BOSTON — The Red Sox would be taking a big risk if they convince themselves Tzu-Wei Lin’s immediate success is reason to pass on a trade for a third baseman.
Indications are the team is well aware of that potential pitfall.
The 23-year-old from Taiwan could prove the real deal. There’s reason to believe that he can help the Sox down the stretch.
But there’s not enough evidence to look at him as the solution, or even one half of it. There’s not enough time, not enough plate appearances available, for the Sox to feel settled at their most unsettling position before the trade deadline.
In a championship-caliber season, Sox president of baseball operations Dombrowski cannot look at Lin and Deven Marrero and back away from the trade market.
The Sox have the worst production at third base of any team and the fewest homers in the American League. They have an excellent club, but so do the Astros, who have an offense that can blow the Red Sox’ out of the water.
Dombrowski knows that. Third-base prospect Rafael Devers clearly isn’t going to get a look in the majors before the trade deadline, and that’s the most pragmatic pace for the 20-year-old’s development.
So here’s betting Dombrowski upgrades the greatest question mark he faces, despite the excitement Lin has brought and the great glove work of Marrero.
Lin is physically stronger this year than in the past. His minor league performance took a dramatic upturn this year before he was called up to the big leagues. He had an .870 OPS at Double-A Portland, after posting a .580 OPS at the same level a year ago.
The Sox believe in Lin’s maturity. They’re not surprised he’s taken a step forward. But 13 games in the majors isn’t enough of a sample size. The same will be true 26 games in.
Consider the expectations the Red Sox have and who’s running them. If Dealer Dave decides he doesn’t need a third baseman, what’s left for him at this trade deadline? Another Fernando Abad?
A reliever, if priced reasonably, would actually be beneficial. But third base has been a drag for too long for Dombrowski to stand pat.
There’s no point in chasing the past, but the winter could influence his mindset. Where was the known quantity he needed?
Dombrowski traded away Travis Shaw and didn’t land anyone else as a back-up plan for Pablo Sandoval. Dombo’s paid for it.
Sox manager John Farrell seems to be crushing hard on the intangibles Lin is bringing. What’s most important are the hits he has brought so far.
Emphasis on, so far.
Lin’s discovery is a pleasant one as the Sox get on a roll. But the Sox need to still prioritize third base as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches.