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With Jose Iglesias struggling, Red Sox’ trade dilemma for third base deepens

07.24.13 at 11:32 pm ET
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The entire Red Sox lineup was shut down by David Price of the Rays on Wednesday night, and so it seems a bit of a stretch to single out the struggles of any one player. Nonetheless, the concerns related to third baseman Jose Iglesias — who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout on Wednesday — run deeper than a single game.

Iglesias, who offered an electrifying jolt to the Sox for roughly 35 games, is now mired in a 16-game funk that dates to the start of the Red Sox’ West Coast roadtrip. He’s now 11-for-60 (.183) with a .231 OBP (the result of two walks and two HBPs) and a .183 slugging mark that reflects the fact that he has not had a single extra-base hit in the stretch. Though his strikeout totals have been modest (10 in 65 plate appearances, 15 percent), he’s stopped walking, having gone 14 straight games without a free pass. His 14-game streak with neither a walk nor an extra-base hit is tied for the fourth longest by a Sox position player since 2000.

“He’s just not barreling the ball up as we’ve seen before, whether it’s late action with the cutter from Price, or the sinker, but it looks like right now it’s the later action stuff in the zone that’s moving off the barrel for him. Where he’s been able to put enough of the barrel on to find a hole or drop a base hit in, that’s not happening for him right now,” said manager John Farrell. “He’s got, I think, good bat-to-ball ability. It’s just that the squareness of it right now is not there for him.”

The Red Sox are hardly in position to complain about what they’ve gotten from Iglesias. After all, he’s delivered not only incredible defense — he had a pair of plays that represented the equivalent of catching a fly with chopsticks at third base on Wednesday — but even with his struggles, he’s still hitting .343 with a .391 OBP and .428 slugging mark.

Nonetheless, the Sox always acknowledged that his incredible run at .400 represented an unsustainable stretch, while noting that his professional track record suggested that he was bound to come back to earth. The question was how steep the descent might be. The last nearly three weeks have suggested that it is indeed a fairly pronounced slide.

Ordinarily, the Sox might find it a fairly straightforward proposition to ride out the slump. Yet Iglesias’ lack of production comes at an inopportune time, with the team potentially trying to figure out if it has depth on the left side of the infield from which to deal.

MLB.com is reporting that the Red Sox and White Sox have discussed the possibility of a trade involving White Sox starter Jake Peavy that would require the Sox to send Will Middlebrooks to Chicago. (No word on who introduced Middlebrooks to the talks or if Boston is willing to part with him.)

UPDATE — According to an industry source, the Red Sox and White Sox have not discussed Middlebrooks “in any context” with each other.

If the Sox were to deal Middlebrooks (hitting .263/.315/.458 with seven homers in 29 games with teh PawSox), whether in a deal involving the White Sox or another team, it would remove a viable alternative to Iglesias as an everyday third baseman should the 23-year-old’s struggles continue. The other potential everyday third baseman for the Sox, Xander Bogaerts, is performing well and hitting for power (8 homers in 36 games) though has been perhaps something short of dominant in Triple-A (.256/.360/.465), to the point where it would require at least a bit of a leap of faith for the Sox to turn to him as an everyday third baseman.

As long as Iglesias struggles, then, the Sox may experience pangs of anxiety about whether they comfortably can deal Middlebrooks. Longer-term, the issue is less pronounced given the likelihood that Bogaerts and Garin Cecchini are emerging as promising options for the left side of the infield, perhaps in conjunction with or instead of Iglesias.

But for now, while Iglesias’ struggles might not prevent the Sox from making a deal involving a player like Middlebrooks, they represent one more factor that the team must consider — at a time when they’d already had potential reinforcements at third base on their midseason trade market wish list. And the Sox must ask how much they are willing to compromise depth — one of the greatest strengths of a team that has been in first place for nearly every day of this season — at one position of uncertainty in order to shore up another.

Read More: jose iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, xander bogaerts,
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