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Where can the Red Sox make 40-man room?

We’ve talked about possible additions, but it’s not as simple as that.

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MLB: Boston Red Sox-Workouts David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Since the lockout went into effect shortly after the start of December and the entire world of MLB went into hiatus, we have spent a whole lot of time looking at potential additions the Boston Red Sox could make whenever the lockout is lifted. We will probably continue to do so, too, because what else are we going to talk about!? The roster is incomplete and frozen in time, and we’ve had substantial time thinking about what should come next and what else the roster could use to maximize its potential.

Of course, we know adding players isn’t just as easy as deciding you want them on the roster. Even putting aside the nuances of negotiations and team budgets and all of that good stuff, even simply putting a player on the roster is not just a matter of clicking a button. The 40-man roster needs to be at, well, 40 players, meaning that most of the time an addition is made there is a subsequent move to take a player off the 40-man roster in order to make room. So while it’s great to think about all the ways the Red Sox could feasibly improve via free agency and/or trade, we should also think about how they can fit any of these additions on the roster.

Before we get into some players that could find themselves on the chopping block after the lockout, it’s probably best to start simply where the Red Sox stand now, and at the moment they have 39 players on the 40-man. My degree in mathematics tells me that means Boston has one more player they can add without having to make a counter move. That said, there is also the Rule 5 Draft that will presumably take place shortly after the lockout concludes, and the Chaim Bloom Sox have been active in that event. That doesn’t mean they will be again this year with a deeper roster than they’ve had the last few winters, but they may want to keep that spot open just in case someone they like falls to them.

On the other side of the equation, they may be able to quickly make another space by moving James Paxton to the 60-day injured list. Typically such a move can’t be part of the offseason shuffle as teams have to wait until around the start of spring training, but the lockout means the start of spring training likely won’t be too long after transactions pick back up.

All of that is to say the Red Sox may have one or two spots that can be filled without a counter move. That could potentially be enough if they go lighter than expected on the other side of the lockout, but given a clear need in the outfield and another in the infield (whether that’s a starter or a bench player is a different discussion) as well as plenty of need in the bullpen and perhaps in the rotation as well, I would guess more than two spots will be needed. So with that in mind, here are some players who could be taken off the 40-man to make room for newcomers.

J.D. Martinez

We’ll start with the big ticket and probably the least likely to be used to make 40-man room. Certainly that would not be the main goal of trading Martinez, which is different from most of his companions on this list, but it could be a side effect. I’m not really expecting this to happen, but when the DH is added to the National League that opens up half the league as a new market for Martinez. The Red Sox could trade him for prospects, not only adding a 40-man spot but also opening up a route for them to easily fit someone like Kyle Schwarber on the roster as a free agent. Of course, they could also trade him for help elsewhere on the major-league roster, which would be a potentially worthwhile move but a meaningless one from our 40-man perspective.

Hudson Potts, Jeisson Rosario

We’re paring these two together because, well, it’s kind of hard to separate them. These two prospects were acquired during the 2020 season as the trade return for Mitch Moreland. It was seen as a big haul at the time but the San Diego Padres were willing to make that move because both were Rule 5 eligible the following winter and they didn’t have 40-man space. Boston did and added them prior to last season, but both saw their stocks drop last season. It’s never easy to give up on prospects, especially after one season, but sneaking them through waivers may be a necessity this winter.

Jonathan Araúz

I mentioned above Bloom’s activity in the Rule 5 Draft since coming to Boston, and Araúz was the first example of that. While the infielder didn’t make anywhere near the impact that fellow Rule 5 draftee Garrett Whitlock did, but he has looked the part of a solid bench infielder for two years now. The offense is probably limited enough that he shouldn’t be a starter on a contending roster, but if all develops well he can be the top infield depth option on the bench. Of course, it’s also just as likely, perhaps more so, that he is out of the majors in a couple years. I’m guessing he’s far down on the list to DFA or trade in a minor deal to make roster room, but he has to be a consideration.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Austin Davis

Now, I should be clear in saying that I don’t think Davis should be high on this list. When the team acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates last summer I did not get it all, and I still think he’s probably just a middle reliever. That said, he was mostly solid after the trade and especially so against lefties. The team, for whatever reason, did not really seem to like what they saw though, because he was sparingly used down the stretch and in the postseason. I think he’s probably higher on the list of potential cuts than we may expect, but the lack of left-handed bullpen options might keep him safe.

Phillips Valdez

Although it was likely in large part because of who he was being compared to alongside him on the pitching staff, Valdez was a bright spot from that dismal 2020 season. He had a strange pitching style that leaned heavily on his changeup that seemed to keep hitters off-balance, and he proved to be a nice arm to have who can fill long and middle relief roles. He didn’t really take a next step forward last season, though, and the ceiling just isn’t high enough for him to be totally safe on the roster.

Kevin Plawecki

We’ll end with another major-league player who could possibly be traded. Again, just like with Martinez I’m not expecting this to happen, but with both Connor Wong and Ronaldo Hernández on the roster perhaps they will try to grab an interesting prospect while clearing a 40-man spot. Neither of the young catchers have probably shown enough for that to happen, but it’s not impossible.

In order of least likely to most likely to be used to make 40-man roster* room, I would rank the above players as:

*Trading for another major-league player would not count for these purposes.

  1. Kevin Plawecki
  2. J.D. Martinez
  3. Austin Davis
  4. Jonathan Araúz
  5. Jeisson Rosario
  6. Phillips Valdez
  7. Hudson Potts

What say you?