Last week, I published a post titled “What, we worry?” and urged Red Sox fans not to worry about the team’s subpar performance right now because, generally, the season is young and anything could happen. With that said, it’s difficult not to think that the forthcoming news about Dustin Pedroia‘s wrist injury has the weight of the season riding on it.
One characteristic of Red Sox teams under Ben Cherington’s tenure as General Manager is depth throughout the 40 man roster. Last season, at shortstop and third base, Cherington gave the team four viable MLB-ready options: Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks, Jose Iglesias, and Xander Bogaerts. Many other clubs would throttle puppies to have that much depth on the left side of the infield; and, as it turned out, the Red Sox needed all of it to survive the season and the playoffs.
But roster depth has limits. Despite how well Cherington has shaped Red Sox rosters to give the team depth, the impending news on Pedroia’s injury feels like the team is approaching a breaking point. The loss of Shane Victorino has been covered well by Grady Sizemore and Jackie Bradley Jr., two pleasant surprises for the Red Sox this early in the season. But Will Middlebrooks going on the disabled list was too much for the roster depth to swallow, prompting the team to acquire Ryan Roberts.
In the meantime, production at left field has become a point of concern with Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava underperforming. In Nava’s case, “underperforming” doesn’t accurately describe his .140 batting average. Nava was hitting .360 with a .485 OBP at this point last season, so his drop off now is simply unacceptable.
This is everything Cherington has had to worry about before Pedroia was scratched from the lineup last night and sent to Boston to get an MRI on his left wrist.
Pedroia is irreplaceable. When healthy or, as we witnessed last year, playing through a minor injury, Pedroia is a top of the order hitter who gets on base and drives in runs – and he’s a vacuum cleaner at second base, taking away hits with diving stops. Hopefully, Pedroia’s MRI comes back negative and he’ll only need 2-3 weeks rest before returning to the lineup because there’s not much the Red Sox can do to recover from such a blow. No team, whether or not they were constructed by Ben Cherington, has the roster depth to withstand the loss of such a player.
The best plan I can think of if Pedroia is lost for a significant amount of time is to sign Stephen Drew, move Bogaerts to third base, and shift Middlebrooks to second base when he returns. Middlebrooks has great range but a lackluster arm, and with the shorter throw from second to first he’ll be a better defender. Drew won’t replace Pedroia at the plate, but he’s a superior fielder with more range than Bogaerts. And moving Bogaerts to third base has him covering less ground on the field while keeping his bat in the lineup. This plan would help keep the Red Sox in contention until Pedroia returns – provided that the team doesn’t suffer anymore injuries to key players.
Depending on the outcome of Pedroia’s MRI, the Red Sox could be looking at a situation where 1/3 of their starting lineup is out for over a month at the same time, and it’s tough for any team to recover from that. The only bright spot in this scenario is that these injuries are happening in April, so Red Sox staying in contention is dependent on giving other teams five months to develop injury problems of their own. You hate to depend upon luck, especially when the Red Sox have been so unlucky thus far in 2014, but sometimes that all you have.
And we’ll be pretty lucky if Pedroia’s injury isn’t serious, since even he can’t play through this one.
photo credit: getty images