The Red Sox’s spring slate comes to a close on Tuesday, and with it the team has made its final roster moves. These decisions were made a bit easier on Monday thanks to the news that Matt Barnes and the close contacts that were out due to the former’s positive COVID test have been cleared to return immediately. That situation was setting up for some messy roster decisions for the first few days of the season, but that now goes off the table. Here are the moves the team announced Tuesday morning.
The big one here is Franchy Cordero being ready for the start of the season. His progress has been surprising to me, as in my experience when it is announced that a player may not be ready for the start of the season, that almost always means they won’t be. Teams are understandably cautious this time of year, so once that sentiment is made public it typically means it’s all but inevitable. Cordero has bucked that trend despite his late start to spring, as his timing at the plate has looked really good in his small sample size performance.
Cordero was, of course, on the COVID list, which means he was not technically on the 40-man roster. A spot needed to be cleared so he could officially rejoin the roster, and John Schreiber got the short end of the stick there. That is not much of a surprise as he was always the next obvious man to be cut, but the Red Sox will be hoping he clears waivers. Schreiber is a funky pitcher and it’s not clear if his deception-led style will work in the majors, but he’s had success in the minors and he could serve as solid emergency depth.
The other ripple effect here is that Michael Chavis does indeed get demoted down to the Alternate Site to start the season. With it looking like Cordero wasn’t going to be ready, Chavis’s hot spring had put him firmly in place to start the year in the bigs. However, there’s just no room for him right now with the three-man bench even given his hot March. Christian Arroyo, his main competition on the roster right now, is out of minor-league options, so the decision was fairly easy. That said, Chavis impressed enough this spring that he is almost undoubtedly first in line for a position player call up if and when one is necessary.
Over on the pitching staff, the Red Sox also had one decision to make in their bullpen. After optioning Kevin McCarthy — who remains with the team after his upward mobility clause date came and went on Sunday — the decision came down to Phillips Valdez and Colten Brewer. Neither was particularly sharp this spring, but despite the shakiness Valdez got the edge with Brewer being optioned. This always seemed to be the obvious choice to me if they weren’t going to choose McCarthy, as Valdez had much more success a year ago, even if some of Brewer’s struggles were because he was miscast as a spot starter.
That said, Brewer could be back up on the roster for Thursday as well. Alex Cora said that there’s a “pretty good chance” Eduardo Rodriguez will start the year on the injured list. It seems as though Tanner Houck will start the year in the majors to take that spot in the rotation — Matt Andriese may have been an option before he had to be shut down for a few days as part of the Barnes situation — but they could wait to bring up him until Saturday, when he’s likely to start. That means Brewer could potentially be up for a one-day stint in the majors on Thursday, though that’s just speculation on my part.
There are a couple other bits of news we should mention here as well. For one, Ryan Brasier’s tough start to 2021 continues. He hurt his hand over the offseason, and then had a late start to camp due to a personal issue that was going to cause him to miss the start of the season anyway. Not that delay appears to be getting even longer. Cora announced this morning that the right-handed reliever will miss extra time with a calf strain. How long exactly he’ll be out is still unclear, but the early prognosis is not great.
Finally, the Red Sox did add a little more pitching depth to the organization, signing left-handed reliever Tyler Olson to a minor-league deal. The southpaw has spent parts of five seasons in the majors, most recently with Cleveland in 2017, ‘18, and ‘19. He had signed with the Cubs last winter but did not pitch for them in the season. Over his 94 career innings in the majors, he’s pitched to a 3.83 ERA with a 4.01 FIP, largely succeeding in more of a LOOGY role. The Red Sox have Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez in the majors, but they don’t have a whole lot of left-handed depth waiting in Worcester. This is a nice addition to help with that issue.