Stephen Drew trade opens door for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks to shine

Ryan Hannable
July 31, 2014 - 4:52 pm

Is Xander Bogaerts a shortstop or is he a third baseman? Is Will Middlebrooks still considered a major league player? Those were the questions asked when Stephen Drew was re-signed by the Red Sox in late May. Bogaerts was shifted from his natural position of shortstop to third base with the hope of improving the team, thus leaving no room on the roster for the 25-year-old Middlebrooks. With how poorly the team has performed of late and the focus now towards 2015, general manger Ben Cherington and Co. made it one of their priorities to get Bogaerts back to playing shortstop and Middlebrooks back to playing third base regularly at the major league level. "One of the things we wanted to do if we could was find a way to let [Bogaerts] go back to short and give him an opportunity to play there a lot the rest of the way and give Middlebrooks the opportunity to come up and play a lot at third," Cherington said Wednesday. "Both those things will happen partly as a result of the [Stephen Drew] trade -- not that other guys won't be in the mix at those spots, too. That was one of the things we wanted to try and accomplish the rest of the way." Related to the position change or not, ever since Bogaerts was shifted to third base he's struggled -- struggled so much he's in the biggest slump of his career, which included an 0-for-25 drought. Since June 1, Bogaerts is hitting just .182 with an on-base percentage of .215 and has struck out 49 times in 185 plate appearances. It hasn't been the smoothest transition in the field either, as in 44 games at third base he has made 10 errors and in 54 games at shortstop he made just six. Despite Bogaerts' performance of late and change in position, Cherington has not changed his outlook. "He would tell you if he was sitting here that he's gone through some challenges this year," Cherington said. "We've all seen it. Nothing at all has changed in our opinion of him as a player. He's going to be a really good player for us for a long time. We said last winter we believed he can play short for us -- that didn't change because we signed Stephen Drew despite the attention around it. We signed Stephen Drew because we were trying to fill a need at a time that we were still trying to win and claw for wins. In retrospect, that move didn't work out the way we wanted it to. "Now this is an opportunity to move [Bogaerts] back and use the rest of the year to let him play. We'll see where we are. In the long run I don't worry about Xander Bogaerts because he's going to be good. He's going through stuff but he's going to be good. He'll have to go back to shortstop and take ground balls there now. It looked like he was even getting more comfortable at short right before he moved to third, so hopefully he'll just pick right up where he left off." To make Bogaerts' and Middlebrooks' shifts possible, the Red Sox needed to trade Drew. It just so happened the Yankees were the team to land the 31-year-old, who will likely play more second base with New York with Derek Jeter occupying shortstop. "We had talked to a handful of teams about Drew, teams that we thought might be in need of a shortstop, and it just so happened the Yankees were the team that fit and it fit for them," Cherington said. "It sounds like he might play a little bit more second base there than short. We just worked it out today. That one obviously happened late and was the last thing we did." The last time the two rivals completed a trade was 1997, when the Red Sox sent Randy Brown and Mike Stanley to New York for Tony Armas Jr. and Jim Mecir. Cherington had no second thoughts or concerns with making a deal with New York. "No. Given the circumstances we hope it helps them," he said. "I like Stephen. We all like Stephen. He is a good player, it hasn't worked out the way any of us wanted it to, certainly not the way I wanted it to. Hope it works out for him there, and the Yankee thing wasn't an issue in that particular conversation." With Drew out of the picture and two months of the season left, the Red Sox will get a good look at their potential future left side of the infield and see exactly where Bogaerts and Middlebrooks fit into their plans.