The Red Sox made an actual addition to their major-league roster on Tuesday, bringing back Mitch Moreland on a one-year deal that includes an option for a second year. On paper, this is a fine move but not one that makes a major difference for 2020 projections. It’s more substantial than the bottom-of-the-roster pitching additions they’ve made simply due to the fact that we know Moreland will be on the roster to start the year as long as he’s healthy, but that’s a low bar to clear.
Still, while it may not make a big impact on the team-wide projection, there are a lot of players caught up in the ripple effects here. Boston’s right side of the infield picture before this signing was a mess. I mean that less due to a lack of talent (though that’s part of it) and more due to just a whole lot of guys with true-talent levels right around the same tier fighting for a finite number of roster spots and innings to be played. Adding another name to the mix — particularly an established veteran with a history on this roster — will make things more complicated for all of the players who were already here. With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at how each of those players are affected by Moreland’s presence.
Before this signing, the way the roster shook out sure made it seem like Chavis was the most logical player to be the everyday first baseman, or at least something relatively close to that. Chavis can play second base too, but his better fit on the right side is at first. Presumably he’ll still get time there even with Moreland on the roster, but certainly not as much. He’ll most likely play against all lefties to start the year, and I suspect he’ll get some time against righties as well. I would also hope that he gets plenty of playing time at second base, too. Before Moreland signed, I think Chavis was pretty clearly the best player on the right side of the infield. The hope here is that the Red Sox will still get him something close to everyday run, moving between first base, second base, third base, and maybe left field as well.
Dalbec was set to be a player to watch in spring training, as without Moreland I think he had a chance to make the roster out of camp. He obviously opened some eyes last year with a much more consistent ability to make contact, and if he showed similar skills in camp they could have feasibly rushed him to the bigs. Now, I’d be surprised if that happens without an injury. Chavis isn’t a pure corner infielder, but he’s close enough that it could be tough to roster him, Moreland and Dalbec at the same time, particularly without knowing if Chavis can play in the outfield. Plus, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have Dalbec get a little time in Triple-A so you don’t only have to rely on spring training performance to see if last year’s adjustments stuck.
Prior to the Moreland signing, Peraza was the lone infielder brought in on a major-league deal this winter. He was and is an incredibly underwhelming addition, but the athletic infielder was probably set to get the majority of playing time at second base. With Moreland on the roster, I think he loses the most playing time of anyone listed here. Or, perhaps this is just me projecting. I should probably say if I was running the team, he would be the one to lose the most playing time. He’d certainly still have a role, but he’d be more of a defensive player off the bench and pinch runner, with Chavis getting most of the time at second base when Moreland starts at first. I suspect the Red Sox will give him more time than I would, but he still certainly has a smaller role than he did Tuesday morning.
Jonathan Arauz, Marco Hernández, Tzu-Wei Lin
These three are the ones fighting for a bench spot, with Arauz and Lin having the most at stake. Arauz is a Rule 5 draftee who will be returned to the Astros if he is taken off the active roster. Lin is out of options and would be designated for assignment if he does not make the Opening Day roster. I wrote about Arauz just a couple of days ago and mentioned that, while his chances of making the roster may be solid as things stood then, another addition makes things more complicated. Here’s the other addition. Right now, Kevin Plawecki and whoever isn’t starting out of Chavis and Peraza make up half of what is likely going to be a four-man bench. That leaves two spot for these three, plus potentially Dalbec and C.J. Chatham, who we talk about next. Obviously, losing one of these potentially open roster spots is huge.
I think Chatham is actually the least affected here. Perhaps I’m underestimating his potential and the way the organization views him, but I never thought he had much of a chance of making the Opening Day roster without a couple of injuries. I think they want him to show something in Triple-A first, and if he does the competition in front of him isn’t really enough to hold him back with or without Moreland.
Earlier in the offseason I wrote about Ockimey’s chance to make an impact on the roster, largely because he was a left-handed bat and that wasn’t something the Red Sox really had in the corners. Well, Moreland obviously hurts those chances tremendously. If Moreland gets hurt and Ockimey plays well early in the year that opening could still be there, but this is a big barrier to pop up.