When the Yankees traded for Todd Frazier last week, the Boston Red Sox were expected to mine the market for a third base upgrade of their own. Instead, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski went in the opposite direction, calling up top prospect Rafael Devers to man the hot corner.
The Red Sox’s regular third baseman, 26-year-old Deven Marrero, has hit just .216/.258/.324 this year, good for a 53 OPS+. Devers, meanwhile, is batting .311/.377/.578 with 20 home runs across two minor league levels. Even accounting for inexperience, the game’s 12th-ranked prospect should be a big improvement over the struggling incumbents.
But for Dombrowski, the decision to promote Devers was a difficult one. The Dominican’s skills have been good enough all year long, but rookies sometimes have trouble adapting to the major league lifestyle, especially during the thick of a pennant race.
“Our biggest concern with him has been that if we brought him up and he struggles, like a lot of guys do, how would he handle it? And our people feel that he would handle it well at this point,” Dombrowski said, according to ESPN’s Scott Lauber. “They said that he’s ready to tackle that next step.”
While the Red Sox chose not to follow the Yankees onto the trade market, this move is no less aggressive. A more cautious front office might have stashed Devers in the minors for the rest of the season and promoted him as a finished product next May, but Boston, at 55-45, clearly sees an opportunity to win the World Series this fall.
“I guess if you had your ideal scenario, you’d say just let him just continue to go out and play third base and continue to play [in Triple-A],” Dombrowski said, according to Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald. “But the situation, we’re in need here, and we think he’s ready.”
The Red Sox were rumoured to be in talks to acquire Frazier — they even sent a scout to a recent White Sox game, per Jon Heyman — but the Yankees struck first in a coup to keep the best third baseman on the block away from their division rivals. None of Boston’s backup options, which included Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie, were as enticing as Devers.
At 20 years old, Devers is projected to develop into a good hitter, especially from the left side of the plate. He’s already been trouble for at least one MLB pitcher: Red Sox star and reigning Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello, who faced him in live batting practice during the spring.
“I faced him six times, and he’s a pain in the a–,” Porcello said. “He’s a great kid, from what I’ve seen and talked to him. I love his swing and everything he does. I’m excited to see him.”
In addition, after years of speculation that he would eventually need to move across the diamond to first base, Devers looks comfortable at the hot corner. Boston may still make a deal before the non-waiver trade deadline, but Devers has all the makings of a permanent solution at third base.
The Red Sox hold a 2.5 game lead over the Yankees in the American League East. They will continue their season on Monday night against the Seattle Mariners; Devers is expected to be available off the bench.