Red Sox: More pitchers than bench roles spells trouble for Michael Chavis

LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 02: Michael Chavis #23 of the Boston Red Sox bats during the Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 2, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. The game ended in a 11-11 tie. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 02: Michael Chavis #23 of the Boston Red Sox bats during the Spring Training game against the Detroit Tigers at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 2, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. The game ended in a 11-11 tie. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Red Sox likely to carry a 14-man pitching staff, three-man bench

With the first workout of the spring commencing today, the time has come to see some of the offseason speculation surrounding players turn into reality. The Boston Red Sox have had a very busy offseason and made a string of moves to improve the team for both the short-term and long-term, with the latest coming yesterday.

Many of the moves on the offensive side of the ball consisted of signings that give the team flexibility to play multiple players at one position on any given day. The likes of Kiké Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez allow manager Alex Cora the freedom to give a player the day off knowing the team has a back-up for that individual spot on the field.

In addition to two players that are multi-positional, there lies the necessity of carrying a position that is far less versatile in the catching spot. Backup-catcher is another spot that must be taken into account, with Kevin Plawecki (currently on the COVID-19 protocol list) sure to lock this spot down for the coming season.

On Tuesday evening, Cora made an appearance on NESN to discuss the state of the roster and mentioned that the team would likely move forward with a 14-man rotation and just a three-man bench.

After a season that saw a total of 27 pitchers participate in a dreadful 60-game showing in 2020, the front office took efforts to build a more sustainable bullpen and rotation a priority. The team has since claimed a pitcher in this winter’s Rule 5 Draft, signed multiple pitchers at a reasonable cost, and even gone as far as to make a rare trade with the Yankees to acquire veteran relief pitcher Adam Ottavino. The nature in which these players have found their way to the roster varies, but the message is clear: build off of what worked last season and do the same over the course of this season.

At first glance, last year’s team that finished the season 24-36 was clearly unstable on the pitching side of things but the general consensus seemed to be that the offense would help to offset the lack of arms. The hitting too, diminished. Several key players fell off a cliff offensively, looking to turn back the clock and find their footing this season.

Overall, the future certainly looks more promising in regards to yielding runs after a productive offseason, at least for players with a guaranteed role on the team. On the flip side, players who had a guaranteed role with the team to begin the offseason are now on the hot seat considering the lack of space on the bench.

In the event that Hernandez is utilized as a true, everyday second baseman, this allows a little breathing room for some fringe talent but his ability to play all over the diamond is too good of a commodity to pass up. The same goes for Gonzalez, who is likely to be both a fourth outfielder, play some middle infield and platoon at first base. The ability that one of Hernandez or Gonzalez will be starting on either day essentially makes the two interchangeable, and the inevitable backup catcher role will certainly take up another spot. That leaves the remaining spot up to late-season addition Christian Arroyo, who the front office is high on, or homegrown talent Michael Chavis, who himself has his flaws but has some benefits regarding service time that Arroyo lacks.

Chavis had a very tough campaign this past season, seeing time at multiple positions but never truly carving out a role while doing so. Drafted as a natural shortstop, the 25-year-old has played every infield position besides shortstop since debuting in 2019.

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In 2020, a majority of the right-handed hitter’s starts came at first base, initially sharing duties with left-handed-hitting Mitch Moreland before his eventual departure in a trade to the Padres. He played 24 games there, the most at any of the positions he manned. In addition to those 24 games, he started 12 in left field, and eight at second base. His fielding was not so much the issue as it was other players at each relative position were more productive with the bat.

Chavis’ ceiling is clearly much higher than we have seen to this point in his career but to date, there has not been much to show for his offensive potential, with his swing having a clear hole in it.

Still, just a 25-year-old with minor league options remaining, Boston has the flexibility to stash him away for further development in Triple-A if the coaching staff does not like what they see this spring. The ability to option him if need be is something Arroyo lacks as all of his minor league options have been used since his debut in 2017. Barring an outstanding showing from Chavis in Fort Myers, he could in fact be optioned with the backup job going to Arroyo. With Cora’s aforementioned comments about carrying three men on the bench likely to remain in effect, battles for a role on the roster are surely in order.

There is also an alternate path that could be taken– considering younger players in the minor leagues will soon be seasoned enough to earn a call-up, Chavis could be an eventual trade candidate. Should he have a good showing this spring or if a team is willing to offer enough to acquire his talents, CBO Chaim Bloom would likely be more than willing to make a transaction involving him.

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The battle of the bench will be a must-watch this spring. Chavis is sure to be one of the most interesting players to watch as Grapefruit League games begin, and he is likely aware of this himself. If he performs to his best ability, he could very well earn himself a spot. If not, a trade or demotion could be in order. Time will tell.