Red Sox Notes: Middle Infield, Hernandez, Arroyo, Sale, Whitlock, Houck

Red Sox’s brass met with reporters and fans at their Winter Weekend convention this evening. Manager Alex Cora and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom each addressed the roster status with roughly two months remaining in the offseason.

The middle infield is among the biggest questions. With Xander Bogaerts in San Diego and Trevor Story set to miss at least a notable portion of the upcoming season, Boston has very little certainty up the middle. Adam Duvall agreed to a one-year deal earlier this week to man center field, likely kicking Enrique Hernández back to the infield.

Manager Alex Cora suggested that was currently the team’s plan, implying that Hernández was the in-house favorite to play shortstop (via Ian Browne of That leaves Christian Arroyo as the likeliest option to man second base. Bloom indicated the team remained open to adding help from outside the organization (relayed by Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe) but the Hernández – Arroyo pairing seemingly has the inside track among internal candidates.

Hernández has experience at every non-catching position on the diamond. He’s primarily played center field or second base, logging just 618 shortstop innings through parts of nine MLB seasons. Defensive Runs Saved has looked favorably upon his limited work there, rating him as nine runs better than average overall. Hernández has typically graded out as a solid or better second baseman and a particularly strong center fielder, where he spent the bulk of his time in 2022.

Arroyo has been in the Boston second base mix for the past couple seasons. He’s hit at a roughly league average level in both years, making plenty of contact to compensate for low walk rates. Arroyo has logged just under 900 major league innings at the keystone. Defensive Runs Saved has pegged him an excellent 10 runs better than the average defender there, while Statcast has rated him as an exactly average gloveman.

There aren’t many middle infield options remaining in free agency. Elvis Andrus and Josh Harrison are probably the top players still available. The Sox have been loosely tied to both in recent days. Donovan SolanoCésar Hernández and José Iglesias are among the depth types remaining as well.

There’s also a fair amount of uncertainty on the pitching side of things in Fenway, largely thanks to injury. Chris SaleTanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock each ended the 2022 season on the injured list. Whitlock is returning from hip surgery, while Houck underwent a back procedure. Sale had myriad health concerns that culminated in surgery to repair a fracture in his right wrist sustained in a bicycle accident.

Cora said this evening that all three pitchers have been throwing off a mound (relayed by Jen McCaffrey of the Athletic). All three could factor into the rotation. Sale’s a lock for the starting five if healthy. The Sox have already announced they plan to give Whitlock a rotation opportunity. Houck’s role seems more fluid, as he could crack the starting five or remain in a high-leverage relief capacity. The former first-round pick has been the subject of some recent trade speculation, though there’s no indication a deal is on the horizon or especially likely to transpire.

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