The Red Sox addressed one of their most glaring weaknesses Tuesday, acquiring infielder Adalberto Mondesi in a trade with the Royals.
Boston, which shipped left-handed reliever Josh Taylor to Kansas City in the deal, desperately needed reinforcement up the middle after losing Xander Bogaerts to the San Diego Padres in free agency and Trevor Story to an elbow injury that could sideline him for the bulk of 2023. And Mondesi is a low-risk, high-upside acquisition who gives the Red Sox additional flexibility, both offensively and defensively.
The Red Sox theoretically could plug in Mondesi at shortstop and hope for the best, with Christian Arroyo handling second base and Kiké Hernández moving back to center field, where he’d primarily be flanked by Masataka Yoshida in left field and Alex Verdugo in right field. But the recent addition of Adam Duvall, who’s capable of playing all three outfield positions, lessens the need for Hernández to patrol the grass, even if that’s where he’d likely make the biggest impact defensively.
So, the Red Sox instead could lean on some combination of Hernández, Mondesi and Arroyo in the middle of their infield, while Duvall plays center field between Yoshida and Verdugo. Then, Hernández can pop out to center field on occasion. In short, Boston manager Alex Cora has more options with which to work now that Mondesi is in the mix. Before, Hernández and Arroyo were the only legitimate middle-infield options Cora had at his disposal — at least until Story potentially returns later this season.
Mondesi represents somewhat of a wild card from a performance standpoint, as the production hasn’t always matched the talent, in large because of injuries. The 27-year-old appeared in just 40% of Kansas City’s possible games dating back to 2018. He totaled a career-high 443 plate appearances across 102 games in 2019 and stayed healthy for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but he played in just 50 games with 190 plate appearances between 2021 and 2022. And even then, he never quite lived up to the potential he flashed as a prospect and early in his Major League Baseball career.
At his best, Mondesi is electric, blending elite speed with very good defense. Those tools are enough to make him a useful big-league puzzle piece, even if the overall offensive profile (high strikeout rate, low walk rate, lackluster batted-ball data) lowers his ceiling. And that he’s a switch-hitter helps, too, as the Red Sox could deploy him in a platoon role — perhaps in conjunction with the right-handed-hitting Arroyo — as a way to accentuate his strengths, minimize his weaknesses and ultimately keep him off the injured list for the duration of a 162-game season.
Trading away Taylor won’t necessarily cause an uproar in the streets of Boston, as the veteran southpaw missed all of 2022 with a back injury and otherwise enjoyed varying levels of success with the Red Sox. But he boasts some strikeout potential and remains under club control through 2025, whereas Mondesi is set to become a free agent next offseason. It’s not an insignificant price for what amounts to a dice roll.
Basically, the Red Sox desperately needed a viable shortstop or second baseman. And by acquiring Mondesi, they swung for the fences, hoping a change of scenery will be exactly what the doctor ordered — both for the player and for a team in search of a successful formula up the middle.