I haven’t really been a huge fan of what the Red Sox have done this winter, which should come as no surprise to people who have read this site for the last few months. I wish they had added something more significant than Martín Pérez to this pitching staff, and I wish the offseason hasn’t been filled with trade rumors involving their best player, one of their best pitchers and their starting center fielder. Now, that last part isn’t entirely their fault and none of those guys have been traded as of this writing, but they also aren’t blameless for the constant barrage of rumors. They are completely to blame for what has been, again, an underwhelming lack of impact additions.
That being said, while there hasn’t been a whole lot of excitement this winter that does not mean there hasn’t been plenty of activity. Over the last month or so, really dating back to the last day of the Winter Meetings, Chaim Bloom and company have made a lot of minor moves to add depth to the 40-man roster and try to create more high-level minor-league depth off the 40-man. Below are all of the moves they have made going back to that last day of the Winter Meetings. Note that this does not include adding Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham, Marcus Wilson, Kyle Hart and Yoan Aybar to the 40-man to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, nor does it include minor-league signings like Trevor Hildenberger, among others.
- Drafted Jonathan Arauz in the Rule 5 Draft
- Signed José Peraza
- Signed Martín Pérez
- Claimed Chris Mazza off waivers
- Signed Kevin Plawecki
- Designated Sam Travis for assignment
- Traded for Austin Brice
- Designated Marco Hernández for assignment
- Outrighted Marco Hernández to Pawtucket
- Traded for Jefferey Springs (in exchange for Sam Travis)
- Designated Bobby Poyner for assignment
- Outrighted Bobby Poyner to Pawtucket
- Traded for Matt Hall
- Designated Travis Lakins for assignment
- Traded Travis Lakins to Chicago
Obviously some of these moves overlap, but that’s a lot of activity at the very bottom of the 40-man roster. I’m not going to sit here and tell you you should be excited about this. In fact, it might be a little weird if you were! (Not that we judge here, of course.) At the same time, however, these minor moves can be ones that can make a big difference down the road, particularly for a fringy team like the Red Sox appear to be.
I wrote earlier this winter a realistic optimistic view for this Red Sox team, the conclusion of which I still believe. Boston can certainly compete for a Wildcard this season, and frankly there is a case for them to be one of the two favorites heading into the year. Your mileage may vary on projections, particularly this far out, but it’s worth noting that FanGraphs’ Depth Chart projections have the Red Sox as the fourth-best team in baseball by projected WAR at this point. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but they will be in what should turn out to be a crowded race for the two AL Wildcard slots. Making shrewd decisions at the bottom of the roster is the type of thing that can swing a team’s final record by a couple of wins, and in a close race that can make all of the difference.
For one thing, this is an area from which you can get out-of-nowhere breakouts who become major contributors to the roster. This is most often true for relievers, too, which is the most common addition from this flurry of minor moves. I’m not particularly high on any of the additions, but that’s what made them so easy to acquire, right? With a tweak — be it mechanical or otherwise — perhaps Brice or Hall can be a top-four reliever and contribute important innings throughout the season. Similarly, maybe Arauz is more major-league ready than we think and he carves out a real role at second base. Would I bet on any of this happening? No. But, if you throw enough shit at the wall, something will eventually stick, right?
It’s not just the potential for breakouts, though. There is also the idea of adding trustworthy depth, which we all know is important in a long, 162-game season. In fact, we saw just last year what happens when you don’t have arms you trust once the starters either underperform, get hurt, or both. Now, again, there is no guarantee that any of these additions are functionally better than the players who they replaced, but that’s true of any move. It’s clear that Bloom is finding players in whom he has faith, and the results will be a nice litmus test of his ability to find these sorts of diamonds in the rough.
All in all, I am still not thrilled with the way the offseason has gone and think the Red Sox are wasting a year with a very good core. The lack of impact additions has been disappointing. All of that aside, Bloom has been active in churning over a bottom of the 40-man roster he seemingly wasn’t wild about and brought in players who better fit his vision. The big selling point on the former Rays executive was creativity, and this is where that comes in. These depth moves can be the kind of thing that brings, say, a 91-win team to a 93-win team. That might not sound like much, but many years that kind of swing is the difference between early-October tee times and a slot in the Wildcard Game.