Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts at Heart of Interesting Third Base Debate Following Jose Iglesias’ Departure

middlebrooks bogaertsBOSTON — The Red Sox face a dilemma, albeit a good one.

Now that infielder Jose Iglesias has been shipped to the Tigers as part of the Jake Peavy deal, the Red Sox must decide who to turn to as their starting third baseman.

Brock Holt was the first infielder called up Wednesday, and he will serve in a platoon alongside Brandon Snyder for the time being. But that situation might not last long, as it doesn’t take much to realize that the future likely involves either Will Middlebrooks or Xander Bogaerts.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Wednesday’s game that the decision to recall Holt stemmed from his ability to play shortstop in addition to third base. If the Red Sox are indeed weighing Middlebrooks versus Bogaerts, then that line of reasoning on Holt would indicate that Bogaerts, whose natural position is shortstop, might hold the upper hand. However, Farrell was relatively noncommittal when asked if Bogaerts’ ability to play shortstop works in his favor.

“It could. But at the same time, we want to make sure we have guys here who give us the best chance to win tonight,” Farrell said.

We should know before long whether the keys to third base will be handed over to Middlebrooks or Bogaerts, but the debate is certainly an interesting one. They’re each facing a much different situation, and each has a tremendous amount of upside.

Middlebrooks burst onto the scene last season, hitting .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 75 games. He never really got on track this season, though, and he was demoted after hitting .192 (39-for-203) in 53 major league contests. Now, Middlebrooks, who even became the subject of trade rumors leading up to the deadline, is looking to prove that he’s ready for another shot.

“He’s in the conversation, I know that,” Farrell said of the 24-year-old. “In his own right, he’s working through some things that he’s been very clear on and there’s been some increase in consistency while in Pawtucket. But the backup shortstop was the reason for Brock today.”

Bogaerts, meanwhile, is just 20 years old and in the early stages of his professional career, so the Red Sox must decide if this is the right time for him to make his major league debut. Bogaerts has impressed scouts at every stop while working his way through the Red Sox system, but The Show is often a different beast.

“There’s comfort, but there’s also — in talking with [Pawtucket manager Gary DiSarcina] — some things he’s working on defensively,” Farrell said of Bogaerts. “Whether that’s at shortstop or whether that’s at third base, there’s still work that’s being done. So if we were to say that he’s the guy, we know that there’s going to be further development needed at the big leagues, which is not uncommon.”

Bogaerts might require additional development, and the Red Sox would also need to place him on the 40-man roster before calling him up, but he’s very much in the discussion. His talent might ultimately be too much to overlook.

“Xander is a very talented young player who’s still developing,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. “Obviously [he’s] still very young for his level. He’s part of a group in Pawtucket that includes a number of guys that we’ll probably need to rely on for the rest of the year. I’m not going to single him out over anybody else. Again, once you get to Pawtucket, it’s not about who the best prospect is. It’s about who the best player is to come up here and help us win.”

The Red Sox are clearly going for it this season. It just remains to be seen which young third baseman will be part of that effort when the trade deadline dust finally settles.

Have a question for Ricky Doyle? Send it to him via Twitter at @TheRickyDoyle or send it here

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