Red Sox Call Upon Devers, Fill Glaring Need Internally by Travis Sawchik July 24, 2017 Happy Trade Deadline Week, folks. T minus 175 hours, roughly, until the non-waiver deadline horn sounds. This period, of course, represents the last, best chance for contending clubs to add pieces and fill gaps — and for sellers to spin off remaining assets. Dave Cameron updated his buyer-seller status list last week and things remain fluid. Just since that update, the Brewers’ playoff odds have declined by roughly 20 percentage points to 10%, so there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty in places like the NL Central, which will add an element of drama to the period. Teams must first decide how much they are willing to bet on themselves. One of the clubs almost certain to bet on themselves before the deadline was the Boston Red Sox. Their third-base situation has represented one of the great positional voids of the 2017 campaign. The club released Pablo Sandoval last week, ending his pitiful tenure with the club. That move comes after having dealt 2017 breakout star Travis Shaw to the Brewers in the offseason in an unfortunate deal for Tyler Thornburg, who’s out for the year for a shoulder injury. The Red Sox have by far the weakest-third base situation among contenders. Consider, by way of example, position-player units that rank 25th or worse in the majors among clubs with a reasonable chance of October baseball (numbers current entering Sunday): Team – MLB Rank – WAR Catcher Rockies – 30th – (-0.5) Diamondbacks – 29th – (-0.3) Nationals – 27th – (-0.3) Red Sox – 26th – (0.0) First Base Yankees – 29th – (-1.2) Second Base Rays – 27 – (-0.2) Shortstop Rockies – 25th – (-0.1) Third Base Red Sox – 29th – (-0.7) Left Field Nationals – 28th – (0.1) Center Field Dodgers – 26th – (0.8) Twins – 25th – (1.0) Right Field Rockies – 30th – (-1.7) Boston’s third-base mark of -0.7 WAR has been exceeded only by a couple other positions among contenders. Addressing that negative production at third would allow the club to avoid the awful — a necessity, more or less, for clubs with designs on the postseason. On Sunday, they did address it. Instead of entering the trade market, however — where the Red Sox have been connected to multiple players — Boston changed course on Sunday evening and will now reportedly call upon their top prospect, Rafael Devers. Big news. Dave Dombrowski just announced the @RedSox are calling up top prospect Rafael Devers. Will make first start on Tuesday in Seattle. — Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) July 23, 2017 Devers has recorded fewer than 40 plate appearances above Double-A. The bat is ahead of the glove. Steamer projects a .270/.311/.437 slash line but even that league-average-ish line would mark a considerable upgrade. With Sandoval out of the picture, Brock Holt has received seven of the last eight starts the position. He has missed most of the season with a head injury and vertigo and is slashing a paltry .175/.277/.175. He does not look like a player to be counted upon. Tzu-Wei Lin also received time recently at third. He acquitted himself well, actually, producing half a win in roughly 60 plate appearances. But his success this year (at the majors and minors) is preceded by years of mere adequacy. It would be unusual for a club like Boston, with so much at stake, to rely on a fringe prospect. Just days ago, Red Sox president Dave Dombrowksi was preaching patience in regard to Devers after the latter’s promotion to Triple-A. Per Meredith Perri of MassLive: “Our guys just feel with his age, where he is and what he’s come through that it would be beneficial for him to go to Triple-A from a maturity perspective,” Dombrowski said. “Really, this year he’s been tremendous, but we thought it might be beneficial for him to see Triple-A and be part of that and see how he adjusts to that. “I think that’s really important for him because when he makes contact the ball jumps of his bat, and he’s used the whole field which is very, very good. I think he’ll continue to do that. But (it’s) just kind of the comfort zone of going up to the next step and seeing how he handles it and how he feels. And does he continue to perform the same way or does he let that get to him a little bit more, which can happen in the development stage.” So much for that. Perhaps Devers, who slashed .355/.412/.581 in his first eight games in Triple-A, simply accelerated his own timetable. One could arrive at that conclusion given Eric Longenhagen’s assessment of Devers from a prospect update in May: I thought Devers’ noisy, pull-side ground-ball bat path might require adjustments at Double-A, but he might just be a freak who does things however the hell he wants because he’s so incredibly gifted. Devers doesn’t turn 21 until October and he’s hitting .324/.351/.606 in Double-A, keeping his body in check, and accidentally hitting bombs the opposite way. Or from Marc Hulet’s own report earlier this month: He’s not easily overwhelmed and seems to handle pressure well; his triple-A debut saw him go 4-for-4 with a homer. He has 19 home runs on the season but makes a solid amount of contact with just 55 strikeouts in 78 games (17.2% K-rate). Devers has the raw power to be a 30-homer guy in his prime. He’ll have to keep an eye on his conditioning to remain at the hot corner but he has a strong arm and should stick at the position for a while. He could eventually challenge Mookie Betts for the most talented home-grown player on the Red Sox. Or from simply watching Devers himself: Rafael Devers, are you serious? He demolishes a 2-run HR, and he’s now 4-for-4! Single to LFSingle to RFDouble to RFHR to RF pic.twitter.com/AH5h6VBBnu — PawSox (@PawSox) July 16, 2017 So this likely isn’t a rash decision. If anything, it’s perhaps late in arriving. Dave made the case for Devers way back in May, and Devers has only improved. It is, perhaps, an indictment of the trade market for third baseman — a market that dried up a bit when the Yankees preemptively struck a deal to strengthen their bullpen and add Todd Frazier last week, perhaps in part to keep Frazier away from the Red Sox. The Red Sox didn’t need a long-term option at third base like Yangervis Solarte, who should soon return from an oblique injury. Stars like Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson, under club control through next season, figured to be too expensive in terms of prospect treasure, and an intra-division trade might have complicated matters. They also might not be available. Former Red Sox Jed Lowrie is likely available — and has been better than Frazier to date. Perhaps Lowrie would still be of interest to fill a utility role. Asdrubal Cabrera, Zack Cozart, Howie Kendrick, Eduardo Nunez: all four were options, as well. In short, it was not a market with exciting, realistic natural fits for the Red Sox. So in the final week before the trade deadline, the Red Sox opted for an internal option over possible external upgrades. And it’s quite possible that Devers offers more upside than any outside help. And it’s quite possible the Red Sox might have patched one of the greatest remaining holes among contenders. But don’t worry fans of trade activity, contenders have plenty of other voids to fill.