Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Xander Bogaerts is all but assured a starting job in 2014.
This question mark could either be an easy one to answer, or it may create some difficulty.
Much of this depends on what happens with shortstop Stephen Drew.
Drew has yet to find a new team in 2014—his stock certainly falling given the conditional first-round draft pick associated with his name if he signs elsewhere.
Yet if Boston moves on without him, the situation for the Red Sox infield on the left side appears much simpler. Rookie standout Xander Bogaerts will get the nod at shortstop, and two-year veteran Will Middlebrooks will have another season at third to prove his worthiness.
Utility infielder Jonathan Herrera will handle the backup role.
More on Middlebrooks shortly.
Bogaerts—who can play either third or short—appears destined for a full-time role in 2014, so there should not be any concerns whether or not he sees the field.
If Drew is eventually re-signed, that would shift some of the roles on the left side of the infield. Bogaerts would likely move to third and Drew would retain his shortstop position, leaving Middlebrooks the odd man out.
The lingering question is of concern to manager John Farrell, as he stated via Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe:
The one thing that we don’t want is a lingering "what if" if Stephen is still out there. In all fairness to our guys, our clubhouse [and] guys that would be affected if he were to be brought in. Certainly I can’t speak for Ben [Cherington] in this situation, but I think the more that we know what our team is going to look like, or at least those guys in our clubhouse, it probably settles some of that wondering if another player is going to join us.
Judging from this comment, it appears as if Farrell wants the situation to be addressed sooner rather than later. This would solidify this portion of his defense and establish roles necessary for the team to prepare for the regular season.
As mentioned, Middlebrooks is likely the odd man out if Drew returns. Middlebrooks, whose wrist injury thwarted much of his second season in the big leagues, is likely playing for his job in 2014. Even if he performs well this year, Boston could be looking to the future regarding the position.
Third base prospect Garin Cecchini is the heir apparent at third base moving forward, and while he may not be quite ready for the majors—as indicated by Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com—his development does suggest the Red Sox are looking at Cecchini over Middlebrooks in future seasons.
Re-signing Drew could throw a proverbial "monkey wrench" into all of that.
Thus, one should consider that Boston needs to solidify this portion of the field as soon as it can with or without Drew. As Farrell stated, this situation should not linger.
I would not expect it to for much longer.