With the signing of Adrian Beltre and impending acquisition of Bill Hall, it seems that the Sox only have one thing left to do: dump Mike Lowell to bring in a backup shortstop.
Lowell is perhaps even more redundant with the acquisition of Hall, who can play third and has done so primarily for a while now. There are now four third basemen on the roster (Kevin Youkilis included).
What the team lacks is a viable backup shortstop. While Hall can play every position but catcher competently, he hasn’t tried his hand at short in three years — and thus shouldn’t be considered an option there. He figures to serve as the fifth outfielder and primary third base backup and likely first base as well. He also can appear at second base but is his position of least experience (assuming you sum all his outfield games).
Assuming that the team dumps Mike Lowell (who deserves a better fate and I feel should have a nice season in 2010 but it is what it is, and I can’t argue with the team’s decision), who can they bring in?
Money is tight, so don’t expect some big names here — names worth a million or more. The Sox are actually reducing their financial load by dealing Kotchman for Hall, and will be incurred only a $2 million increase in 2010 with Beltre in the fold (nice maneuvering, Theo).
Whoever comes in is likely only on a minor league deal — no guaranteed salaries.
Angel Sanchez, signed to a minor league deal recently. At 26, he took a massive leap forward offensively in 2009 for Toronto’s Triple-A club. He previously was in the Royals farm system, seeing some major league time in 2006. Likely to be a late-season callup for middle infield help, could possibly stick through 2011 and on if his offensive statistics are proven no fluke.
Nick Green could be brought back as the heavy favorite to win the utility job coming out of spring training. I have to think that Green would prefer to latch on elsewhere, though, with a better chance of playing. His hand could be forced towards a return, and I think Boston wouldn’t mind having him back.
Jerry Hairston, Jr. is an option, although he’s received interest elsewhere. Due to being so versatile and not an embarrassment with the bat, it’s likely he lands somewhere on a guaranteed major-league deal eventually. Plus, can he even really play short anymore?
Khalil Greene isn’t that far removed from being a 30-home run hitter. In fact, we’ve discussed Greene in the past as a solution to our shortstop woes. He suffered through a brutal season with the Cardinals, receiving treatment for anxiety and is looking for a major league job which is tough to see anyone giving him.
Out of the primary second basemen, Felipe Lopez is the best option to play short. He’s a second baseman by trade and is coming off a strong season as Diamondbacks/Brewers starter. He’s one of the best bats left in free agency that plays a high-value position, so this is pretty much a pipe dream, especially on a minor league deal.
Old friends Orlando Cabrera and Mark Loretta are still on the market. Cabrera should finagle a starting job somewhere, probably Houston. Loretta, on the other hand, is pretty risky to stick at short and had all offensive upside vanish in 2009. Probably headed towards a “forced” retirement.
Of course, there’s still old friend Jed Lowrie who could win the job. However, with Hall and his potential offensive contributions, I think the team would want to give Hall as much at-bats as they can to evaluate him. That leaves Lowrie essentially limited to shortstop, and that would limit his at-bats severely. Do we really want that… or do we want him in Triple-A making up for lost time?
All told, I want to see Sanchez, Green, Greene and a fourth option Boston signs off the minor league free agent list or waivers imported with Green the favorite to win the job. If Greene has an amazing power display in spring training, you alter things.
Who would you like to see as Boston’s backup shortstop next year?