew rumors.
 

Just a bit outside

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I don't think Drew resigns unless Middlebrooks is gone.  The only other possibility if Middlebrooks stays is that he becomes a utility infielder and right-handed platoon first baseman and I am not sure he can hit enough to be a 1st baseman.
 
I would rather ride with X at short and Will at 3rd.
 

TheYaz67

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I think I saw today the NYPost was speculating/hearing that the Mets and others (Cardinals etc) are very likely to go 4 years on Drew (at $12M+ per year), which strikes me as a bridge too far for Ben.  If he did go four years with the Sox, then yeah, you need to get rid of WMB if X is the plan at 3rd.  If it is only three years, perhaps you keep WMB as the cost controlled utility guy/in case of injury at SS or 3rd....
 

seantoo

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Just a bit outside said:
I don't think Drew resigns unless Middlebrooks is gone.  The only other possibility if Middlebrooks stays is that he becomes a utility infielder and right-handed platoon first baseman and I am not sure he can hit enough to be a 1st baseman.
 
I would rather ride with X at short and Will at 3rd.
It's hard to predict with any certainty how this will play out simply because it seems that every decision/player impacts another position/decision. Should Napoli sign elsewhere, several in-house options at first come into play never mind making a trade to cover first. In house possibilities inclulde Carp, Nava, Middlebrooks, and possibly Hassan. At the same point last year I had figured that X would be at third and Iglesias would be our SS for this season, with Middlebrooks sliding to first. Things changed quickly. I still believe that Middlebrooks days in the orginization is numbered wether it be this off-season or in season 2014. Chances are that it would be this off-season should Napoli resign with the team, becuase Middlebrooks would be worth more to another team as a starting 3B than as a back-up thirdbase, part time firstbaseman for us. If Drew does not resign with us then Middlebrooks may end up staying within the orginization until Cecchini establishes himself. My ETA on that is during the course of the 2015 season with a late call-up this season. Drew OR/and Napoli resigning could effect up to 3 positions or more. 
 

IdiotKicker

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The big issue is that Xander's best value is at short, but there is a dearth of quality guys to play 3B available right now unless you want to try to make moves on Michael Young for a 1-year deal.  Cecchini is probably at least 6 months away from a call-up, let alone producing at the major league level.  And I think given the way last season went, the front office is having serious doubts about WMBs ability to play a productive third base.  WMB looks like he could very easily follow the career path of Jeff Francoeur, so from a personal perspective, I'd be hesitant handing him the reins next year at 3B without a very solid backup plan.
 
So essentially what you have to weigh is the value you give up in not having Xander at short, as well as the cash outlay for Drew, versus either replacement cost or backup cost for WMB and the potential value you give up at 3B if you keep Xander at short.  Compounding this is the issue that it's unlikely we are going to see increased production from our other free agent positions, so you don't really have the ability to make up the gap somewhere else.  Given all of this, my personal preference would be to avoid signing Drew, simply because his signing closes off other options for future seasons.  I like flexibility.  Flexibility gives you the opportunity to take advantage of other teams issues when they arise.
 

JMDurron

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This rumor only makes any sense to me in two scenarios.
 
Scenario 1 (Most Likely) - The team or the player's agent is leaking incumbent team interest to help drive up the price in the market.  The Sox won't care to shoot down any such rumors because they might be fine with doing Drew a favor and/or don't care how high the prices go in a subset of the market that they aren't going to have to shop in anyway. 
 
Scenario 2 (Less Likely) - All the people comparing Middlebrooks to Francoeur can shift the barely-relevant analogy to Jed Lowrie.  If Middlebrooks' back issue(s) is/are really a bigger problem in the team's eyes than has been publicly noted thus far, keeping that quiet until after a Drew signing to stay at SS until the next batch of SS/3B prospects might be ready while Bogaerts plays 3B would make sense. 
 
Both scenarios assume that Finn is not talking entirely out of his ass/taking a wild-ass guess.  His name isn't synonymous with "writes articles by querying his rectal database for an idea, then copy-pasting onto the screen", unlike so many other area scribes, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. 
 
