Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox have ended the shortstop competition before it began, and finalized roles for multiple infielders in the process
Stephen Drew has been signed to play shortstop for the Red Sox in 2013, and, as of now, only 2013. His contract is a straight one-year deal, without the options that the last bounce-back Scott Boras client, Adrian Beltre, had in place. Drew is here to show the league that he merits more than a one-year contract, and the Red Sox, who were in a position where their not-quite-ready, defense-first shortstop might very well have been their best option, will gladly host that attempt.
That last bit is the key to this, or, at least, is nearly as important as the fact that Drew presents a possible upgrade at short from Boston's 2012 and what to this point had been their likely 2013. Jose Iglesias has a glove that is undeniably major-league ready, and could likely carry him while he works out the extensive kinks in his game at the plate, but now Boston doesn't need to worry about that. With Drew on board, Iglesias can spend the 2013 season at Triple-A Pawtucket once more, attempting to build on the slow -- but real -- progress that the soon-to-be 23-year-old has made offensively. That's good for Iglesias, and good for the Red Sox, who are placing more emphasis on the future, but don't want to back down in the present in order to do so.
Iglesias hit just .118/.200/.191 while with the Red Sox in 2012, but he showed flashes of an ability to make contact and hit for a decent average at Triple-A. While the year began rough for him, he hit very well in May and in August, book-ending the middle of the season in which he was injured and ineffective. He's clearly not a finished product in that regard, but that's why another go of things at Pawtucket should be very good for him. If Iglesias is better-prepared to be a major-league shortstop in 2014 because Boston spent nearly $10 million on a stopgap, then it's worth it even if Drew doesn't completely rebound.
More is affected than just Iglesias, though. Pedro Ciriaco was considered the backup at shortstop behind Iglesias, had Iglesias won the starting gig in spring training. Now, he's behind more of a sure thing in Drew, and should Drew go down with an injury for an extended period of time, or fail to rebound, it's possible Iglesias is next in the line of succession at the position rather than the guy already on the major-league roster. This is all a good thing for the Red Sox, as Ciriaco is a useful defender at multiple positions, but isn't going to produce much at the plate. If he's limited to the occasional start to give someone a day off around the infield, or as a pinch runner and primarily bench piece, then that's all the better for Boston and their depth.
Moving further down the line is more in the realm of speculation, but there are possibly some things to glean from the Drew signing here. Xander Bogaerts will be the shortstop at Double-A Portland, but unlike in the pre-Drew Soxverse, the chances of him being rushed to the majors because the starting shortstop can't cut it are low. If Boston's goal is to have a better shortstop on the field in the present while hoping to develop a better shortstop (Iglesias) for the future, it's also possible that the Red Sox aren't going to bother trying to keep Bogaerts at short, or, at least, aren't going to go out of their way to get him to the majors while still a shortstop.
If that turns out to be true, then the battle for the future of shortstop in Boston is more between 2012 first-round draft pick Deven Marrero and Iglesias than it is Bogaerts and the latter. Marrero will begin the year at Low-A Greenville, but he'll be 22 -- just a year younger than Iglesias -- and another strong campaign could move him through the system swiftly. The presence of teenage shortstop Jose Vinicio in the system complicates things, but he's on a lengthier development program than Marrero, given the age difference.
As said, though, that's all speculative, and assumes that the Red Sox are already thinking Bogaerts' future is in a corner rather than at short, where he plays now. Boston most-likely would like to keep Bogaerts there as long as they can, just in case he proves able enough at short, but are just being realistic about the chances when they sign Drew to refocus Iglesias' development. After all, it's entirely possible Iglesias never hits enough to play short, and a strong 2013 from Bogaerts sees him leap frog the elder shortstop on the organizational depth chart.
For now, though, what we know is that Drew is the current shortstop, the depth at the position has been improved because of it, and Iglesias will get more time to develop a bat that needs the help. For money that Boston has, and at just one year, that's an all-around win-win for the Red Sox.