Red Sox Acquire Aviles From Royals

With the flurry of rumors around the trade deadline, it can be easy for a move to sneak up seemingly out of nowhere. Theo Epstein and Dayton Moore pulled the trigger on one of those deals this afternoon, with the Red Sox acquiring second baseman Mike Aviles from the Royals for minor leaguers Yamaico Navarro, a 23-year-old versatile infielder, and Kendal Volz, a 23-year-old righty reliever.

Aviles broke into the major leagues with the Royals in 2008 and immediately put up a star-level season, recording a .325/.354/.480 triple-slash and posting 4.4 Wins Above Replacement. Unfortunately for Aviles, life is rarely ever just puppy dogs and giggles, and 2009 brought a horrid 12 wRC+ through April and May followed by a season-ending forearm injury. The success of 2008 has never returned for Aviles, as he’s managed a .278/.312/.406 triple-slash since returning from the injury in 2010, and his defensive grades have slipped across the board as well, at every position he plays.

There’s little reason to expect a resurgence from Aviles. Despite how young his major league career is, he is already 30, and well past his defensive peak and likely on the decline at the plate too. The move from Kauffman Stadium to Fenway Park should improve his numbers, as he may bang a few doubles off the Green Monster which would’ve harmlessly fallen into fielders’ mitts in KC, but that could be said about any right-handed batter making the move. At this point, Aviles can hit lefties (111 career wRC+), but has his struggles defensively and against right-handed pitching.

The real purpose behind the acquisition of Aviles appears to be Marco Scutaro insurance. Should Scutaro fall to injury, the Sox would be left with Drew Sutton, a fine utility man but a bit stretched at shortstop. This trade suggests the Red Sox don’t have a ton of confidence in the health of either Scutaro or Jed Lowrie, who will begin a rehab assignment this Monday to stay healthy. Neither does it suggest confidence in the ability of Sutton or the traded Navarro, the next two shortstops on the Red Sox depth chart.

The reports on Navarro are uncannily similar to the profile of Aviles. According to Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein, Navarro hits for some power and plays every position in the infield, but not terribly well. He holds a .258/.362/.469 line in Triple-A, showing good plate discipline (11.4% walk rate) and power (.211 ISO). He’ll have to continue to do so in the majors to maintain a respectable OBP, as his history of poor BABIPs in the minor leagues (under .300 in over 700 PAs) suggests he’ll struggle to post good batting averages in the show. This concern is echoed by Goldstein, who says he has “a looping swing that often generates poor contact.”

Volz appears to be the typical “live arm” prospect included in these types of trades. With the prototypical pitcher’s frame of 6-foot-5, 225 pounds and a 5.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 167 professional innings, Volz has some things going for him. However, at age 23 and still in High-A, he will have to prove he can hack it in the higher minors before he gains much of a standing as a prospect.

This trade appears to make sense for both teams. The Red Sox were ready to give up on Navarro (and they’re not the only ones down on him) and they shored up their current situation in the middle infield with a useful backup type in Aviles. Ideally, the Red Sox hardly need to use him, but with a moderate amount of uncertainty in their middle infield, it won’t hurt, and his arbitration rewards will hardly cut into their budget should they decide to keep him around beyond 2011.

With Aviles already at 30 years old and about to hit arbitration, the non-contending Royals had little use left for him. It’s a low price to take a chance on a guy like Navarro who has a decent minor league history and could turn out to be a starter at second or third base in a perfect world. If it doesn’t work out, no harm no foul. With the wave of prospects waiting in the Kansas City system, this is the exact kind of move Dayton Moore needs to make to give his prospects the support they’ll need to consistently contend in the AL Central.

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