Five takeaways from Red Sox roster moves
Five takeaways from Red Sox roster moves
By Sean McAdam
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In his daily briefing with reporters Tuesday, John Farrell confirmed what's been fairly obvious for a week or more: that Brock Holt -- and not Rusney Castillo -- will get the majority of playing time in left field at the start of the season.
Moreover, it seems quite likely that Travis Shaw is going to win the third base job over Pablo Sandoval, though that announcement won't be made until later in the week.
Here are five takeaways from these moves:
1) Credit Dave Dombrowski
Credit Dave Dombrowski for empowering Farrell to make these moves.
Dombrowski made it clear last week that playing time and starting jobs would be determined on merit and not salary. By approving Farrell's choice of Holt over Castillo in left, and presumably, Shaw over Sandoval at third, he's making good on that vow.
Of course, it's easier for Dombrowski to distance himself from two bad contracts given that he didn't give them out in the first place.
That the Sox will very likely have two players making a combined $27.5 million this season not in the starting lineup on Opening Day doesn't reflect poorly on Dombrowski -- those deals were given by his predecessor, Ben Cherington.
Still, that doesn't take away from the fact that Dombrowski and ownership are more interested in putting the best team on the field, rather than the optics.
2) Keep Sandoval engaged
If, as it seems, Shaw gets the starting nod over Sandoval at third, it will be up to Farrell to make sure that Sandoval stays engaged and interested.
Regardless of his obvious conditioning issues, Sandoval is a professional athlete with some measure of pride. After signing a deal worth almost $100 million just 15 months ago, he now finds himself on the bench, a (very) expensive extra player.
It will be easy for Sandoval to sulk and not feel part of the team. Farrell and his coaching staff will have to make sure that he remains a good teammate and prepared to play -- either as an occasional fill-in, or, a regular if something were to happen to Shaw.
The only thing worse than having so much salary wasting on the bench would be if Sandoval feels disinterested.
3) Holt, Shaw have much to prove
There's a lot for Holt and Shaw to still prove.
Shaw has 65 games of big league experience. Holt has never had more than 455 at-bats in a season.
It's easy for players to make big impressions in relatively small windows. How does anyone know that Shaw (13 homers in 226 at-bats in his rookie year) isn't another Will Middlebrooks (15 homers in 267 at-bats in his rookie year)? Answer: we don't.
The same is true, to a lesser degree, for Holt. Yes, Holt has twice had more than 400 at-bats in a season, lessening the chances that his performance has been a fluke. But he's never gone into a season as a (semi)regular at a given position, expecting to be in the lineup most days.
Meanwhile, Holt's lifetime career slugging percentage is .370. And he's hit all of six homers in 1,027 big league at-bats. That doesn't exactly profile as the kind of run producer you'd like to see at a position like left field.
4) The Sox are less versatile now
Having Shaw and Holt as everyday players will mean a far less versatile roster.
Argue, if you wish, that both players outperformed the competition and have earned everyday player status.
But remember, Holt can literally play seven positions all over field (he's started everywhere but on the mound and behind the plate). Now that he's going to be in left for about 70 percent of the time, that means he's not available to give Dustin Pedroia a day off at second, or provide Xander Bogaerts with some rest at short.
Yes, Farrell can move people around late in games, and have two capable outfield reserves (Castillo and Young) take over in left while Holt switches to another position. But it's going to take some creativity.
It's the same situation for Shaw. He can play first, third, DH and in short spurts, the outfield. But if he's going to get most of the starts at third, that removes an option behind Hanley Ramirez at first. It also takes him out of the equation at the DH spot where, let's face it, 40-year-old David Ortiz is going to need some occasional time off.
5) How will moves impact clubhouse?
It will be interesting to see how these moves impact the remainder of the clubhouse.
Put aside -- again -- the conditioning. The fact is, Sandoval is considered a hard-working player and has the respect of the other veterans on the roster. Some have privately said they would like Sandoval to remain the starter at third.
That's logical enough, since veterans tend to stick together and pull for one another, if only because the obvious subtext: if one veteran loses his starting job, it could happen to others, too.
Then again, for a team that has greatly underperformed three of the last four seasons, perhaps that's not a bad message ("Perform...or else!") to the rest of the clubhouse on the eve of another season, one in which the Sox, more than ever, need to get off to a good start.
A sense of urgency -- and seriousness if purpose on the part of management -- isn't a bad thing.