With a name like Jeter, Jeter Downs was already fighting an uphill battle in Boston. That uphill incline became even steeper when he was shipped by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Red Sox in a deal that sent star outfielder Mookie Betts and David Price back to the Dodgers. His time with the Red Sox could conceivably be over as he was designated for assignment earlier this week. Should the SF Giants take a flyer on the former top infield prospect?
Shoulder the SF Giants take a flyer on former top middle infield prospect?
Why would the Giants be interested in a middle infield prospect in the first place when they already have Carlos Correa and Brandon Crawford? If you go back to the middle of last season, the Giants ran out of shortstop inventory with both Crawford and Thairo Estrada on the injured list, so they swung a trade to acquire Dixon Machado.
They likely want to avoid that situation again. Injuries happen and you can never have enough shortstops on the 40-man roster.
It was not that long ago when Downs was rated as one of the best prospects in baseball, ranking as high as No. 44 according to MLB.Com prior to the 2020 season. This was one of the qualities that made him a key addition in the Betts trade.
2020 was a long time ago and Downs' prospect shine has faded entirely. In fact, the right-handed bat has not batted over .200 at any regular season stop since that trade. It is hard to justify a 40-man roster spot with that type of production, but it bears mentioning that Downs is only 24-years-old.
The 2022 campaign was a rough one as he slashed .197/.316/.412 (95 wRC+) with 16 home runs, 33 RBI, and 56 runs in 335 plate appearances in Triple-A. This includes a good 11.3 percent walk rate against a 29.6 percent strikeout rate. The strikeout rate is concerning, but given his age, it could be part of his development.
He earned a midseason promotion to the Red Sox last year due in part to already being on th 40-man roster. He struggled to the tune .427 OPS in 41 plate appearances before being sent back down to Triple-A.
Boston had decided that it had seen enough. The decision to cut ties with Downs after acquiring him in a trade that sent Betts to Los Angeles is one of those moves that will be scrutinized for years. For better or worse, that move will define top baseball executive Chaim Bloom's time with the Red Sox.
Outside of Brandon Crawford and Carlos Correa, the Giants remain relatively light on shortstop depth. Thairo Estrada is capable of spot starting at shortstop, but it has been telegraphed to Marco Luciano that he will eventually move positions with Correa locked up for the next 13 seasons.
As a prospect, Downs' primary strength was his glove and his bat showed signs of growth before hitting a wall in Triple-A. It is possible, and likely, that he was just moved up the system too quickly for Boston. Some of that was a product of the cancelled 2020 season.
The middle infield prospect moved from High-A in 2019 to Triple-A in 2021. That is a tough jump to make when you do not get the exposure of Double-A in between. It feels too early to give up on a young prospect like Downs, which is why the Giants should make a claim if he is available.
They still need to find a way to get young, faster, and more athletic. Making a move around the margins by adding Downs is one way to go about it. Plus, it helps that he has two minor league options remaining.