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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JMDurron said:
Both scenarios assume that Finn is not talking entirely out of his ass/taking a wild-ass guess.  His name isn't synonymous with "writes articles by querying his rectal database for an idea, then copy-pasting onto the screen", unlike so many other area scribes, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. 
 
 
His name really isn't synonymous with being well connected with sources within MLB front offices or player agents, either.  I don't think he necessarily pulled the prediction out of his rectum (perhaps simply wishful thinking), but I don't think it's based on any inside info.  It's pure speculation.
 

JMDurron

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Red(s)HawksFan said:
 
His name really isn't synonymous with being well connected with sources within MLB front offices or player agents, either.  I don't think he necessarily pulled the prediction out of his rectum (perhaps simply wishful thinking), but I don't think it's based on any inside info.  It's pure speculation.
 
In this case, it's speculation that doesn't begin to make sense without some other kind of information about one of Middlebrooks or Bogaerts attached to it, so I'm at least hoping that there would be some indicator somewhere that made Finn think that Drew returning beyond a possible acceptance of the QO (now gone) would be a possibility. 
 

reggiecleveland

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I am not a fan of Middlebrooks. I don't like guys that don't walk. There is little chance that his patience improves very much. But, that being said he has serious power and I believe the Sox want to see if he can develop into a player for them. His trade value is likley not sky high. Coming off a WS win I think you put him and X on the left side and give them a chance.
 

Tyrone Biggums

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Speier mentioned a number of somewhere around $34 million that the Sox had to play with currently. Would the best option be to spend 10-12 million of that on a position that can already be filled in house? Remember that Boston is in a tremendous position in which WMB and Boegarts are both cost controlled players and they aren't really that bad either. One thing about WMB as noted previously is that he doesn't draw walks, so while I don't see him being the long term answer at the hot corner he will be for 2014. Cecchini also figures to be knocking on the door at some point during the season. Just doesn't make sense to give that money to Drew. 
 

CaskNFappin

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I truly believe WMB will benefit from health and consistent playing time. His lack of patience might have been a case of trying too hard for big hits to keep himself on the roster. His shortened rookie season was far from atrocious.....I'd like to think we will see more of that when he has a regular job. If Garin keeps up his good pace, I'd like to see WMB get more reps at 1B.....Having those two plus X in the infield allows for a lot of financial flexibility for several years without fielding an impotent line up.
 

BCsMightyJoeYoung

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Concerning the Drew rumour. Initially I thought the Sox would be quite happy to see Drew go off on his way with a Pick for compensation. Now, I'm not so sure. Cecchini is a couple of years away .. And there's already talk of moving him to the OF (on merit as much as opportunity)

So it comes down to .. Which combo is better for the next two years .. Drew/X or X/WMB plus pick + 24m (Drew's salary for the two years)

That seems like a no brainier to me .. but, if the Sox really are considering it, it's pretty likely they really have no confidence in WMB.
 

ehaz

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I wonder if Rafael Furcal could still hit.  Seems like a good buy-low move for infield depth if they decide to proceed with WMB/X starting.  36, coming off Tommy John and a great glove.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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Chuck Z said:
WMB looks like he could very easily follow the career path of Jeff Francoeur, so from a personal perspective, I'd be hesitant handing him the reins next year at 3B without a very solid backup plan.
Francoeur was a more or less useful player for a bunch of years. He certainly had major limitations, and if he had been my starting RF even in his prime, I would have had my eye out for upgrades. But really, if that's WMB's downside, that's kind of praising with faint damnation.
 
 
reggiecleveland said:
I am not a fan of Middlebrooks. I don't like guys that don't walk. There is little chance that his patience improves very much. But, that being said he has serious power and I believe the Sox want to see if he can develop into a player for them. His trade value is likley not sky high. Coming off a WS win I think you put him and X on the left side and give them a chance.
 
Are you basing the bolded statement on evidence? I'm sure somebody must have done a rigorous study of the PD career arcs of guys who hit the majors with poor PD but lots of power, but I can't seem to find it. While there are certainly plenty of guys who never get it, there are also Matt Williamses. Williams managed modest improvements in both BB and K rate after his first few years; he was never a PD ninja by any stretch, but he was able to make himself a useful hitter overall, with a career 113 OPS+ and 110 wRC+. To me WMB looks like he could turn out to be a Williams-type player. Obviously we have no evidence yet that he can be that good, but I think it's a bit early to foreclose on the possibility.
 
