It’s only been around a week since the 2013 Major League Baseball season started, but the Boston Red Sox are already in jeopardy of making their first major mistake.
Boston signed Stephen Drew over the offseason to be the everyday shortstop, but a concussion has kept him off the field for the first handful of games. In his absence, Jose Iglesias has been the starter and has played well thus far.
Through Boston’s first three games of the year, Iglesias is 7-for-12 with a double and a pair of runs. While his outstanding play defensively is no secret, it’s somewhat surprising how well he’s played offensively.
If Iglesias would have hit this well in his previous time with the Red Sox—and even in the minor leagues, where he’s struggled—Boston may not have ever signed Drew. Iglesias is a .198/.258/.267 career hitter in 38 big league games and a .251/.302/.287 career hitter in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Drew has been cleared to resume on-field activities and has been playing in rehab games with Double-A Portland. He’s expected to return after around four games, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.
The Red Sox are now in a position where they have to decide whether a player coming back from injury should replace the hot hand. Boston manager John Farrell has previously said, however, that once Drew is healthy, he’ll be the starter.
With Iglesias losing his job, it’s likely that Boston would send him back to Pawtucket.
Boston already has a backup infielder in Pedro Ciriaco, and the team would probably prefer to see Iglesias continue to get regular at-bats. At least, that was one of the arguments when the Red Sox were deciding whether to keep Jackie Bradley after spring training concluded or to send him to the minors, where he’d be guaranteed to play on a daily basis.
Sending Iglesias to the minors, though, doesn’t make a lot of sense.
For the time being, Iglesias looks to be the shortstop of the short-term future. Xander Bogaerts is the long-term future at shortstop, but it will probably be around another year or two before he makes his major league debut with Boston. Iglesias is the guy Boston should want in the lineup if he’s hitting well.
Offense was the only area of Iglesias’ game that he needed to improve. And now that he’s hitting well—compared to everyone on the team and his prior experience—Boston is going to send him back to the minors? That’s not the right decision at all.
There’s no reason to doubt that Drew would get the job done at shortstop. He’s a .265/.328/.433 career hitter and a fine defensive shortstop. But he’s not the future. If he were the future, Boston would’ve signed him for longer than a one-year deal, and that didn’t happen.
Unless Boston can predict the future and can see that Iglesias’ success at the plate isn’t going to continue, the club has a pair of options: trade him or start him.
Iglesias’ trade value has never been higher than it is right now. The Red Sox could’ve traded him immediately after signing Drew, but they likely wouldn’t have received anything worth mentioning in return. Due to Iglesias’ strong start, however, that might change.
Even if it isn’t the best prospect in the world, anything is better than cash considerations. Iglesias still has a lot of potential. If he continues to hit, he could be the starting shortstop on a lot of teams. But that is still a big “if.”
What will happen once Stephen Drew returns?
The more interesting decision would be to keep Iglesias as the starting shortstop, despite Farrell’s previous remarks. If something isn’t broken, why fix it? That’s a good question that either Farrell or general manager Ben Cherington should be confronted with. It just doesn’t make much sense.
It’s understandable that the Red Sox want to play the player they just paid for. But Drew is only making $9.5 million, and this is the Boston Red Sox, where $9.5 million is basically nothing.
This isn’t the Houston Astros, where someone earning $9.5 million would be one of the highest-paid players on the team and an obvious starter. If Boston loses the $9.5 million it spent on Drew in order to play Iglesias regularly, then so be it. It’s not the end of the world.
Demoting Iglesias shouldn’t be an option. Trade him or start him. That’s it.