The trade deadline has come and gone, and while the Red Sox didn’t trade any star or core pieces as sellers, they did trade a couple of position players in Mitch Moreland and Kevin Pillar who were playing mostly every day. Even if neither of those players were part of the organization’s long-term plans, their departures could start to slightly open the shades towards what could be long-term plans. Those moves opened up both roster spots and plate appearances to be gobbled up by either depth veterans or young players and prospects.
Most fans, of course, were hoping to see the prospects. They got half of their wish, as Bobby Dalbec was indeed called up to take Moreland’s spot on the roster and in the lineup. The other hope was for Jarren Duran, though. He did not get called up to fill Kevin Pillar’s spot and role, and it doesn’t seem particularly likely he’ll come up at all this year. Instead, the plan looks like it will be to have José Peraza play in left field most of the time. That does open up time on the right side of the infield for guys like Dalbec, Michael Chavis and Jonathan Araúz, but there is a way to get all three of them on the field every day. It’s something we’ve talked about on and off for about a year now, but the time seems right to try and get Chavis some time in left field.
Before we get into that, let’s take a quick look at these three players, as they are the non-established position players who could potentially be part of the next Red Sox core that sit on the active roster. Chavis has the most experience of this trio, but his future is still very murky. On the one hand, we’ve seen what he can do at his best. He is all over big-league offspeed stuff and can handle the spin of breaking balls, which is where he most often displays his monstrous power. We’ve seen a couple different hot streaks in which he just mashes everything. We’ve also seen long stretches in which he’s peppered with fastballs up in the zone and just can’t make contact. He’s an adjustment away from being a good regular, but he’s also a couple more cold streaks away from being in another organization.
Araúz is the most interesting of this group if for no other reason than the fact that he is the newest of the trio in the organization. The Red Sox never really take Rule 5 players, never mind give them significant roles. This was a different kind of season, though, and Araúz continues to make the case for more playing time. The numbers are actually pretty bad for th young infielder, who has a 64 wRC+ as we speak today, but he’s making a lot of contact, playing solid defense up the middle, and is making better-than-expected contact for a guy with limited experience above High-A before the season. Ultimately he is probably more of a bench piece than an everyday player, but there is a scenario in which he exceeds that expectation and the only way to get there is with more experience.
Dalbec is the most exciting of this group and has the best chance of breaking out into a longtime regular in this league. The power is the carrying tool here, and we already saw that in his first career game where he hit a fly ball in which he got a little under the ball the other way. It still flew way out over the wall in right field. He also draws a ton of walks and plays good defense at either corner spot on the dirt. On the other hand, he has some big swing and miss in his game and that can be a fine line to walk. Two games into his career he has six strikeouts in eight plate appearances.
The Red Sox obviously aren’t going to get a full picture on any of these players over the final 25 games of the season. That’s simply not enough time. That said, if they’re not going to contend — which, you know, they’re not — then the goal should be to gather as much information about potentially important players in the organization as possible. These three players fit that bill, and to do it they need to get creative. By putting Chavis in left field, they’d be able to play Araúz consistently at second base and Dalbec consistently at first base without having to put J.D. Martinez in the outfield and open him up to injury.
Now, this is clearly easier said than done. As I’m sure you are aware, we don’t live in a video game. (I think.) It’s not as simple as clicking an icon and sliding him into a new position and seeing what happens. The team has to be sure Chavis can handle it and is willing to handle it. Remember, it wouldn’t even just be about him. There are pitchers on the mound who are relying on competent defense for their own development. I can’t sit here with 100 percent confidence and say he can handle it right now, but he has gotten some work in the outfield in practice situations. Considering they’ve been willing to put players like Sam Travis in left field in the recent past, I can’t imagine Chavis wouldn’t be able to handle it after some adjustment period. And if he can, it only helps his value both in the organization and in possible trade talks. Extra versaility is never a bad thing.
The other side of this plan is that it would take at bats away from José Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin and Yairo Muñoz. I would argue that doesn’t really matter all that much. None of those guys would appear to be big parts of the future, and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if all three were out of the organization by December.
Again, this team is clearly not contending. The rest of this season isn’t really about this season. I am not down with tanking one bit and want them to put competitive lineups on the field every night, but there also has to be some focus on the future. To me, that means giving the playing time to the players who you think is part of that future. Assuming Duran is not coming up, and he’s likely not for valid reasons, then that means finding a way to get as much playing time as possible for Chavis, Araúz and Dalbec. The easiest way to do that is trying Chavis in left field.