All of the talk about the Red Sox these days revolves around the bullpen, as has been the case for over a month since they solidified their rotation by bringing Nathan Eovaldi back. If we’re being honest, it’s been maddening following this bullpen saga. There are legitimate arguments for whatever path the Red Sox want to take, but when there’s only one area on which we can focus for so long, it’s only natural to dig into whatever stance you happen to take and not let go. I’ve definitely found myself doing that, and it’s not a healthy way to live through the offseason.
All of this is to say that this post is (mostly) not about the bullpen. Earlier in the week, we took a look at the team’s depth among position players as well as among pitchers to determine where they stood in case of injury. No team is going to feel great about their emergency depth options, but relatively speaking the Red Sox are doing well in most spots. Still, as the slow winter continues and spring training barrels towards us, there are going to be major-leaguers that settle for minor-league deals so they can get into camp and prove themselves. Not all of these guys will make it to the regular season with the same organization, but it’s nice to grab as many of these players as possible, if for no other reason than to build competition in camp. So, with that in mind, I’m going to take a look at five players are five different positions who could be potential minor-league signings for the Red Sox. Yeah, I’m writing a listicle. Deal with it.
A.J. Ellis, Catcher
Right now, the Red Sox are focused on getting rid of one of their catchers, but the team still isn’t looking great at this position. We know they are focused on defense much more than offense behind the plate, and given the importance of catcher defense that’s probably a smart way of looking at it. Still, if they do deal one of their backstops and then another gets hurt, they are left with someone like Juan Centeno or Oscar Hernández as their backup. That’s not as bad as it sounds — catcher is death everywhere — but it wouldn’t hurt to bring another veteran into the group. A.J. Ellis, if he’s willing, could be a good fit. Ellis would be particularly interesting if the Red Sox opted to keep Swihart, as Ellis is a longtime big-leaguer who would be a phenomenal mentor for someone like Swihart, who could use some guidance on the defensive end. This one may be a little unrealistic as Ellis has made a point to spend his entire career on the west coast. He may not want to spend spring training in Florida. However, if he really wants to play and the offers aren’t coming, he’d be a good presence to have to help groom some of the other catchers in the organization while providing some insurance in case they suffer an injury or two in March.
Logan Forsythe, Infield
If the Red Sox have one position at which they could use more depth, it would be second base. Now, Boston does already have a bunch of guys who could theoretically play there if they are needed, but they all come with significant questions. You know them by now. Dustin Pedroia has the health, Eduardo Núñez has both health and recent performance, Brock Holt has questions about how he’d hold up in a full-time role, we’re not sure if Marco Hernández will play at all in the majors again after his major shoulder injuries, Tzu-Wei Lin isn’t really a major-league starter. They’re certainly not going to add a star to this group without question marks, but this is the type of group where you just keep adding more and seeing what sticks. I’d be surprised if they don’t add another veteran on a minor-league deal, and Forsythe could be the best option. The veteran has been trending down in recent years and his power is nonexistent at this point, but he can play all over the infield, draws walks and at his best can hit for a decent average as well. It’s unclear whether or not he’d want to join a situation as crowded as this, but it’s worth at least putting out feelers. The longer the offseason goes on, someone like Neil Walker could be an option here too, though I’d be a bit surprised if he settled for a minor-league deal.
Gerardo Parra, Outfield
The outfield is obviously where the Red Sox are most stacked at the major-league level, but beyond their top four most of their top options don’t call the outfield their primary home. They already signed Gorkys Hernández to a minor-league deal and he gives them some solid depth, but they should be looking for one more. A luxury this Red Sox team has is that they don’t necessarily have to look for an ability to play center field since all three of their starters can theoretically play there if needed. Parra can play there in a pinch, though he’s better suited for the corners. The former Rockie is a bit risky because you never know how Coors guys are going to hit when they leave, but there are some solid building blocks. The 31-year-old (he’ll be 32 in May) makes a ton of contact and has consistently turned those balls in play into hits, with his power being the big issue. He’s been miscast as a starter for most of his career, but as a change of pace who can come off the bench and hit righties, he’s a good depth option. This is where the star power at the top of the depth chart may hurt, though, as the top minor-league options are going to want to sign somewhere with a clearer path to playing time.
Drew Pomeranz, Starting Pitcher
Yeah, I’m going here. The Pomeranz era in Boston was a very strange one and it seemed like he never got a fair shake from some sections of the fan base. Many were against the trade that brought him to the Red Sox in exchange for Anderson Espinoza, and that clouded their judgement of anything Pomeranz did from there. He was off-and-on in his first partial season with the team, then was a major reason they won the division in 2017. Of course, last season was a disaster that saw health issues and diminished velocity that led to horrendous results. Pomeranz is a real bounce-back candidate if a fully healthy offseason can get him back to his old form and his fastball back to the low-90s. As with some other names listed, he may want to go somewhere with a clearer path to an Opening Day roster spot, but familiarity with the coaching staff could be an advantage as he will likely be using spring training as a showcase for the league as a whole.
Zach McAllister, Relief Pitcher
There are a million relievers available that are on the line of one-year deal or minor-league deal, and by the time the dust settles most are probably going to end up on the one-year deal side of the line. Someone like Greg Holland or Alex Wilson would be great in this situation, but I think someone will guarantee them a roster spot. McAllister could be on the wrong side of the line. The former Indians righty has never had a truly standout season, but he’s shown some interesting potential in the past. His strikeout rate took a somewhat alarming step back in 2018, but if he can get back above a strikeout per inning the only issue is the home run. Obviously that’s not ideal from a reliever, but the Red Sox have the outfield to help flyball pitchers when they’re not allowing home runs, and they’ve shown an ability to help some relievers (Ryan Brasier) shift their game enough to have success. The Red Sox have a lot of depth options from the right side in the bullpen, but as I said above about second base sometimes you need to grab as many options as possible and see what sticks. That’s particularly true if the Red Sox stick with what they have in the bullpen.