We know Xander Bogaerts’s dream is to be a major league shortstop, that he wears No. 2 in honor of Derek Jeter, his favorite player.
But if he could see beyond his 21 years, Bogaerts should take the third base job and never look back. This notion of the Red Sox perhaps playing him back at short when there’s a lefthander on the mound seems a bit dubious.
There’s no reason to do that, especially if the purpose of Tuesday’s signing of shortstop Stephen Drew was to take advantage of his defense.
Let Bogaerts become Boston’s Manny Machado.
Oh, Bogaerts may never be as good as Machado defensively, but playing third base takes the pressure off. It will take him away from the glare of the spotlight that’s always on a player at short.
That mental stress has to be tough on a young player.
Maybe deep down, Bogaerts doesn’t see it that way, but in the long run he’ll thank the Red Sox, especially if he becomes an elite offensive player.
So the Sox, to their credit, made a drastic move.
Signing Drew was simple common sense.
It should have been that way from the beginning. The Red Sox made Drew a qualifying offer of $14.1 million. He turned it down, just as 21 other players across baseball have turned offers down. As a player who stabilized Boston’s defense and chipped in with some clutch hits during a championship season, of course Drew thought he’d get a multiyear deal.
Drew now will play for the prorated portion of that $14.1 million, $10.19 million. That’s fair.
The Red Sox get their star shortstop back to smooth things out.
The Sox and Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, who also represents Bogaerts, got the Drew deal done in a matter of hours Tuesday.
Drew, who has been working out in Miami and near his home in Georgia, turned down what he felt was an under-market two-year deal from the Yankees in the offseason.
Four teams had made inquiries to Boras, but they planned to wait until after the amateur draft to sign Drew so they would not owe compensation.
One industry source indicated that Drew had multiyear offers if he would have waited until after the draft.
Teams on the radar included the Tigers, Yankees, and Mets. But Drew re-signed where he always wanted to be — with the Red Sox.
The signing brought instant smiles to many of his ex-teammates. They had rooted for his return from the outset and their message got louder as the days of struggling peaked last week.
Drew, who will be placed on the active 25-man roster Wednesday, will need about 25 at-bats and/or 7-10 days to get in game shape. Once he does that, it’ll likely take him some time to get back into the daily grind. So this won’t be instant thunder.
But for a team that entered Tuesday night’s game hitting .240 vs. righthanded pitchers, it at least gives them another lefthanded bat who hit .284 vs. righties last season.
The move also has major ramifications for the injured Will Middlebrooks, who has now lost his third-base job.
When Middlebrooks returns from a broken right index finger, he’ll likely become a platoon player.
Middlebrooks, 25, has been up for parts of three seasons. He’s had 686 at-bats, a full year plus. In those at-bats he’s been pretty productive — 34 homers, 112 RBIs, and a .743 OPS.
But he struggled mightily this season, especially trying to hit major league fastballs.
So now what do the Red Sox do with him? Do they move him to another position? Does he become a corner infielder plug-in, or does he become major trade bait?
Don’t forget, third base is a tough position to fill. The Sox had tried to find one who could be a stopgap while Middlebrooks was out, and they decided it was too difficult.
What the Sox don’t want to do is undersell Middlebrooks, because he still has value.
In the hours following the signing of Drew, with Bogaerts now moving to third, a few major league personnel had a similar response, “If they don’t want Middlebrooks, we’ll take him.”
The Red Sox do have Garin Cecchini at Pawtucket, but he doesn’t have Middlebrooks’s power. He’s a gap hitter who may develop power in time and the Red Sox believe he needs to develop his defense.
The Sox have received inquiries on Middlebrooks in the past. The Marlins have coveted him.
For the most part, Middlebrooks’s season is viewed as a disappointment. At the start of 2013, after his stellar rookie season in 2012, Middlebrooks was viewed as a middle-of-the-order power threat.
But a combination of nagging injuries and a sophomore jinx really held him back. He’s never gotten back to that 2012 form — unless he’s playing in Toronto (.315, 5 homers, 9 RBIs, 1.069 OPS) or Yankee Stadium (.350, 3 homers, 6 RBIs, 1.022 OPS).
What the Red Sox care most about now is stabilizing their team. They have Drew for the remainder of the season, and when one thinks about it, they could really use him for another year.
Deven Marrero, another Boras client, is the real deal at shortstop. He’s at Double A and has begun to make an impact offensively as well, entering Tuesday hitting .294 with two homers and 22 RBIs, a .381 OBP, and an .829 OPS. He also had eight steals in nine attempts.
Sometime in 2015, Marrero might be ready. So do the Sox keep Drew around for another year while Marrero gets ready? If they don’t, does Bogaerts move back to short?
In his meeting with Bogaerts after the Drew deal went down, manager John Farrell told Bogaerts that this move didn’t mean Bogaerts was no longer the shortstop of the future. So Bogaerts was given some hope that he would return to the position. His two errors at short Tuesday night didn’t help his cause.
But as we pointed out, take the third-base job and run with it, Xander.Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.