BOSTON — Dave Dombrowski is uncertain now about Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrero, about whether they’re different players than what they showed for years in the minor leagues: little offensive production. The Red Sox president of baseball operations is encouraged, but he’s unsure.
“I don’t know that answer,” Dombrowski said. “I mean it’s got a chance to be, from what I have seen. But you never know that.”
What’s difficult to believe is that two weeks of good play until the non-waiver trade deadline will leave him feeling more certain.
So, maybe Dombrowski is playing it cool when he says he’s open to an upgrade at third base while not naming it as a clear need. Maybe he doesn’t want to overplay his hand to potential trade partners.
“I'd say it doesn't make it a point where you're so aggressively pursuing the position,” Dombrowski said of Lin and Marrero. “But I would also say, just like anything else, we're open-minded to getting better at any spot we can. So if somebody becomes available that makes sense for us with the acquisition price… there are not a lot of those positions on our team I don't think, but if that does happen, we're open-minded to it.”
Dombrowski has been around long enough to understand track records. If anything, this is an executive who values certainty and proven commodities. Veterans and stars.
That’s not what he has at third base in the wake of Pablo Sandoval’s departure, not even close. It's the clearest position of need on the team where Dombrowski already traded away a piece who is thriving, Travis Shaw.
Tzu-Wei Lin’s career average in the minors is .241. His OPS is .638. Deven Marrero’s a career .216 hitter in the minors with a .578 OPS.
What about the majors, you say?
Well, Lin has continued on the improvement he showed this year at Double-A and is hitting .333 with a .871 OPS. Not bad — but it’s just 15 games in the majors.
Marrero’s playing the heck out of third base, but he’s hitting .225 with a .615 OPS.
“Over a short time period — Lin, this year, took a tremendous leap forward, starting in spring training,” Dombrowski said. “I’m not really sure what he did, he’s stronger, there’s no question to that. He wasn’t even a big league invite, although he probably should have been.
“He always caught our eye. … He drove the ball, which really, we never saw him do before. He continued to do that at Portland for us. He’s continued to do it here. He looks like a very good player right here. He doesn’t seem intimidated whatsoever.”
“We’re encouraged by what we’ve seen this year. Could I be so, predict that will continue to happen? I don’t know, but he’s got a nice swing, he looks like he’s got a pulse.”
You think Dombrowski really wants to enter August saying to himself, “I don’t know” about third base? He needs to find a player where he can say the opposite — with as much confidence as anyone ever can in a game of uncertainty, anyway.
Marrero, for as great as he looks defensively, has not taken a significant leap forward offensively, and Dombrowski acknowledged that.
“Marrero’s case is a little bit different [than Lin’s],” Dombrowski said. “He’s worked very hard, he really was not having a good offensive year at Triple-A whatsoever, and he hasn’t had a good offensive year. He’s worked very hard with [hitting coach Chili Davis] on some things with his mechanics. He’s taken some additional breaking balls off the pitching machine, he hasn’t been chasing that quite as much.
“Before I came down here, I was waiting in the coaches room … and was talking, Chili happened to walk in and we were just talking about the very fact, it’s like, well, we’ve been very encouraged by what we’ve seen. Hopefully, they keep it up. And we’ll see, you turn the page right away today. They’ve had four days off. A lot of times the second half of the season, hopefully, people continue to do things that they’ve done well. We’ve got big games right off the bat. And so, I think you have a chance to observe too while we’re here.”
He can observe all he wants. Two weeks won’t bring certainty. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll bring increased trade value for one or both players.