Get used to all of the comings and goings this holiday season, including on your favorite baseball team. The Boston Red Sox made a number of moves on Friday to jockey their position for improving their roster for 2016.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reported that the Red Sox “have selected infielder Marco Hernandez, right-handed reliever Pat Light and left-handed reliever Williams Jerez to the 40-man roster, protecting them from being eligible in next month’s Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in Nashville,” Tennessee. Smith also stated that “right-handed reliever Anthony Varvaro was outrighted from the major league roster and elected for free agency. Utility infielder Josh Rutledge was designated for assignment.”
While Smith’s article focuses on the three young players whom were protected, it is worth speculating how the Red Sox must feel about their bullpen and the infield at this time of the year.
They just held on to a good, and young, shortstop in Hernandez who hit above .300 last season in the top tier of the minor leagues. Jerez, the Red Sox 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and Light also hold spots with great potential in their arms, or at least great value as assets. If they stay in the organization and perform as expected when ready, combining them with relievers Craig Kimbrel and Koji Uehara (if he stays healthy enough) could make for an incredible bullpen. Add, possibly, Joe Kelly into the mix and the Red Sox may never have to worry about their bullpen for the next three to five years. That is, if the young men are not traded first.
That explains the move to expel Varvaro from Fenway Park, as the 31-year-old righty couldn’t find a way to make himself at home in Boston. He appeared in only nine games in relief, throwing for 11 innings and posting a 4.09 ERA with eight strikeouts. The man could not be trusted to hold the opposition in any of his opportunities, hence the move to release him into free agency.
Yet, what about Rutledge?
The infielder was acquired in a trade for 2013 playoff hero Shane Victorino and cash sent to the Los Angeles Angels. The trade happened for a couple of reasons: to dump Victorino’s contract for a player who only made $527.5 thousand last season and because of the defensive issues in the Red Sox infield.
Former American League MVP second baseman Dustin Pedroia was injured most of the year, making Boston’s All-Star utility player Brock Holt performing almost everywhere on a nightly basis. Add to that Pablo Sandoval‘s almost comical defensive play and the lack of a first baseman, once Mike Napoli was traded away. Travis Shaw was brought up from the minors to help the situation, but that still left second base open if Holt and Shaw were needed elsewhere.
Rutledge’s .966 fielding percentage and three errors at second base was lived with for those 30 games that he appeared, because there wasn’t much else to do. His bat generated a slash line of .284/.333/.338 with a home run and 10 RBIs in 85 plate appearances. With the plan to always have Pedroia return to second, Rutledge was the odd man out of the infield, especially now with Hanley Ramirez scheduled to be the new first baseman, with Shaw and Holt ready to fill in for Han-Ram, Sandoval, or Pedroia if the need arises.
And, let’s not forget that Yoan Moncada, the Cuban phenom in the Red Sox minor league system, is waiting in the wings to replace Pedroia at second, when the elder statesman of the club decides to retire or is forced into retirement by injury. With Moncada, Hernandez, and a number of other top infielding prospects, there is just no room for a solid, but average, infielder like Rutledge on the team.
These kinds of moves always seem small, as they often include names that either are not big yet or who never will be. However, the moves are usually a sign of a much bigger picture that will occur. Are the kids being protected simply so that they can be traded or are they the future? Either way, for Rutledge and Varvaro, their time in Boston has come and gone because of them.