The Red Sox just activated Christian Arroyo from the injured list. Surprisingly, instead of optioning either Enmanuel Valdez or Jarren Duran to Triple-A Worcester, the team DFA’d Raimel Tapia to make room for Arroyo. This was the wrong decision.
If you look at this move on the surface it makes some sense. Duran has a better wRC+ at 108 vs 92 for Tapia. You could also argue that, even though Tapia has a nearly identical wRC+ to Valdez, the current roster construction makes the middle infielder more valuable than Tapia. I’d argue that looking at solely these numbers is a mistake.
Tapia was on this team to be a bench outfielder who can steal bases and hit right-handed pitching. So far this year he came in and slashed .309/.373/.441 against righties with a 124 wRC+ while stealing six bases and logging innings at all three outfield spots. He complimented Rob Refsnyder extremely well, allowing Cora to mix and match the outfielders off the bench late in games depending on who was on the mound. He could also serve as a pinch runner in key spots.
Conversely though, Duran started off scorching hot he has cooled off to the point of being barely usable at all. In April, Duran slashed .396/.415/.646 with a 182 wRC+. In May he came plummeting back to Earth slashing .236/.292/.371 good for a 78 wRC+. Now that June has come around he is in the depths of an epic slump posting a 22 wRC+ to start the month. This isn’t simply a miserable four days in June type slump either, if we look back two weeks he is slashing .146/.205/195 which equates to a -4 wRC+. Again with wRC+ 100 is league average. Over this time he is striking out an unsightly 45.5% of the time.
Duran’s defense has certainly improved but offensively it’s clear that pitchers still don’t fear him. He is hitting .174 vs four-seam fastballs this season and pitchers are giving him a steady diet of heaters at 37.6 percent. He’s performing well or at least average against all other types of pitches, so perhaps Alex Cora, hitting coach Pete Fatse, and Chaim Bloom think his issues against the fastball can be easily fixed.
If it wasn’t Duran going down then why not Valdez? His defense at second base has been just as bad as advertised, as he has been worth -3 Outs Above Average. Arroyo, who has been a +1 at the position throughout his career, could have surely worked himself in at some combination of second base and shortstop while sharing time at those positions with Enrique Hernandez and Pablo Reyes. On the hitting side, the bat-first Valdez has been scuffling over the last two weeks, slashing .167/.194/.267 with a 16 wRC+.
Not sending down Valdez makes very little sense especially since he offers little to no benefit on either side of the ball. Not sending down Duran makes slightly more sense since the defense is good and he is at least having success against some pitch types. Overall, Tapia was doing the job he was brought to Boston to do and was doing it well. Rather than optioning one of these two scuffling younger players the Red Sox are sure to lose the speedy and competent veteran as he will be scooped up by a needy team in a heartbeat.
Adam Duvall will be activated on June 9th, so one of either Duran or Valdez will likely be going down soon, anyway. Cora’s verbal commitment to Duran today makes me think he is safe and Valdez will be the guy heading back to Worcester. If Cora and the Sox really are concerned about team defense, they have no choice but to send down Valdez and allow the defensively sound Reyes remain on the team until Yu Chang is ready to be activated.
Cora on activating Arroyo and DFA-ING Tapia: “Tough one…But we trust in Jarren… Jarren will be here. He’s part of this. … Where the game is going, he fits the mold.”— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) June 5, 2023
Now, if this is the Red Sox way of waving the white flag and seeing what we have in the kids then fine, but say that. Then we should soon see the team DFA Corey Kluber and other poor performing veterans on short-term deals. I think it’s too early for the Red Sox to be making these types of decisions and, although the team is in last place, they are still a game above .500.
The Red Sox were a better team with Raimel Tapia. Read into that whatever you will.