Late last night as Alex Cora met with the media after his team came away with a victory over the Twins, the manager revealed that Rafael Devers looked like he was heading to the disabled list with a hamstring injury. We talked about it a little in the linked post, but this certainly is not great news despite the inconsistency (to put it nicely) shown by Devers this year. The Red Sox don’t possess the greatest of infield depth in the upper minors, and the loss of Devers makes the lineup a little shallower with a lot less upside on any given day. If this is the type of injury that will only sideline the young infielder for 10-14 days or something along those lines, then this isn’t a huge deal. The team is walking a fine line with another injury on the infield, however.
If this does keep Devers out for an extended period of time, the in-house options are far from ideal. This injury will put both Eduardo Núñez in the starting lineup more often than not, and Tzu-Wei Lin will become the top option off the bench. Beyond them, the top option is Brandon Phillips, and while the veteran has some intrigue the ceiling is not high. More importantly, he also got hurt on Saturday, leaving Pawtucket’s game early after being hit in the hand with a pitch. To put it simply, the team doesn’t have infield options already on the roster that inspire a ton of confidence.
Of course, the trade market is an option that had been discussed before this injury and will certainly be discussed even more in its wake. The Red Sox lineup already could have used a little more length before this injury, and now that potential issue has been exacerbated. Don’t get me wrong, Boston’s offense is still outstanding. There’s some room for improvement, though. Basically, if you thought the team needed infield help before there’s even more reason to believe that now.
There is a bit of a question regarding what position the Red Sox should be targeting. Before this injury, the general consensus among those pining for infield help was that second base was the logical area of need. After the Devers news, however, people have started to shift focus to third base. Specifically, old friend Adrian Beltre has become a person of interest. The future Hall of Famer is a potential impact player (though he hasn’t really been great this year), has a reputation as a great leader in the clubhouse, and one of the most fun players to root for in recent team history. I would not complain if I got to root for the veteran again for the last two months of this season. That being said, this injury hasn’t really changed the focus in my mind. If they are going to target an infielder, a second baseman still makes the most sense.
Now, the ideal scenario would be finding someone who can cover both positions, but there aren’t too many of those out there. Asdrubal Cabrera would have fit that mold, but he was dealt to Philadelphia just a few days ago. Jed Lowrie would have fit too, but Oakland has been among the hottest teams in baseball and is certainly not looking to sell. Without guys like that available, if you’re choosing between second and third base you have to go with the former. For one thing, as long as the Devers injury isn’t more serious than it seems, adding a third baseman would take playing time away from either him or the new acquisition in relatively short order. In the meantime, you’d still be splitting time at second base between Núñez and Holt. Both of them are fine complimentary pieces, but ideally that is not an everyday partnership.
If you trade for a second baseman, things start to sort themselves out much more easily. While Devers is on the shelf, Núñez gets to play third base, where he is much more passable than he is up the middle. Once Devers gets back, Núñez and Holt are able to move into bench roles and the team is much stronger overall. Honestly, it seems like a no-brainer to go this route unless Devers is out for the year. Even then, it really comes down to Núñez — who is hitting the ball better of late and seems to pretty clearly be the preferred choice between himself and Holt — and where he plays. I think everyone would agree third base is the better option.
As far as targets go, well, the list is shorter than it once was but that doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. Guys like Scooter Gennett and Jonathan Schoop are the top of the market, but likely out of Boston’s price range. The more likely pieces would be Brian Dozier and Ian Kinsler, both of whom have had down years at the plate but would bring stability in the field as well as some upside with the bat. Beyond them, Yangervis Solarte and Starlin Castro are names you could expect to hear in rumors. My preferred choices would be Dozier and Kinsler — and Dozier if I had to pick out of those two — but the point is that there are options out there.
Over the last couple of weeks as the rumor mill has heated up, the Red Sox somewhat surprisingly haven’t been connected to many infielders. There has been some speculation, but also a noticeable lack of concrete reporting. That certainly doesn’t mean conversations haven’t taken place, but the lack of smoke is hard to ignore. This injury can, and should, change things. The team had some depth issues before, and they are being exposed by the Devers injury. They can make it through this, but it’s a wakeup call that one more injury would be devastating. There are two more days for them to call in some reinforcements. Get it done, Dave.