BOSTON — Brock Holt is becoming more ingrained in the Red Sox’s decision-making. And the Holt effect stretches across multiple levels of the organization.
While the Red Sox aren’t necessarily building around Holt, they are taking into consideration the super utility player’s versatility and success in their roster construction. The development manifested itself again Sunday when Boston claimed infielder Luis Jimenez off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.
The logic behind acquiring Jimenez centered mostly on what the 27-year-old brings to the table. He’s a strong defender, particularly at third base, who can play multiple positions in the infield, inherently giving the Red Sox additional roster flexibility once he joins the major league club, likely Monday.
But acquiring Jimenez wasn’t based entirely on his personal defensive aptitude or Boston’s desire to return to 13 position players with outfielder Shane Victorino still on the disabled list. The Red Sox also took into consideration Holt’s continued strong play, with the idea being that having Jimenez as another utility option allows Boston to use Holt more frequently in right field as Victorino works back to full health.
“It gives us that flexibility, yes,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Sunday’s game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. “I can’t say that that’s the definite approach going forward, but at least it provides the opportunity, or the option, available.”
The Red Sox have been relying on Holt, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig in right field with Victorino sidelined. Craig entered Sunday hitting .135 (5-for-37) with 10 strikeouts in 40 plate appearances this season. Nava sat at .154 (6-for-39) with nine strikeouts in 44 plate appearances. Holt, while most valuable when bouncing around, clearly has been the most productive, hitting .347 (17-for-49) with a .429 on-base percentage in 57 plate appearances.
Conventional wisdom suggests the Red Sox would be best-served handing the majority of Victorino’s vacated at-bats to Holt, who seemingly does something every time he’s inserted into the starting lineup. Doing so would back Boston into a bit of a corner from a utility standpoint, however, and the Red Sox saw Jimenez as a player capable of alleviating any pressure in that regard, especially with utility man Jeff Bianchi coming off an injury down at Triple-A Pawtucket.
This is the second time in roughly two weeks that Holt’s influence has been on display within the organization. Shortstop Deven Marrero, second baseman Sean Coyle, third baseman Garin Cecchini and first baseman Travis Shaw all have been working at other positions down at Pawtucket.
This isn’t to suggest any of those players will morph into the next Holt, who literally can play any position other than pitcher and catcher. But it’s clear there’s an organizational emphasis on broadening players’ defensive horizons, and Holt’s success as Boston’s human Swiss Army knife absolutely has been instrumental in spearheading the movement.
“It’s been gradual, but it’s certainly being driven by an acknowledgment that to make a major league roster really function well, it really helps to have guys who can cover a bunch of spots and still produce,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington recently said, according to the Boston Herald. “At times, you would have players like that, not even offensive players, sometimes they just couldn’t hit at all — they could play seven positions, so they were the 25th guy and that’s how they got through the big leagues.
“I think the difference maybe now is that now you have guys who actually have offensive abilities like Holt.”
Holt isn’t a building block in the traditional sense. He’s an important part of the Red Sox’s blueprint, though, and Boston is keeping that in mind while mapping out its best plan possible, top to bottom.