Tuesday, February 14, 2017

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Shortstop

I'm going to do something a little different with the One-Year Wonder posts. I have decided to go position-by-position and see if I can determine who the best player at each position would be who only spent one year with the Red Sox. This requires a lot of time and research. I am not naming every single player who spent just one season with the Red Sox at each position, but just the better-known players. At the end of the post, I will pick the single best player for each position.

LYN LARY - 1934
I admit I did not really know much about Lyn Lary prior to doing this post.  I was aware he was with the Red Sox for a short amount of time, and I knew that he was the return the Red Sox sent to the Senators along with $250,000.00 for Joe Cronin.  But that was it.  Lary had a 12-year career with the Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals, Browns, Indians, and Cardinals.  He hit for a decent average most years, finishing with a career .269 mark.  He had a very good year in 1931 with the Yankees, hitting .280/.376/.416 with 10 home runs and 107 RBIs.  Lary was traded to the Red Sox for Freddie Muller and $25,000.00 after playing just one game in the 1934 season.  He played in 129 games for the Red Sox and hit .241/.344/.322 with two home runs and 54 RBIs and stole 12 bases.  It was not one of his better seasons.  He was traded to Washington afterwards and had some good years later on with the Browns, including 1936 when he hit .289 and led the Majors in stolen bases.  Lary is most notable though for being involved in the trade for Cronin.    

Quinones did not have a long Major League career, just four years, but there are not a ton of options available here.  He was a highly-touted prospect when he arrived in Boston for his Major League debut.  He was not terrific defensively, but he had some pop for a middle infielder.  Quinones played in 62 games with the Red Sox, but hit just .218/.279/.295, though he did hit two home runs and 12 doubles.  He drove in 15 runs and stole three bases.  But he committed 15 errors in those 62 games for an unsightly .940 fielding percentage.  Quinones was traded to the Mariners in August in the deal that brought Spike Owen and Dave Henderson to Boston.  Quinones was the Mariners starting shortstop the next two seasons and hit 12 home runs each year.  The following year he was traded to Pittsburgh but struggled all year and was done as a Major Leaguer.

Grebeck was a diminutive infielder with the White Sox in the early 1990's when the team was becoming relevant once more on the backs of Frank Thomas and Jack McDowell.  He was mostly used as a backup for Ozzie Guillen at short, Robin Ventura at third, and Joey Cora at second.  He played quite a bit and was a pesky contact hitter.  He bounced around a little after that and had a very good 2000 season with the Blue Jays when he hit .295/.364/.411.  He was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent in January 2001 due to ongoing injuries to Nomar Garciaparra.  He started the season as the Red Sox shortstop but only played in 23 games, hitting an unsightly .049/.093/.073 for a laughably bad .166 OPS.  That was it for his career.

Another player who mostly got his chance to play with the Red Sox due to injuries to Nomar Garciaparra was Calvin "Pokey" Reese.  Once so highly touted that the Reds refused to include him in trade talks with the Mariners to acquire Ken Griffey Jr., Reese had a few decent years, but largely did not live up to his promise.  Reese was fast and stole 38 bases one season and also won two Gold Gloves.  He was actually acquired by the Red Sox twice.  He was traded to Boston by the Colorado Rockies in December of 2001 for Scott Hatteberg, but both players were non-tendered and signed by other teams shortly thereafter.  Reese signed as a free agent with the Red Sox to shore up the middle infield, backing up Nomar and Mark Bellhorn.  He was the primary shortstop for most of the season though as Nomar was still injured.  Reese played in 96 games and hit .221/.271/.303 with three home runs and 29 RBIs.  He hit two home runs in the same game, including an inside-the-park job.  He continued to play excellent defense, but was mostly shifted into a backup role after Boston acquired Orlando Cabrera.  He was used as a defensive replacement in the postseason and fielded the ground ball to end the ALCS.  He bounced around after 2004, but never made it back to the Majors.  

A longtime Expos shortstop, Cabrera was a slick-fielder who could hit a little bit.  He won two Gold Gloves in his career and had a little bit of home run power, though he was mostly a doubles hitter who hit more than 40 doubles four times in his career.  The Red Sox needed a more stable offensive player who could also play defense.  Nomar was hurt and not likely to produce much going forward so he was shipped to the Cubs in a four team deal that brought Cabrera to Boston.  He was an immediate success, hitting a home run in his first game for the Red Sox.  He hit .294/.320/.465 down the stretch with six home runs and 31 RBIs while playing Gold Glove quality defense.  He was decent in the postseason and was terrific in the ALCS against the Yankees, against whom he hit .379 with five RBIs.  Cabrera was very valuable member of the team that finally won the World Series after 86 years.  Unfortunately, he was allowed to leave as a free agent after the season and played for another seven seasons.

It was a mistake to let Orlando Cabrera go, but Boston management had its eye on bringing Edgar Renteria to the Red Sox.  Renteria had the game-winning hit in the 1997 World Series for the Marlins and had been a four-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, and three-time Silver Slugger with Florida and St. Louis.  He made the final out in the 2004 World Series for the Cardinals, then appeared at shortstop for the reigning World Champions on Opening Day the following year.  He had a rough season with Boston, hitting .276/.335/.385 with eight home runs and 70 RBIs.  He stole only nine bases.  His numbers were not completely out of line with his career averages, but they were disappointing.  His fielding really suffered as he committed 30 errors.  After the season, despite having signed a four-year contract, Boston sent him to Atlanta for Andy Marte.  Renteria resurrected his career and had several good seasons in the coming years and also had the winning hit for the Giants in the 2010 World Series.  

Again, there are not many options for this post, so I decided to include Green, even though he only played more than 90 games three times in his career.  He bounced around throughout is career, playing for the Braves, Devil Rays, Yankees, and Mariners before joining the Red Sox in 2009.  He was a decent fielder who could play most positions.  Boston signed him as an infield depth option in January 2009, but Green ended up playing more games at short than anyone else that season due to injuries and ineffectiveness from Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie.  Green started off fast and was hitting nearly .300 in June, but he went on a slump afterwards and his numbers tailed off significantly.  Eventually Boston re-acquired Alex Gonzalez (who avoided inclusion in this post because of it) to play short the rest of the season.  Green hit .236/.303/.366 with six home runs and 35 RBIs for Boston.  After the season he continued to bounce around, playing for the Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Marlins.

This was the toughest post to do so far in this series.  There were not a lot of choices available and all of the choices have issues, most of whom just were not that good.  So it came down to Edgar Renteria and Orlando Cabrera.  Renteria's season was disappointing, but it ultimately was not really THAT bad.  The main point against Cabrera is the fact that he only played two months with the Red Sox.  Even so, he hit only two fewer home runs than Renteria.  He had a higher OPS and actually had a higher WAR (1.8 to 1.4) in significantly fewer games.  Ultimately, Cabrera was just better, even though he played less than the other options.  And I am looking for the best, not the player that played the most.  So therefore, Orlando Cabrera is the best one-year Red Sox shortstop.