Eventually, the Red Sox are going to make a move this winter. I promise you they will. Perhaps it won’t be the exciting offense we were all waiting for, though. With Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani off the market, it essentially leaves things as J.D. Martinez or bust in terms of star-level talent. (I’m still skeptical a Jose Abreu trade is really possible.) That doesn’t necessarily mean things will be disappointing, though, and they’ll still make at least one addition at DH or first base. The roster as it stands now will not be the roster we see when the team reports to camp in February.
Whenever Dave Dombrowski and company do end up making that addition, though, they are going to have to make another decision. With the 40-man roster now completely full after the team protected three pitchers from the Rule 5 draft, any free agent signing would need a corresponding move to open up a spot. The same goes for a trade that only involves minor-league players not on the 40-man roster. These types of moves seem the most likely to me at this point, so I’m expecting at least one or two players currently on the 40-man roster to hit waivers at some point. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the players who could be on the roster bubble.
Jerez is a legitimately intriguing left-handed reliever who is currently in his second stint on the 40-man roster. The converted outfielder was just added to the roster at the start of the offseason to prevent him from becoming a minor-league free agent, but he also appears to be the most expendable. For as intriguing as he can be, he’s only made nine appearances at Triple-A and has never really threatened to make the majors. Boston could indeed use some left-handed relief depth, but they probably wouldn’t want to thrust Jerez into the majors until at least July and at 25 years old there’s really no reason to stress about losing someone like Jerez.
Elias, of course, was the second player acquired in the Wade Miley/Carson Smith deal a few winters ago. The ideal role for Elias was as a depth starter who could also contribute multiple innings out of the bullpen from the left side. He hasn’t really gotten a chance to contribute for the Red Sox, though, and he now has Brian Johnson ahead of him on the depth chart for the same type of role. Elias is a veteran with some major-league success in his past, which is the only reason I have him below Jerez, but as much as it would be nice to see what he can do in spring there’s no reason to keep him around if you absolutely need roster space.
This one makes me sad, but at this point will not come as a surprise to anyone. In fact, I think most would probably have him at number one on this list. Perhaps Owens should be higher and I’m still buying into a little bit of the hype from earlier in his prospect days. Clearly, he hasn’t been right in the last couple of years and 2017 in particular was a disaster in terms of the control issues. They caused him to get demoted to Portland midway through the year and they stuck with him into the Arizona Fall League. The only step left for him and the Red Sox is to try pitching out of the bullpen and hoping short stints can help his problems, but he also isn’t the type of pitcher who really profiles as someone who will thrive in a relief role. There was so much talent here, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was with a new organization next spring.
After those top three, the list becomes a little tougher to parse and I think it’d be a surprise if any of these players were simply designated for assignment to make room. That being said, these aren’t crucial players to Boston, either. Taylor, for example, impressed in March last year and earned himself an Opening Day roster spot. He pitched well enough in the majors, too, but still doesn’t profile as much more than a future middle reliever. Those players clearly have value, of course, and I suspect he’ll make some major-league appearances in 2017. If they have an unexpected major shakeup, though, maybe Taylor will be on the outside looking in.
In 2017, Marrero got his biggest shot in the majors and showed why the Red Sox have stuck by the former first round pick for so long. It’s certainly not his offense, and even though he showed some flashes at the plate and dominated left-handed pitching, the overall hitting skills were not impressive. His defense, though, is amazing and will keep him in the league for some time. That being said, the Red Sox have something of a log jam of infielders and a similar profile in Tzu-Wei Lin. Marrero is out of options, and while it’d be an upset for him to not make the Opening Day roster with Dustin Pedroia on the shelf, it’s possible they could decide to roll with the rest of their infield crew and leave Marrero on the outside.
Brentz has become something of a legend to Red Sox fans over the last few months after the outfielder did not receive a September call up this past year despite being exactly what the team needed and having a clear and obvious path to the majors. After all of that, the team did end up adding him to the 40-man roster at the start of the offseason along with Jerez to avoid Brentz becoming a free agent. According to Dombrowski, Brentz is the favorite to be the team’s fourth outfielder at this point. I’m not sure I entirely buy that, but I do think Brentz is probably more of a trade candidate than a DFA candidate at this point. There’s too much power here for some team to not be interested.
Ed. Note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly claimed Elias was out of options.