Every successful team in Major League Baseball needs contributions from unexpected sources. Whether it’s from a utility star or a bullpen arm, a few players will step up and provide value when needed. Brandon Magee takes a look at Red Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza and the impact he has had since joining Boston.
On June 3rd, the Boston Red Sox completed a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The Red Sox received Alejandro De Aza with an undisclosed amount of cash and sent minor league pitcher Joe Gunkel to the Orioles. At the time it was considered a minor trade, with the Red Sox giving up an intriguing, but not highly rated pitcher, for an outfielder on his way out of the Orioles’ organization. But, something happened once De Aza came to Boston; De Aza started to hit and the Red Sox started to win.
The trade for De Aza was interesting because the Red Sox did not seem to be at a loss for outfielders. With Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez starting in centerfield and left field, Brock Holt and Rusney Castillo sharing right field duties and recently purchased Carlos Peguero as the fifth outfielder, the major league roster was chock full. Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava had each gone on the 15-day disabled list in the previous two week period, but neither were expected to be out for months. Down in Pawtucket, Jackie Bradley Jr. was biding his time, waiting for something to break for another chance at the majors. De Aza’s fit into this jigsaw puzzle was not immediately evident:
De Aza was activated on June 4th and the Red Sox designated Peguero for assignment. De Aza, who had batted .214/.277/.359 for the Orioles in 2015, started his Red Sox career on June 5th, going 1-for-3 in a win over the Oakland A’s. He would start again the next day, going 1-for-4 and would pinch hit for Sandy Leon on the 7th, driving in the 6th run and scoring the 7th run as the Red Sox completed an improbable comeback win against the A’s, running their winning streak to three consecutive games. The good times were quickly extinguished however, as his next six appearances (June 10th – June 15th) all resulted in Red Sox losses and De Aza reverted back to an offensive zero, going 1-for-14.
Despite that, De Aza continued in a starting role and began to rake. In 19 games starting on June 16th, Alejandro has batted .349/.397/.714 with a dozen of his 22 hits going for extra bases (three home runs, four doubles, and five triples). He has also scored eleven runs while driving in 17. While De Aza can not be considered the sole reason for the Red Sox winning ways during this period (since June 16th, the Red Sox are 14-7), his production has certainly been a catalyst in the Red Sox offensive renaissance:
However, De Aza’s role is certain to change in the near future. Shane Victorino has been activated from the disabled list and De Aza has returned to a platoon role. With Dustin Pedroia’s return coming soon, All-Star Brock Holt! will return to his versatile ways, perhaps denting De Aza’s playing time even further. Of course, given the injuries the Red Sox have already encountered this season and the questions currently surrounding Mike Napoli, a diminished role may only be a temporary situation for Alejandro.
While it would seem unfair to place a hot De Aza on the bench, the role of fifth outfielder was the reason he was brought in to the team. He is a versatile outfielder who can play all the positions, be pesky at the plate and provide some speed off the bench. He is also a player who can replace Hanley Ramirez for defensive purposes and not be a complete offensive disaster if the game gets away from the Red Sox. More importantly, De Aza is not a developing player and is unlikely to continue hitting at his current pace as he batted .281, .264 and .252 in his previous three seasons. While being a bench player is not the role anyone truly wants, it is much better to give that role to a long time major leaguer than someone, like Bradley or Castillo, who should be playing on a daily basis. De Aza is the right man for this job.