With all the injuries the Red Sox have faced this season, fans have been forced to listen to management justifying the presence of players like Eric Patterson and Bill Hall with the claim of "versatility". Now, Bill Hall's bat has been fine, but still, it's not exactly the most popular buzz word 'round Boston these days. Too bad for us, because it looks like the Red Sox are going to stick with that strategy for the immediate future.
Luckily, it also seems like they're going to do it right
Last offseason, the Red Sox seemed to have the best chance of any team to resign Jason Bay. He had performed well with the team, had no particular problems with either the fanbase or management, and was one of the top free agents while the Sox were one of the top payroll teams. A match made in heaven, right?
Only not, because the Sox offered him only two years based on the idea that his knees weren't going to hold up.
How about Victor Martinez, the Red Sox' All-Star catcher headed to free agency? Recently he, too, was given a surprisingly short two-year offer. Now, that could just be the Sox starting low...Or it could be a sign of the Sox' new position on versatility and defense.
After all, both players share the same issue. Bay, already a questionable defender in left, had the knees to take him out of the field altogether in not-too-long at all. Victor Martinez also projects to be potentially positionless by 2012.
And then there's the up-and-comers. Consider the pair of outfielders that the Sox have brought up for September in Ryan Kalish and Josh Reddick. While both of them have the potential to bring well above-average bats to the show, they can also both play center field, and have the arms for right (particularly Reddick) Yamaico Navarro and Jed Lowrie are both capable of manning second, third, or shortstop. Their recent drafting speaks to it too, with a number of players being drafted who can play any number of positions. Other than maybe Ryan Lavarnway, the Red Sox just haven't been drafting many guys who its hard to place in the field.
Even at the typically defensively bankrupt positions, the Sox don't seem content to fill the spots with players who don't actually play the part. Obviously Kevin Youkilis is a premier defensive first baseman, but lo-and-behold so is up-and-coming prospect Anthony Rizzo. And if Reddick and Kalish can fill in in right, they can certainly handle left.
This is not to say that the Red Sox intend to field a team of Pattersons, just that the one-dimensional days may be well-and-truly gone. David Ortiz may be the last of his kind in Boston if this trend continues. True versatility can provide a great deal of strategic benefit to a team, be it in playing pitcher-batter matchups effectively without sacrificing defense, or in making mid-season acquisitions when a star becomes available at a seemingly filled position. It becomes much more palatable to start, say, Jed Lowrie at third next year, after all, if we consider our ability to shuffle around the players to accommodate a midseason trade for one of the members of the big 2012 first base free agent class.
Oh, God, I risk starting up Adrian Gonzalez trade talks again with that line, don't I? Best shut up now before things get too crazy.