Takeaways from the Boston Red Sox Opening Day roster.
The Boston Red Sox have revealed their Opening Day roster for the 2020 season. While there weren’t many surprises, there are some interesting takeaways to explore.
The first thing you’ll notice is the size of the roster, which includes 30 players to begin the season. Teams must reduce their active roster to 28 players by August 6 and trim it to 26 players by August 20.
That gives clubs a few extra spots to utilize early in the season and that clearly played a part in how the Red Sox constructed their active roster. MLB already intended to add a 26th man to the active roster long before the pandemic altered the course of this season. It will be interesting to see how the Red Sox put that extra active spot to use once the early-season expansion is gradually reduced.
One benefit of expanded rosters is that it makes it far easier to carry three catchers. Jonathan Lucroy and Kevin Plawecki competed in a tight battle for the backup catcher role that began back in spring training. Neither managed to separate themselves significantly in this race but both will end up on the active roster, at least to begin the season.
Jonathan Arauz was a Rule 5 selection who the Red Sox will need to offer back to the Houston Astros if he’s not on the active roster (or injured list) for the entire regular season. Boston rarely takes advantage of Rule 5 picks. Josh Rutledge was a notable recent example in 2016 but he had prior MLB experience, whereas Arauz doesn’t.
It’s easier to keep a Rule 5 player active for 60 games instead of 162, giving Arauz a decent chance to stick around. The versatile infielder is only 21 years old and hasn’t played above Double-A but he impressed on both sides of the ball in camp to earn a roster spot. The expanded roster should help the Red Sox hang on to an asset they might have been forced to give away in a normal season.
Right-handed pitcher Dylan Covey, recently acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays, was added to the 40-man roster earlier in the day, foreshadowing his inclusion on the active roster. He’s an underwhelming option coming off a disastrous season in which he produced a 7.98 ERA in 18 games (12 starts). Boston is desperate for warm bodies to fill their rotation, particularly with Eduardo Rodriguez missing more time than expected, making Covey a potential option to start almost by default.
Some other potential starters were among the surprising omissions from the Opening Day roster.
Zack Godley is a reclamation project who struggled last year but he’s flashed upside in the past, which is more than we can say for Covey. Godley was solid in Wednesday’s rain-shortened exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He probably wouldn’t have been ready to pitch again during the first series of the season against the Orioles, so the Red Sox might simply be stocking up on fresher arms in the short term before adding Godley next week.
Godley’s minor league deal includes an opt-out after one week. A decision will need to be made soon but leaving him off the active roster to open the season gives them the opportunity to stretch out his workload a bit more in a simulated game.
Brian Johnson has been used as a spot starter in previous seasons with varying success. He could also be used as a long reliever following an Opener, which the Red Sox wouldn’t need before next week.
The Red Sox would need to clear a 40-man roster spot in order to add Godley or Johnson. Their exclusion could be a case of the club buying themselves a bit more time before deciding on if they need to designated another player for assignment to open a roster spot.
With 15 pitchers on the active roster, the bullpen will resemble the crowd we typically see following September roster expansion. Only with more social distancing, of course. Unfortunately, there’s not much quality to go along with that quantity.
Early season success will go a long way in determining which players keep their spot when the roster is whittled down over the next few weeks. Expect some shuffling as Boston digs into the depth of their available 60-man player pool.