The Red Sox officially opened their camp for pitchers and catchers late last week, and as you read this on Monday they are just getting started with their first official full-team workouts. For the most part, their roster is set, with perhaps one more signing coming in the bullpen, though even that is not clear at this point. However, just because they may be done adding to the major-league roster doesn’t mean they can’t make any more additions organizationally.
At this point on the calendar with spring training just getting started, we will start to see some veterans signing minor-league deals, often with opt outs at the end of camp. It gives the player a chance to be in a formal spring training setting with a chance to win a job, and if not they can hit the free agent market again at the end of spring after all 30 teams have had a chance to see them. For the teams, they get a chance to add a bit more depth at positions of need.
To that end, last week we looked at where the Red Sox may need that extra depth by taking a look at what was waiting in the wings in Triple-A. For the most part, Boston was decently enough well set, which is a far cry from where they were a year ago. With that being said, they could still use a bit more help, specifically at shortstop, center field, and both starting and relief pitching. The latter spots aren’t necessarily needs so much as places where it never hurts to add one or more arms.
As things stand right now, Boston has 70 players on their spring training roster, which means they have five more spots to fill. Some of those could come internally, say by keeping whoever they may designate for assignment to make room for Marwin Gonzalez. But still, they should be able to find one or two spots for these kinds of veterans who will take a deal in which they can opt out at the end of spring. Below is a list of ten such potential free agents at which they could look.
Danny Santana, UTIL
Versatility has been the name of the game for the Red Sox this winter, with the aforementioned addition of Gonzalez as well as Enrique Hernández, both of whom can play all around the diamond. Santana would serve as a little bit of insurance in case they went down, and he adds a little bit of needed skillset as someone who has played both center field and shortstop. The issue is his bat has largely been nonexistent. Over the last four seasons, he finished with a wRC+ below 60 three times, meaning in those seasons he was more than 40 percent worse than league-average. However, in 2019 he had a 111 wRC+ (11 percent better than league-average) over 500 plate appearances. That year looks like a fluke, but it’s worth hoping for a rebound with a no-risk minor-league deal.
Eric Sogard, INF
Sogard, aka the former nearly Face of MLB, has bounced around the league over the last few years, and is still a free agent at this point. He is mostly a second baseman, which isn’t really a position of need, but he can play shortstop when needed and would provide a bit of insurance up the middle. Say Christian Arroyo goes down in camp, Sogard’s presence would preclude a situation where Michael Chavis has to start the year in the majors. If he earns it, great. But if not, it’d be nice to have a way to make sure he can still go get those Triple-A at bats. Sogard, for his part, is similar to Santana in a way, coming off a dismal 2020 but was above-average at the plate in 2019. It’s also worth mentioning Boston just traded for his cousin, Nick, in the trade last week with the Rays.
Jarrod Dyson, CF
The Red Sox could really use some help in center field, but the market beyond Jackie Bradley Jr. is almost entirely dried up, including potential minor-league additions. Dyson is about all that is left, though he’s not a bad option in this context. Offensively, he’s not bringing a whole lot to the table. His 68 wRC+ in 2019 is actually his best mark over the last four years. That said, he provides elite speed and very good defense. They could bring him in for camp and decide whether or not they need that glove work on their bench for late-game substitutions.
Mike Leake, SP
As I said at the top, Boston doesn’t necessarily need more starting depth, as they are much improved in that area compared to last season. On the other hand, their top three of Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Richards all carry significant health and/or workload questions, and it’s better to have too much pitching than the alternative. Leake is about as unexciting as it gets and he didn’t pitch last year, but he’s been a roughly league-average pitcher for most of his career.
Tommy Milone, SP
Milone is another Leake-type pitcher in that he gives up a lot of contact and it really comes down to how difficult or easy he is to square up on any given day. It’s not an ideal profile, but, well, there’s a reason these guys could be available on minor-league deals. To Milone’s credit, he actually did miss more bats last season and was pretty good for two-thirds of the season. That was two-thirds of a shortened season, though, and after being traded to the Braves for the stretch run his performance went in the tank.
Aníbal Sánchez, SP
This would be something of a full-circle for Sánchez, who started his professional career with Boston way back when before being traded to the Marlins as part of the Josh Beckett deal. That should give you an idea of how long Sánchez has been around. A few years ago in 2018, after his career appeared to be all but over, he reinvented himself and put together a really good season, and followed it up with another strong one in 2019. Last season was rough, though, and now there are questions about if he can still produce as he enters his age-37 season. A non-guaranteed spring training deal with his original club seems like a good place to prove he can still sling it.
David Robertson, RP
Robertson was once one of the most consistent late-inning relievers in the game, spending most of his career with the Yankees along with a few years in Chicago as the White Sox closer. He suffered a major arm injury early in 2019, and he’s still working his way back now. He’s thrown for teams recently, though, and by all accounts looked good. This would be, to me, an ideal move for the Red Sox if he does indeed have to settle for a minor-league deal. To be fair, I’m not sure whether or not that will be the case. But Boston could use some more options late in games, and taking a low-risk chance on him being able to enter that mix is all upside.
Tony Cingrani, RP
The Red Sox don’t really need another lefty in their bullpen, as they should have Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor either on the roster or at least as options all year. However, they don’t have a whole lot of depth beyond them from the left side. Phillips Valdez and his changeup-heavy approach is a pseudo-lefty, but having more depth is always better. Cingrani was once one of the better left-handed middle relievers in the game, but he’s been dealing with injuries for a couple of years now and he hasn’t taken a major-league mound since 2018. At the same time, he’s still only 31, so it’s worth taking a look and seeing if he can be that third lefty in the organization.
José Álvarez. RP
Álvarez is another lefty, and might be a bit of a stretch here as a minor-league signing. At this point on the calendar, though, options for free agents are running thin. For Álvarez, he has never really been a late-inning arm but he’s been a very strong lefty for years, putting up better-than-average ERAs in every year besides his rookie season, and typically significantly better. He didn’t really get much of a chance to pitch last season, though, after getting hit in the groin with a line drive. He could be a steal and arguably the player on this list who would have the best chance of making a major-league roster.
Ian Kennedy, RP
Kennedy has had something of a bizarre career. He’s a former top prospect who had a couple of strong seasons as a starter early in his career before settling in as a back-end arm for most of his career. Then, in 2019, he served as the Royals closer and was fantastic in that role before coming back last season and struggling mightily. His stock was very high after 2019, but now that’s his only true good season over the last four, and as a 36-year-old he may have a hard time finding a guaranteed deal. But on a minor-league deal, it’s worth seeing if 2020 was actually the fluke.