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One Big Question: Does Joel Payamps have a role?

He’s been bouncing around the league all winter. Can he land softly with the Red Sox?

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

Welcome to the annual Over The Monster One Big Question season preview series. Over the next 40(ish) days, we will be running through every player on the 40-man roster and identifying a key question for them pertaining to the coming season. This should run us up to the start of the season, at least as it is scheduled now. We will go through the roster in alphabetical order. For the most part, these will run Monday through Friday every week running up to the week before Opening Day, though expect some weekend posts mixed in as well as the 40-man is expected to continue to be altered before the start of the season. You can catch up with every post by following this link. Today we take a look at Joel Payamps.

One Big Question: What’s Joel Payamps’s role with this team?

It’s been a hell of a winter for Joel Payamps, who spent 2020 with the Diamondbacks, most of that time coming at the Alternate Site with a couple of appearances with the big-league club. That is the organization with whom he’d been since 2016, a place that had presumably become home for him. That was all going to change after the season, as he was placed on waivers and subsequently picked up by the Red Sox. That’s life for a baseball player, I suppose. He stuck on the Red Sox roster for a couple of months, but shortly before pitchers and catchers were set to report to Fort Myers, he was designated for assignment by the Red Sox and subsequently claimed by the Blue Jays. And then, a couple weeks after that, the Blue Jays placed him right back on waivers, where he was once again claimed by the Red Sox. At that point I’m not really sure how I’d react.

But Payamps is here with the Red Sox organization, at least for the time being, though that could change again. Boston will need to clear a couple of roster spots when Kevin Plawecki and Franchy Cordero are ready to return from the COVID list, and Payamps figures to be one of the players on the roster bubble. And so while most of these posts are focused on the medium-term, as in what a player can do over the course of 2021, it’s different for Payamps. He is one of the few players very much playing for a job right now, and not just auditioning for the Red Sox but rather for the entire league. But we’re focused on the Red Sox, and the logical question to ask here is just what his role would figure to be on this roster.

We should mention that while Payamps has been passed around like a hot potato, it’s not as though he has not shown himself to be a useful pitcher. Teams have put him on waivers, but it’s just as notable that another team (including the Red Sox twice) has always been willing to put in a claim. Payamps, who turns 27 shortly after Opening Day, has long been solid through his time in the minors.

None of his numbers jump out in particular, but he’s been roughly average with his results while pitching largely in hitter-friendly leagues out in the western part of the country (i.e. the Cal League and PCL) and he’s missed bats at a solid rate while showing off good control. He’s also bounced around between bullpens and rotations, a quality that can be more difficult than it seems and valuable for a player like him who keeps finding himself on the roster fringe.

But that brings us to the problem specifically with him regarding the Red Sox, in that he is another swingman. On the one hand, you really can’t have too many arms, which about as old an adage as baseball has. And that he can fill multiple roles makes him more flexible and theoretically easier to fit onto the roster. On the other hand, the Red Sox already have a whole lot of fringe-type pitchers who can bounce between roles if need be. On the major-league roster, Matt Andriese and Garrett Whitlock both figure to serve in that kind of role, and then moving down into the minors you have guys like Colten Brewer, Ryan Weber and Stephen Gonsalves, to say nothing of prospects like Connor Seabold or Bryan Mata or even guys like Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck who are no sure bet to stick in the rotation. You can never have too many arms, but then again... Can you?

And so all of this really sets up for Payamps to prove to the Red Sox, and the rest of the league, that he is worth making room for. He’ll have the spring to do it, as long as he’s not put back into waiver wire limbo. But again, he has a solid enough track record that he keeps getting claimed, and the arsenal is there for something interesting. Payamps comes from the right side with a fastball that can sit in the low-to-mid 90s along with a solid slider and a changeup. It’s an arsenal that can play in short stints and the changeup is good enough that you can four or five innings out of him for a few spot starts in a row.

As I said at the top, there’s risk that Payamps will be right back on waivers whenever Plawecki or Cordero is ready to be reactivated off the COVID list. Plawecki, for what it’s worth, is actually already back to working out and so he’ll probably be activated soon. Hell, anyone who has read this site knows there’s a high probability he will be activated, and Payamps will be designated for assignment 20 minutes after this publishes. Such is life for us here at OTM, and more important such is life for Payamps these last few months. But he keeps landing somewhere. His skillset is one that overlaps with a lot of the arms on the roster fringe for the Red Sox, so I’m not really sure I see a great fit on this roster.

But there should be a fit somewhere, and as long as he’s on this roster, he’ll at least get his spring appearances to audition for the league as a whole. And the end goal for the organization, presumably, will be to sneak him through waivers, keeping him on as depth off of the 40-man.