The Red Sox have acquired outfielder Delino DeShields Jr. from the Rangers in exchange for cash, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports (via Twitter). While the July 30 trade deadline has passed, DeShields is eligible to be traded by virtue of the fact that he’s on a minor league contract and has not been on a Major League roster so far in 2021. It’s the second post-deadline trade of a notable name who’d been on a minor league deal all season; the Brewers picked up righty John Axford from the Blue Jays in exchange for cash earlier in the week.
DeShields, who’ll turn 29 in less than two weeks, will bring the Sox plenty of speed and provide some outfield depth. He’s had a solid season in Triple-A, batting .263/.392/.368 with five homers, nine doubles, a triple and 16 stolen bases (in 18 attempts). The former No. 8 overall draft pick has walked at a gaudy 16.4 percent clip and fanned in 20.3 percent of his 368 trips to the plate so far in Triple-A this year.
Of course, DeShields has quite a bit of big league experience under his belt as well. He was the most frequently used option in center field for the Rangers from 2015-19 and spent the 2020 season in Cleveland after being shipped to the Indians as part of the Rangers’ ill-fated Corey Kluber acquisition. DeShields had a promising debut campaign as a 22-year-old back in 2015, but his bat never came around as hoped. He’s played in 576 big league games and tallied more than 2000 plate appearances, but the resulting .246/.326/.340 output has been 21 to 24 percent worse than league-average in that time, by measure of wRC+ and OPS+, respectively.
Boston has been giving the bulk of the at-bats in center field to top prospect Jarren Duran, but he’s struggled through his first 53 big league plate appearances, hitting at a .180/.208/.360 clip with a 37.7 percent strikeout rate. Even if the Sox decide they want to give Duran some more time in Triple-A, however, that doesn’t mean DeShields will immediately be called upon. Enrique Hernandez could certainly shift back to center field, and the Sox could also play Alex Verdugo there. With Kyle Schwarber nearing a return from the injured list, he’d be an option in left field should the Red Sox want to temporarily slide Verdugo over; he’s played 225 innings in center already in 2021.
Still, DeShields gives Boston some experienced depth. Perhaps more importantly, he’ll be an interesting option to come up when rosters expand to 28 players in September. It’s commonplace for contending clubs to acquire fleet-footed depth options who can serve as pinch-runners and defensive replacements for the final stretch of the season, although that tactic’s prevalence could drop now that September roster expansion has been considerably reduced. We’ve also seen teams employ dedicated pinch-runners and defensive replacements into the postseason, however, and DeShields will give the Sox an option to consider in that role.