Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com: (June 4, 2014 – Source: Rich Schultz/Getty Images North America)
Before last season, Dustin Pedroia was the only Red Sox player to win an AL MVP award in the 21st century. Not Big Papi. Not Manny, or Nomar, or any of the other Boston baseball megastars who are recognized by fans on first-name basis. Only the sub-6 foot, former 2nd round pick was chosen over all other possible American League candidates to be recognized for this honor back in 2008, just one year after being named AL Rookie of the Year.
Mookie Betts changed all that when he won the 2018 AL MVP award. Unfortunately, Pedroia’s contributions on the field were limited to all but 3 games during that magical 2018 season due to injury, but he and the entire Red Sox organization had high hopes for a 2019 comeback. Though it hasn’t been the best of starts for the Laser Show, a minor setback is not a good reason to demote a franchise icon to backup duties.
However, a 23-year-old top prospect who sparked 15-6 run following a 7-13 start IS a good enough reason to reevaluate the situation.
To be clear, I’m not saying the four-time All-Star is done. Factions of Red Sox Nation will disagree with me, but I personally subscribe to the belief that Pedroia still has some miles left in the tank. His 4 Gold Gloves and .299 career batting average speak to his talent on both sides of the ball, when healthy. Even if he’s no longer an everyday player, his work ethic, his years of experience, his knowledge of the game, and his leadership abilities make him a valuable resource for a team with 3 starting infielders (including Michael Chavis) under the age of 27. The longest tenured Red Sox player is also owed over $40 million between now and the end of the 2021 season, giving him plenty of motivation to continue pushing towards a return.
With all that said, Alex Cora should not simply hand Pedey the starting job upon said return. Taking Boston’s 2014 first round pick out of the lineup in favor of a recovering 35-year-old would be downright irresponsible.
To put Chavis’s impact into context, no other Red Sox players has recorded more RBIs since his debut. According to FanGraphs, he ranks 5th on the team in WAR for the season entering this week, despite the fact that he’s only played in 20 of of the team’s 41 games to this point, which includes his major league debut when he entered as a pinch-hitter in the 9th inning. The rookie has reached base safely in all but 3 games so far, and he still managed to contribute with an RBI in the most recent of those 3 games, Friday’s 14-1 win over the Mariners.
Supposedly, the team is considering giving Chavis opportunities to play in the outfield, but that would have to come at the expense of either one of the Killer B’s or J.D. Martinez. Regardless of what you think of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s bat, his defense in centerfield is too valuable to bench him on even a semi-regular basis in order to make room for Pedey. Furthermore, Chavis – listed as a corner infielder until about a month ago – is still getting acclimated to playing second base. Throwing more at him defensively could prove to be overly aggressive and stunt his development.
I firmly believe that Dustin Pedroia is still deserving of a spot on the 25-man roster, even when everyone in the organization is fully healthy. Whether that roster spot comes at the expense of Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez, Steve Pearce, or someone else is a tough decision, and fortunately, it’s not my job to make that call.
But if the last 3 weeks has taught us anything, it’s that Chavis’s spot on the roster – and in the lineup card – should be secure. He’s earned it.