The shortstop fight is over. With the announcement that Jose "Shortstop of the Future" Iglesias has been optioned to AAA, the Sox are prepared to pen Mike Aviles in at number six.
At first glance, it's easy to see why they made their decision. Iglesias was hitting a putrid .200 in 25 spring at bats; meanwhile, Aviles was hitting a comfortable .313 in his 48 at bats. Aviles also managed to put together 97 innings of one error ball at short.
The evidence is clear, but was the decision really the best move for the Sox?
Offensively, Aviles is the better choice... but, does offense matter?
With the return of David Ortiz, the BoSox field virtually the same lineup they had last season. Their 2011 offense was the best in the MLB—in terms of runs—despite down seasons from Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford, and prolonged DL stints from Marco Scutaro and J.D. Drew.
Looking at right field, the Sox have already shored up the lineup card. Cody Ross has dibs on the position until Ryan Kalish gets healthy. Both can be considered upgrades over Drew.
So, Boston already has a chance at fielding a better offense in 2012 than it did in 2011.
Since offense shouldn't matter, we turn our heads to the diamond. Aviles has had a 10.7 UZR at short in his career. However, that's boosted by an out of the norm 11.7 UZR in 2008. Take that year out and he sits at -1.0.
Iglesias struggles with his bat, but makes up for it in his glove. It's believed he could win a gold glove today, at the Major League level, and he could set the standard for elite defensive efficiency at short.
The 2012 season remains a mystery for the Red Sox. Their offense is expected to shine, but it's unknown how well their pitching can hold up. With so many questions around the mound, wouldn't it be smarter for the Sox to shore up their defense?
Even with so-so pitching, the effect of a good defense should never go underestimated. While Aviles will help the offense, Iglesias' glove could have a multilateral effect on the club.
With Boston's opening game just around the corner, we'll have our answer soon enough.