Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lackey Signing An Unusual Risk For Epstein

The signing of John Lackey to a five-year deal is a curious decision for Theo Epstein. The Red Sox GM has typically stayed away from long term deals with 30-something pitchers who come with a history of injury or obvious risk.

Since Epstein became general manager before the 2003 season, he has signed just one free-agent pitcher for more than three years – Daisuke Matsuzaka. Given his age (26), good health, and success in international competition, that was perhaps a special circumstance.

This time around, there are greater risks.

In 2008, Lackey missed the Angels' first 41 games with what was diagnosed as triceps tendinitis.

In 2009, Lackey had an MRI in spring training that revealed inflammation in his right elbow, had a cortisone shot, and missed the Angels' first 34 games.

As a result, Lackey has only thrown 163 1/3 and 176 1/3 innings the last two seasons. Depending on how you look at it, that's either a good or a bad thing.

The Red Sox were concerned enough to put language in his contract that will protect them from a pre-existing medical issue.

After making just 51 starts over the last two years, some might take the view that Lackey's arm hasn't received as much wear as if he'd made the customary 30-plus starts each year. Perhaps his arm has been somewhat preserved, making him fresh next year and beyond.

The Red Sox must think so. They had better hope so.

After striking out 199 and 190 batters in consecutive seasons in 2005-06, Lackey's strikeout rate has dipped dramatically, down to 179, then 130, and 139 each of the last three seasons.

Hopefully he will reverse that trend with the Red Sox next season, and remain healthy and effective for the duration of his contract. That is by no means a given.

Since 1990, only 16 pitchers have signed deals for five years or more. Only two pitchers on that list -- Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina -- averaged 30 or more starts per season over the life of their contracts.

Half of those pitchers ended up as busts -- Barry Zito, Mike Hampton, Chan Ho Park, Darren Dreifort, Denny Neagle, Kei Igawa, Wilson Alvarez and Alex Fernandez.

Obviously, the odds are against Lackey remaining healthy and making consistent starts over the life of the contract. Yet, Epstein went out on a limb on this one to make a splash, and to bridge the gap between his team and the Yankees.

Hopefully, when we look back on this moment five years from now, we'll have the hindsight, and the satisfaction, that his gamble paid off.

Mike Cameron Is No Star, But He's The Red Sox Bridge to 2012

Red Sox fans are just getting used to the idea of Mike Cameron patrolling left field for the Red Sox next season. And for many, it's not a particularly sexy idea.

After all, Cameron is 37 and has a lifetime .250 average. Among active players, only Jim Thome (2,313) has struck out more times than Cameron (1,798).

It's tough to get excited about that.

However, Cameron is a three time Gold Glover who can still go get the ball. Left field in Fenway should be a piece of cake for this guy, even if he's lost a step–and I've heard no indications that he has.

Additionally, JD Drew has averaged just 121 games a year over the last eleven seasons, and has never played in more than 146 in any of them. As customary, he will miss time for various reasons, and Cameron's ability to play terrific defense in all three outfield positions gives Terry Francona great flexibility.

The reason the Red Sox ended up with the 37-year-old Cameron is that there was a really limited market for corner outfielders after Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, both of whom are grossly overpriced.

Initially, I was hoping the Sox might sign Marlon Byrd or Xavier Nady, who was a rising star until he hurt his shoulder and had surgery last season. Perhaps that shoulder hasn't fully healed. You have to wonder if the Sox ever asked for his medical records?

And if the Red Sox are forced to part with Jacoby Ellsbury in an Adrian Gonzalez trade, then we may see Nady's name resurface, with Cameron going back to his natural position in center field.

The good news is that the Sox were able to get Cameron on a two year deal, at nearly $8 million per season. That may seem a bit pricey to some, but it's a short term arrangement that gets the Sox to their minor league kids, like Redick, Kalish and Westmoreland.

Cameron is the "bridge" that the Sox were talking about this offseason. And if they want to make a bid for someone like Carl Crawford next year, it will be easy to unload Cameron at that price.

It's worth noting that, with Cameron signing for just two years, the Red Sox will now have two outfield spots (left and right) opening up after the 2011 season.

