Jose Iglesias could be the solution at shortstop.
It is a question that has become almost tradition in Boston: who will start at shortstop for the Boston Red Sox?
The Sox have not had a solid shortstop since Nomar Garciaparra was traded in 2004. Instead, the position has become a rotating door, through which Edgar Renteria, Julio Lugo, Alex Gonzalez and even Nick Green have all walked.
Now, the only thing preventing Jose Iglesias from shutting that door and throwing away the key is his poor performance at the plate.
Still, his defensive prowess is beyond dominant, yet thoughts of players like Elvis Andrus and now, Asdrubal Cabrera begin to appear in the heads of fans.
While the future still remains uncertain for Jose Iglesias and the Red Sox’ middle infield, here are ten reasons why the Red Sox should retain Iglesias rather than pursue Cabrera.
Iglesias has amazing movement and accuracy.
It is often overlooked in modern baseball, but defensive prowess can be just as valuable as the ability to hit for power.
Jose Iglesias spent just 24 games with the Boston Red Sox in 2012, but in that time he compiled a 0.9 dWAR and a .981 fielding percentage.
By the eye test, Iglesias is already spectacular. His ability to get to balls that other players would typically reach is thrilling. What’s more, while some players do turn out highlight-reel range from time to time, it is a staple for Iglesias.
Much like Nomar Garciaparra, Iglesias can get to a deep ball and turn on a dime to make a throw. The difference with Iglesias is that, not only is his arm phenomenally strong, it is accurate, seemingly without looking.
Perhaps solid play has been so absent in Boston in the last decade that Iglesias appears stellar by comparison, but he is truly surprising to watch in the field.
Cabrera hits better, but is not dominant.
While management seems to want to bring in a shortstop that can not only field, but also hit at a consistent level, Asdrubal Cabrera’s offensive numbers are not overwhelming.
In 143 games this past season, Cabrera hit just .270. His 68 RBI and 16 home runs are considered average and only marginally more impactful than Iglesias.
The Boston Red Sox would do well, however, to examine their own history. The shortstop position has been void of talent for some time now. But, it did not have to be that way.
David Eckstein was a Red Sox farmhand and he went on to win World Series titles with the Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals. Hanley Ramirez, too, had an all-star-caliber career with the Florida Marlins before being dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline.
At the moment, there is no reason to trade a player like Jose Iglesias only to see him thrive elsewhere, while Cabrera struggles in Boston.
There could be a deadly double play combination at Fenway in 2013.
It is one of the most important tandems in baseball: the flip from shortstop to second base.
This winter, Joe MacDonald of ESPN Boston reported that Jose Iglesias and Boston Red Sox de facto captain Dustin Pedroia have been working out together.
Certainly the winters are free for players to train with whomever they would like, but for Pedroia and Iglesias to be in the process of trying to build chemistry with one another, breaking that could become a detriment to the Red Sox.
In 2012, the Sox were not particularly lacking in efficiency between these two positions. They turned 159 double plays, the fourth-most in the MLB. Still, that was behind the Twins’ league-leading 188 double plays.
With Iglesias’ range and the chemistry he and Pedroia are building, expect that number to increase in 2013.
There is no need to mortgage the future for Cabrera.
With the Cleveland Indians dealing Shin-Soo Choo in their first big splash of the offseason, the decision-makers in Cleveland have defined a price-range for other top-organizational pieces like Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Indians took Choo and smaller minor-league pieces and turned them into quality middle-relief help.
If that is what it will cost to get an average offensive player with defense who is incomparable to Iglesias, such a deal would be pointless. This offseason, after finally dumping the Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford contracts, the Boston Red Sox vowed to be more responsible in the deals they make.
Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Hanley Ramirez are all playing outside of Boston as a result of bringing in those big contracts. Think about it: if the Red Sox never trade Ramirez for Beckett, the discussion of Iglesias for Cabrera would be non-existent in Boston.
Masterson has shown potential, but has struggled as a starter.
Although he came up with the Red Sox, the return of Justin Masterson to Boston would not be as exciting as fans might hope. Masterson was successful with the Sox, but more in a relief capacity than as a starter.
