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May 08, 2017

Through the first 29 games of the season, the Red Sox fielded arguably the most disappointing offense in the league, averaging just 3.8 runs per game. Then they laid 11 and 17 on the Twins. Problem hopefully, mostly solved.

That still leaves the matter of third base, however. Pablo Sandoval’s in the midst of a $95 million contract, but he’s also terrible; Panda being on the DL since April 24 at least saves the Sox from having to put one of the worst everyday players in the league on the field. Brock Holt, who’s actually a decent player when healthy, has played in just six games due to an assortment of ailments, the latest a bout with vertigo. That’s made veteran utilityman Josh Rutledge as the de facto third baseman for now. And while his 6-for-19 start is welcome, it’s tough for a team with championship aspirations to hand an everyday job to a player with 162 plate appearances in the past two-plus seasons. Travis Shaw has been knocking the stuffing out of the ball; problem is, he’s doing so in Milwaukee, after the Sox traded him away over the winter.

All of which raises the Rafael Devers question. Devers came into this season as the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox system. He’s raking to the tune of .325/.364/.602, hitting for power and ripping line drives all over the Eastern League. But here’s the rub: Devers is just 20 years old, with just 22 games played above the Single-A level. Teams go out of their way to avoid rushing top prospects, for reasons ranging from not wanting to start their service time clocks too early to fear of exposing them too soon to big league competition, thus stunting their growth as players.

This likely leaves Boston with two choices: Make a deadline deal for a quality major league third baseman, or call up Devers, hopefully around that time, when he’s gained a little more experience. As the Sox offense rounds into form and pitching reinforcements like David Price arrive, this could become a true World Series contender. The status quo at third base just doesn’t fit that championship description.

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