Today is the Monday after the All-Star rosters were announced, which can only mean one thing: It’s snub day. This is something that happens in every sport every year, with All-Stars being announced and then all of the experts lining up to debate who did not get in that was deserving. The thing about the snub conversation, however, is that it is extremely easy to find players who are deserving of an All-Star nod, but it is often much more difficult to find the other half of the equation, i.e. finding the person who deserves to lose their spot on the roster. It’s the kind of topic that is made for sports debate shows, but typically falls apart when you add a little more nuance into the conversation.
Red Sox fans this year in particular aren’t quite in a position to be complaining about a lack of All-Star representation. The five players making the American League roster from Boston — Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers as starters, J.D. Martinez as a reserve, and Nathan Eovaldi and Matt Barnes as pitchers — topped all of baseball, with three other teams grabbing four nods. So the Red Sox got their due credit for a great first half with the most All-Stars in baseball. It’s impossible to say they got a snub, right? Especially if you have to find another roster spot?
Nothing is impossible when you put your mind to it. The Red Sox bullpen has been such a big part of this team, and so if you’re looking for a snub their middle relief corps is the place to do it. And while there are a few viable All-Star options from that group, it seems to me that, if you are looking for another name, look no further than Garrett Whitlock, who at least has a case to be heading to Denver later this month.
The rookie has been consistently fantastic for the Red Sox all season, tossing 41 innings in relief and pitching to a 1.54 ERA with a 26 percent strikeout rate and a walk rate under seven percent. There have been 110 relievers in the American League to toss at least 20 innings this season, and only four have lower ERA’s than Whitlock, and none of them have the workload of the Red Sox righty. That combination of workload and performance is his best case, as it is rare to find a guy who can go out and give you multiple innings every appearance and keep up this low of an ERA. Only Scott Barlow joins Whitlock among American League relievers with at least 40 innings of work and an ERA under 2.00.
We know these kinds of recognition, whether it be All-Star or end-of-season awards, also come with a narrative tie-in as well, but Whitlock does check that box in addition to having the numbers. He is not only a rookie looking for his first trip to the game, but he’s also a Rule 5 selection. That he is even in the conversation after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft is amazing. And then when you throw in the fact that he was a Rule 5 pick taken by the Red Sox from the Yankees of all teams ups the stakes even a little bit more.
Now, as we said at the top, it’s easy to say a player has a strong case. It’s more difficult to find a spot for them to fill on the roster in the place of someone who is not deserving. And for Whitlock, there are a few factors standing in his way on the roster. First and foremost, there just aren’t many relievers, with the American League sending only five true relievers to the game. And on top of that, there are a number of other relievers with similar cases to Whitlock. He’s the only one we care about since he’s on the Red Sox, but he’s certainly not the only deserving reliever not already on the roster.
The easiest way to make room for Whitlock would be to replace a position player with a reliever, and J.D. Martinez may be the best case to make that room. Martinez has had an All-Star caliber season as well, but there are three DH’s on the roster (including Shohei Ohtani), and Nelson Cruz makes sense to be the only Twins representative, which leaves Martinez as the odd man out.
That doesn’t feel right, though. The other place to look is simply for the worst players, but MLB’s rule that every team must have at least one rep also makes that more difficult. The two players that would be easiest to replace in that sense would be Detroit’s Gregory Soto or Seattle’s Yusei Kikuchi. But there are not other logical replacements for those teams, with Detroit having Akil Baddoo but no obvious outfielder to remove, while Seattle has J.P. Crawford in a similar situation at shortstop.
So, at the very least, Whitlock has a case to be an All-Star, but as always finding space on the roster is not quite as simple.
What’s that? Aroldis Chapman made the team? Okay, maybe it’s not as difficult as I thought.