Earlier on Thursday, the Red Sox found their backup catcher to Christian Vázquez when they signed Kevin Plawecki to a one-year deal. With their 40-man roster already full, there was going to have to be a corresponding move to make room for the new backstop. Chris Cotillo reports that the move is Sam Travis being designated for assignment.
Red Sox have designated Sam Travis for assignment.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 2, 2020
This was a little surprising to me, as I was expecting one of their fringy pitchers — Chris Mazza, Hector Velázquez, Denyi Reyes — to be the victim. That said, Travis was never a shoo-in for the Opening Day roster. That has been the case for years now, of course, but this will be his first year without major-league options. My assumption was that he would get a chance to fight in spring training for one of the 26 spots — and I thought the extra spot might help him specifically — but apparently that won’t be the case.
To be fair to the Red Sox, I’m in no way saying this was a bad move. For as good as Travis has been at times in the minors and in spring training, he’s simply never been able to get it done at the highest level. Over 278 career plate appearances across the last three years he has hit .214/.274/.382. That comes out to a 71 OPS+, meaning he has been 29 percent worse than league-average. Defensively he could play first base and left field, but was maybe a little better than average at the former and below average at the latter.
In his absence, the team now seemingly puts a lot faith in Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec at first base, at least given the roster right now. They could very well add another left-handed option (Eric Thames, for example), but Travis figured to fight with the other young righties for playing time at first base.
Now, he is off the roster, and perhaps out of the organization. I would guess he will be claimed by someone who thinks they can use him as a platoon bat and a righty off the bench who will be a little easier to carry with the 26th roster spot. It’s even possible someone thinks they have the tweak that can unlock some of the power that has been missing his entire career. If this is indeed it, we’ll always have spring training, where Travis was truly elite.