I like that Cameron is said to be a a high character guy and a great clubhouse presence. Apparently, everyone loves him because he's a funny guy and a unifying figure. For whatever it's worth, he should keep things light and relaxed in the Sox clubhouse.

While Cameron's batting average worries me a bit, he has a career .340 OBP, which softens that a little. And he hit at least 20 homers eight times in his career. Over the last 11 years he's averaged 22 HR per season. And it can't be forgotten that he's played his career in expansive pitcher's parks in San Diego, Seattle and New York. He should fare well in the smaller confines of Fenway Park.

The combination of Cameron and Jeremy Hermida should be able to make up for Bay's lost offense.

On a side note, I think everyone is really curious to watch Hermida play, and find out if he can live up to the potential that once had him ranked so highly throughout baseball.

In the end, Cameron will also improve the Red Sox run prevention next year. As a whole, team defense should improve across the board, depending on who's at third / first.

So while Cameron isn't a star attraction, or a big name like Holliday or Bay, he should make a positive impact on the Red Sox in a variety of ways. And the Red Sox were able to acquire him short term, at a cost they can easily afford.

By the way, FanGraphs has this interesting bit here which says that Cameron is actually a better all around player than Bay.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Could Garrett Atkins be the Red Sox Next Third Baseman?

The Colorado Rockies chose not to tender a contract to third baseman Garrett Atkins last night, making him a free agent.

Colorado had been trying to trade Atkins since last summer, but found no suitable, or willing, trade partners,

Over the past four seasons, the 30-year-old Atkins' OPS has continually declined, from .965, to .853, to.780 to .650.

That ultimately led to him being supplanted by third baseman Ian Stewart at mid-season.

Atkins made just over $7 million last season, and the Rockies weren't wiling to risk an an increase in arbitration for a backup third baseman.

In 2006, when he was just 26, Atkins took the NL by storm, posting a .329 average ( fourth in the NL), a .965 OPS, plus a career-high 29 homers and 120 RBI. He followed that up by batting .301 with 25 homers and 111 RBI in 2007, and .286 with 21 homers and 99 RBI in 2008.

Each year, Atkins declined not only in OPS, but also in batting average, home runs, and RBI. But though his numbers were in retreat, Atkins was still productive – until this year.

In 2009, Atkins gradual devolution morphed into a massive regression, as he slumped to a .226 average, with nine homers and 48 RBI in 126 games.

Atkins is known as a patient hitter with good plate discipline. He has a strong arm, though the rest of his defensive skills are questionable (career fielding percentage of .954 at third). However, his experience at first base (105 career games) also gives him some versatility.

Without question, some team will certainly take a flyer on Atkins (who just turned 30 on Saturday), hoping he can regain his previous form. Perhaps a change of scenery would do him good.

The question for Red Sox fans is whether Boston might be that team.

Regardless of whether the proposed Mike Lowell-for-Max Ramirez deal is consummated, the Red Sox obviously don't feel comfortable with Lowell as their everyday, starting third baseman in 2010.

Though the speculation has been that 31-year-old Adrian Beltre will be Lowell's eventual successor, it's important to remember that his agent is Scott Boras. As such, his contract will be both lengthy and large. Seattle would like to re-sign Beltre, and he will surely have other suitors as well.

Atkins would be a less expensive alternative, and one who will require a much shorter contract to boot. It's likely that Atkins can be had on a one-year deal. He simply needs the opportunity to redeem himself and resurrect his career.

One way or the other, it's a good bet that Atkins will have a new team this week.

After all, Adrian Beltre had an off year in 2009 too. And there is still a developing market for him, though at a much higher price.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Is Jason's Bay's Short Stay in Boston Over?

Jason Bay's brief career in Boston may be over.

Bay has rejected the Red Sox' latest offer (four years, $60 million) and is entertaining better proposals from other clubs, according to his agent, Joe Urbon.

"We don't agree with their evaluation of the player," Urbon said. "Frankly, we have other offers on the table that are of greater interest to Jason."

Though Urbon left open the possibility that the Red Sox could rejoin the negotiations, he didn't sound optimistic about that possibility, saying Bay was prepared to "move on."

The Mets reportedly offered Bay a four-year, $65 million deal, and the Angels and Mariners are among the other clubs showing interest.

