Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

Drellich: The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

WATCH: Did Sox make right move? / BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: On Devers

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.

Drellich: Red Sox play the waiting game as deadline approaches

Drellich: Red Sox play the waiting game as deadline approaches

BOSTON -- Doug Fister’s start on Thursday was the clearest reason an 8-6 Red Sox loss to the Blue Jays felt like a bridge day. He was there to give some rest to the other starters, which was a worthy idea. But Fister’s command was poor enough to make that decision questionable.

Presumably, Fister’s time as starter for the Sox is now over, although manager John Farrell was noncommittal afterward.

MORE RED SOX

Add it to the list of reasons the Red Sox look like a team in limbo at the moment. They’re in first place, while simultaneously playing a waiting game.

Whom the Sox acquire before the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of the month, and how long they wait to pull off a deal, looms large. Because even though the offense has looked better the last two days, it was still the primary drawback during a 4-4 homestand within the division.

Chris Sale and David Price will be on the mound to start a three-game weekend series against the Angels in Anaheim, so at least a feeling of normalcy should return.

“Back to the top of the rotation,” Farrell said. “We’ve got a chance to hopefully catch up with some recovery days down that bullpen. Anytime Chris and David are walking to the mound, we feel like we're extremely confident.”

But now, someone new needs to walk through the clubhouse door. Someone will, too -- it’s just a matter of when, lest Dave Dombrowski’s m.o. all of a sudden changes 40-plus years into his career.

There’s no confusion about what should be done.

As nice as it is that Christian Vazquez is capable of playing third base, the Red Sox need to find a situation where they have a third baseman who can start the game and finish it -- where they have someone whose bat is good enough to do so.

Vazquez manning third at the end of Thursday’s game is symbolic of the position on a whole: it’s been left to the warmest body at the moment, rather than someone who truly has a handle on the job.

Top prospect Rafael Devers has been hitting very well in his brief stint at Triple-A Pawtucket, going 8-for-22 (.364) in six games, with a .440 on-base percentage and a pair of home runs. He has four strikeouts compared to three walks.

But considering the way Dombrowski has spoken all season, the Sox seem intent on doing what’s best for Devers’ development rather than rushing the 20-year-old to aid the major league team. And what was right for Devers’ development thus far this season, as the Sox saw it, was three months at Double-A.

Spending only a week in Triple-A, or really anything less than a month, then, would seem hasty. Even a late August or September call-up would be a quick move, relatively speaking.

Barring a change of heart, then, help still needs to come from the outside. Even if the Sox believe in Devers for this year, he would still be an unknown commodity in the big leagues, and the Sox at this point need something more than that.

There’s a piece missing, at least one. Everyone’s waiting to see what comes next, including the clubhouse.

Farrell says Red Sox clubhouse anticipating trade

Farrell says Red Sox clubhouse anticipating trade

BOSTON — John Farrell might have stopped short of actually stumping for a deal. Still, the Red Sox manager on Thursday morning spoke highly of the potential impact of a trade and indicated his players are waiting to see what this front office can add to a first-place team.

From a morale perspective, Farrell sees a potential boon in an acquisition.

“I think it’s always a plus,” Farrell said. “It’s a strong sign that everyone is aligned to support, add to, fortify — however you want to describe it — an area of need. And I think there’s a lot that goes into — there’s almost an injection of maybe that support or, further momentum that, OK, this is going to better equip us to go deep into the season.”

The players, Farrell said, have an anticipation for the possibility of a trade as well.

“I think there is. I think players carry that,” Farrell said. “They’re well in tune. Maybe some of them might be wondering OK, am I out?...So there’s a tentative period of time that we’ll go through here in the next 10-14 days. But adding to [the team] I think is always a positive.”

A day earlier, Farrell noted the improvement the Yankees made in their trade for Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.