As we look forward to the rest of the Red Sox offseason, to me perhaps the most interesting storyline is what they are going to do at second base. This is not the most important task on their to-do list, of course. That would be pitching, and nothing else they may or may not do will matter if they don’t significantly upgrade their group of pitchers. Still, second base has been a mess for this team for a long time now, as they have been shuffling through mostly mediocre options at the keystone position since Dustin Pedroia’s knee injuries have kept him out of the lineup on a regular basis. The Pedroia part of this is interesting too, but that has more to do with 40-man space than on-the-field performance at this point. We’ll save that for another day.
But as we look at what they could do at second base now, there are a few options. They could just do nothing and hope a group of Christian Arroyo, Michael Chavis, Yairo Muñoz, Jonathan Araúz, C.J. Chatham, and perhaps others can in some fashion combine to keep that position afloat. They could also just target an established player in free agency or trade to finally get some consistency here. Or they could add another fringe starter to that big group to increase their chance of finding something that sticks. Chaim Bloom spoke about this earlier this week and did what he does, which is to say he took a long time to say nothing. That’s not a criticism, to be clear. Of course no one is really expecting him to tip his hand.
My preference would be to add a legitimate starter. It doesn’t have to be DJ LeMahieu, but the next tier down still has some intriguing options. That said, I see the potential merit in going with someone at a lower tier and using that money to further shore up the pitching. And if that is indeed the route they go, it would make sense to try and target someone who could contribute at second base but perhaps somewhere else as well. I’ve mentioned before that I think they should find a left-handed bench bat to back up Bobby Dalbec, but there’s only so many bench spots ona roster, so it’s easier said than done. And that’s where Brad Miller comes in.
Miller has been around for quite some time now, first bursting onto the scene as an exciting young shortstop for the Mariners back in 2013. He never quite panned out the way Seattle fans had hoped, but he’s been able to carve out a role in this league for nearly a decade all the same. He’s been bouncing around from team to team for a few years now, with this past summer in a Cardinals uniform being the sixth team for whom he’s played. Wherever he’s stopped, though, he’s been able to provide solid numbers at the plate in a part-time role. This past year, for example, he had a 121 wRC+ in 171 plate appearances, and the year before that mark was 126 in 170 plate appearances.
The biggest strength for him at the plate has been his ability to hit right-handed pitching, making him a perfect platoon player. Looking at his career, when a righty is on the mound he’s hit .245/.326/.447 for a 111 wRC+. Against these right-handed pitchers, he’s drawn walks at a nearly 11 percent clip while putting up a .201 Isolated Power (SLG - AVG). Those numbers have improved with age, too.
And to go along with that platoon style, Miller has been able to move around the infield as well, spending time at all four positions. At this point in his career, as he’s set to enter his age-31 season, I certainly wouldn’t expect him to be contributing at shortstop and probably not much at third base either. But those positions are locked up for the Red Sox. They need help on the right side, and that’s where he can thrive. When he has played second the metrics have been anywhere from fine to good. And with the era of shifting upon us, it’s easier than ever to deal with fine defense. He hasn’t had to play first in a couple of years, though that’s largely due to the teams he’s played for having first basemen. There’s little reason to think he wouldn’t be able to play it effectively at this point.
For the Red Sox, a left-handed hitter who can play first and/or second base is ideal. Right now, as things stand the second base situation would largely fall on Arroyo and Chavis, both right-handed hitters. Muñoz could come back into the mix in camp — I’d argue he’s their best player among the group of competitors — but having recently been taken off the 40-man roster that is murky. But Miller would be able to take a lot of the at bats against righties in order to put the other two in the best position to succeed.
And on the days he doesn’t, he could either be a reliable left-handed bat off the bench for late-game situations, or he could spell Dalbec. As I mentioned above, there may not necessarily be room for Dalbec insurance, but if they can find it they should take advantage. Although the slugger should get every chance to prove he can hack it in the majors, he also has major swing and miss issues and things could go south quickly. They don’t want to have to turn to, say, Chavis if that happens. Miller could be that insurance policy.
Clearly this would not be an offseason-defining move, and this is generally the type of thing that is put on the back burner before figuring out other options at other positions. But if they decide they’d rather save money for pitching by going cheap here, Miller is the kind of veteran who can fill multiple roles at second, first and late in games, for a cheap price. Getting him on a minor-league deal probably isn’t going to happen, but it also likely wouldn’t cost more than a couple million bucks. And with someone like Miller in tow, you could potentially roll into the season with a bench of him, Kevin Plawecki, Hunter Renfroe and whoever doesn’t start between Chavis and Arroyo. That’s a workable group.