There are rumblings that the Red Sox are growing impatient with shortstop Alex Gonzalez's offensive ineptitude.
The Sox committed to a one-year deal with Gonzalez due to his defensive prowess, knowing that his career .243 average could be a liability at the plate. But in his first month with the Red Sox, Gonzalez hit just .186 with no homers and four RBIs. His paltry .275 on-base percentage has virtually assured an automatic out in each plate appearance. That weak presence in the order can be a rally killer, and only exacerbates the Sox disturbing trend of leaving men on base this year.
Reports have surfaced that indicate the Sox may engage in trade talks with the Dodgers for Cesar Izturis as soon as he comes off the disabled list. The 26-year-old Izturis, an All-Star last year, saw his season cut short when he was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in his right elbow, which required season-ending Tommy John surgery. In 2004, Izturis earned his first Gold Glove award, so defensively he would be on par with Gonzalez. Izturis and Alex Cora were a fantastic double play combo for the Dodgers before Cora left as a free agent.
Aside from the degenerative elbow condition, the other concern is Izturis's career .261 average and .295 OBP. If the Sox are looking for more offense, it would seem they should look elsewhere. However, Izturis was on a torrid pace before getting hurt last season. The switch-hitter is still young and appeared to be developing offensively, having compiled 75 hits in just the first two months of the season. Showing signs of maturing into a fine contact hitter, Izturis had missed on just 8.8% of his swings at the time of his injury.
In the meantime, the club is concerned enough about Gonzalez's offensive shortcomings that he is in jeopardy of losing his starting job to Cora. The question is, what difference would it make? The two players are essentially the same; great defense, no offense. Why go from one .240 career hitter to another?
While Sox manager Terry Francona is publicly backing Gonzalez right now, the player's manager has always been loyal his guys. But Francona backed Josh Bard as well, and we all know how that turned out.
So whether it's Izturis or someone else, unless Gonzalez is a tiger who can change his stripes, the Sox may soon be in the market for a more potent offensive replacement to fill out the bottom of the order. After going through four starting shortstops in just two years, the Sox find themselves in yet another uncertain situation.
Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.