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Who makes a 29-man roster?

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There will likely be expanded rosters if there is baseball in 2020, so who makes the cut?

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

On Friday, MLB and the Players Association officially agreed to a deal to cover some different scenarios regarding baseball in 2020 and how exactly that would play out after the beginning of their season, at least, was put on hold due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. You can read about some of those changes and how they could affect the Red Sox here. Another part of that agreement which came out after that linked post was written is that if there is a season to be played in 2020, teams will have their rosters expanded to 29 players for the first month of the season. This is presumably due to the fact that the second spring training they’ll need to hold will be a bit abbreviated and if they do play games there will be fewer days off among them. So, that leads to the natural question: Who makes a 29-man roster for the Red Sox if they do indeed play baseball in 2020?

Lineup

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Christian Vázquez, C
  7. Alex Verdugo, RF
  8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  9. José Peraza, 2B

There really isn’t going to be too much of an effect in the starting lineup with the expanded roster. Obviously. That said, if there is a season the delay would seemingly be long enough to have Alex Verdugo ready for the first game of the year, whenever it is. He wasn’t projected to miss much more than a month or so of this season if it had started on time, and the season surely isn’t starting anywhere near May 1. Other than that, it’s pretty straight forward. Peraza and Michael Chavis could split some time at second, but shortly before spring training came to a halt I was starting to sense Peraza would be closer to the every day guy.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Bench

Kevin Plawecki, C

Jonathan Lucroy, C/1B

Michael Chavis, INF

Kevin Pillar, OF

Yairo Muñoz, UTIL

Adding three roster spots is clearly for depth purposes, and I would imagine that most of the teams are going to use at least two of those three spots for extra pitching. If they are playing a bunch of days in a row, which they likely would have to if they are going to play this year, then they’ll need more arms. So, I see the Red Sox carrying five players on the bench, including both catchers who were fighting for the backup spot before spring ended. That battle seemed extremely close before camp closed and this makes that decision a little easier. Lucroy being able to play first sometimes helps a bit, though Chavis’ presence here makes it less important. Pillar is obviously moved to the bench with Verdugo’s return.

The big decision came down to Muñoz, Tzu-Wei Lin and Jonathan Araúz. The latter two need to make the active roster to stay on the 40-man — Lin is out of minor-league options and Araúz is a Rule 5 Draft Pick who would get returned to the Astros organization if he is taken off the active roster — but Muñoz wins out here, I think. The former Cardinal simply has the better track record in the majors and he mitigates Lin’s advantage in versatility because Muñoz also plays both infield and outfield. The good news for Lin and Araúz is that, given the stop and start nature of this if spring training were to resume, someone pulling up with a tweaked hamstring or something that keeps them out for Opening Day is far from out of the question. If everyone’s healthy, though, I think Muñoz gets that last spot and the Red Sox use their other two extra roster spots more in favor of pitching.

Rotation

  1. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
  2. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
  3. Collin McHugh, RHP
  4. Martín Pérez, LHP
  5. Ryan Weber, RHP

As with the lineup, the only change here is due to time healing an injury. The difference here, though, is that McHugh’s timeline was a little more murky. Coming back from an elbow injury, he was definitely going to miss the start of the year, but I am under the assumption that baseball will not be back until at least July 1. In that case, I am fairly confident he’ll be ready by then and so I’m putting him in my rotation. The rest is pretty straight forward, I think.

Bullpen

Brandon Workman, RHP

Matt Barnes, RHP

Josh Taylor, LHP

Marcus Walden, RHP

Darwinzon Hernandez, LHP

Heath Hembree, RHP

Austin Brice, RHP

Ryan Brasier, RHP

Colten Brewer, RHP

Brian Johnson, LHP

Like I said, I suspect the Red Sox are going to use two of their extra roster spots for pitching, which means they would have a ten-man bullpen. Seven of those ten spots, I think, were basically decided before the league took a pause. Brice was sort of still on the bubble, but I felt he had the inside track before camp even started and he did nothing in spring training to take him out of that position.

That left three more spots, one of which I think would go to Johnson. I would assume they’d want one of the ten relievers to be a starter-type who can clean up messes, and that battle would likely come down to Johnson or Chris Mazza. The latter is already on the 40-man, which would seemingly give him an edge, but three spots could be pretty easily opened up in this scenario with Chris Sale hitting the 60-day IL and both Lin and Araúz being taken off.

Then it comes down to the two more traditional spots, and Brasier and Brewer were having the better springs and have some trust on this roster and with this coaching staff. Really, it’s more about their competition not really showing anything in the first spring training to convince anyone they should get a spot. These two spots, I think, would be up in the air if a second spring training is able to occur, which of course we all hope it does.