They won’t it admit, but it’s obvious that the Boston Red Sox are beginning to sour on shortstop Jose Iglesias. With the signing of Stephen Drew, the presence of Pedro Ciriaco, and a top prospect named Xander Bogaerts in waiting, it’s time for the Red Sox to end the charade altogether and part ways with Iglesias while he still holds some value.
The Iglesias experiment was doomed from the start, and no one should be surprised at the position the Red Sox now find themselves in. It was an enormous risk when the Red Sox signed Iglesias, an international free agent that defected from Cuba, to a four-year, $14.24 million contract in 2009. It seemed like an awful lot of money to invest in a 20-year-old with very little upside at the plate.
It’s no secret that Iglesias was signed for his glove more than anything else, and the slick fielding shortstop has made a number of highlight reel plays during his three seasons with Red Sox minor league clubs Pawtucket (AAA), Portland (AA), and Lowell (A). What former Boston GM Theo Epstein seemed to miss with the Iglesias signing, though, is the fact that the Red Sox play in the American League.
Having a defense-first option at shortstop is a successful NL philosophy, but it simply does not work in the AL. Epstein should have known that. In the NL, the scores are usually lower, and a greater dependency on “small ball”—sacrifice bunting, stealing, and generally playing for one run at a time—means that lighter hitters that play great defense can hold much higher value than they would in the AL.
To take this concept a step further, one needs only to look at the World Series representatives of the last 20 years, a period where offense has taken over the game. Among the starting shortstops for the last 20 AL teams that made it all the way to the World Series, none have failed to either bat .265 or knock in 60 runs. Since 1992, nine of the 11 AL shortstops to play on the winning World Series team have reached both of these plateaus.
Iglesias does not fit this mold. Since signing with the Red Sox, he simply hasn’t shown the ability to achieve either of these marks. During the last two seasons, Iglesias’ offensive totals are simply awful—he’s batted .239 with three home runs and 56 RBI in 875 plate appearances and has struck out twice as many times as he’s walked. An attempt last season to showcase Iglesias for a possible trade went totally awry when he hit just .118 in 77 plate appearances.
The writing is already on the wall, as the Red Sox brought in Drew during the off-season to play shortstop. The one-year, $9.5 million contract means that Drew will likely be on the move once again in 2014. This would seemingly clear the way for Bogaerts, a top-tier prospect and shortstop that has been slugging his way through the minors for the last three seasons with an average of .296, 39 homers, and 168 RBI. In the meantime, Ciriaco will fill in for Drew when needed.
Current Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has repeatedly stated that he’s committed to the farm system, making the Drew signing very telling. It’s been reported that Iglesias “was upset” when Drew was brought in, which gives Cherington even more reason to unload the young infielder. The time is perfect to ship Iglesias off to the highest NL bidder. His stock will never be as high as it once was, but Cherington should settle for whatever he can get before Iglesias’ contract expires at season’s end.
The Red Sox desperately need offensive production from the shortstop position, both now and in the future. What they don’t need is a disgruntled defensive specialist that can’t hit for average or power.