Red Sox

Looking at Travis Shaw's numbers vs. current Red Sox third basemen

Looking at Travis Shaw's numbers vs. current Red Sox third basemen

The Red Sox traded Travis Shaw for Tyler Thornburg. In doing so, they traded in what’s been dependable production at third base for something of a mess at third base. 

Shaw, who hit .242/.306/.421 last season with 16 homers ad 71 RBI in 145 games for the Sox, was one of three players the Sox sent to Milwaukee for Thornburg. Acquired to solidify Boston’s bullpen, Thornburg has yet to throw a pitch for the Sox as he deals with a shoulder injury. 

In addition to not getting that payoff in their bullpen, the Sox have felt Shaw’s absence at third base. While the 27-year-old Shaw has gotten off to a strong start both at the plate and in the field, the Sox have have seen third base exposed as a major hole in both regards. 

This is Xander Bogaerts' Red Sox team; here's why that's a great thing

This is Xander Bogaerts' Red Sox team; here's why that's a great thing

Xander Bogaerts arrived in Boston nearly seven years ago with a preternatural maturity that screamed future leader.

Just 20 years old when he debuted in San Francisco in 2013, he wore No. 72, hit in front of current Cubs manager David Ross, and shared a field with former Red Sox second baseman Marco Scutaro, who was playing across the diamond for the Giants.

Bogaerts went 0 for 3, but impressed teammates with his diligence and professionalism. Two months later, he'd find himself starting in the World Series, earning a championship ring practically before his career had even started.

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It felt like Bogaerts would forever be a promising piece of the next generation as he deferred to superstars like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and big clubhouse personalities like Rick Porcello and David Price en route to a second championship in 2018, but eventually the future arrives to take charge of the present, and that time is now.

As the Red Sox prepare to enter a transition season without Mookie Betts, Porcello, or Price, it's tempting to say that a leadership void must be filled, and to an extent that's true. But it would also be overlooking one crucial fact: Bogaerts was already well on his way to making this "his" team, and he hasn't gone anywhere.

Some players are born leaders, while others grow into the role naturally. Bogaerts fits the second description to a tee, playing a supporting role as a rookie and gradually assuming more responsibility every year since.

Last season marked the perfect confluence of production and personality, as Bogaerts exploded on the diamond and took charge off of it. He hit .309 while setting career highs in homers (33), RBIs (117), and OPS (.939), finishing fifth in the MVP voting and earning a starting spot at short on the inaugural all-MLB team.

He also stepped forward as a positive, plain-spoken leader for a team coming apart at the seams, consistently facing the cameras during losing steaks and after demoralizing losses, recognizing that he needed to be the face of the franchise after signing a six-year, $120 million extension.

"Obviously we didn't have the season that we wanted to, but I think it was a little bit of a relief just to get it done and go out there," Bogaerts said. "I think every person that signs a contract still wants to go out there and show that they're worth it."

That's a nice sentiment, but history is littered with players who cashed in and then checked out. That Bogaerts didn't allow himself to become one of them speaks to the pride that he takes in his job and the loyalty he feels to the Red Sox, qualities that management would love to bottle and share with the entire roster.

Those who were there at the very beginning aren't surprised.

"He's the real deal," Ortiz said. "The thing is with Bogaerts, he is so serious about his routine, about how good he wants to be. He is in that group with Mookie, with all the guys that came in from the farm that learned how to play for this team. He has the one year that he figured it out. Now he knows how to get it done."

Ortiz still marvels at Bogaerts' ability to play the sponge early in his career.

"We have conversations and he always tells me, 'Hey, listen, I was blessed enough to come in and learn here from the really good guys that were here when I first stepped in,'" Ortiz said. "He's a guy, Bogaerts, he doesn't talk much but I always say that whoever listens learns more than whoever is always talking. Now that he's been in the clubhouse, he knows when he wants to step in on something and when he doesn't want to get caught in a situation.

The good thing about this ballclub is they have a really good group of guys that know how to run this clubhouse. I have been extremely happy with what I've seen the last couple of years in the clubhouse. I don't go in there much, but once I go, I can feel the really good vibe coming from everybody. I hope that never changes. That's really important.

The Red Sox will need all the good vibrations they can get as they try to overcome low expectations.

For the past couple of years, they've followed the lead of Price, a popular teammate who nonetheless brought a negative vibe to the clubhouse. Price believed in closing ranks, which fostered distrust and even disdain for anyone not on the roster, including the manager, front office, media, and fans.

Bogaerts, by comparison, is far more naturally positive. Interim manager Ron Roenicke noted that just seeing his shortstop's smile every morning for the last two years put a hop in his step as bench coach. He stopped short of declaring this, "Bogaerts' team," but added that he has earned in particular the respect of the Latin players, with whom the multi-lingual Bogaerts can bridge divides.

A minor ankle injury has delayed the start of Bogaerts' spring, but once he gets going, he can't wait to see what the Red Sox can do. Even without Betts, they return a formidable lineup. The fate of their season rests on the health of the starting rotation, but Bogaerts likes being in a position where they can prove people wrong.

"If you ask me, I think no one would pretty much bet on us to win it," Bogaerts said. "We have a lot of veterans still on the team. I think that will help us, especially when we go through stretches, guys that have been there before, guys who have been part of good teams, bad teams and been through the ups and downs of the season. I'm definitely anxious for it to start, try to get right first and see what we can do as a team."

Whatever they do, don't be surprised if Bogaerts is leading the way.

Could this unheralded minor leaguer become Red Sox' fifth starter?

Could this unheralded minor leaguer become Red Sox' fifth starter?

If the Boston Red Sox want to have any success in 2020, they'll need contributions from unlikely sources.

Can a 29-year-old journeyman with a career 5.04 ERA be one of them?

The Red Sox kept Ryan Weber on their 40-man roster this offseason despite the right-hander bouncing between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket seven times in 2019.

Weber will make his first spring training start Tuesday, and there's apparently a legitimate chance he'll be the Red Sox' fifth starter when the regular season begins.

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"He’s definitely in play going into 2020,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero told The Athletic's Chad Jennings. "He was identified early as a priority target (last winter). … So, we pursued aggressively."

Weber started in just three of his 18 appearances for Boston last season and served mostly as a middle reliever, with uninspiring results: a 5.09 ERA and 1.377 WHIP with 48 hits allowed in 40.2 innings.

But the Red Sox apparently see something in the former 12th-round draft pick, who spent 2018 with Chaim Bloom's Tampa Bay Rays before coming to Boston in 2019 and relies heavily on a high-80s sinker and slow curveball.

"(Weber) executes better than most,” Red Sox vice president of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum told Jennings. "Obviously, he’s not going to wow you — or scouts — with stuff, but he can really pitch and execute."

The Red Sox cobbled together their fifth starter slot last season by rotating through the likes of Hector Velazquez, Brian Johnson and Andrew Cashner while Nathan Eovaldi missed time due to injury.

With David Price and Rick Porcello gone, Boston literally doesn't have a fifth arm behind Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Eovaldi and newcomer Martin Perez.

Interim manager Ron Roenicke could follow the Rays' model of an "opener" on every fifth day, with Weber or another reliever throwing a handful of innings before yielding to a long reliever.

Either way, the Red Sox apparently are hopeful they can rely on Weber for serious innings in 2020 -- which may explain why they're projected to miss the playoffs this season.