The Red Sox have a history of placing a value on a player and not budging from it. They don't get emotionally invested in, or attached to, their players – though some would argue that in the past they've become too enamored with other team's free agents (i.e.Julio Lugo and JD Drew). In recent years, the Red Sox have let Bill Meuller, Kevin Millar, Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon all walk away to better offers.

The 31-year-old Bay is believed to be seeking a five-year contract. The Red Sox don't generally like to enter into deals of five years or longer with players in their 30's. However, the Sox did grant JD Drew an eyebrow raising five-year contract three years ago, when he was also 31.

For what it’s worth, during his major league career as a starter (2004-09), Bay ranks in the top 10 of all major league outfielders in OPS, a statistic on which the Sox have placed great emphasis and in which Bay and Drew have been a virtual dead heat over the last six years. However, Bay beats Drew handily in games played (892-749), home runs (181-120), runs scored (564-497) and RBI (596-425).

In the absence of Bay, the Red Sox could move on to negotiations with Scott Boras regarding Matt Holliday. As it stands, the Sox and Boras are already negotiating the parameters of a contract with Adrian Beltre. But knowing how long and protracted negotiations with Boras are, and how highly he values (some would say overvalues) his clients, the Holliday option could be very costly, and perhaps a dead end. In addition, Holliday is likely seeking a contract in excess of five years.

With that in mind, the Sox are also considering Mike Cameron, who will be 37 next month. Cameron is a center fielder, but appears willing to move to a corner outfield spot. In 149 games last season, Cameron posted a .250/.342/.452 line, all essentially matching his career averages. Cameron also had 24 homers and 70 RBI in 2009.

Obviously, that won't make up for the loss of Bay's production, and Cameron seems like a very weak fall back plan. However, Cameron is a far superior defender to Bay, and the Red Sox are placing ever-greater emphasis on run prevention.

Another option for the Sox is free agent Marlon Byrd, who was offered salary arbitration by the Rangers. The 32-year-old outfielder had 20 homers and 89 RBI last season, to go along with a .283/.329/.422 line.

Byrd is a versatile fielder with good range, who has played all three outfield positions. That, coupled with the fact that he is also a right handed hitter with some power, might make him a great fit at Fenway Park.

As an indication of Byrd's terrific character, he won the Rangers' Harold McKinney "Good Guy Award" in 2007.

With highly touted minor league outfielders like Ryan Kalish, Ryan Westmoreland and Josh Reddick just a couple of yeas away from contributing to the big league team, the Red Sox don't seem eager to invest in the defensively limited Bay for more than four years. They believe that before his contract is through, they will have better defensive options at a far lower cost, and that Bay will eventually wind up as an overpriced DH.

With that in mind, it is conceivable that we've seen the last of Jason Bay in a Red Sox uniform.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Pay Lowell to Play for Rangers?

Mike Lowell for Max Ramirez is a proposal / deal that leaves everyone but the Red Sox puzzled. Why would the Red Sox pay up to three-quarters of Lowell's 2010 salary, amounting to $8 or $9 million, to play for Texas?

Yes, Lowell has been hobbled by his surgically repaired hip, but he has told both reporters and the Red Sox that he feels better than at any time since the injury that led to the surgery.

Lowell's doctors told him it would take at least a year to fully recover, which is about now. His hip has become arthritic, which may permanently affect his range and mobility, but Lowell is still a dangerous hitter and could well serve the Red Sox in a variety of capacities: third base, first base, and right handed DH.

The veteran third baseman is a high character guy, widely respected throughout baseball. Red Sox management loves him, despite shopping him (hey, this is a business after all), the fans love him, and his teammates love and respect him.

Lowell is said to be a very positive and professional influence inside the Red Sox clubhouse; you never any scandals or dirty laundry attached to his name.

Most importantly Lowell can still hit. Though he only played in 113 games in 2008, he still notched 17 homers and 73 RBI, which was more than JD Drew.

And last season, despite playing in just 119 games, Lowell once again posted 17 homers and 75 RBI (the latter of which was again better than JD Drew). In fact, Lowell's 75 RBI were fifth highest on the team.

Why wouldn't the Red Sox keep a guy with that kind of offense to platoon at first, third, and DH? Wouldn't he make an ideal pinch hitter? Last season, Lowell became the first Red Sox player to hit two home runs off the bench in the same game since Joe Foy in 1967.

