Jose Iglesias is playing well, but what does that mean going forward?
Over the offseason, Cherington didn’t think too highly of Iglesias, and although he did not come out and say it, he implied it. Instead of letting Iglesias compete for the starting shortstop job in spring training, Cherington and the Red Sox signed Stephen Drew.
The one-year, $9.5 million deal that Drew received basically took Iglesias out of the equation for 2013.
And Iglesias had every right to be upset. He hadn’t been the best minor leaguer, but he was never given a real shot at being the team's everyday shortstop.
So what did Igelsias do? He came into spring training ready to play.
Iglesias may have only played in three spring training games thus far, but he has looked pretty good in each of them. Overall, he has gone 3-for-9 with two extra-base hits, one being a home run, and three RBI.
There are still plenty of at-bats left for Iglesias this spring, but he is definitely off to a great start.
So if Iglesias stays on a hot pace, what will Boston do with the shortstop role?
Here is my take on what the Red Sox could do.
Send Jose Iglesias Back to Triple-A
A hot spring doesn’t guarantee a solid season by any means. Iglesias has never been much of an offensive threat, so why would Boston believe that good spring numbers would translate to good regular season numbers?
Where will Jose Iglesias start 2013?
In 88 games with Triple-A Pawtucket last season, Iglesias was an average hitter. He hit .266/.318/.206 with just 11 extra-base hits.
Hitting is Iglesias’ clear weakness, though he deserves some credit since he has improved the last couple of seasons.
But each time Boston has called him up, he has hit poorly. In 68 at-bats with the Red Sox in 2012, Iglesias only managed to collect eight hits for an embarrassing batting average of .118. In his short stint with Boston, he also struck out 20.8 percent of the time, which isn’t as often as many hitters, but hitters who strike out a lot either tend to be sluggers or just bad hitters.
The Red Sox signed Drew, and they will likely give him the starting job out of camp. That is what they signed him to do. It would be really unorthodox for the Red Sox to ditch him this early in the spring.
Iglesias could steal the job away from Drew, but it wouldn’t come right away. Iglesias is going to start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket, and if he continues to hit well, then Boston could decide to bring him up and find a new role for Drew.
But for now, it is much too early to go with Iglesias over Drew.
Sell High on Jose Iglesias
Right after the Red Sox signed Drew, a fan asked Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe about the likelihood that Boston would deal Iglesias. Here’s what Cafardo had to say:
I think he’s always been available, but nobody has knocked down their door. He seems headed back to Triple A. They have been afraid to commit to him, so they must not think he can hit well enough to take the job.
While all of what Cafardo said was true, in this scenario Iglesias is hitting well.
So what does that say about his trade value?
What are the chances Jose Iglesias gets traded before the season starts?
Well, as a defensive mastermind who can now at least hold his own at the plate, one would assume that Iglesias’ trade value would be up from this time last season.
Is there a market for defensive-minded shortstops who don’t hit very well? Sure.
In terms of UZR/150, the MLB's top four defensive shortstops from last season were Brendan Ryan, Clint Barmes, J.J. Hardy and Jhonny Peralta, who each logged at least 1,100 innings. Not one of those four players hit over .240 last season.
It may be generous to think that Iglesias could hit .240, but he would probably be close to that if his hot hitting continued.
Teams do employ shortstops who don’t necessarily hit very well. Iglesias is good enough of a fielder to make up for what he won’t do at the plate.
Trading Iglesias is certainly an option that Cherington has in his back pocket.
Trade Stephen Drew
Although this is an unlikely scenario, it is one to consider. Boston could decide to trade away a player it just signed in order to play a rising prospect. It would be one of the craziest things we’ve seen in a while, but it is possible.
Generally, there should be a better market for a veteran shortstop who is well balanced overall than a young shortstop who is good defensively, but inconsistent at the plate.
There is no guarantee that Iglesias’ hitting is a trend instead of a fluke, while Drew’s success is something teams can predict.
Who will be Boston's Opening Day shortstop
Before the Red Sox signed Drew, he garnered a good amount of interest from other teams around the league.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Cleveland Indians were looking at him. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of Fox Sports said the Detroit Tigers were a possibility. Jim Bowden of ESPN reported that the aforementioned Tigers, the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals were all looking at Drew as well.
There was clearly interest in Drew outside of Boston. That interest could still be there for a few teams as long as Drew has a spring that many would have expected. He needs to stay healthy, play solid defensively and hit like he has hit over the course of his career.
It would be a bold move for the Red Sox to go with Iglesias over Drew without a doubt, and Boston might not even get fair return for him.
Xander Bogaerts is a year away, and even if Iglesias were to struggle, it probably wouldn’t be the difference between making and missing the postseason.