The Red Sox have the worst production in the majors at third base, per Baseball-Reference.com's wins above replacement.
For now, they shouldn’t do anything major to fill that black hole.
That’s not because they don’t need the help. Rather, they need to wait and see whether third base remains their greatest problem before committing significant resources to it.
A small fix would be fine. But for the Red Sox to spend all their salary cap space — excuse me, luxury-tax threshold space — and for them to deal away one of their remaining prospects on the position would be jumping the gun.
What if they need another starting pitcher?
In June, maybe David Price is back and looks good. Maybe relievers Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg are about to return too, or already have. Then it’d be hard to imagine another need being greater.
But what if Price gets hurt again, and Kyle Kendrick doesn’t shake out? The Sox will need to go out and trade for someone like, say, Drew Pomeranz.
Third base has never really been a settled matter. This hasn’t been an exercise in genius roster building.
Over the winter, the Sox tried to sign Trevor Plouffe, who wound up going to the A’s and is hitting just .191. So, they might have dodged a bullet inadvertently. But at the same time, it was clear the Sox always wanted a better right-handed hitting option at third base than Pablo Sandoval.
Of course, Sandoval isn’t an option at all. He’s out with a right knee sprain he suffered while going down for a ground ball, which isn’t the most traditional way to suffer a knee sprain. Tee work is about to begin.
Brock Holt is out too, with vertigo, but is trying another rehab assignment Saturday. Marco Hernandez dislocated his left shoulder.
Holt and Sandoval both are on their way back. All three of them could return and be unproductive. Yet, the fact three players are coming back is an incentive for the Sox to wait and see.
Maybe Josh Rutledge, a Rule 5 pick who has to say on the roster, shows some mettle that’s unexpected. The Sox should let that play out for a time.
It'd be different if the Sox had a ton of prospects left. They don't. Trading one now hurts all the more.
Rafael Devers, who could well take over the position next year, might be able to force his way to the majors later this season. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski didn’t sound like someone ready to fast-track the 20-year-old, who has a .956 OPS and five homers at Double-A Portland.
Said one scout who’s seen him: “Played the hell out of third. Solid bat and good instincts for the game. Little concerned about the body though. High maintenance...Think he needs the full year in the minors.”
The Sox cannot go on with a full season like this at third base. But their self-imposed resource limitations should keep them from acting hastily.