Sox weighing options for backup infielder spot

Sox weighing options for backup infielder spot
December 11, 2013, 8:15 pm
Share This Post

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Even as the Red Sox wait to determine who's going to be their starting shortstop for 2014, they're also looking at who can serve as the backup at the position.

For now, the starter's job could go to either Xander Bogaerts, or should they re-sign him, Stephen Drew.

Of course, the Sox might be looking at different qualifications for the utility role, depending on who starts at the position. If Bogaerts is the Sox' shortstop, the team might look for a bench player whose speciality is defense.

If Drew -- a more experienced, polished defender -- returns, then the Sox might look for more offense off the bench.

"Sometimes you can't be quite that picky on that part of your roster,'' said Ben Cherington. "You're talking about a bench player. But theoretically, yes. If you have one player, this player might complement better and vice versa.''

But the Sox may not have the luxury of waiting until they determine who their starting shortstop is before having to make a choice about his backup.

"You can't just pick exactly who you want out of your hat," Cherington said, "so I think we'll try to do the best we can to address that, either now or later, with a guy who we think has the best chance of being the best fit, but it may not [work out]. We don't live in a world where we can just do whatever we want at our speed.

"But we'll certainly think about how [the backup infielder] complements [the starter]."

An industry source said there are at least three free agent infielder who could fill the Sox' need: Clint Barmes; Elliot Johnson and Ramon Santiago.

*Barmes spent the past two seasons in Pittsburgh. In 2013, he hit .211/.249/.309 for the Pirates with five homers and 23 RBI. As recently as the year before, he was more of an everyday player, starting 135 games for the Pirates.

That season, finished 5th in defensive WAR in the National League. Barmes is a righthanded batter who once hit as many 23 homers for Colorado in 2009, but his primary value is his glove.

*Santiago, 34, has been a utility player for the Tigers for a number of years. He played in 80 games in 2013, splitting time between second, short and third and hit .243/.311/.330.

Like Barmes, Santiago is seen as a defense-first infielder.

*Johnson, who will turn 30 in March, is the lone switch-hitter among this group. Another plus for Johnson is that he's played some outfield in the big leagues, expanding his versatility.

Johnson has spent time with Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Atlanta in his career. He was non-tendered by the Braves last month.

One baseball source suggested that the Red Sox might be better off trying to address their need through a trade rather than free agency.