Roster questions remain as the Red Sox prepare for spring training
Once again, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association were unable to find common ground in regards to a deal between the two parties in terms of when the season would commence. Other negotiations included if the universal designated hitter should remain in effect and if the expanded playoffs will remain a fixture in October baseball. The Players’ Association rejected MLB’s latest proposal to push back spring training and season in favor of starting the 2021 season as scheduled. The Boston Red Sox pitchers and catchers will make their way to Ft. Myers, Florida in two weeks. Numerous questions remain regarding the roster and if the team is done making additions or subtractions.
As it stands, Boston’s starting outfield is set to consist of Andrew Benintendi in left field, Alex Verdugo in center field, and Hunter Renfroe in right field. The only other outfielder projected to make the Opening Day roster is J.D. Martinez who slates in at the DH position.
With the recent addition of multi-positional talent Kiké Hernandez, the puzzle of who might see time as a fourth outfielder is at least addressed in some capacity but he is likely to see more time at second base. Other players on the 26-man roster who have seen time in the outfield include Michael Chavis. The 25-year-old’s name has circulated as a potential player to watch as the 40-man roster crunch that needs at least two more open spots lingers.
Yet another addition to the club via free agent signing to add depth in the outfield would come as no surprise considering the fact that there are still 22 free agents listed as outfielders available (additional outfielders are listed as designated hitters, per MLB.com.) With a tight budget after adding Adam Ottavino from the Yankees via trade early last week, the likelihood of a big-name addition (see Jackie Bradley Jr.) is probably out of the question, although Boston’s desire for both depth and defense in the outfield could tempt them to exceed the CBT threshold if the price is right to retain the homegrown center fielder. Boston must be under the threshold by the end of the season to avoid a tax penalty so if they add now with the intention of slashing salary to get back under the $210 million, the team will not face any repercussions.
The utility role is another big question mark for the team this upcoming season. With Hernandez more likely to play second base alongside one of Christian Arroyo or Chavis this season, the team has reportedly been in pursuit of an answer for a true utility infielder after operating with Rule 5 selection Jonathan Arauz and Yairo Munoz in that role last season. Neither were especially productive but were at least serviceable options when called upon. The team is rumored to be heavy favorites for former Minnesota Twin Marwin Gonzalez.
In snatching up a player like Gonzalez, the team would further address the versatility the roster desperately seeks along with a productive bat to move around the lineup. The asking price for the veteran is unknown but would not likely come at an overbearing cost considering he had a down year in 2020, hitting .211. The potential for a return to form is not out of the question and he would be a good fit on the roster, likely pushing Arauz back to the minors for more development on a regular playing schedule.
The front office is likely satisfied with the depth in the starting pitching department for the time being. There does not appear a sense of urgency to look into adding further starters unless the opportunity truly presents itself. The Red Sox currently have eight pitchers who are capable of starting games and have reportedly planned on starting the year with a six-man rotation.
In Rule 5 selection Garrett Whitlock, free-agent signing Matt Andriese, and last year’s waiver claim Chris Mazza, the team has three capable swingmen who can pivot between the bullpen and the rotation. Boston has quietly built up its pitching depth for the better of the team and could look to add at least one established arm to the bullpen to continue its growth as a positive asset for the club.
A late-inning right-handed reliever would make the most sense on paper considering the fact that the team has more than enough pitchers capable of throwing multiple innings and an abundance of southpaws on the roster. A familiar face could be an option in Brandon Workman, whose name has been mentioned as a target to return to Boston after posting abysmal numbers in a deadline swap to the Philadelphia Phillies this past season.
All of these scenarios are still up in the air but with the recent confirmation that the season will in fact start in time, many of the moves that have been put on the back burner should come to fruition in the near future. With longtime cornerstone Dustin Pedroia calling it a career early this month, one of the three 40-man roster spots has been cleared to make way for the yet to be official signings of Martin Perez, Garrett Richards, and the aforementioned Kiké Hernandez. Keep your eyes peeled for more additions and potential departures for players whose names are in limbo.