It's understandable that the Red Sox have concerns about Lowell's potential, or continuing, defensive limitations in 2010. But does paying most of his salary to play for another team make any sense? If the deal is consummated, the Red Sox will have payed Lowell about $34 million for just two years of service. That's not a very good return on their investment.

The only way a trade for Max Ramirez makes any sense is if he is simply a trade chip that the Sox will spin off as part of a larger swap.

The Mariners are said to be discussing a deal for the Padres' Adrian Gonzalez, renewing a pursuit that began prior to last season's trade deadline. The fact that the Padres are even listening means that they are at least considering a trade of their franchise player and local hero.

A source told Fox Spots Thursday that the slugging first baseman "could be had in the right deal."

The Padres' new GM Jed Hoyer obviously has close ties to Theo Epstein, and he knows the Red Sox system better than any other team's. Making a deal with the Red Sox for his star first baseman makes more sense than dealing with any other club.

Perhaps the Red Sox are trying to give the Padres an additional trade chip, another young (25), slugging first baseman/catcher. Ramirez is leading the Venezuelan Winter League with 12 homers.

With two catchers already on the Red Sox roster at a combined total of over $10 million next year, there doesn't seem to be a place for the defensively challenged Ramirez in that role. And since the Red Sox will offer a contract to Casey Kotchman to once again be their backup first baseman, that also seems to preclude Ramirez.

So unless the Red Sox are planning to spin off Ramirez in some larger deal, exchanging a veteran hitter and clubhouse leader like Lowell for a player who likely won't impact the big league roster this season is unfathomable. Lowell is a known quantity, while Ramirez is anything but.

At 25, Ramirez still hasn't proven that he can perform at the Major League level. In 57 plate appearances during the 2008 season, Ramirez has a .217 batting average and a .715 OPS, with two homers and nine RBIs.

According to Baseball America, he was the 84th-best prospect in baseball and the 10th-best in the Rangers organization entering last season.

However, injuries to both wrists limited him to just 76 games in 2009, affecting his hitting (.234 avg.) and sapping his power (5 HR).

Despite four All Star selections, two World Series Championships and a World Series MVP, apparently that's all Mike Lowell is worth these days.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Red Sox Trying to Balance Present and Future

Don't hold your breath for the Red Sox to make big, newsworthy deals for players such as Adrian Gonzalez, Felix Hernandez, or especially Roy Halladay. The cost in terms of prospects is just too high, and the Sox have far fewer chips today than earlier this year.

In the case of Halladay, the cost would also include a massive long term contract for a pitcher entering his mid-thirties. That's just the kind the Red Sox are loathe to give.

In deals for Victor Martinez, Adam LaRoche/Casey Kotchman, Alex Gonzalez and Billy Wagner, the Sox gave up eight minor leaguers. That impacted their upper minor league ranks. And two of their most highly anticipated prospects–Michael Bowden and Lars Anderson–took big steps backward this year and may have been overrated from the start.

Theo Epstein always has an eye on the future, and on future payroll costs. The GM wants to use free agency and trades to supplement and deepen a roster built on homegrown talent.

With that in mind, the Red Sox are not likely to strip down their minor league system any further, and the chances of them parting with some combination of Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and/or Casey Kelly are slim and none.

At this point, Buchholz and Bard are beyond prospects. They have proven themselves, to varying degrees, at the Major League level.

Kelly is now the Red Sox' prized pitching prospect, and could be ready for the Majors by 2011 or 2012, at the latest. He will be under team control, and therefore very cost effective, for six years thereafter. That makes him a keeper.

No doubt, Kelly could eventually implode, as Bowden has. But Kelly was more highly rated from the start. For what it's worth, Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said Kelly has a bright future as a pitcher and called him a "great kid."

"One of the best kids I've ever dealt with. Very mature," raves Oppenheimer.

The Red Sox will have a full season of Victor Martinez next year, and won't be saddled by the daily presence of Jason Varitek's bat in the everyday lineup. That's a big improvement by itself.

And it's likely that the Red Sox will retain Jason Bay after all. The Mariners have already spent big on Chone Figgins and are still in play for John Lackey. That would doubly hurt their division rival Angels.

