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The Boston Red Sox have endured years of uncertainty at the shortstop position since the departure of longtime great and fan favorite, Nomar Garciaparra. Most players at the position signed by former general manager Theo Epstein experienced “short stops” in Boston, but the time may have come for the organization to take advantage of an unusual surplus of young talent. 23-year old Jose Iglesias is providing the Red Sox with unexpected offense and extraordinary defensive prowess, while 20-year old Xander Bogaerts is rising quickly in the team’s system.
In the past, Boston has lived off of one-year rentals, with mixed results. This pattern continued with Ben Cherington’s signing of Stephen Drew, who has been an excellent fielder, though his .215 batting average isn’t exactly justifying a $9.5 million contract for the season.
Iglesias has been one of the biggest stories of 2013 for the Red Sox, as he’s flashed leather on a regular basis while managing a remarkable .431 batting average after over 90 at bats in the big leagues. He also owned the longest hitting streak in the American League thus far, and has flourished as one of the most consistent contact hitters in the Sox lineup.
Iglesias’s offensive spark is even more stunning given the lack of expectations for him to manage an impact bat in the major leagues. Bogaerts on the other hand is largely viewed as the prospect with the greatest upside in the organization, opening the door for the team to explore possible trades involving the two. The Red Sox have two options when it comes to finally plugging their hole at shortstop.
The safest possible bet and the most likely route at this point, the Sox could attempt to build their future infield by shifting one of the two shortstops to third base and moving third baseman Will Middlebrooks across the diamond to first base. Alongside Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox could have a tremendous infield if the prospects develop as expected and Middlebrooks makes a smooth transition to first base.
There is significant upside in keeping both, as either player could develop into everyday players at some position years down the road for Boston, a reality that is emphasized with Iglesias’s ability to thrive in the big leagues. Of course, the 2013 roster has issues despite a very successful season to this point, and the two players could be seen as bargaining chips in a trade.
Which one? Take your pick. Iglesias has played enough to prove he can play at the MLB level, but the question of value comes into play both on the trade market and in the projections of Bogaerts. The Red Sox could reasonably put together a package that could see them bring in a starting pitcher or impact reliever (or both) by dealing either of the two young players, though the organization could label them as “untouchable” until the right deal lands on the table.
One possibility includes the team targeting Cliff Lee, who could be a tremendous third ace in a rotation already led by Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. However, the struggles of Andrew Bailey and the injuries sustained to the rest of the bullpen could push the team towards bolstering the bullpen.
From both the perspectives of the Phillies and Red Sox, I would consider a trade that would send Lee, left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, and Michael Young, in exchange for one of the two Red Sox shortstops (Iglesias/Bogaerts), along with Will Middlebrooks and Felix Doubront. The Phillies would gain three viable future big league players, while the Red Sox add a strong arm to their bullpen as well as a proven ace, who would be locked up through 2015.
A trade would be a dramatic move, but with three players lined up to play on the left side of the infield in the future, it’s possible to bolster some of the real issues with the team and drive towards a championship run in 2013. A deal wouldn’t happen until the July 31 trade deadline anyways, so for now we can enjoy watching Iglesias everyday and look forward to the Red Sox finally closing in on a star shortstop to pencil into the lineup everyday for many years to come.
Tags: Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee, Dustin Pedroia, Felix Doubront, Jon Lester, Jose Iglesias, Michael Young, Philadelphia Phillies, Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts