The Red Sox second base situation was a fluid one in 2021. That wasn’t necessarily expected.
Last offseason, Kiké Hernández inked a two-year, $14 million deal, and after spending much of his career as a bench player for the Dodgers, he hoped to gain an everyday role at second base.
But the Sox’ center-field situation was below average. Hernández, a player with the ability to play multiple positions, rated as a plus outfielder and proved to be the best option in center. Meanwhile, Christian Arroyo, when he was healthy, proved to be a plus defender at second.
The pair helped to stabilize the Red Sox defense. But second base remained a position that had many moving parts. Heading into 2022, that’s still very much the case.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said at the end of the season that he could see Arroyo being an everyday second baseman. But, of course, health plays a factor.
Despite proving to be a productive big leaguer, batting .262/.324/.445, Arroyo played in just 57 games as he dealt with a number of injuries throughout the year and battled COVID-19 down the stretch. As a result, the Red Sox signed José Iglesias after he was released by the Angels.
Iglesias provided a significant boost. The slick-fielding shortstop moved over to second and was a quality defender despite never really playing there. Iglesias also added some oomph to the lineup, batting .356 in 23 games.
Iglésias, who wasn’t eligible for the playoffs because he wasn’t on the roster before Sept. 1, was one of the key players for the Sox when Arroyo returned from the COVID-related injury list at the end of the season.
The Sox were stuck, in a way. Did they want to continue to play Iglesias because he gave them a better chance to win? Or should they look ahead and try to get Arroyo some at-bats to prepare for the postseason? The Red Sox opted to do the former.
Getting Arroyo ready for the postseason turned out not to be much of an issue. He had a couple of bright spots, including a .313 batting average in the American League Division Series.
“I think ability-wise, is [Arroyo] capable of it? Absolutely,” Bloom said. “But regardless, I don’t think that means we sit on our hands and say, ‘we’re good.’ I think we should always be looking to give Alex [Cora] as many quality options as possible.
“You saw, in really some unexpected ways, especially when we had our outbreak, how much our depth was tested. The more everyday quality players we can have, the better we’re going to be able to withstand those 162 games.”
Arroyo, who was a first-round pick of the Giants in 2013, is entering his first year of arbitration, meaning the Sox have him under control at least through the 2024 season, which is certainly a plus for the team. After bouncing around for most of his career, Arroyo appears to have found a home in Boston.
The Red Sox could bring back Iglesias on a short-term deal to add to their depth at the position. Iglesias, who turns 32 in January, could continue to be a veteran presence for the club.
Or, if the Red Sox wanted to delve into the free agent market, there are some names out there as well.
Marcus Semien might be out of the Sox’ league because he’s coming off a career year. He belted 45 homers for the Blue Jays — the most ever by an everyday second baseman — was an All-Star starter, and won his first Gold Glove at the position.
Semien likely wants to shift back to shortstop, but if he’s open to remaining at second base, he could be an option for the Sox. However, paying Semien probably would come at the expense of Xander Bogaerts down the line, as he could opt out at the end of 2022, making this scenario perhaps a stretch.
Chris Taylor might be more up their alley. Like Semien, he was a first-time All-Star and could add some thump to the lineup. He hit .254 this year with 20 homers, providing a spark to an already-loaded Dodgers lineup.
Like Hernández, Taylor can play multiple positions, but settling into a more consistent role could take his game to another level.
Josh Harrison is one of the more underrated players in baseball. He hit .279 last year with the Nationals and Athletics. He doesn’t have much power — just eight homers in 2021 — but he possesses elite bat-to-ball skills and is a solid situational hitter, something the Red Sox have preached a ton over the last two years.
The last option, perhaps, is that the Red Sox go after one of the more elite shortstops on the market — say, Carlos Correa — and Bogaerts shifts to second. That might be too much of a leap, but one the Sox should entertain.
Second base has a ton of moving parts heading into 2022. Maybe that’s what Bloom wants. It fits into his adaptability/roster flexibility mantra. And if you look at those moving parts — even including Hernández — it’s a good problem to have.
Primary 2021 starter: Christian Arroyo
Projected 2022 starter: Christian Arroyo
Major league depth: Yairo Muñoz, Jonathan Araúz, Jack Lopez, Jeter Downs
Prospects to watch: Nick Yorke, Grant Williams, Cameron Cannon
Read the rest of the Around the Horn series
- Here’s where things stand with the Red Sox rotation
- Where things stand with the Red Sox bullpen — the free agents and the returners — as the offseason begins
- Between Bobby Dalbec and Triston Casas, first base will get a second look from Red Sox