The Red Sox, as you are probably aware, have been a bit more active in January than they were in November and December, which isn’t exactly a high bar. But still, they’ve added Martín Pérez and Garrett Richards to the rotation, Enrique Hernández to the lineup, and Adam Ottavino to the bullpen. At least, that’s what’s been reported. As of this writing on Saturday morning, only one of those players — Ottavino — has been officially added to the Red Sox roster. There’s no reason to doubt the veracity of the reports, of course, but it’s worth noting that nothing is official until it’s official.
Now, with all that said this is not some sort of unprecedented situation. There’s a variety of reasons a deal may not go through within a day or two, and it’s a fairly common occurrence. A lot of times it can come down to issues with scheduling a physical, or perhaps visa issues for players coming from other countries. The pandemic could have made that even more complicated. Or it could come down to the team waiting to make decisions on roster moves.
And that brings us to the crux of this post. Whenever the Red Sox do make the additions of Pérez, Hernández and Richards official, they are also going to have to announce three corresponding 40-man moves. Right now, the roster is full, and after a lot of shuffling that has already taken place this winter, the decisions aren’t as easy as they could have been. So what are the most likely avenues that could be taken?
We have to start with the Dustin Pedroia situation. At this point, it seems all but certain that something is going to be worked out on this front in the relatively near future. In fact, a couple weeks back Pete Abraham said it could come as soon as this month. There’s only two more days left in the month, so maybe it won’t be quite that soon, but sooner than later seems likely. We’ve said it time and time again so I won’t go too deep into but, the Red Sox are absolutely right to handle this situation with care. Pedroia is on the short list of most important players in franchise history as a three-time champion, MVP and Rookie of the Year. The fallout of handling this situation poorly would not be worth the roster spot he is taking up.
The financial side of this is the one that gets the most attention, so we should be clear. It’s very unlikely the Red Sox are going to get out of the luxury tax implications of his deal for 2021. Pedroia absolutely should make sure he gets his money — remember, this was a very team-friendly deal that he didn’t have to sign when he did — and the Red Sox should get it to him. Any maneuvering to give it to him under a different role, to my knowledge at least, isn’t going to work in terms of clearing that luxury tax space. I won’t pretend to be an expert in the legalese involved with these procedural dealings so I’ll allow for the possibility that I’m missing something here, but I haven’t heard of a real chance of that happening.
But as for the roster spot, it would appear this is coming to a close at some point soon, and I would suspect one of these three openings will come in the form of Pedroia ultimately hanging up the cleats.
That is only one spot, though. So if we assume one spot will be opened with Pedroia, there are still two more moves to make. As always, the easiest way to do this is to just designate players for assignment. And while the Red Sox have already had a lot of churn on the bottom of their roster, there are still players that can be DFA’d without it hurting too much. Here’s the order with which I’d feel most comfortable DFA’ing players, starting with the most likely.
- Joel Payamps. Payamps is one of the most recent additions to the roster having been claimed off waivers this winter. He has some value with his ability to throw multiple innings, but neither the stuff nor the command really stand out to me as having the ability to make an impact. From the moment he was claimed I thought he’d be a candidate to try to sneak through again and keep in the organization off the 40-man.
- Marcus Walden. I’ve been a Walden believer in the past and generally speaking I’ve been willing to toss aside bad 2020 performances as anomalies. But with Walden, it just looked like he lost it. I wouldn’t hate giving him another chance, but at the same time decisions have to be made and I’m willing to take a chance on a now-32-year-old late bloomer just being toast.
- Jeffrey Springer. Now we’re getting into guys I’d prefer to keep. Like Walden, I won’t melt down or anything if Springer were to be let go, but I actually think he showed some solid potential last year as a multi-inning reliever with better stuff than I expected. That said, the ceiling of a long reliever is not exactly someone whose spot must be preserved.
- Austin Brice. Brice is somewhat similar for me to Springer in that I think there is a role he can carve out, it’s just not a super valuable one. I don’t ever see Brice being a late-inning arm, but he’s a guy who I think can be solid in that Heath Hembree role. Again, it’s useable, but not something that you keep at all costs.
- Chris Mazza. Mazza is borderline for me to even include here. We all know teams need starting pitching depth, and while Mazza was miscast last year as one of the few actual starting pitcher types on the roster, he can have value as something like a seventh or eighth guy on the depth chart. He has an option and can be a serviceable spot starter. I’d be surprised if he were cut.
Designating players for assignment is the easiest way for these spots to be cleared, but it’s not the only way. The Red Sox could also make some trades to clear spots. Of course, that would also mean the trades couldn’t include 40-man players coming back, or in the case of a multi-player deal getting back fewer 40-man players than they gave away. But the possibility is still open. These names are in the order of the likelihood of each possibility.
- Marcus Wilson. We’ve already seen fringe 40-man players with options be traded almost entirely to clear space in the cases of Yoan Aybar and C.J. Chatham. Wilson is the last of those options. This one is a bit more difficult because the Red Sox don’t have a ton of high minors outfield depth, but if they need to they can probably find guys to sign to minor-league deals as they did last year with César Puello.
- Michael Chavis. This one is tough, because Chavis on his own probably doesn’t carry a ton of value right now. However, he also doesn’t really have a spot on the major-league roster. He has options remaining so it’s not like he has to be dealt. It probably makes more sense to send him down to Worcester to start the year if there are no injuries in camp. Still, it’s worth seeing what’s out there.
- Andrew Benintendi. If I had done this two weeks ago Benintendi would be at the top of this list, but it seems like those rumors have cooled. It always made sense to see what was out there for Benintendi, but it also made sense to hold firm at a valuation. If no teams wanted to pay that price, fair enough. There’s an argument for being wary. But there’s no reason for Boston to just give him away either. There’s still a chance someone will step up, especially with outfielders starting to come off the board in free agency, but it seems less likely now.
- Christian Vázquez. His name keeps popping up in rumors so I guess I have to include him, but I’d be very surprised if this actually happened.
In the end, I think we’ll probably get some sort of resolution soon, if for no other reason than they kind of have to figure something out. If I were to guess, I’d go with the Pedroia situation getting resolved and then Payamps and Walden being designated for assignment. What say you?