Barry’s point might be moot now, but it was that if Middlebrooks were to miss the entire 2013 season (and I say thank you, Jobu, for fixing Willie’s wrist. I give Jobu cigar. And rum. He will keep Willie’s wrist safe. I digress...) or even most of it, that the Red Sox would have to make a trade for a starting 3B at the major league level. Let’s take a gander first at the in-house options to replace Willie Middle at the hot corner:
Egads. A couple of AAAA nomads (Ciriaco, Sutton), a couple of potentially-ready-but-not-really-hot-prospects (Holt, Gomez), one stud prospect who has never had an at bat above AA and is supposedly a shortstop (Bogaerts), and a couple of jokes. Although I bet former Orono High School Red Riot Brian Butterfield could snag a few at the hot sack. Clearly, if Middlebrooks goes down, the Sox are screwed at 3B. Could you imagine having Brock Holt or Pedro Ciriaco as our everyday 3B hitting 8th? Could you imagine if Pedro Ciriaco and Jose Iglesias were the left side of our infield (with the inevitable Drew DL stint)? Hello AL East basement! I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but maybe we should have held onto Nick Punto? Oh god. Clearly, Barry is right about needing to swing a trade if this happens.....but not so fast. Come with me, if you will, on a trip around the MLB, and see how putrid the third base position has become.
The Best Player of His Generation as Long as You Keep Him Away From Tequila:
Miguel Cabrera, Det
Evan Longoria, TB
David Wright, NYM
Adrian Beltre, Tex
Chase Headley, SD
Ryan Zimmerman, Nats
Pablo Sandoval, SF
You’re Feeling Good With These Guys:
Brett Lawrie, Tor
Martin Prado, Ari
David Freese, Stl
Aramis Ramirez, Mil
Could Be Good, but Too Young to Tell:
Mike Moustakas, KC
Pedro Alvarez, Pit
Manny Machado, Balt
Will Middlebrooks, Bos
Kyle Seager, Sea
Todd Frazier, Cin
Trevor Plouffe, Min
Veterans Who Probably Don't Suck Yet:
Michael Young, Phi
Kevin Youkilis (actually, he might suck. It’s up in the air), NYY
Craptastic Replacement Level Players:
Alberto Callaspo, LAA
Lonnie Chisenhall, Cle
Jeff Keppinger, CWS
Chris Johnson, Atl
Ian Stewart, CHC
Placido Polanco, Fla
Who Are These F***ing Guys?:
Matt Dominguez, Hou
Josh Donaldson, Oak
As best I can tell, these will be the 30 starting third basemen in 2013 barring injury. And so I’ll channel my inner Paula Cole (do do do, do do do, do do do, do do do) and ask, where have all the hot corner boys gone? By that list, nine teams will be starting either a replacement level player or a player I’ve never heard of. Two more will start old creaky veterans, and seven more start talented but unproven youngsters. Two questions emerge:
- What the hell has happened to the third base position?
- What the hell would the Red Sox do if Middlebrooks did miss most or all of 2013?
Let’s tackle the first one first. Has the third base position been devalued? Is there a higher risk of injury for third basemen since they line up so close to the plate (it ain’t called the hot corner for nothin’) so front offices are steering prospects away from the position? Are budding third basemen either steered towards first base (by their agents, since 1B is where the big money infield contracts are) or short stop (where the positional value is highest)? Is it just a temporary blip in the road? If I went through and broke down every position like I did with 3B, would a similar breakdown occur with only 12-15 solid players? I have so many questions. Here’s my favorite theory:
Front offices and agents have steered prospects towards either 1B or SS because of either money or positional trade value, but this steering has resulted in a positional deficiency at 3B. Sensing this deficiency, front offices and agents have now begun swinging the other way with their draft picks and prospects, actually steering them towards the hot corner in order to get them to the big leagues faster to fill a position with a cheap player (or get a bigger contract faster if you're an agent) and to have an advantage over their competition at a position that contains the aforementioned deficiency. This has resulted in a wave of young, talented 3B cracking in to the bigs (Machado, Middlebrooks, Moustakas, Alvarez, etc.) Thank you, and please drive through.
Now, question #2. What the hell would the Red Sox do? Look at that list again. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Who are we going to trade for on that list? Aramis Ramirez? Michael Young? For the most part, guys on that list would either demand too much in return, or aren’t good enough to trade for in the first place. So what would the Red Sox do? I would say they would get by with the troika of Criaco, Holt, and Gomez for a month or two while Bogaerts gets 3B reps and at bats at Pawtucket, then call him up in June if the Sox are in contention.
Got an answer for what the Sox would do without Willie Middle? Have a theory as to why the 3B position sucks around the MLB? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.