Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 10: Triston Casas #36 of the Boston Red Sox fields a throw to first base against the Tampa Bay Rays during a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 10, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

  • So you want to build an organization from the inside out? Fine. No problem. But how much are you willing to sacrifice to make room for the next great prospect? And more importantly, can the kid play when he gets there?

    In the case of the Red Sox, the answers are as follows:

    Too much.

    And no – at least so far.

    In case you missed it, the Sox dropped a 9-8 decision to the Cincinnati Reds last night at Fenway Park, falling just short of an extraordinary comeback. The Sox trailed 9-3 entering the ninth inning when they scored five times, bringing Triston Casas to the plate with two outs and the tying run at third base. Casas subsequently struck out on four pitches, dropping the C-level Sox to 28-27 as they begin the next one-third of the 2023 season.

    So fine, Casas struck out to end the game. It happens to everybody. But the bigger question concerns how the Sox have handled first base over the last four years while repeatedly waiting for prospect to develop. (Read to the bottom for the full statistical analysis.)

  • Michael Chavis

    BOSTON, MA - JULY 24: Estevan Florial #90 of the New York Yankees slides safely across first base on an infield single as Michael Chavis #23 of the Boston Red Sox takes the throw during the third inning at Fenway Park on July 24, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – JULY 24: Estevan Florial #90 of the New York Yankees slides safely across first base on an infield single as Michael Chavis #23 of the Boston Red Sox takes the throw during the third inning at Fenway Park on July 24, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

    Remember him? After Mitch Moreland’s departure following the 2019 season, Chavis played most of the games for the Sox in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, batting .212 with a .636 OPS. A year later, the Sox traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Chavis is now playing for the Washington Nationals. He is  career .239 hitter.

  • Bobby Dalbec

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 22: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox catches a pickoff throw as Randy Arozarena #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays dives back to first base during the first inning in a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 22, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL – APRIL 22: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox catches a pickoff throw as Randy Arozarena #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays dives back to first base during the first inning in a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 22, 2022 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

    Let’s make something clear here: Bobby Dalbec is probably a big league player. He just might not be the kind of guy to play for a big-market team in the American League East if you want to win championships. In 2021, Dalbec struggled in the first half of the season, then played well for a good stretch for the second half, batting .336 with an 1.193 OPS over a span of 37 games. Nonetheless, the Sox had effectively given up on him by that point, having acquired Kyle Schwarber (more on him in a minute) to play first base by the time the playoffs arrived.

    During the offseason, the Sox had a chance to trade Dalbec and probably could have gotten some bullpen help. His value was at his highest. They elected to keep him and his value has since plummeted. Peter Gammons reported recently that the Red Sox had been teams to offer up Dalbec, who is now in Triple-A. He now has relatively little value.

  • Franchy Cordero

    BOSTON, MA - JULY 07:  Franchy Cordero #16 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after missing a fly ball in the fifth inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on July 7, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – JULY 07: Franchy Cordero #16 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after missing a fly ball in the fifth inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on July 7, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    Was Cordero ever supposed to be a central figure in the Andrew Benintendi trade? No. But things got so bad at first base that the Sox decided to try him there, where Cordero, too, failed. In 2021, according to Fangraphs, the Red Sox ranked dead last among the 30 major league teams in defense at first base. In simpler terms, their defense that year was downright atrocious, so much so that they were willing to shoehorn in someone who had never played the position before.

  • Kyle Schwarber

    HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 15:  Michael Brantley #23 of the Houston Astros slides safely back into first base before the ball arrives to Kyle Schwarber #18 of the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning during Game One of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 15: Michael Brantley #23 of the Houston Astros slides safely back into first base before the ball arrives to Kyle Schwarber #18 of the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning during Game One of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

    In many ways, Kyle Schwarber was the perfect Red Sox player. In others, he was a misfit from the start. A gritty competitor and a patient, powerful hitter, Schwarber gave a jolt to the Red Sox lineup after being acquired in a deal with Washington at the annual trading deadline. (The Sox had to wait roughly two weeks for Schwarber to play for them because he was injured, which lowered the acquisition cost.) The Sox had a chance to re-sign Schwarber as a designated hitter after the season but opted against it. Last season, he led the National League with 46 home runs and help spearhead a Phillies run to the World Series. The absence of his production hurt the Red Sox lineup.

  • Eric Hosmer

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - AUGUST 04:  Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals reaches first base for a single as Eric Hosmer #35 of the Boston Red Sox tries to field the ball in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 04, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – AUGUST 04: Bobby Witt Jr. #7 of the Kansas City Royals reaches first base for a single as Eric Hosmer #35 of the Boston Red Sox tries to field the ball in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium on August 04, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

    Remember him? After nearly two full seasons of relatively inept performances from first basemen, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom finally acquired deteriorating first baseman Eric Hosmer from the San Diego Padres for next to nothing. (The Sox gave up nothing in the way of prospects and the Padres absorbed virtually all of Hosmer’s remaining contract.) Hosmer ultimately played just 14 games for the Sox and hit .244 with no home runs. He remained a good defensive player – as he was in his prime – but his acquisition was really a nothing move.

  • Triston Casas

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 10: Harold Ramirez #43 of the Tampa Bay Rays is out at first base as Triston Casas #36 of the Boston Red Sox stretches for the throw during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 10, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL – APRIL 10: Harold Ramirez #43 of the Tampa Bay Rays is out at first base as Triston Casas #36 of the Boston Red Sox stretches for the throw during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Tropicana Field on April 10, 2023 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

    All of this brings us to Triston Casas, the former first-round selection (2018, Dave Dombrowski) whom the Sox have regarded as a lineup centerpiece for so long that they have seemingly patched first baseball with stopgaps, spackle and stiffs for much of the time since he was drafted. Now in his second season, Casas has played in 74 career games, batting .195 with a .701 OPS. He has 71 strikeouts and 43 hits. Could he still be a good player? Sure. But the Sox’ unwillingness to commit anything else to first base along the way had created a massive hole at the position for going on four years now.

    Consider: since the start of the 2020 season, the Red Sox rank 27th in major league baseball in offensive WAR at first base and a dreadful 30th – yes, dead last – in defense. They committed to no one other than Dalbec, whom they onto for too long. And today, they are seemingly no closer to a solution as they threaten to once again finish last in the division.

    The moral of the story: If you keep sacrificing the present for the future, what happens if the future proves to be a failure?

  • Triston Casas’ strikeout to end last night’s game

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