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The Red Sox have internal and external options after the Dustin Pedroia news

Looking at everything they can do.

Divisional Round - Houston Astros v Boston Red Sox - Game Four Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Dustin Pedroia went through with the knee surgery that he had reportedly been mulling since the end of the season, and as a result he will be out until at least May. As I say in the post linked above, it seems safe to expect his actual return to be later than that, as these kind of injuries — particularly for veterans — can be ripe with setbacks. It will be a challenge for the Red Sox to keep Pedroia off the field until he is absolutely ready, but it’s something they have to do. Fortunately, as they look to the start of next year as they try to figure out how they are going to man second base, there are options. In fact, there are options from any different direction, including internally, in free agency and in the trade market. Let’s look at all these options, shall we?

The Internal Options

In response to the surgery, Dave Dombrowski indicated that the Red Sox were comfortable sticking with their internal options for a couple of months. This quote kind of freaked some people out, and I get it. However, there are a few points that need to be made. For one thing, if they are in fact confident that Pedroia will only miss about six weeks of the year, it would make more sense to stick with internal options. Again, I’m not sure expecting the minimum time missed is the best idea, but it’s out there. Secondly, there’s no reason for Dombrowski to share that he wants to look at external candidates. It doesn’t benefit anyone but the fans and the media. Finally, there are some internal candidates who are interesting.

Brock Holt is the name who is going to get the most attention as he’s been the backup to Pedroia for a long time. However, he is probably the least exciting candidate among the names who will be mentioned in this section. It’s hard to determine how much of his year was due to his head injuries, but it’s still hard to look at him as an everyday player. His bat might have the highest upside of all the options, but the upside isn’t that high and his glove is hardly special. He’s a fine stopgap, but he’s not someone you want to lean on for more than a month at a time.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Beyond Holt, the options are guys like Marco Hernandez, Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin. I said above that Holt’s bat might have the highest upside, but depending on Hernandez’ health I think he could be even better. I predicted that he’d be better than Holt this past year, and injuries kind of derailed that. Like Holt, he’s better suited as a bench piece but when he’s at his best he’s a slight step above Holt in every area. Marrero and Lin, meanwhile, are the glove-first options. Pedroia’s loss hurts the lineup, but it’s his defense this team is likely to miss the most. If they are confident enough in the rest of their lineup — something that could be tough to justify after 2017, of course — they could decide they’d rather go with defense at second base. Neither Marrero nor Lin would provide much beyond some random contributions in the lineup, but they would bring some consistently strong defense at the keystone position.

Free Agent Options

So, let’s say the Red Sox decide they need a more steady plan at second base beyond the guys mentioned above, who are all better suited for a bench role. There are a ton of options in free agency to fill this hole. The one who will be mentioned the most is Eduardo Nuñez, who obviously finished 2017 with the Red Sox. Nuñez was a huge spark to Boston’s lineup and a massive reason they eventually won the division. His power probably isn’t as impressive as it was in the second half, but he’s a better bat than everyone mentioned as internal candidates and provides a ton of value on the basepaths. Of course, he has a knee injury of his own, but as of now there’s no indication that should carry into next year. Expect the Red Sox to check in on Nuñez, but it’s still not clear what would happen after Pedroia returns. I think Nuñez will look for a longer-term deal than the Red Sox would offer and one that provides a clear path to playing time for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, if things indeed do not work out with Nuñez, there are plenty of older and thus cheaper options available at second base. Perhaps the most popular would be Howie Kendrick, the long-time Angels second baseman. He’s bounced around in recent years and will turn 35 next summer, so he should probably only get a one-year deal this winter. He’s a good fit for Boston, though, as he brings a solid bat that can play in the bottom half of the lineup. Plus, after Pedroia returns, Kendrick turns into a valuable right-handed bat off the bench who has also played some first base, some third base and plenty of left field. The negatives here are his defense at second base, which has been inconsistent over his career.

Beyond Kendrick, some other free agents who could be available would be Chase Utley and Brandon Phillips. Utley is a potential future Hall of Famer who’s in the tail end of his career but can still provide a solid stick at second base and then transition into a bench role where he can play all around the infield (except shortstop). Phillips is another veteran who still plays a really good second base with decent, if unexciting, offense. The biggest question for him would be his willingness to transition to the bench later in the year. Neil Walker will also probably be mentioned, but like Nuñez I’d expect him to look for a bigger role elsewhere.

Cleveland Indians v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Trade Options

Finally, we have the trade possibilities, which is where Dealin’ Dave can shine. Of course, I wouldn’t expect this to be the focal point of his trade talks this winter, but I would expect any trade talks to include some discussion of a second-tier infielder to be added on for cheap. The most popular trade target among fans will probably be Jed Lowrie, who would make a lot of sense. The A’s would presumably be in the selling camp this winter, and Lowrie is a solid hitter who has experience at second base and off the bench as a utility man. That’s essentially exactly what the Red Sox are looking for, and Dombrowski should at least kick the tires on what the cost would be.

In addition to Lowrie, they could look into someone like Yangervis Solarte, who has experience playing all over the infield and has a starting-caliber bat. I think the price could possibly be too high for that to be worth it, though, especially if you’re confident that Rafael Devers can stick at third base. We all expect them to at least talk to Miami about Giancarlo Stanton, so perhaps they’d also look at someone like Miguel Rojas or Derek Dietrich from the Marlins. I’ve also seen Brian Dozier’s name thrown out there, though I’m not sure why the Twins would be looking to move him this winter. As always, the trade market is the most open-ended and there are always a number of names who become available that aren’t readily apparent at this point in the offseason.

In the end, my preferred route would likely be to look at one of the veteran infielders from the free agent pool. I think they are all fairly close in value so waiting and seeing how their markets play out is probably the most prudent move. That being said, with all else being equal I’d likely rank them Kendrick, Phillips, Utley. All of the options have their pros and cons, though, and expect the Red Sox front office to do their due diligence on all fronts.