The Red Sox are flush with rotation depth in the majors and Triple-A, and that left Roenis Elias on the outside looking in for pretty much his entire stint in the organization. That stint came to an end Monday afternoon as Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox made a move to send the left-handed pitcher to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
The #RedSox today traded LHP Roenis Elias to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. pic.twitter.com/lkSL9XKWPO— Red Sox (@RedSox) April 23, 2018
At first glance, this seems like a pretty weird move to me. The Red Sox, as I mentioned, do have a ton of back-end pitching depth with the likes of Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Steven Wright, Jalen Beeks, Justin Haley and Chandler Shepherd all ready (well, not Wright just yet, but at some point relatively soon) to make a spot start if needed. Elias was in the middle of that group but never really separated himself as a better option than any of them. In that sense, the Red Sox didn’t really have a need for the southpaw, and with this move they have an open spot on their 40-man roster. There’s nobody in Pawtucket I can see them using the opening for right away, and Marco Hernandez is still at least a month or so away from returning from the 60-day disabled list, but there’s no penalty for carrying an open 40-man spot for flexibility.
That being said, I don’t really see the need to make a move like this right now. Since the Red Sox first acquired Elias I’ve thought that he would be at his most effective as a left-handed reliever with his stuff playing up in short stints, but the team never really tried him in that route. It’s clear that they don’t see a big need for left-handed relief depth right now, which is a good thing because they don’t have much of it. Johnson is the lone lefty in their bullpen right now, and they have Bobby Poyner, Robby Scott and Williams Jerez in Triple-A. All of them are fine in this role — Poyner probably has the most upside — but keeping Elias around in that group when they don’t need his 40-man spot makes more sense to me than trading him for essentially nothing when they could do that same thing when a need for that roster spot did arise.
Of course, at the end of the day this is not the type of move that is going to make or break this team now or in the future. It’s entirely possible that the motivation for this deal comes down to keeping players happy even if it means sending them to another organization. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Elias was not happy without a clear path to playing time with the Red Sox and expressed a wish to be sent elsewhere. He is familiar with Seattle’s organization, too, having spent all of his career there before coming to Boston in the same trade that sent Carson Smith over in exchange for Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro. There’s certainly value in gaining a reputation as an organization that will do what’s best for players when it doesn’t have a major impact on the on-field product.
So, this is a trade that feels weird to me but is ultimately not likely to have a huge impact in either direction, and it gives Boston a little more flexibility with their roster. If nothing else, it gives us a tiny bit of action on a Monday with no game.