Speaking of the Angels, last month Angels owner Arte Moreno said that he has roughly $12 million to spend on improving the club. That seems to preclude them from signing Bay or Lackey.

And manager Mike Scioscia has said the Angels have "more pressing needs... right now than the talent that Jason can bring," and that Bay might not be "a great fit for our club."

Unless that's a smokescreen, there's one less potential big market suitor for Bay.

And the left fielder probably has a limited market anyway, since his tepid defensive skills make him better suited for a DH role during the later years of a long term contract. It's hard to envision anyone topping the Red Sox' four-year, $60 million offer.

Assuming the Red Sox re-sign Bay (or sign Matt Holliday), their offense should be improved next year with the addition of Marco Scutaro and a full season of Martinez. As it was, their offense was very good in 2009.

The Red Sox 212 homers and 872 runs last season were better than the 166 homers and 867 runs they produced during their 2007 World Championship season.

Last season, the Red Sox were in the top five in all of baseball in ALL major categories. In fact, the Sox finished in the top two in many areas – second only to the Yankees.

They will be a playoff competitor again next year. But they will return with largely the same team as last season, which was swept in the ALDS.

But Epstein will not sacrifice his long term plan for a short term splash.

As he put it recently, “I’d say 90 percent of our time as baseball operations is spent trying to build the foundation and build our long-term outlook. Ten percent of our time is spent maximizing our competitiveness in any one particular year."

Unless the Red Sox sign free agents, trades would merely result in addition by subtraction, which doesn't seem like a great strategy. Other teams aren't eager to trade for Big Papi or Mike Lowell and their $12 million salaries. The players other teams call about are Ellsbury, Lester, Buchholz, Bard, etc.

The Red Sox will spend big next winter when the contracts of Papi, Lowell, Josh Beckett, and Julio Lugo come off the books, and the free agent market will be deeper.

In the meantime, they will resist the temptation of a short term payoff, focusing instead on larger, long term rewards. They will try to balance wise trades and free agent signings with the goal of keeping the pipeline of talented prospects flowing to the big league club. All the while, they will attempt to do this without ever entering into a rebuilding mode.

"The short fix – the shiny toy – it’s always attractive," said Epstein. "It’s always a temptation. There’s always a seduction there. I think we talk to each other about staying disciplined and making the move when it actually will have an impact, but not if it hurts us more in the long term than it helps us.’’

Keeping the GM's perspective in mind will help to temper any unrealistic expectations this offseason.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Scutaro Was the Best They Could Do?

Pending a physical, the Red Sox and free agent shortstop Marco Scutaro have reached an agreement on a two-year deal, with an option for a third year.

Scutaro had the best season of his career in 2009, putting up .282/.379/.409 numbers. He had career highs in runs (100), homers (12), doubles (35), steals (14) and matched his career high with 60 RBI.

The numbers that particularly stand out are his OBP (which was third among AL shortstops), doubles, and runs scored.

But my bet is that this guy has peaked. He had a career year at the age of 34.

This is the Red Sox first significant move of this offseason (Jeremy Hermida notwithstanding), and the feeling I'm left with is: This is it? This is the best the Red Sox could do?

It's simply difficult to get excited about Marco Scutaro, who, at age 34, is coming off a career year.

Scutaro's career stat line is .265/.337/.384, which is tough to get excited about. Over the past six seasons he's averaged 8 homers and 47 RBI. Getting excited yet?

Scutaro has played 415 career games at shortstop, 306 at second base, 98 at third base, 18 in the outfield, and three at first base.

As a shortstop, Scutaro has a .973 career fielding percentage.

For comparison's sake, Alex Gonzalez has a .970 career FP over 1206 games, a significantly higher sample size. Orlando Cabrera also has a .970 career FP, over 1684 career games at short. And Edgar Renteria also has a career .970 FP, over 1960 games at short.

Ultimately, after all the chaos and flux at the shortstop position for the Red Sox, many of us were hoping for something more dramatic, and player who is far more dynamic. But it was not to be.

Meet your new shortstop, Red Sox fans. Get used to him; apparently he'll be around for at least two years.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Pedroia's Selfless Gesture Gives Red Sox Greater Options

The news that Dustin Pedroia is willing to move to shortstop to accommodate the Red Sox is a sign of his selflessness. It is a clear indication of his willingness to do whatever it takes to help his team win.

