It wasn’t quite the splash we’ve been waiting for — in that it wasn’t a major-league deal — but the Red Sox did make another addition to their stockpile of former major-league relievers signed to minor-league deals. This time around it was a former closer who is still in his 20s, though there is real baggage that led to his precipitous fall. According to a report from Jon Heyman, Boston signed former Mets closer Jenrry Mejía to a minor-league deal.
Jenrry Mejia signs minors deal with Red Sox— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 29, 2019
This was kind of surprising considering that Mejía was very recently under a lifetime ban from the league after testing positive for PEDs three times in his career. The league lifted that ban, however, and the Red Sox jumped on the chance. The plan for now is for Mejía to land in mini-camp before real spring training starts, but right now he does not have an invitation to big-league camp. As Chris Cotillo notes in the linked tweet, though, he could work his way into games against big-league hitters if he performs well.
There is some intriguing upside from Mejía, as he was a very successful reliever in his hey day. He served as the Mets closer in 2014, and over 93 2⁄3 innings (he also started seven games that year) he struck out 98 batters while walking 48 with a 52 percent ground ball rate. The righty ended the year with a 3.65 ERA, a 3.70 FIP and a 2.73 DRA. The bad news — or at least one piece of the bad news — is that this was his only full major-league season. Still, over his entire career he pitched 183 1⁄3 innings with a 3.68 ERA, a 3.82 FIP and a 3.08 DRA.
Of course, the PED cloud is what hangs over Mejía’s head more than anything else, and it is no small thing. He failed his third test in 2015 and was given the lifetime ban in the following offseason. This past summer Rob Manfred issued a conditional lift on the ban, and allowed him to play in the majors again for 2019. If the Red Sox are going to go with a pure numbers game in relief, just throwing a bunch of live arms at the wall and seeing what sticks, this is the kind of high-upside play to take a chance on. That said, Mejía hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015 so for now it’s best to keep expectations low.