Jonathan Herrera Adds Versatility to Red Sox While Boston Deals From Area of Depth

Jonathan HerreraThe left side of the infield was one of the Red Sox’ most fluid situations in 2013. Adding to the mix for 2014 only makes sense.

The Red Sox on Wednesday acquired utilityman Jonathan Herrera from the Rockies in exchange for relievers Franklin Morales and Chris Martin. The move hardly guarantees that Boston’s infield is fully assembled, especially with the Red Sox reportedly still interested in re-signing Stephen Drew, but Herrera brings an element of versatility that the club otherwise lacked.

Herrera made 45 starts in 2013, including 28 at shortstop, 16 at second base and one at third base. The 29-year-old, who also appeared in two games in left field last season, has appeared in 181 games at second base, 114 at shortstop and 43 at third base over the course of his five-year major league career. Herrera is one of just four major leaguers to appear in at least five games at shortstop, second base and third base in each of the last four seasons, and he figures to wear a number of hats in 2014 as well, making him a nice complement to the Red Sox’ current infield cast at a rather reasonable price.

Perhaps just as important as Herrera’s versatility in the field is that the Venezuelan is a switch-hitter with favorable career splits from the left side of the plate. Herrera is a career .272 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage from the left side and a career .248 hitter with a .295 on-base percentage versus left-handers from the right side. The splits were even more dramatic this past season, as Herrera batted .317 (46-for-145) with a .361 on-base percentage versus right-handed pitching and .220 (11-for-50) with a .264 on-base percentage against left-handed pitching. While such splits aren’t exactly ideal for an everyday switching-hitting infielder, they’ll work well for the Red Sox given that Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts are all right-handed hitters.

Herrera isn’t a world-beater at the dish, but he’s capable of spelling any of the three aforementioned infielders on a given night. His .312 average (44-for-141) over his final 57 games in 2013 gives reason for optimism offensively, and his sure-handedness in the field despite somewhat limited range should be adequate enough, particularly when you consider the heavy workload that we’re accustomed to seeing from Pedroia. Herrera won’t be asked to play a huge role in 2014, but he’ll bring depth to an area in which Boston needed such. Plus, Herrera has a minor league option remaining, so the Red Sox won’t be pigeonholed into keeping him on the major league roster out of spring training — as they were with Pedro Ciriaco (who was out of options) last year.

The Red Sox’ desire to deal for Herrera might also stem from their willingness to trade away Morales. The left-hander was redundant on a club featuring lefty relievers Craig Breslow and Andrew Miller, and Morales’ ability to serve as a spot starter was no longer the commodity it once was given Boston’s surplus of starting pitchers.

The Red Sox’ real loss in the deal could actually be Martin, a 27-year-old who showed upside at Triple-A last season. But all things considered, the trade is a risk worth taking to improve the club in an area of need.

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

Photo via Flickr/Keith Allison

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