Remember last year when Theo Epstein traded Yamaico Navarro (and Kendal Volz) to the Kansas City Royals for Mike Aviles? I remember that. I was all, "What the huh?" about it.
It was fair to wonder at the time what the Red Sox were thinking. Aviles was a mediocre older-ish middle infielder who had kinda hit at the major league level once upon a time but had become a bench player in Kansas City. Navarro was a 22 year old middle infielder who had shown power and some patience at Triple A Pawtucket. On top of that the Red Sox tossed in Volz who was, technically speaking, alive. A young, good hitting, cheap middle infielder and a live arm (literally) for an older guy who couldn't crack the Royals lineup? Where do I sign up? And then cancel my subscription after I get my free canvas tote bag!
What made it more confusing was that the Red Sox already had Marco Scutaro starting at shortstop and many were clamoring ("rabble rabble rabble") for the legend that was/is Jed Lowrie to take his job too. So two starting shortstops plus highly touted shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias in Triple A. The whole thing made no sense.
Jump forward a bit to this off season. The Red Sox traded Jed Lowrie to the Astros for Mark [redacted]. Ignoring who they received, the fact that they could move the perpetually injured Lowrie at all was in part due to the presence of Aviles. I mean, sure, he was just a back up but with Scutaro set to start, the Sox only needed one back up and bullpen help is
always appreciated still needed. So the Aviles deal made trading Lowrie possible. Yay. Yawn.
Now jump forward again. The Red Sox have just traded Marco Scutaro for... well, let's say a pretty lollipop. Yummy! We were all like "What the huh?" about that one too. I assumed after it happened that it was a precursor to some other larger move. I bet you thought so too. It wasn't. (Or, if it was, that other larger move fell through and nobody has yet learned what it was, which seems unlikely.) The deal saved the Sox significant money under the luxury tax, but contending teams don't usually trade starters who make what Scutaro was scheduled to make ($6.5 million) just to dump salary. So why did the Sox deal Scutaro?
Chad Finn wrote an interesting note on his blog, Touching All The Bases, on the Globe's site yesterday. It's number three on his list:
3. How about we play the small-sample-size game, shortstop edition. Too bad, I'm doing it anyway.Jed Lowrie:.229 average/.357 on-base/.257 slugging with one RBI in 42 plate-appearances.
Marco Scutaro: .222/.300/.259 with one RBI in 61 plate-appearances.
Mike Aviles: .294/.333/.471 with two homers and eight RBIs in 55 plate-appearances.
Jose Iglesias (Triple A): .241/.333/.259, 1 double in 67 plate-appearances.
I'd say it's one thing that's gone right.
As Mr. Finn says, it's all small sample sizes. So none of this is definitive. But at least we can see what the Red Sox saw last year and again this off season.
We all knew and continue to know that Iglesias needs to work on his hitting. I think his upside is a league average hitter, but he's going to take some time to get there and he may never reach that level. He certainly hasn't yet. Lowrie is, well, Lowrie. He goes on hot streaks and makes you think he could be an All Star, but then he gets cold and/or hurt. One of the skills inherent in playing professional baseball is the ability to play through pain, discomfort, and injury. Over 162 games, players have to be able to do that and Lowrie hasn't shown that ability. As for Scutaro, he is a fine player, a great free agent signing by the Red Sox, but he's also 36 years old. Most shortstops don't last that long. Could the Red Sox have seen something that made them think he was a good bet to fall apart this season? Maybe.
Mike Aviles isn't a long term solution at short. At least we all hope he isn't. But he's fine for now. More than fine, actually. He's been good this year. I wouldn't hit him lead-off but that's on the manager, not the player. If Aviles finishes the year hitting .294/.333/.471 the Red Sox will and should be ecstatic.
As for Navarro and Volz? Navarro played six games for the Royals. Six. Then, this past off season, Kansas City designated him for assignment and traded him to Pittsburgh for Brooks Pounders. That was probably a name Dayton Moore saw and thought, 'I don't care if he can hit, pitch, whatever. I'm getting that guy.' Volz has put up some good numbers as a 24 year old reliever in Double A, but he's still a 24 year old reliever in Double A.
I bring all this up because in this, our time of need, I think we should remember that the people who are running the team really do know what they're doing. Sure, they make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. But mostly they don't which is why, and we forget this sometimes, the Red Sox have averaged over 93 wins over the past ten years in the hardest division in baseball.
Mike Aviles is an example of that. The Red Sox took two players in Navarro and Volz they didn't feel had a future with the organization and turned them into a $6.5 million savings, a well thought of young reliever, a yummy lollipop, and a cheap starting shortstop.
Mike Aviles: what the.. oh! Right. Gotcha.