Ryan Roberts Signing Should Help Red Sox In Will Middlebrooks’ Absence

Ryan RobertsThe Boston Red Sox pride themselves on being as deep as possible. Ryan Roberts’ signing shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Boston’s emphasis on depth was evident when the club signed outfielder Grady Sizemore over the offseason to compete with Jackie Bradley Jr. It again stood out when the Red Sox signed left-hander Chris Capuano in spring training to replace Ryan Dempster despite the organization already being loaded with young, up-and-coming arms. Roberts’ signing is another move the Red Sox probably could have squeaked by without making, but it absolutely makes Boston a deeper, more well-rounded team in Will Middlebrooks’ absence.

The Red Sox could have called up third base prospect Garin Cecchini after placing Middlebrooks on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a strained right calf. However, the Red Sox prefer to see Cecchini continue developing at Triple-A, particularly because his defense, while improving, still is a work in progress. The Red Sox instead temporarily called up Holt, who lost the team’s utility role competition to Jonathan Herrera during spring training.

Holt is a nice player to have within the organization, largely because of his versatility, but he represented an imperfect fit for the Red Sox as Middlebrooks’ “replacement.” Surely, the Red Sox probably could have survived with the combination of Herrera and Holt for a couple of weeks — though it’s unclear at this point exactly how long Middlebrooks will be out — but having both players on the active roster was redundant. Herrera is a switch-hitter with better splits against right-handed pitching and Holt is a left-handed hitter.

Herrera and Holt not only provide many of the same qualities, but neither player brings to the table what the Red Sox lost in Middlebrooks. Roberts isn’t going to come in and set the world on fire, but he’s a right-handed hitter who can hit lefties and play capable defense. He also brings versatility, though manager John Farrell said before Monday’s game against the Texas Rangers that Roberts is expected to play exclusively third base for the time being.

“It’s a veteran guy that’s played for a number of teams,” Farrell said. “He’s got some right-handed power. We feel like his swing is built or certainly is advantageous in this ballpark. I wouldn’t read into that his addition means that we’ve found something else out about Will Middlebrooks and a lengthier stay on the DL. We felt like every game is important and (we asked ourselves) does this give us the opportunity to put the best team on the field given the matchup of the starting pitcher that night?”

Roberts, an eight-year veteran, has a career .266 average, .341 on-base percentage and .444 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching. The 33-year-old, who hit .247 (40-for-162) overall in 60 games with the Tampa Bay Rays last season, batted .305 (25-for-82) with a .845 OPS against left-handers. Four of his five home runs came against southpaws.

Roberts isn’t going to “replace” Middlebrooks in the Red Sox’s lineup, but an obvious hole opened when the 25-year-old went down with an injury. To their credit, the Red Sox identified that hole and — like they’ve frequently done — made a move in an attempt to fill it.

Photo via Twitter/@LoriFusak

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