Boston Red Sox

How Red Sox should address question mark at second base

The middle of the infield is in need of an upgrade.

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The starting rotation isn't the only area of concern for the Boston Red Sox this offseason.

Second base was a problem throughout their last-place 2023 campaign. With Trevor Story moving back over to shortstop upon his return from the injured list, there was a revolving door at the position. The Red Sox had 12 different second basemen over the course of the season, and their primary option (Christian Arroyo) was designated for assignment one week after the club's trade deadline acquisition of Luis Urias.

Urias won't be part of the mix in 2024 as he was traded to the Seattle Mariners for reliever Isaiah Campbell earlier this month. That leaves Enmanuel Valdez, Pablo Reyes, and perhaps Ceddanne Rafaela as Boston's second base options if the team stands pat this offseason.

It doesn't look like that's the plan, however, as the Red Sox already have been linked to two second basemen in trade rumors. The Athletic's Jim Bowden reported last week that Boston engaged in trade talks involving Jonathan India of the Cincinnati Reds and Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees.

So, should the Red Sox trade for one of those options? Should they sign one of the top middle infielders on the free-agent market? Or should they feel comfortable with Valdez, Reyes, or another one of their internal options handling second base duties in 2024? We polled the fans for their input, and it's clear they'd prefer a trade.

Of the 432 respondents, 37.5 percent voted in favor of trading for India while 28.9 percent picked Torres. Sticking with internal options (Valdez, Reyes) earned 17.5 percent of the vote, and signing a free agent finished last with 16 percent.

Did the voters get it right? Below, we'll assess each of the aforementioned options and share a vote of our own.

Trade for Gleyber Torres

This is the most unlikely option on the list. Red Sox-Yankees trades are rare, and although the rumored Alex Verdugo-for-Gleyber Torres trade talks make sense on paper for both sides, ESPN's Jeff Passan recently poured cold water on that speculation.

Now, for the sake of the poll, let's say the Red Sox and Yankees are indeed discussing such a deal. Would it make sense for Boston?

Torres can rake, but offense wasn't the issue for Red Sox second basemen in 2023. They ranked dead last in MLB in defensive runs saved. Torres wouldn't be much of an upgrade in that category as he had -4 DRS last season.

Despite that caveat, Torres would fill a different need for Boston. New chief baseball officer Craig Breslow said acquiring a right-handed bat is one of the club's top priorities this offseason. Torres was among the top offensive second basemen in the game in 2023, slashing .273/.347/.453 with 25 homers and 68 RBIs in 158 games. The two-time All-Star would be a significant addition to the lineup.

Trade for Jonathan India

India's name was mentioned in trade rumors last offseason and before the 2023 deadline. Those rumors have resumed this offseason following the encouraging debut campaigns of middle infielders Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain.

With De La Cruz and McLain looking like the Reds' double-play combo of the future, India is expendable. And judging by our poll results, fans want the Red Sox to capitalize on the opportunity to acquire the 2021 National League Rookie of the Year.

India, who turns 27 in December, is coming off a solid albeit unspectacular season at the plate. He posted a .244/.338/.407 slash line with 17 homers and 61 RBIs in 119 games. The Red Sox would gladly take that production from their second baseman, but India's regression has been pretty significant since his outstanding rookie season.

Then, there's his defense. If the Red Sox are looking for a real defensive upgrade after last season's mess, they'll probably pass on India, who's been among the league's worst defensive second basemen since entering the league in 2021. He had -8 defensive runs saved in 2023 after having -14, the second-worst mark at the position, in 2022.

India would still be a solid upgrade over the Red Sox' current options, but we'd argue he isn't enough of a needle-mover to warrant the 37.5 percent of the vote he earned in our poll.

Sign a free agent

The 2024 second baseman free-agent class is extremely weak, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see this option earn the fewest number of votes.

In our poll, we asked those who voted in favor of signing a free agent to reply with the name of the player they should sign. The fans came through with two of the most intriguing middle infield options on the thin free-agent market.

Whit Merrifield checks a lot of boxes for Boston.

Versatility? Check. He can play all three outfield positions in addition to second base, and he's a solid defender.

Right-handed bat? Check. He doesn't offer the offensive upside of Torres or India, but he would help balance out the left-handed-heavy lineup.

Leadership presence? Check that off too. Merrifield, who turns 35 in January, is a three-time All-Star who's been in the league since 2016. He's a respected veteran who could fill the glaring leadership void in the clubhouse.

Speed? One more check for good measure. Merrifield is a lock for 20+ stolen bases in a full season. He had 26 steals last season for the Toronto Blue Jays.

If you want your second baseman to slug, signing Merrifield won't excite you. But if stability is what you're looking for at the position, he's among the most appealing options out there.

Amed Rosario leads our top-five free-agent shortstops list, but he actually spent most of his time at second base after being traded from the Cleveland Guardians to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2023 deadline. He was noticeably better defensively at second, so that could be where he spends the majority of his career moving forward.

A former top prospect with the New York Mets, Rosario hasn't lived up to his hefty expectations. Still, the 28-year-old has developed into a solid big-leaguer who can change a game with his speed. He led MLB with nine triples in 2022 and notched eight in 2023. Defense has been his downfall, but there's a chance a permanent move to second base could be the solution to that problem. He's a candidate for a bounce-back campaign and should be a fairly cheap option, so we like this suggestion.

The rest of the free-agent class leaves plenty to be desired. Former All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson could move to second base as he looks to regain form after his disastrous 2023 season. Other options include Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Adam Frazier, and Kolten Wong.

Stick with internal options

It was slightly surprising to see that 17.6 percent of you are content with standing pat at second base. Poor defense up the middle killed the Red Sox throughout the 2023 season and it's unlikely that would change with Enmanuel Valdez or Pablo Reyes. While it wouldn't hurt to give Valdez and/or Reyes time at second base sparingly, this team desperately needs a more stable situation at the position.

That said, both players were bright spots during an otherwise brutal season for Boston. Valdez impressed at the plate with six homers and a .764 OPS through the first 49 games of his big-league career. Reyes slashed .287/.339/.377 in 64 games.


Before we share our vote, let's jump into a response to the poll that caught our attention.

One write-in vote went to a trade for Los Angeles Angels utility man Brandon Drury, who most definitely would have been included in the poll if we could have included more than four options.

Drury can play anywhere on the infield as well as both corner outfield spots. He's also arguably the best offensive option. In 2023 with the Angels, he slashed .262/.306/.497 with 26 homers and 83 RBIs.

The power is enticing, but the defensive versatility might be the real prize. While Drury won't blow anyone anyway with his glove, he's proven to be a solid defender at every position he's been asked to play. We know how much this Red Sox front office values a Swiss Army knife.

Now for our vote. Drum roll, please...

For this one, we're going with the minority. The Red Sox shouldn't be searching for a bat-first second baseman when they already have one in Valdez. If they aren't going to stand pat, they should be looking for a defensive upgrade who can provide some much-needed stability as well as some versatility.

Signing a free agent would be our choice, and that free agent is Whit Merrifield. If he signs elsewhere, or the Red Sox pursue a trade instead, go after Drury. He offers the same offensive upside as Torres and India while checking off the stability and versatility boxes.

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