In this painfully slow offseason, everything is taking longer than expected and as a result our normal schedule is all thrown off. The Red Sox, of course, are still searching for the big addition in the middle of their lineup as they wait to hear where J.D. Martinez decides to play in 2018 and beyond. That is holding up the rest of their plans, and other teams around the league are likely in similar positions. While some minor signings are still going on, most of those moves tend to happen later in the year when teams have a better idea of what their roster looks like. Typically, that process would be starting now, but that can’t quite happen yet with so many big names left on the market.
Despite the delay in the real world, the Red Sox sort of do know what their roster is going to look like next year, albeit with one big hole left to be filled. Whether it be Martinez or Jay Bruce or Lucas Duda or Hanley Ramirez, designated hitter remains the lone hole left in this lineup, and from there they can look to the periphery of the roster for improvement. We all know how important depth can be over the long grind of a baseball season, and the Red Sox need to make sure they have as much depth all around the roster as possible. With that in mind, let’s go through the position player section of the roster and see how strong they are in each spot.
Major Leaguers: Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon, Blake Swihart
Minor-league Depth: Jordan Procyshen, Jake Romanski
By now, we are aware of the three-catcher “problem” the Red Sox are facing as they get look ahead to the day they have to set their 25-man roster. Health through spring training will certainly play a role, but if everyone makes it out without injury then Boston will have three catchers without minor-league options. It’s possible they can make the roster work with all three given Blake Swihart’s multi-positional versatility, though I’m still not sure that works. If it does, then the team likely has enough depth for now with three solid enough catchers and a couple of fine defensive workers as break-in-case-of-emergency options. If they have to move on from Swihart or Leon, though, things start to look different. Neither Procyshen nor Romanski is someone you want as a third catcher right now, and the team would be better off looking at a more experienced minor leaguer to stash in Pawtucket. Some options could be Dan Butler (old friend alert), Curt Casali, Oscar Hernandez and Brayan Peña, among others. I wouldn’t be shocked if they made this kind of signing even if they were able to keep all three catchers, particularly since they won’t really know for sure until the end of March when most players have signed.
Major Leaguers: Mitch Moreland, Marco Hernandez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, Deven Marrero, Hanley Ramirez
Minor-League Depth: Sam Travis, Tzu-Wei Lin, Esteban Quiroz, Ivan De Jesus Jr., Michael Chavis, Chad De La Guerra, Travis Witte
So, I think the easiest way to do this is to go position-by-position and see how many layers of depth the team has right now. At first base, they should be all set with Moreland and Ramirez available to handle things at the major-league level. I’m not the biggest Sam Travis fan, but he’s more than fine as the third option at the position, and Michael Chavis has the potential to pass him on the depth chart later in the year if everything breaks right. Second base is the biggest question, though the team has plenty of options to start the year even if none of them are high-impact. Between Hernandez, Marrero, Holt, Lin, Quiroz, De Jesus Jr. and De La Guerra, they have a ton of options here. Plus, Dustin Pedroia should still come back at some point, relegating everyone to a depth spot. At shortstop, they don’t have much offense behind Bogaerts but Marrero and Lin can provide strong defense at the position and Holt can play there in a pinch. The same essentially goes for third base, with De La Guerra and Witte providing intriguing low-ceiling options in case of emergency. The infield seems mostly set to me, with a lot of similar players who won’t excite anyone but can serve a role if the need arises.
Major Leaguers: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Mookie Betts, Bryce Brentz, New Addition?
Minor-League Depth: Aneury Tavarez, Jeremy Barfield, Rusney Castillo, Danny Mars
The outfield is a fascinating spot for the Red Sox as in some ways it has the most clarity on the major-league roster, and in other ways it has the most questions. The starting three are set barring anything unexpected, and they should be the starting trio for the next couple years at least. On the other hand, it seems likely that any new addition would more than likely serve as a backup outfielder in addition to a primary DH. Either way, they should have at least one backup outfielder on the major-league roster, and Brentz will fight to make it two. With the strong defense among the starters, it makes it easier to carry two such outfielders. In terms of the minors, though, things get really iffy. Tavarez is interesting, though he hasn’t really made a huge impact in Triple-A. Barfield destroyed Double-A after the team signed him out of Indy Ball last year, but that could very well have been a flash in the pan. Castillo may be the most talented in this group, but his salary makes him unlikely to see the roster. Mars is a personal favorite of mine, but not someone you want to see in the majors just yet. As such, it would make sense to add some more names to this group and see who makes it out of camp. There’s not enough playing time in Pawtucket for too many players, of course, but minor-league signings with a camp invite is the perfect place to sort this out. There’s a ton of options among outfielders, but someone like Brian Bogusevic last year (and he’s an option again this year) is the type of player we’d be looking at.
At the end of the day, these are far from the most exciting moves any team will make in the offseason and these aren’t the types of players who will make or break a team’s season. That being said, injuries are going happen all year long and you never know how much depth you will need. The Red Sox are doing pretty well in terms of position player depth, though they could be wise to target another catcher and perhaps an outfielder or two. Better to have too much depth than not enough, of course. Another day soon we’ll take a look at the pitching side of things.