By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox have a short-term problem at third base, and a long-term problem in the power department. The billion-dollar question is how they plan to address it.
There’s no easy way for the Red Sox to tackle those problems, especially if they want to try to solve both with one move. The market for power-hitting third basemen is thin and so is Dave Dombrowski’s arsenal of movable prospects.
The easiest thing that the Red Sox could do is give top prospect Rafael Devers a shot at the hot corner sooner rather than later. Devers raked at Double-A this season and continues to do so with Triple-A Pawtucket, batting .364 with two home runs and four RBIs in just six games since his recent promotion. But it appears that the Red Sox are committed to staying patient with the 20-year-old’s development, so immediate help at third will likely have to come elsewhere.
That’s why more outside-the-box ideas have emerged in recent weeks.
One of the wilder ideas this week came from veteran baseball writer Ken Rosenthal, who is currently posting stories on his Facebook page due to FOX Sports removing all written content from their website (that is not a joke or an exaggeration). Rosenthal’s latest post on Friday concerns the Red Sox’ problems in their search for a third baseman. He described the Royals’ Mike Moustakas and the Pirates’ Josh Harrison as “unavailable.” He dismissed names like Asdrubal Cabrera, Eduardo Nuñez, and Yunel Escobar as uninspiring options, especially if the Red Sox want to add legit power to the lineup.
So, Rosenthal’s big idea for third base is for the Red Sox to get someone who’s not a third baseman at all: Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.
Dombrowski traded Prince Fielder to the Rangers for Kinsler in the 2013 offseason, so he obviously has familiarity with the player. The problem is that Kinsler has literally played two innings at third base in his major league career, and never got a chance to field the ball. Another potential problem is the 35-year-old Kinsler’s .401 slugging percentage, which is on pace to be a career low.
Kinsler might still be able to give the Red Sox some pop – certainly more than the seven home runs and .606 OPS that they’ve gotten out of third base. He’s also savvy enough with his glove that you could have confidence that he could figure out how to play adequate defense at third. But there’s a reason the Kinsler idea is described as “outside the box”.
Another idea that seems similarly (if not more) unrealistic is to make a major trade for an All-Star third baseman. Manny Machado has popped up as a possibility, thanks to ESPN’s Buster Olney. Machado remains not just one of the best third baseman but one of the best players in baseball. He’s having a down year by his standards on offense, but he’s still on pace for 34 home runs and plays elite defense at third.
But there are many big problems with a potential Machado-to-the-Red Sox move. It’s unclear which one would be the biggest: that it would take a massive package of prospects and major-league players that simply isn’t available right now, that Orioles GM Dan Duquette probably isn’t interested in sending his best player to the Red Sox of all teams, or that Machado isn’t that big a fan of the organization. If there’s even a sliver of a possibility that Machado would come to the Red Sox, they’re better off waiting for him to become a free agent in 2019 anyway.
If the Red Sox are really in the market for a young, talented third baseman, they might as well look into the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado, the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, the Twins’ Miguel Sano, the Astros’ Alex Bregman, the Diamondbacks’ Jake Lamb, and other pipe dreams.
Yet another outside-the-box idea involves the Red Sox moving an existing player to third base to open up another spot. Rosenthal proposed the idea of trading for Reds shortstop Zack Cozart, and either moving him to third or sliding Xander Bogaerts over.
Athletics first baseman Yonder Alonso is also on the trading block and has shown a surprising amount of power this year with 21 home runs, after hitting 39 in his previous seven seasons combined. He also has experience playing third, including seven games (38 innings) last season.
At the end of the day, the Red Sox’ biggest need for this season lies in the bullpen and not at third base. They have bigger-picture issues at third that will not be solved in the next two months, barring a blockbuster trade, and they will have a much easier time solving their relief pitching problems with a simpler deal ahead of the deadline. If they really want to come up with a short-term solution at third base to make a push for the World Series this season, they will have to get creative.
The question, still, is how they will pull it off.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at email@example.com.