The Yankees made a huge trade on Tuesday night, acquiring Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for a package of prospects. For a team that is about 50/50 to make the playoffs at the moment, it’s a potentially season-altering move.
But not only does it make the Yankees better, it takes something away from their biggest rival. See, the Red Sox were all over Frazier in recent rumors, and at one point it looked all-but-assured that he would join the team sooner rather than later. And yet, the two Sox’s could never find the right deal, and now Frazier is wearing pinstripes. It’s not a death knell for Boston by any means, but it stings any time you lose out on your top target. It stings a little more when that player goes to the archenemy.
For one, it obviously makes that team better. And two, it simultaneously prevents you from putting what you believe is the ideal version of your team out on the field. The Red Sox have few holes, but third base is one of them, what with the Pablo Sandoval disaster and the fact that they traded away Travis Shaw (and his current wRC+ of 137) this past offseason. They clearly need someone to fill that gap.
The question then becomes: How do the Red Sox fill that gap? Is by another trade? Or is it filled from within, particularly in the form of top prospect Rafael Devers, who looks to have little left to prove in the minors? Knowing how president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski prefers to operate, the former seems far more likely than the latter.
Dombrowski’s hesitance to promote Devers is sure to frustrate a substantial portion of the fanbase. He has a long history of being prospect-averse, and it’s almost surprising that Devers isn’t being talked about as part of an outgoing package at the moment given that history. And yet, in this case, I don’t think Dombrowski is being overly stubborn. Instead, it appears that he is being patient. That’s a good thing; you’d rather have a prospect come up after you know he’s ready than before.
Either way, Devers is still the long-term answer at the position in all likelihood. He’s still only 20 years old, after all. There really is no rush to stick him in the lineup right away. And even if the Red Sox do acquire a different third baseman, Boston fans are still likely to see Devers in Fenway before the end of the year, even if it’s just for a September cameo. If he keeps hitting like he has in AA and AAA, he may even find his way onto the postseason roster as a valuable bench bat.
But that’s a lot of hypotheticals, and the Red Sox are more concerned with shoring up the hot corner in the immediate term. They’re not looking to stick a prospect there because, despite Dever’s evident talent, you still don’t know what you’re going to get from a 20-year-old in the heat of a playoff race. An established major leaguer is just more of a sure thing.
Who that established major leaguer is is still unknown, of course. But Boston has plenty of options. Eduardo Nunez, Jed Lowrie, Josh Harrison, Yangervis Solarte, Yunel Escobar... all of those guys have been mentioned as possibilities, and that’s not even the full list of candidates. The Red Sox are going to get a quality major leaguer, it seems, and they’ll be better off for it.
So while those guys aren’t as sexy as calling up your best prospect, continuing to pursue the major league market still looks like the best path available. It stinks that Todd Frazier is off the board, especially to the Yankees, but it would be surprising if that move even drew New York even with Boston, let alone allowed them to surpass the first-place Red Sox. This Boston team is really damn good, just as we thought it would be coming into the season. As long as they continue to stay the course, they’ll be just fine.