We’re so close to Opening Day that I can taste it, and it tastes like a freshly-baked batch of cookies. The downside of this time of year for many professional baseball players, though, is that teams are getting their rosters ready for the start of the year and making their cuts. As is largely the case around the league every year, most of the Red Sox spots are spoken for and the majority of players in their camp have known for a while whether or not they had a good shot at making the roster. That doesn’t include Brock Holt and Deven Marrero, though, who sure seem to be fighting for the last spot on Boston’s bench. Evan Drellich of NBC Boston has said that Blake Swihart, unsurprisingly, locked up one spot, meaning the bench has just one empty spot remaining. According to Drellich, it seems the Red Sox are shopping both Holt and Marrero in trade talks, indicating that Dave Dombrowski could decide to move whichever player he doesn’t keep. It’s an understandable strategy for a front office, but Holt being in trade rumors has me feeling my feelings.
First, there’s the baseball side of this. As I just said, it’s certainly not unreasonable for Dombrowski to shop both of these guys around. With only one spot left for the two bench players, it’s worth checking to see if other front offices may value either Holt or Marrero more than one would expect. Presumably, neither would bring back a ton in trade, but you never know a player’s worth for sure until you ask. As for which player should be kept, I keep going back and forth and the fact that they could trade the loser may change things. I’ve said on these very pages earlier in the winter that I’d keep Marrero, and the argument was largely because Holt could be optioned and this would allow them to keep as much depth as possible. If Dombrowski decides he’s going to trade whichever player doesn’t make the cut and instead rely on Tzu-Wei Lin as their top Triple-A depth pice — a not unreasonable decision — then nothing matters besides who you think creates more value. Marrero’s glove is obviously far and away better than Holt’s, but if the latter is healthy his bat is much better. I’d lean towards keeping Holt’s bat over Marrero’s glove if the loser is going to leave the organization, but it’s close enough that I could objectively see the case on either side.
One part of this that shouldn’t have any effect on this, and something that I’ve seen come up from enough people in the know that I’m assuming it is having an effect, is Holt’s salary. In this new era of baseball with harsher luxury tax penalties that also have baseball ops consequences, salaries around the league are even more scrutinized than they already were. In 2018, Holt is set to make $2.225 million compared to the major-league minimum being earned by Marrero. Choosing the latter and trading the former would result in a $1.68 million savings for the Red Sox, a team that is ostensibly in a win-now window. As I’ve said many times by this point this winter, Boston shouldn’t make a habit of going $40 million over the luxury tax and losing ten spots in the draft, but in this specific situation it’s justified. Presumably, that extra million and change would be added to the trade budget this winter. If that little amount of money is going to make a difference towards which kind of player the Red Sox will be willing to acquire to improve the team in July, then they aren’t serious enough about putting together the best roster possible. If they decide that Marrero is the better player to keep for baseball reasons and clearing a million and change is just a side benefit, then it’s hard to complain. But if the $1.68 million savings is a deciding factor in all of this, I just have no idea what we’re doing here.
Beyond all of this, there is also the emotional part of it being a fan. Most of what we do around here — on this corner of the interwebs specifically and just in general — is think about what’s best for the Red Sox and how to make them better at all times. That’s what being a fan is! However, it’s also experiencing everything that happens in real time, and some of those experiences leave marks. Brock Holt at his best was one of those experiences. He’s not quite on the Daniel Nava level, but the small-statured utility man who came in and started making plays all around the diamond while coming through at the plate was a bright spot on some pretty bad years in 2014 and 2015. Him making the All-Star Game was one of the coolest ASG moments for me in recent memory, and something I argued for before he got the nod. It would be weird to see Holt in another uniform and for other fans to be able to enjoy the Brock Holt experience. Again, this isn’t even about the baseball side, and it’s not really something the front office should consider. All I’m saying is that we are too quick as fans to callously and emotionlessly toss a player to the side and move forward without reflection. If Holt does get traded, it’s going to be sad whether it was the correct baseball move or not.