Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

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.

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