FORT MYERS, Fla. -- While the Red Sox internally debate the wisdom of opening the season with Jose Iglesias as their starting shortstop, another question looms in the background:
If Iglesias begins the 2011 season as the starter, what becomes of Mike Aviles?
All along, it was presumed that Aviles would be the choice and that he would hold down the position at least for the first couple of months. But Valentine's evaluation of Iglesias has changed the dynamic.
Iglesias's athleticism, range and instincts have convinced Valentine that he -- and not Aviles -- should be the regular.
Such a move has its risks, but it also leaves Aviles without a regular position and leaves the Red Sox, for the time being, with two utility infielders -- Aviles and Nick Punto.
Punto was signed to a two-year deal last winter to provide depth and experience in the infield. But though Aviles is a much better offensive player, the Sox would find themselves with some duplication.
From a sheer numbers perspective, the Sox could carry all three infielders -- Iglesias, Aviles and Punto -- on the roster for the first few weeks as outfielder Carl Crawford recovers from wrist surgery.
But when Crawford returns, the Sox would have 14 position players. It's doubtful that Valentine would want to limit himself to an 11-man pitching staff, especially with so many question marks surrounding the staff.
Even if the Sox worked in some outfield play for Aviles -- and remember, they sent him to play winter ball in Puerto Rico with the idea that he could perhaps contribute in right -- they would have hard a time justifying having Aviles on the roster.
The Sox signed Cody Ross as a righthanded-hitting outfielder and envision him playing much of the time in right.
Boston could shop either Punto or Aviles, but each scenario has some drawbacks.
Because Punto is a newly signed free agent, he would have to give permission to be dealt elsewhere before June 15. Having liked Boston enough to commit to a two-year deal -- rare for a role player -- that permission might not be forthcoming.
The Sox could also deal Aviles to a team looking for infield depth. The Milwaukee Brewers are one such team looked for some insurance in the middle of the infield. His 1.2 million salary would not be an obstacle in getting a deal done.
However, the Sox need to ask themselves what would happen if they dealt Aviles and Iglesias then flopped or got injured. That would leave them with only Punto as an everyday answer, and while the journeyman is a fine player coming off the bench, he is hardly an everyday shortstop for a contender.
Finally, there would be this to consider: for a team which has had a veritable revolving door at shortstop since it traded away Nomar Garciaparra in July of 2004, the Sox could claim the distinction of having traded three shortstops -- Jed Lowrie, Marco Scutaro and Mike Aviles -- in the same off-season.
Clearly, there will be plenty of repercussions if Iglesias wins the shortstop competition. Determining what to do with the player who lost out to him is only one of many.