BOSTON -- The immediate impact of the Stephen Drew signing on the Red Sox was seen even before shortstop arrived in the clubhouse at Fenway Park on Wednesday. Xander Bogaerts suddenly was in a position where he was pushed out of playing the position he thought was his to lock down for the rest of the season. While Drew's presence has a tangible impact on the near future of Bogaerts, Ben Cherington's decision to sign 31-year-old has a much wider ranging impact on third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
Coming into the season, manager John Farrell, among many others, stated their confidence in Middlebrooks to hold down the third base spot during the season. A couple of disabled list stints later, the future is much cloudier for the third baseman.
Farrell indicated that with Drew on the roster, Middlebrooks would be short on playing time in Boston and would not commit to the 25-year-old's role with the team moving forward.
"That’s probably as much to the answer to that as who else is here and we fully anticipate Will begin here," Farrell said. "If there are alignments that take advantage of individual strengths, we’re going to do that. So, without getting too far ahead of myself, that’s the best I can tell you right now."
Since his tremendous rookie season, Middlebrooks has shown very little of the potential that made him the top prospect in the (albeit thin) Red Sox system during his time in the minor leagues. Middlebrooks' injuries so far this season brings to question what the long-term plans are for the third baseman as the team moves forward. While general manager Ben Cherington has not ruled out a position change for Middlebrooks, there appears to be no spot on the roster for the 25-year-old when he returns from the disabled list.
While Bogaerts and Drew will man the left side of the infield for the rest of the year, what the team will do in 2015 and beyond raises a much bigger question for Middlebrooks' future. With top prospects in Garin Cecchini at third base and Deven Marrero at shortstop, the Red Sox seemingly have two potential long-term solutions on the left side of the infield (and that is not taking in the possibility that Mookie Betts could begin to work on the other side of the infield as well).
Middlebrooks' inability to hit for power this year has been the biggest red flag. The third baseman's ability to hit for power was the most valuable aspects that he brought to the game. With that now in question, Middlebrooks currently profiles as a below-average defensive third baseman who struggles to hit for average while providing a questionable amount of power.
The impact of Drew's signing may have most directly impacted the status of Bogaerts in the short term, but moving forward, the signing's largest impact will be on Middlebrooks, who now has a big red flag in regards to his future status with the organization.