As Nick Green and Julio Lugo team up in an attempt to break the record for most errors out of shortstop (and we thought Edgar Renteria was bad), it’s time to start looking at outside options.
Green has been a great fill-in with the bat after no one expected him to even get a single at-bat on the year. On defense, however, his lead glove is starting to raise concerns. And Julio Lugo, of course, is Julio Lugo. We’ll get to our internal option, Jed Lowrie, in a moment. But for now, let’s focus on five shortstops the Sox could go after.
MIGUEL TEJADA, HOU — .362/.388/.546, 8 HR, -20.6 UZR/150
$13M 2009, free agent 2010
Tejada is on a team fast going nowhere and will soon supplant the Nationals as the joke of baseball. With an inept general manager, an hands-on owner who knows nothing and a declining Roy Oswalt, the time is ripe to pluck the team’s best hitter.
The Sox have constantly been linked to Tejada in the past and he is one of David Ortiz’s closest friends. Tejada has mentioned during his time with Baltimore that he would love to be a Red Sox.
Three things hold back this possibility, however.
- First, Tejada is a concern defensively. He really should be at third at this stage of his career but so far has been resistant to do so. His Ultimate Zone Rating, averaged out per 150 games, is -20.6. This means he’s cost the team 20.6 runs over 150 games so far this year. (Obviously, there hasn’t been 150 games played yet).
- Second, Tejada’s .362 batting average is unsustainable. Last year, Miggy hit .283/.314/.415 with a .305 BABIP, close to his career .301 BABIP. This year it’s at .365. … but he is showing zero signs of slowing down. It could go either way, but at some point you have to make the decision.
- Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his use of steroids, which he had been linked to previously. We know that the Sox are leery about bringing in players who are linked to steroids in any tangible form, so will this work against Tejada enough to make Theo turn away?
CRISTIAN GUZMAN, WAS — .327/.343/.446, 10 2B, -15 150 UZR/150
$8M 2009, $10M 2010
Guzman recently re-upped with the Nationals after rediscovering his stroke. Guz doesn’t walk a lot — never has — but boasts a career .272 batting average. That includes his awful .219 season in 2005 and 2007-9, where he’s never been lower than .316.
Guzman would be an interesting shot if he wasn’t already making so much money. With questionable defense, track record of losing all semblance of having to hit… gee, doesn’t that remind you a bit of Julio Lugo?
Still, it can’t be ruled out as the Nationals are clearly in a rebuilding phase and need pitching.
J.J. HARDY, MIL — .238/.319/.384, 5 HR, 22.9 UZR/150
$4.65M 2009, arbitration 2010
Hardy’s been a name bantered around on this site for a bit now, and his slow start isn’t changing anything for me. I love J.J. Hardy and want him at short for the next five years. He’s not as good as his 22.9 UZR/150 indicates, but doesn’t embarrass himself in the field.
Plus, Hardy has hit 26 and 24 home runs, respectively, the last two years. Now that’s offense we could use. At 27, Hardy still has a long, fruitful career ahead of him and the Brewers just so happen to have top prospect Alcides Escobar behind him.
Ah, but the Brewers are contending and just lost Rickie Weeks for the season. The only way they’d trade Hardy at this time would be to significantly beef up their pitching. Could a Brad Penny, Manny Delcarmen and a Triple-A bat be enough? Maybe, but are the Brewers prepared to go to Mat Gamel full time at third to offset the loss of Hardy’s bat? Probably not.
JHONNY PERALTA, CLE — .260/.345/.328, 21 RBI, 12.4 UZR/150
$3.4M 2009, $4.6M 2010, $7M 2011 club option
Peralta has been playing third for the Indians recently as the club has gone with Asdrubal Cabrera at short and Luis Valbuena at second. With Cabrera’s recent injury, the Indians may elect to move Peralta back to short, showcase his value and deal him instead of moving Mark DeRosa. That’s unlikely, given Peralta’s team-friendly contract.
Peralta’s overall numbers are less than impressive, but that was mostly tied up in April. He’s rebounded to his usual average/on-base percentage (but not power) in May. Considering I just dealt for him in fantasy a few weeks ago, I could really use his power showing up.
The Indians might be interested in dealing Peralta if they could get a Lowrie/Bowden package from the Red Sox, a deal I don’t see the Sox doing.
JACK WILSON, PIT — .264/.291/.380, 12 R, 26.8 UZR/150
$7.25M 2009, $8.4M 2010 club option
Wilson just came back from injury but is posting numbers that he always has. He’s never impressed with the bat and he’s not suddenly going to break out.
What he will do is give a strong glove to the proceedings, which the Sox could use at short. Add in Wilson’s glove and instead of being near the end of the pack in defensive metrics, the Sox would easily vault to the top 10, if not top five.
Can the Sox afford to lose out on more offense by starting Wilson? Don’t forget: for all the defensive woes at short, we’ve gotten pretty good offensive production. We’d be swapping offense for defense. With David Ortiz in the lineup, that makes our lineup that much worse.
Yuniesky Betancourt (SEA) is hitting .249/.278/.331. The Mariners would love to ship out the 27-year old as he has atrocious defense and negligible value at the plate. Throw in a needed attitude adjustment, and the Sox are staying away.
Orlando Cabrera (OAK) is off to a poor .233/.279/.296 start and shows zero signs of turning it around. With his defense slipping as well, he’s a long shot.
Internally, the Red Sox could elect to fill the position with Jed Lowrie. Lowrie’s wrist gave him problems last year, but he still finished with a strong .258/.339/.400 campaign last year, posting a surprising 24.6 UZR/150.
He had only five games worth of at-bats in April before he was disabled and underwent surgery. If he can return at full strength, it’s a major boost to a Sox club in desperate need of one. Without any moves, Lowrie would easily be the de facto starter, but I don’t think the Sox would mind at all importing another starter and having Lowrie back up (or, if they don’t want to cut ties with Lugo just yet, send him to Triple-A).
So which shortstop should we get?
It seems as if there are two clear candidates: Miguel Tejada and Jack Wilson.
Really, the Sox could go either way on this one. If they acquire Tejada, they’re adding offense to the club in place of defense. If they acquire Jack Wilson, they’re adding defense but will still have an offensive hole.
At this stage, the Red Sox need help both offensively and defensively. That’s why I think Tejada makes more sense than Wilson — he’ll immediately add a bat to the lineup and can serve as designated hitter should the Sox move on from Ortiz. Lowrie would then man short.
If the club acquires a different player to DH (such as Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson or Josh Willingham), then I would be in favor of Wilson.
What do you think?
FIRE BRAND NOTE: I’m headed to Europe! Well, I am next Monday. This weekend, I’m going to Cape Cod for a wedding, so you won’t hear from me here on Fire Brand for an interminably long time: not until July 8th, although since I land stateside on the third, I may check in with a few quickposts. To take my place, former Fire Brander Zach Hayes will be stepping in, so you won’t miss me at all.