In short, I agree with everything after the bolded bit that I responded to.
 
Of course the Sox may have their own reasons, based on their direct knowledge of WMB, to think that kind of development isn't in the cards. But I don't think the numbers tell us that.
 

reggiecleveland

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I am not sure how your example conflicts what I said. I said it likley does not improve much, but given his power he can be a useful player. Power is what made MAtt Williams valuable. An OBA of .310-.320 with 30 homers is a good player.
 

ehaz

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Lose Remerswaal said:
He didn't play last year, and he had OPS in the mid .600s in 2011 and 2012, so I think the answer is "no"
A .260/.330/.345 line for a veteran glove first shortstop who's job is simply to provide infield depth is not bad at all.  It's still a huge upgrade over Brock Holt and he couldn't possibly cost too much.
 

IdiotKicker

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Savin Hillbilly said:
Francoeur was a more or less useful player for a bunch of years. He certainly had major limitations, and if he had been my starting RF even in his prime, I would have had my eye out for upgrades. But really, if that's WMB's downside, that's kind of praising with faint damnation.
 
 
Outside of his first season, Francoeur had exactly 2 seasons where he produced greater than 2 WAR and put up a career OPS of .725.  Having said that, I still think you stick with WMB at 3B for next year, simply because as I wrote above, I value flexibility from a positional and payroll standpoint, and not locking Drew up maintains that.  But just as you mention with Francoeur, I think I keep my eye open for upgrades throughout the season and heading into 2015.  WMB is not a part of my long-term plan based on what I have seen to this point.  And it's really kind of startling how close WMBs numbers looks to Francoeur.  I can't get the B-Ref table to format correctly right now, but I will update with it later on.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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ehaz said:
A .260/.330/.345 line for a veteran glove first shortstop who's job is simply to provide infield depth is not bad at all.  It's still a huge upgrade over Brock Holt and he couldn't possibly cost too much.
 
The question was whether he could still hit, and I answered that I don't think so.
 
I'm not sure, but isn't there a rule limiting the amount of a pay cut you can offer a veteran player?  Furcal made $7 million last year, he won't take $2 million to play here even if he could
 

BCsMightyJoeYoung

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Lose Remerswaal said:
The question was whether he could still hit, and I answered that I don't think so.
 
I'm not sure, but isn't there a rule limiting the amount of a pay cut you can offer a veteran player?  Furcal made $7 million last year, he won't take $2 million to play here even if he could
I don't think there's any kind of restriction if he's a FA
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The question was whether he could still hit, and I answered that I don't think so.
 
I'm not sure, but isn't there a rule limiting the amount of a pay cut you can offer a veteran player?  Furcal made $7 million last year, he won't take $2 million to play here even if he could

That limit only applies in the arbitration process, which of course no longer exists for free agents. Players offered arbitration could only be cut by, I think, a max of 25%.
 

SoxFanPJ

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Middlebrooks strikes me as rather comparable to Pedro Feliz, which isn't great but there is a role for that guy in the MLB. The real question is how much improvement can he make at the MLB level, I think you need to run him out there for a full season and see if he can improve, if for nothing else to boost his trade value. Financially and developmentally it makes too much sense for a Middlebrooks-Bogaerts left side in 2014 not to happen. Given the veritable black hole that is shortstop offense production in baseball, playing Xander their gives you the best chance to maximize your offensive production. 
 

jhogan88

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There seems to be two main arguments with regards to Drew/WMB/X
 
Argument 1: Xander is too valuable at his natural position of SS and spending money on Drew when you have a cheaper and more cost controlled replacement, who is likely a big upgrade, does not make any logical sense. X and WMB on the left side is cheap, young, and potentially offers Boston a very promising future.
 
Argument 2: Everybody likes WMB--he's a likable guy. Most want to seem him succeed. Definitely has some good power to all fields. How many ABs will it take to find out? If WMB is the future, do you honestly believe a few months in the minors posting decent slash lines is what he needed to rejuvenate his approach at the plate? Hitting .250 would take a season-long hot streak for the kid.
 
