I’ve talked a lot over the last few years about how the Red Sox could probably use some help in the left-handed relief department. While they’ve had plenty of solid, adequate arms to fill that role, they haven’t really had someone who could be trusted in a high-leverage spot against righties and lefties. They didn’t address that need on Saturday, and honestly it’s a goal that’s much easier said than done, but they did add another name to the depth chart by brining back an old friend. According to Brian MacPherson, formerly of the Providence Journal and apparently filling in for them on a temporary basis, Boston signed Tommy Layne to a minor-league deal.
Tommy Layne is at Red Sox camp. Tony Clark said earlier today that Layne signed out of the MLBPA-run free-agent camp, but he didn't say that Layne had signed with the Red Sox.— Brian MacPherson (@brianmacp) February 24, 2018
As MacPherson mentions in the tweet above, Layne had been among those who were working out at the free-agent camp down in Florida.
Obviously, this signing doesn’t really move the needle all that much, but it does give Boston another line of defense from the left side in their bullpen. Right now, Robby Scott is the de facto number one southpaw in relief. Brian Johnson could also be in the bullpen to start the year, but one would imagine he’d serve more of a multi-inning role rather than a LOOGY-type role. They also have Williams Jerez, Roenis Elias, Jalen Beeks and Bobby Poyner as minor-league depth. Any or all of those names could be fine, but it’s not as if there is not room for another body to be involved in competition. That’s where Layne would presumably fit in, though he apparently hasn’t even been invited to major-league camp.
There’s no one area in which the 33-year-old will stand out, but he can be solid if used correctly. Of course, most of us are familiar with him already since he played in Boston in 2014, 2015 and part of 2016. He’ll get a solid number of strikeouts, though nothing that will blow anyone away, and he’ll also get in trouble with his control from time to time. The key for Layne is inducing weak contact. He’s like Scott in that way. He has also been very good against left-handed batters over his career, holding them to a .187/.286/.230 line. It should be mentioned, though, that he had a tough 2017 with the Yankees as he pitched to a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings and allowed a .799 OPS to lefties.
It’s probably not smart to expect much of anything from Layne, and it wouldn’t really be surprising if we never saw him in the majors. That said, there’s no risk in a minor-league deal for the Red Sox, so it’s worth a shot to add him to the depth chart, even if he’s going to have to fight just to become part of the conversation.