Coming into the season, the plan for rosters this summer was for them to gradually decrease as the year went on. We started with 30-man rosters coming out of camp as a way to help pitchers and other players in general more easily get themselves ready for the season after a condensed ramp up period. After two weeks of that, the plan was for things to go down to 28 players before decreasing again to 26 after another two weeks. It would then stay at 26 for the rest of the year. The first deadline for that cut down to 28 was supposed to be this Thursday.
Things around baseball, however, have not exactly gone according to plan. We’ve already had multiple teams miss substantial portions of their schedule, and on top of that we’ve seen pitcher after pitcher go down with injury after the aforementioned condensed ramp up period. As a result, the league recently decided to go with seven-inning games for double headers this year to help protect pitchers. Along those same lines, it was expected that they would also keep expanded rosters for the rest of the year as well. After negotiations between the players and the owners, they are still going to go through with Thursday’s cuts down to 28 players, but there will not be a cut down to 26 in another two weeks. Further, taxi squads on the road, currently at three players, will be increased to five.
Putting aside one’s opinion on all of this — it’s not a huge deal, I suppose, but it seems strange to me that 30-man rosters all year were apparently more extreme than seven-inning doubleheaders — this means two players from every roster will be cut. The Red Sox are a team, and thus they will also be cutting two players. So, let’s try to figure out how they’re going to go about this.
Before we get into the specific players, it’s useful to consider just what the Red Sox would want their roster to look like in terms of pitcher/position player breakdown. Right now, with 30 players on the roster, they have an even 15/15 split. Traditionally, in a normal season, teams have gotten to the point where most are carrying 13 pitchers. That was destined to be even more common this year with 26-man rosters. So, theoretically the team could cut two pitchers and still have a traditional bullpen. I say this because there are difficult decisions to be made with the position players, which I’ll get to in a second. However, the way this pitching staff is going and the fact that Boston is regularly going to their bullpen by the fourth inning, I think you have to keep at least 14 arms. So, I’m going to assume they will be cutting one pitcher and one position player.
We’ll start with the position player, because while calling this decision easy is an oversimplification, I do think it really comes down to two names. Right now, the bench for the Red Sox is: Michael Chavis, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Araúz, Kevin Plawecki and Kevin Pillar. Those last two are 100 percent safe. I believe Araúz is, too, as the team seems committed to keeping him through the year. Remember, as a Rule 5 draftee he would be returned to Houston if he is taken off the active roster.
That leaves Lin and Chavis, and this isn’t quite as easy as one might think off-hand. My first instinct was that Lin is the obvious choice in this group, and there really isn’t much discussion to be had. He doesn’t play much, and while his defensive skillset and versatility is a legitimate boon, it’s not really enough to justify a roster spot if he doesn’t hit. He’d be exposed to waivers if taken off the active roster, but I’m not sure it’s overly likely he’d be picked up. And even if he was, it’d hurt but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
However, Chavis is playing terribly this year. There is really no way of sugarcoating it. After struggling to end last year he entered this season with questions and those have only gotten louder with the way he’s swung the bat thus far. This may be the time to get him off the roster and get some work down in Pawtucket at the Alternate Site, as he does have options remaining. The only issue I take with this is that I believe they do still want to platoon Mitch Moreland, both to give him the best options and also keep him off his legs when they can. So while I do think Chavis is on thin ice, I think his removal from the active roster will be in favor of Bobby Dalbec coming up, not the shrinking of the roster. So, that leaves Lin, who I’d expect to be designated for assignment by the deadline on Thursday.
As for the pitching, this is a little bit more jumbled just because there are, as I see it, four legitimate options to be, well, optioned among the arms. Those four names are, in no particular order: Ryan Brasier, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs. None of these four have really proven they can be relied upon this year, and all of them have options remaining so they wouldn’t have to be exposed to waivers.
Of these four, I think Brasier is probably the safest. He hasn’t really impressed this year, but he has more of a track record than these other three. After that, I think Mazza is probably safe as well. He hasn’t been up as long as the other guys here, but in his lone appearance — coming at Yankee Stadium, no less — he looked really solid.
That leaves a pair of lefties in Hall and Springs. Neither of these guys will emerge as the top lefty in this bullpen, as Josh Osich has done a nice job in that role so far and Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez should be back relatively soon. So, that leaves these two for more mop up roles. Each of Hall and Springs has their own argument, too. For Hall, he can go multiple innings and serve as a starter-type. Mazza’s presence may hinder that, but they also don’t have a fifth starter right now. Springs has gotten fewer opportunities, but actually did toss a perfect inning on Tuesday, albeit with some hard contact mixed in there.
I don’t think there’s a clear choice here and, frankly, there’s not really a wrong one either. The team will not be missing either guy too much. At the end of the day, I think Hall is safe simply because he can throw more innings and this team needs innings badly. That said, there are a lot of two and maybe three-inning arms in this bullpen, including Springs, so Hall’s length may not be as valuable as I think. That said, I think by tomorrow’s noon deadline to cut the roster to 28 players, Tzu-Wei Lin will be designated for assignment and Jeffrey Springs will be optioned.