Seems to me that resigning Drew and playing Xander at 3B for a year or two gives Boston the best chance to win. Not only is it a proven formula, but Xander just turned 21 so even if Drew received a multi-year deal, you are not losing out on any prime Xander years at SS. Chances are you'll be enjoying them. Drew is a great option to hedge against X or WMB not reaching their potential.
 

OCD SS

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jhogan88 said:
Seems to me that resigning Drew and playing Xander at 3B for a year or two gives Boston the best chance to win. Not only is it a proven formula, but Xander just turned 21 so even if Drew received a multi-year deal, you are not losing out on any prime Xander years at SS. Chances are you'll be enjoying them. Drew is a great option to hedge against X or WMB not reaching their potential.
 
Except that defense is generally accepted to peak much earlier than offense. The primary reason that X is expected to move off of SS is that he will get to big, but I would also expect that he would be better able to handle the position if he acclimated to it at the MLB level while he was still young and able to log some improvement (especially given that he's seen more of a "can stick" guy rather than a stellar defender).
 
If he isn't a SS when he's 22, he won't be able to be a SS at 24-25, IMO. The debate won't be is he's Jeter 2.0, but if he's Machado 2.0.
 

ivanvamp

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For his MLB career, Middlebrooks has a line of .254/.294/.462/.756, 102 ops+, and has 1.2 bWAR in 169 games.  So over, say, 145 games, we're talking about 1.0 bWAR even.  
 
Given that the cost of 1 WAR is about $5 million, if Middlebrooks can give you 1 WAR (and there's no real reason to think he can't or won't) for $500k, then that's excellent value.  I'm totally fine with moving on from Drew and installing X at SS and WMB at 3b and just letting it roll from there.  They'd need to sign a legit backup IF however.
 
EDIT:  Someone mentioned Furcal.  Is he still thinking he's a full-time starter?  Or could he be signed reasonably to get about 300 ab backing up SS and 3b?
 

Drek717

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jhogan88 said:
Argument 2: Everybody likes WMB--he's a likable guy. Most want to seem him succeed. Definitely has some good power to all fields. How many ABs will it take to find out? If WMB is the future, do you honestly believe a few months in the minors posting decent slash lines is what he needed to rejuvenate his approach at the plate? Hitting .250 would take a season-long hot streak for the kid.
Lets be fair to WMB here, he's hit better than .250 across his entire pro career except for the first half of 2013, when it now looks like he might not have been truly healthy. Contact is only his problem by proxy, in that he needs to hit. 280 or better if his BA v. OBP gap is only going to be .030. If he gets that more in line with his minor league split, something like .040 to. 050, then he can be a .260 to. 270 BA guy who is valuable thanks to his power. He needs to stop giving away ABs and get back to at least something similar to his mL walk rates. If he does that everything else will fall in place.
 

Merkle's Boner

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I found this article from Speier to be very interesting. In it Disarcina talks about the decision to move WMB up to the ML in August over Xander.

http://fullcount.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/2014/01/17/former-pawsox-manager-gary-disarcina-xander-bogaerts-still-a-shortstop-will-middlebrooks-can-be-a-force/

“There was definitely pressure to push Xander just because of his impact bat and his ability to do some things in the field — play shortstop, which Will could not do,” said DiSarcina. “My recollection, my first recommendation was Will just because of what he did in the past. At the same time, with the development of Xander, he kind of developed very, very quickly. It wasn’t a six-month thing for him. When the question was asked early in Xander’s time in Pawtucket, would you recommend Will or Xander, I recommended Will, because I thought he was the best player at the time who could help the big league club and with some experience and renewed confidence he could step in and help out there.

Had he gone with Xander, I have little doubt that he would have flourished a la Machado in 2012 which may very well have changed their thinking on WMB as this year's 3B. It may end up working out the best if Xander can handle SS because they have two cost-controlled guys on the left side.

Anyway, I love learning about some of the inside decision-making that goes on and it's amazing to think how a guy's career can turn based on a recommendation like that.