By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
When the Red Sox return to action against the New York Yankees on Friday night at Fenway Park, there will be only two and a half weeks remaining before Major League Baseball’s July 31st trade deadline. Recently, WEEI’s Rob Bradford has reported that the Sox have a “keen interest” in Philadelphia Phillies reliever Pat Neshek.
Bradford writes, “The righty, who is in the final year of a three-year, $18.5 million deal, will be one of the most coveted relievers on the market in the next few weeks, making the chances of getting Neshek at the bargain basement price they fell into with Ziegler highly unlikely. But if the price is right, the reliever would seemingly be a very good fit for these Red Sox.”
He also points out that while having the third-best bullpen ERA in all of MLB, “One of the options the Sox had been leaning on for these high-leverage situations, Robby Scott, has taken a turn for the worse of late, totaling a 13.50 ERA and 1.311 OPS against in July. And every time Matt Barnes seems like he’s figured it out, the righty hits a bump in the road.”
While this may be true, what is also true is that team president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, has dealt away a good deal of the assets the Red Sox had built up in their minor-league system; and the “right price” for Philly and Boston, are likely two entirely different things.
While the back of the bullpen before closer Craig Kimbrel might cause Dombrowski, and his manager John Farrell some indigestion at times, the most glaring hole they have is most certainly at third base. It is easy to point fingers at Dombrowski for dealing away Travis Shaw for the injured Tyler Thornburg this winter, but remember that Shaw watched the playoffs from the bench; as Farrell chose to go with Brock Holt over the first-year Milwaukee Brewer against the Cleveland Indians last October.
That being said, going into the season with the hopes that Pablo Sandoval could bounce back from his blimp like form of 2016, and somehow recapture some of what he was in San Francisco for the Giants, was an obviously awful miscalculation by the Sox big boss.
However, as luck would have it, Dombrowski and the Red Sox might be saved by one of the prospects he refused to give away to the Chicago White Sox last winter, for their current number one starter, Chris Sale.
Earlier this week, the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported that 20-year-old phenom 3rd baseman Rafael Devers – who is tearing up Double A to the tune of .300-18-59, in 77 games with the Portland Sea Dogs – will shortly be headed to Triple A Pawtucket, to continue his progression towards the big leagues.
Regarding his ability to handle the position, Speier writes, “I think he’s an everyday third baseman. I think he’s light on his feet, he’s got a strong, accurate arm, he’s got confident hands,” said Red Sox assistant GM Eddie Romero. “He hasn’t shown me or our staff any reason to believe he won’t be able to handle third base at the major league level.”
And as for his ability in the batter’s box, the Globe scribe relays the following, “He has power to the big part of the field. He does a lot of things that you really can’t teach,” said (Portland hitting coach Lee) May. “For what he’s doing at this level, as fast as he’s doing it, it’s awe-inspiring. It stands out.”
Farrell has insisted that Devers would do some time in Pawtucket before he could be summoned to Boston. The question is, how much time will it take before Dombrowski – who is the one who makes the decisions on the roster, not his skipper – will be tempted to see if the answer to his woes at the hot corner is already wearing Red Sox colors?
As an organization, the Sox have a history of success promoting players from the Double A level, to the big leagues. Dating back to 2007, when a young Jacoby Ellsbury supplanted Coco Crisp in center field in the playoffs, on the way to a World Series championship, the history of kids making the leap and being successful is pretty substantial.
Xander Bogaerts had a similar experience in ’13, when as an August call-up, he ended up taking struggling then Sox 3rd baseman Will Middlebrooks place in game five of the ALCS; a season that saw the Sox win their third championship of the millennium.
Three years ago, due to desperation, Mookie Betts – who was only a year older than Devers, when he was summoned from Portland – made the move from second base to the outfield at the major-league level, and now is one of the rising stars in the league.
And just last season, Andrew Benintendi made the jump from Double A in August, and hit a homer his first postseason at-bat off Indians’ pitcher Trevor Bauer.
While the previously mentioned three players made their debut after the deadline – Ellsbury had a cup of coffee with the Sox in June of ’07, when Crisp was injured – there is every reason for Dombrowski to get a look at what he has sooner, rather than later.
With the should-have-been-expected, under performance of Hanley Ramirez at the DH position, and the lack of power the Sox have in their lineup, what is there to lose by giving the kid a shot? Marrero could move into the role he is made for – a late inning defensive replacement – and should Hanley the Hound continue to tank; Devers could DH in his place.
There are just too many reasons for the Red Sox not to wait to see what their young, future middle of the order guy, can do at the big-league level. If he doesn’t pan out, they send him back to Pawtucket to get more seasoning. If he does, he could be the Sox second half version of the Yankees’ Aaron Judge.
Dave Dombrowski’s team is almost certainly going to make the playoffs. Whether they win a World Series – like they did in ’07 and ’13 when two rookies promoted from Portland played major roles – may just depend on whether he gives Devers his shot to make his debut in a Red Sox uniform as soon as he possibly can.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.