But, naturally, questions have arisen as to whether Pedroia can actually play short, whether he has the range and, particularly, the arm strength for the position.

However, it's important to remember that Pedroia has a long history of success at shortstop, going all the way back to college.

At Arizona State, Pedroia was a star shortstop that gained national attention. In fact, he beat out Ian Kinsler, another future All-Star middle infielder, for the position.

Pedroia was nothing less than a sensation at short, twice a first-team All-American, and the national Defensive Player of the Year in 2003.

When the Red Sox drafted him out of ASU in 2004, they were particularly compelled by his defensive prowess at the position.

In 2004, Pedroia played 42 games at shortstop in the South Atlantic and Florida State leagues without making an error. He only moved to second base in 2005 at Portland because the Red Sox had another rising sensation at shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.

Despite this, Pedroia still played shortstop in both Portland and Pawtucket. Over 270 minor league games, he made a total of just seven errors.

The evidence is compelling; the guy can indeed play short.

But why would the Red Sox move their MVP, two-time All Star, and Gold Glove winner to shortstop? Because there are better, more affordable, short term possibilities available at second base this offseason.

The Dodgers did not offer arbitration to free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson. The eight-year veteran, who will be 32 in a matter of days, is a career .282/.348/.431 hitter. More importantly, he is a four-time Gold Glove winner.

Hudson made only $3.38 million this past season, and would be a very affordable option to the Red Sox.

The financially struggling Reds need to shed payroll and are apparently willing to part with second baseman Brandon Phillips.

Phillips' contract calls for a guaranteed $17.75 million over the next two seasons, making him too expensive for the Reds. But he is an affordable option for the Red Sox, with a contract that will pay him $6.75M in 2010 and $11M in 2011. There is also a $12M club option in 2012, with a $1M buyout.

The 28-year-old hit .276 with 20 homers and 98 RBI this year, obviously very appealing numbers. And the guy can play defense too, winning the Gold Glove in 2008.

Thirty-four-year-old Placido Polanco is another option. A two-time Gold Glove winner with Detroit (2007, 2009), Polanco is a career .303/.348/.414 hitter. And over the last three seasons he has scored an average of 92 runs.

At this stage of his career, Polanco would represent yet another affordable, short term option to the Red Sox, especially since he wasn't offered arbitration by Detroit.

Eleven-year veteran Ronnie Belliard is one more option for the Red Sox.

Though he will 35 at the start of next season, Belliard is an excellent defensive player and a career .275/.339/.418 hitter. Over the last five seasons, Belliard has averaged 12 homers and 58 RBI, making his defense the essence of his appeal.

Like Hudson, the Dodgers did not offer Belliard arbitration. His last contract only paid him $3.5 million over two years, making him an easily affordable option to the Red Sox. That said, he is a long shot.

The Red Sox clearly aren't eager to move Pedroia to short, but the idea is at least under consideration. There are still other available options at short, via the free agent market.

Miguel Tejada wasn't given arbitration by the Astros, significantly lifting his appeal.

At 35, he might accept a two-year offer from the Red Sox to play short in 2010, then move to third in 2011 when Mike Lowell's contract is up.

Though his power has diminished greatly, Tejada is still an offensive force, batting .313 with 199 hits last season.

Tejada may be the most desirable of the free agent shortstops on the market. Players such as Khalil Greene and Adam Everett aren't very enticing, and Marco Scutaro was offered arbitration by the Blue Jays, lessening his appeal.

Orlando Cabrera is a bit of a long shot to fill the gap for the Red Sox.

Now 35, Cabrera led all shortstops with 25 errors last season, while hitting 284/.316/.389.

Aside from his defensive shortcomings, Cabrera's low OBP doesn't fit the profile the Red Sox favor.

Cabrera has diminishing leverage as a free agent. He is coming off a one-year, $4 million deal with Oakland, a figure he won't likely command this winter.

Considering the dearth of quality shortstops available, it's easy to understand why the Red Sox are considering a variety of second basemen instead.

Having their incumbent second baseman so willing and able to move to shortstop may ultimately provide much better options to the club this offseason.