In a perfect world, every player the Red Sox draft would pan out and be great, and I wouldn’t have to write columns like this. But this is not that world, and I’m afraid Bobby Dalbec is only so long for ours (at least in the sense of being on the Red Sox).
He went 0-3 Wednesday night to drop his average to .203, not that a single game matters much, except they’re all single games and together they start to matter. His all-or-nothing game has been a lot of nothing recently, which doesn’t make him unique among Red Sox —Marwin Gonzalez has been noticeable poor, and Franchy Cordero was bad enough to be sent to Worcester—but his youth, prospect pedigree, and price tag might make him a valuable piece of trade bait should the Sox decide to make a run at the title this year.
Of course, coming off their third straight loss to a contender, the odds of that have dipped a little bit this week. The general consensus in these parts is that if the Sox can right the ship during this Astros-Yankees-Astros stretch, they can then add Jarren Duran as step one toward improving in-season, but step two would be a trade, possibly a big one, possibly even for Mad Max Scherzer or whatever other star may be available, to help get them over the top.
In such a scenario it’s hard to escape the thought that Dalbec, still pre-arbitration in terms of his earning ability and still boasting loads of potential in that bat, would potentially be in the deal. But that’s true of any deadline trade the Sox made this year, because it’s not just the present that’s cloudy for Dalbec. The future is murky as well. With Rafael Devers locked in at third base and Danny Santana and Gonzalez and others around to play first this season, the Sox could tread water without him until Triston Casas, the obvious first baseman of the future, is ready to take over at some point next year. The point is that Casas sort of makes Dalbec expendable and always has, short of Dalbec becoming a more consistent and better hitter, which seems unlikely. Dalbec seems to be what he is and is going to be.
Is there value in Dalbec’s game? Potentially, sure, especially at his pre-arbitration price, but it does not seem like the type of value the Sox are looking for, the Cordero acquisition excepted. I still think the Cordero/Andrew Benintendi trade was done to give all parties fresh starts — the Sox front office being one of said parties — so I don’t read a preference into “guys who can’t hit the broad side of a barn with a batted ball because they struck out or hit it to a barn a mile away” as much as I read a preference into churning through obviously untenable situations, for whatever reason. (For Benny, I think it was just time for him to move on and everyone knew it. It happens. Just ask Danny Ainge!)
All of that said, the Sox are in an increasingly tenuous position in the robust AL East, and it’s entirely possible Mad Max takes the Fury Road elsewhere and Dalbec finishes out the year in Boston. Even in that case I’m not sure I’d bet on him being with the team next year. The profile just doesn’t seem to fit with the Sox’s plans, with the notable exception of his third base pedigree, which would allow him to spell Devers, in theory, but A) We haven’t seen a ton of that this year even when Devers is out and B) Casas, also a natural 3B, has the same flexibility, at least in theory. So that’s another dead end.
The writing may not be on the wall yet, but it’s my belief they’re probably readying the stencils. They like to plan ahead, after all. And planning ahead, I have a hard time seeing where Dalbec fits in.