The Red Sox are planning to reinstate Yu Chang from the injured list and install him as their starting shortstop within the next couple of days, but that’s only the first of several decisions regarding their infield mix. Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com outlines the situation neatly, noting that there are ostensibly three roster spots for four infielders: Chang, Christian Arroyo, Enrique Hernandez and Pablo Reyes.
Like Chang, Reyes is expected to be activated from the injured list before long. Based on overall track record — he’s a career .250/.312/.361 hitter — the 29-year-old would seem to be the odd man out. Reyes is hitting .303/.338/.364 so far this season, however, and while it’s only come in a sample of 72 plate appearances, that’s still better output than the rest of the group. Arroyo is batting .243/.278/.375 in 163 plate appearances, while Hernandez has struggled immensely this year with a .225/.282/.333 slash in 291 plate appearances. Each of Arroyo, Chang and Reyes is out of minor league options, while Hernandez cannot be optioned by virtue of his Major League service time.
Further muddying the infield mix, manager Alex Cora told the team’s beat last night that Justin Turner could begin mixing in at second base soon (Twitter link via Ian Browne of MLB.com). The 38-year-old has just nine innings at second base since 2015, eight of which came earlier this season. He hasn’t started a game at second in eight years, but he’s been one of Boston’s best hitters (.282/.354/.461), and Cora voiced a desire to maximize the offensive potential for a club that has averaged fewer than two runs per game during a 5-8 slump over the past 13 games. It seems unlikely that the Red Sox would install Turner at second base on a full-time basis, given his age and lack of recent experience there, but even occasional reps at the position will cut into opportunities for Arroyo, Hernandez and others.
Looming further in the distance is the return of shortstop Trevor Story, who could begin a minor league rehab assignment following the All-Star break, per Cora (Twitter link via Mac Cerullo of the Boston Herald). While Story has previously spoken about the possibility of returning as a DH in July before moving to shortstop in August, it seems that won’t happen. Cora indicated that when Story returns, it’ll be as a shortstop. That’s still a ways down the road, but it’d likely push Chang either into a utility role or, depending on the outcome of the upcoming roster decisions, perhaps into a more frequent role at second base.
Health and performance leading up to the returns of Chang, Reyes and Story can certainly impact the eventual roster management, but even independent of the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the Red Sox will have a handful of roster decisions to make in the relatively near future.