For the Red Sox, September cannot get here fast enough. Their mess of a bullpen is in drastic need of help, and while they’ve been reluctant to let any of their current options go permanently in order to make a change, there are arms that could help them when the 25-man limitation is removed.
The only hitch lies in actually getting those guys—players like Robby Scott, Kyle Martin, Chandler Shepherd, maybe even Roman Mendez—onto the 40-man roster. Especially if the Sox are going to add Yoan Moncada at some point.
For one player, at least, the move is easy: just add them. The Sox are currently at 39-of-40 by my count, so they’ve got a space to use. After that, though, they’re going to have to start cutting. The Red Sox have long been loathe to risk organizational depth even if it means getting a potentially superior player up to Fenway. But with things going south in a hurry for the relief corps, they don’t have much choice.
The good news: there’s a few fairly easy cuts to be made.
First off, the Sox can probably do without one of the four catchers currently on their roster. Ryan Hanigan is on his way back from the disabled list, joining Sandy Leon, Bryan Holaday, and Christian Vazquez in available backstops. Leon is obviously going nowhere right now, and Vazquez counts in Boston’s active depth with Pawtucket’s season winding down, since having him in Fenway won’t mean he’s getting any less playing time. That leaves Hanigan and Holaday and, honestly...take your pick. The Sox don’t need both.
Strangely enough, the next most obvious spots probably come from pitchers. These are the guys the Red Sox have already tried throwing off the wall, and had come slipping right off, some of them multiple times. I’m not talking about Roenis Elias and Henry Owens for all that they fit that description—the former has enough of an MLB track record on his side and the latter is still too early in his career to write off. Instead, I’m looking at someone like William Cuevas, who really hasn’t looked much like a major league pitcher at any point in his career. I’d personally throw Noe Ramirez in there after seeing the Red Sox go back to that well time-and-again this year, but I can understand the infatuation with his Triple-A numbers, at least.
Moving beyond the pitchers who’ve shown up in Boston this year, there’s also Williams Jerez, whose conversion to pitching hasn’t gone all that well since he hit Portland. He’s still interesting simply for having made it so far so fast, but he’s also the type of pitcher who’s far enough from the majors that it’s easy to imagine the Sox could get him through waivers. Probably not the first choice, but the possibility exists that he doesn’t really need to be on the 40-man right at this moment.
Then there’s the bench depth guys. Your largely failed first-round picks in Bryce Brentz and Deven Marrero who, honestly, just don’t bring that much to the table for the Red Sox. Neither one is really much of a commodity at this point, and if the Red Sox did end up needing either one at some point down the line, finding a functionally equivalent replacement on short notice just isn’t all that hard. Players who can’t hit are kind of dime-a-dozen.
Moving away from some of these guys who mostly just seem to take up space is going to have to happen soon, anyways. The Sox will almost certainly have Yoan Moncada on the 40-man headed into 2017 even if he’s not up earlier (which is also almost certainly going to happen), and there’s a fair few players they’ll likely want to protect from the Rule 5 Draft like Justin Haley and, in fact, two of the aforementioned relievers in Scott and Martin who will be eligible in the offseason.
There’s no guaranteed answers in the minors. In all likelihood the Red Sox will mostly just end up shuffling unsatisfying pieces around, striking no gold, but also throwing none away. At this point, though, they’re not in a position where they can afford to do anything less than try all their options when the cost is so low and the need so clear.