One of my favorites teachers in high school was Mr. Harvey, who taught all sorts of history classes. One of his favorite things to remind all of his classes was that “history may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.” The point being that even though the exact same thing rarely happens throughout history, but you’d better pay attention to what happened before you or you are doomed to succumb to similar consequences. There are plenty of examples of this throughout history and even today, but we’ll steer clear of the real-world discussion that this surely brings to mind. Instead, we’ll focus on the (relatively speaking) meaningless example of Red Sox baseball. As the fan base grows more and more frustrated by back-to-back early playoff exits along with a quiet offseason, there are some who are ignoring recent team history to clamor for some specific changes. The Red Sox almost certainly won’t go down this road, to get that out of the way from the start, but I’ve heard the argument enough now that it’s worth going over why they shouldn’t do this.
So, specifically, I’m talking about the left side of the infield. As fans continue to wait for a move, there are those that want the team to either alter or totally dismantle the current left side of the infield. That would mean having one or neither of Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts covering that side of the field. Obviously, each of them has their issues. Both leave something to be desired on the defensive side of the ball as we discussed yesterday, and Bogaerts is coming off a disappointing year at the dish. People are frustrated with the way the last two years have ended, and this is the way the frustration is bubbling over for some.
To start, let’s first look at the ideas to overhaul the left side. Bogaerts is someone that fans have totally soured on to an extreme degree and now is someone many are looking to see traded. Devers isn’t quite in that position as he was one of the few sparks in a disappointing lineup last year. Most are excited about his bat being in the lineup for all of 2018, but after seeing some subpar defense at third base there are some who are ready to move him across the diamond at first base. To both of those ideas I give a hearty and respectful Nah Dude.
Bogaerts and Devers are really interesting players that have a ton in common both in terms of how they play and how they came up. It’s really startling to think about the latter. Both came up in their age-20 season to compete in the middle of a pennant race and provide a spark for the team. Additionally, both served as long-term answers at a couple of positions that had eluded the Red Sox for quite some time. Boston hadn’t really had a consistent answer at shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra before Bogaerts came around and it’d been about ten years since Mike Lowell last roamed the hot corner on a consistent basis before Devers showed up. You’d think the inconsistent play at both positions would make people long for stable options, but now people are trying to move one or both off the position and add more uncertainty to those spots.
This isn’t to brush off the flaws of both players, either. People have legitimate questions about both of them and both need to improve. That being said, the issues with both are being overblown to a startling degree. For one thing, people are acting as if Bogaerts is a complete non-factor at the plate. While he did have a rough second half, for the second year in a row to boot, the first half still counts as well. Overall, this down year ended in a 96 wRC+ that put him right in the middle of the pack among qualified shortstops. Over the last three years, he ranks sixth in wRC+ among the 37 qualified shortstops. Bogaerts needs a little refinement to his approach to allow for more hard contact and power, but the base of talent is clearly already there. This is not something you move on from on a whim. Defensively, both need work as indicated in the linked post above, but both should improve enough where their offense would more than make up for it.
The Red Sox need a power bat, and they are going to get it one way or another this winter. Beyond that, this is not a team in need of an entirely new direction. In particular, they do not need to blow up the left side of the infield because of a few concerns. Instead, they need to focus on shoring up said concerns. It will be Alex Cora’s biggest test in his first year as the Red Sox manager. This is a team that has had too many issues filling these two positions in recent years, and if anyone knows how hard it is to find long-term solutions here it’s this organization. There are a few exceptions that would make a deviation from the current duo acceptable — Manny Machado....hello — but by and large the smartest thing is to let Devers and Bogaerts continue to develop and man the left side for the next decade. I’d be surprised if the Red Sox didn’t stick with the status quo here, against the will of a segment of the fan base, rather than let history try to finish its bar.