That is not to say he was a poor starter, he had strong appearances, but overall he was used more as a seventh or eighth-inning bridge before being traded. Now, Masterson has developed into a top-of-the-rotation starter with Cleveland.
The Red Sox are in severe need for strong starters, but in 2012 Masterson allowed career-highs with 18 home runs and 113 earned runs. Move that to the unusual dimensions of Fenway Park and it spells disaster for Masterson in Boston.
In 2012 Masterson had a 9.00 ERA in 6.0 innings pitched at Fenway. The Red Sox would be wise to avoid this move.
Valentine was a polarizing variable in 2012.
Far be it for me to blame a player’s shortcomings on the manager, but in this particular case, the relationship between Bobby Valentine and Jose Iglesias seem trying at times.
Bobby V was someone who tried to “tell it like it is” and did so in spring training, much to the chagrin of players. However, regardless of which rumors from Valentine’s clubhouse management were true or not, Red Sox fans saw Valentine and how he treated Iglesias.
One would hope that new manager John Farrell will show more discretion than that in 2013. With that, should come some consistency which will let fans and the organization, alike, see what Iglesias is capable of.
John Farrell should bring new vision to the Red Sox.
So much has shifted for the Boston Red Sox in the last year. Now, with a new team chemistry comes new issues and new needs. In order to best handle those challenges, the Red Sox must first evaluate the pieces they have.
With the players that have come and gone, the Red Sox could afford to start Iglesias, regardless of his offensive deficiencies. Perhaps those issues have even improved.
John Farrell is likely going to have a different game plan for Iglesias than Bobby Valentine had. The same can be said for many areas of this Red Sox team. Iglesias could be a key piece that brings pitching, but the pitching might not be necessary if John Lackey returns stronger from Tommy John surgery.
The point is, no one knows for certain what this Red Sox team looks like or what they need to improve on until they take the field in Ft. Meyers come spring training.
Iglesias could improve with the bat.
In 2010—his first year with the organization—Jose Iglesias advanced rapidly through the minor league system. During 57 plus games at Double-A, Iglesias compiled a .285 average before advancing to Triple-A, where he struggled at the plate.
However, in 2012, Iglesias improved on his .235 average and raised it to .266 over 88 games. It is not stellar production, but he has shown the ability to improve and major-league at-bats might not be a huge detriment at this point in his career.
The Boston Red Sox are also not expected to contend as they have in the past, which makes it the ideal situation to foster Iglesias.
Middlebrooks is phenomenal at the plate, but shaky in the field.
In 2012, after starting the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, the Boston Red Sox recalled third-base prospect Will Middlebrooks to start in place of an injured Kevin Youkilis.
Middlebrooks’ fiery start to his major league career ultimately prompted Red Sox management to implement him as the everyday third baseman and deal fan-favorite Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox.
All of this happened with questions of defensive aptitude surrounding Will Middlebrooks. It is the reason he began the season at Triple-A and it was overlooked because of Middlebrooks’ stellar offensive production.
Why the same consideration cannot be given to Iglesias is inexplicable. Instead, the Sox broke camp with Mike Aviles as their everyday shortstop. Although this worked for a while, at some point, exceptional defense at a skill position needs to be exploited and valued.
Xander Bogaert could be the Red Sox' real future.
There is a very real chance that Jose Iglesias is not even the best shortstop prospect in the Boston Red Sox organization.
Xander Bogaerts may not be the defensive prodigy that Iglesias is, but his presence at the plate has been consistent. In three years with the Red Sox system, Bogaerts has compiled a total .296 average.
He also hit well at the Double-A level—a .326 average with17 RBI over 23 games.
Bogaerts is listed as the top prospect in the organization as well as a top-ten shortstop and top-100 prospect overall. If he is the next player up for the Red Sox, spending on a player like Cabrera would be anti-climactic.
Let Iglesias be the bridge and maybe he'll increases his trade value.
Then again, the scouting on Bogaerts is that he may “outgrow” the position and become a third baseman. If that happens, the Red Sox could fall back on Iglesias at that time.