The month of July was not kind to the Boston Red Sox. A floundering offense, coupled with off-the-field drama courtesy of David Price, left Sox fans wondering when this team was finally going to crash and burn.
Looks like all Boston needed was a Bay Area third baseman and an overachieving prospect.
Rafael Devers made his much-awaited major league debut two weeks ago in Seattle, and almost immediately, the 20-year-old made an impact. His first major league hit was a 427-foot-homer to center field at Safeco Field, a ballpark known for its appeal to pitchers. Back at the Fens, Devers has only improved his stock, roping balls off the Green Monster as his batting average continues to climb.
Just a week after Devers made his big splash, the Sox traded for San Francisco third baseman Eduardo Nunez. The 30-year-old journeyman flew under the radar in hot stove discussions last month, and I can’t figure out why. Nunez was an All-Star last year, and is a lifetime .280 hitter with decent postseason experience. Dave Dombrowski must be happy so many teams passed on Nunez, because the trade results have been plentiful for Boston. Since arriving in the 617, Nunez is hitting .471.
Devers and Nunez arrived in a time of desperation for the Sox. The third base position has given Boston very little production in the last decade, if you look carefully:
— Pablo Sandoval came to Boston from San Francisco in 2015 as the answer to Boston’s hot corner woes. After three years of offensive futility and a continuously hanging stomach, it became clear that Sandoval was not going to be the guy.
— If it wasn’t Sandoval at third over the last few seasons, it was usually Travis Shaw. Though Shaw was a better hitter than Sandoval during his tenure in Boston (usually around .260 at the plate), Sox brass demanded more.
— Remember Will Middlebrooks? Before the above players patrolled third base, Middlebrooks took Sox fans on roller-coaster rides, through slumps and hot streaks.
So there you have it, about six years of offensive futility at third base for the Sox. Interestingly enough, the position has given Boston very little defensive efficiency as well. Frank Malzone was the last Boston third baseman to win a Gold Glove, and that was back in 1959.
These two guys give Boston a serious chance to fulfill both needs, but John Farrell needs to be careful regarding how he uses each player. Personally speaking, Nunez seems like a guy the Sox should lean on for a postseason run this season. If we think back in Red Sox history, trade deadline acquisitions bring pop and energy for the last weeks of summer (see Orlando Cabrera and Jake Peavy). With less than 60 games to go in the season, Farrell should lean on the veteran to help this team through the dog days of August and the drama of September. Having Devers on the roster is simply gravy, and if Nunez were to fall victim to injury, it sure is a solid backup.
Obviously, when the snow starts falling in winter, we can assume that the Sox will favor Devers in meetings, and why not? The young gun has tremendous upside, and this recent offensive production is almost certainly the tip of the iceberg. For now, however, here’s to Eduardo Nunez anchoring this team at the hot corner. Getting wins these next two weeks will be crucial for Boston going forward, and with Dustin Pedroia on the DL, other guys in the lineup will have to step up. If anything, Pedroia’s absence has had some upside, as the Sox have been able to test Nunez at second. But let’s be honest, Pedey is keeping his spot at second, creating the greatest problem the Sox have had in some time at third base.