Sox shortstop job is Iglesais' to lose

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- With so many other holes to fill, Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington seems content with the shortstop position.

During the GM meetings this week, Cherington admitted he focused on the corner outfielder positions, first base and wants to add a pitcher to the starting rotation. When asked if shortstop was on the back burner, Boston’s GM said that was a fair statement.

“It’s really early in the offseason and we’ve got to see what happens and how the team looks two weeks from now, three weeks from now, six weeks from now before we can really answer that question," he said.

That means Jose Iglesias has the rest of the offseason to prove he can handle the job at the big league level on a full-time basis. There’s no denying the 22-year-old’s defensive skills, but his offense has been dreadful.

Iglesias hit .118, striking out in 24 percent of his 68 at-bats at the major league level in 2012. That's the second-lowest batting average by a non-pitcher in franchise history (minimum 75 plate appearances). Iglesias hit .031 (1-for-32) with men on base, the lowest average for any non-pitcher over the past 30 years (minimum 30 plate appearances).

The Red Sox will closely monitor his offseason progress and if Cherington believes the rookie needs more development, it’s possible the Red Sox could sign a veteran utility infielder to fill that gap, possibly someone like Arizona’s John McDonald.

“We’re going to see where we are. We’re looking to address the areas we’re talking about and we think Jose is ready to help a major league team, depending what the rest of the team looks like. If we feel like we need to build some protection in that area as the offseason goes on we’ll consider that. Nobody’s going to be given anything. If he’s given an opportunity to win the job in spring training then he’ll have to win it out.”

Iglesias will not play winter ball this offseason. Instead, he will focus on strength and conditioning and will spend time working out at the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.

“We’ve talked to him a lot about his offseason and about the importance of a good offseason from a strength standpoint,” Cherington said. “He has a plan in place and people he’s working with.”

The surprise emergence of 27-year-old Pedro Ciriaco also gives the Red Sox some depth at the position moving forward. He hit .293 over 76 games (12 of them at shortstop) with 19 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and 33 runs scored.

Then there’s Xander Bogaerts. The 19-year-old shortstop -- SoxProspects.com’s top-ranked Red Sox prospect -- had an outstanding season in 2012 and will be invited to the big league camp during spring training.

After starting the season in Single-A Salem, Bogaerts jumped to Double-A Portland and hit .326 in 23 games with five homers and 17 RBIs.

“We expect him in big league camp,” Cherington said. “We as expect him to be in the minor leagues to start the season.”

Cherington did not dismiss the possibility Bogaerts could contribute at the big league level in 2013, but 2014 is much more likely.

“Wouldn’t rule it out,” the GM said. “He’s a talented guy but right now our focus is on trying to finish the development at the minor league level.”

Agent Scott Boras, who represents Bogaerts and fellow Red Sox prospect outfielder Jackie Bradley, Jr., believes both of his clients will be able to contribute at the big league soon.

“When you look at (the Red Sox’s) minor league system they have a couple of our clients that are really, really good in Jackie Bradley and Bogaerts that are budding players at the Double-A level and can participate in big league consideration in the future,” Boras said.

Still, that doesn’t solve the immediate issue: Is Iglesias ready to be an everyday player in the majors? It sounds like he’ll be given that chance, but the Sox will also have a Plan B at the ready if it becomes apparent in spring training that Iglesias is not blossoming offensively.