The Red Sox have cleared another spot on the 40-man roster, this time in a surprising move that sort of came out of nowhere. After trading lefty Yoan Aybar to Colorado late last week to bring the 40-man roster count down to 39, they’ve reduced the count to 38 on Monday by outrighting Yairo Muñoz to Triple-A.
OF/INF Yairo Muñoz has been outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket.— Red Sox (@RedSox) December 7, 2020
Like I said, this one comes as a bit of surprise. The Red Sox signed Muñoz last spring to a minor-league deal after he had been released by the Cardinals, something that came as a result of him just straight-up leaving St. Louis’s spring training due to some disagreement with his role. I have to wonder how much that played into him going unclaimed here, because all signs point to him as a guy who not only one would think the Red Sox would keep around but that other teams would be willing to have on their roster.
Muñoz didn’t get to play a whole lot in 2020, spending the first half of the shortened season in Pawtucket and then getting hurt after just a couple of weeks in the majors. He looked good in his small sample, though, playing mostly in the corner outfield and putting up a 123 OPS+. For his career, he’s been roughly a league-average hitter who can play all over the diamond on both the infield and in the outfield. Throw in that he will be only 26 next year and that he has a minor-league option remaining, and there is plenty to like here.
For the Red Sox specifically, it appeared that Muñoz had a clear utility role that could have led to plenty of playing time depending on what else they do this winter. As things stand now, he’d arguably be the favorite for the bulk of playing time at second base as well as providing the the top level of depth for the outfield. That the Red Sox moved away from him before, say, Jeffrey Springs or even C.J. Chatham is a bit surprising.
And it naturally leads to some speculation about what the rationale is here. There are a number of possibilities. This could certainly point to them planning on going for more of a sure thing at second base, which hasn’t always appeared to be in the cards. It could also mean they have something in the works that they think could be done soon. The Rule 5 Draft is on Thursday, and they now can select multiple players, though that would be pretty surprising. Or, perhaps most likely, they looked around and thought that this point in the offseason was the time they could sneak him through waivers while keeping him around, giving them the best of both worlds where they keep Muñoz in the organization while opening up more flexibility on the roster. Only time will tell, but we’ll keep our ears peeled (gross) for more news.