Red Sox Roster Manipulation

The Red Sox have had an active season with transactions due to injury, ineffectiveness, and ineffectiveness caused by injury. The Sox disabled list currently boasts 11 players spread out over the three disabled lists used by Major League Baseball and has caused the 40-man roster to bloat to an ungainly 46 men. But with Jhonny Peralta looking to become the ninth man to play  third base this season, and rumblings of Carson Smith going on a rehab assignment in the near future, the Red Sox will need to continue their juggling.

The Rules of Transactional Manipulation

As mentioned, the Red Sox have 11 players on the disabled lists provided by MLB for injury protection. Let’s take a look at the players and the adjustments necessary for them to regain their position on the 25-man roster.

Seven-Day DL – Utility infielder Josh Rutledge is the only man currently on the shortest disabled list, which is used strictly for head injuries. Rutledge was placed on the DL with a concussion on June 24 and could presumably be activated as soon as the beginning of July. Rutledge, still considered a part of the 40-man roster, would be able to regain his position on the Red Sox by being activated off the DL at the same time that another player who has options available is sent back to the minors.

Ten-Day DL – Currently occupied by pitchers Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Robbie Ross Jr. as well as the injured Panda Pablo Sandoval. Rodriguez is slated to have a rehab start in Portland on Thursday.  His activation (like that of the other three) back to the 25-man roster follows the same process as that of the seven-day DL: an active player must be  optioned back to the minors. In the case of the three pitchers, each could be taken off the MLB DL and optioned directly back to the minors as well.

60-Day DL – The longest of the disabled lists allows the MLB team, in essence, an extra 40-man roster spot.

For example, on June 24, when Josh Rutledge was placed on the concussion DL, his movement opened up a 25-man roster space which would eventually be utilized by Tzu-Wei Lin. However, as Boston’s 40-man roster space was full and Lin was not on that roster, an additional move to free up 40-man space was needed. The move the Red Sox decided to make was to move Brock Holt – on the 10-day DL since April 21 with Vertigo – to the 60-man DL, which opened up a 40-man spot for Lin.

This DL is usually not occupied by a half-dozen ballplayers, but nothing about the Red Sox situation this year is typical. Tyler Thornburg, Steven Wright, and Marco Hernandez have all had major surgery during this season and have been ruled from a return for the rest of the season. Holt has cut short  multiple rehab assignments as his condition continued to persist. Who knows when or if he may be ready to help the Sox this season.

Which leaves pitchers Roenis Elias and Carson Smith. Elias had one rehab start for Salem in early May which did not go well, and his rehab assignment was quickly scuttled. His prognosis is currently unknown. Smith, on the other hand, has begun throwing with a rehab assignment to be determined in the near future.

Smith and Peralta – the Path to the 25

Peralta, recently released by the St. Louis Cardinals, was signed to a minor league contract by the Boston Red Sox on June 23. Given the lack of 3rd base options on the Red Sox, showing a pulse in Pawtucket may be enough to quickly see Peralta inserted into the third base equation.

However, as he was signed to a minor league contract, the Red Sox will have to continue their 40-man maneuvering. None of the players on the ten-day DL appear to have injuries that will last into August, so adding a further name to the 60-day list seems unlikely.

Boston therefore faces culling the 40-man list, which may not be as easy as it seems. Since the beginning of the season, the Red Sox have added Blaine Boyer, Doug Fister, Austin Maddox, Ben Taylor, Hector Velazquez, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Sam Travis to the 40-man roster. With Boyer, Fister, Lin, and Travis currently on the Boston roster, waiving any of those four seems unlikely at this time. Furthermore, Travis, Lin, Maddox, and Taylor would all seem to be a potential part of the Red Sox longer-term future and Velazquez is an optionable starter – a need with the Red Sox current propensity for injury and Henry Owens’s walking woes which have seen him demoted to AA Portland. We will need to look elsewhere.

When one looks at the Red Sox 40-man roster, one notices the large array of pitchers on the list. But the Red Sox options here are limited as well. Maddox, Taylor, Velazquez, Kyle Martin, and Brandon Workman all have multiple options still available, giving the Red Sox pitching depth not only for this season, but for next as well. Noe Ramirez has been fungible at the major league record, but still adds additional depth for Boston.

Then there is Luis Ysla. Now in his fifth minor league season, the 25-year-old southpaw has not shown any discernable pitching skills since his promotion to High-A in 2015. In his 22 games this season for the AA Portland Sea Dogs, Ysla has a 6.54 ERA and a 1.863 WHIP. Jamie Callahan, Josh Smith, Ty Buttrey, and Bobby Poyner have already passed Ysla on the minor league relief depth chart. If Peralta makes his move quickly, Ysla is likely the man to be waived.

What of Carson Smith. What if he is ready to come back within the next month? What other moves do the Red Sox have?

Whatever moves the Red Sox make in this case will probably result in a slightly deeper cut than they truly would prefer to make. The Red Sox have three potential options:

  1. Cut another pitcher. Workman or Ramirez, despite riding the shuttle this season, seem to be the most likely casualties in this case simply due to their age. Or, given the congestion on the MLB roster, they Red Sox may look to move a current pen pitcher off the roster – possibly dangling Fernando Abad or Blaine Boyer on the trade market.
  2. Cut Steve Selsky. Selsky, who began the year with Boston as their designated bench warmer, gives the Red Sox depth as their only minor league outfielder who is on the current PawSox shuttle. He is also able to play first base, giving Boston additional options. With an option year left for next season as well, this would be a hard decision for the front office to have to make.
  3. Cut Deven Marrero. This may be the toughest cut of all as the Red Sox are infatuated with Deven’s defensive skills. It is also unlikely to happen unless multiple other dominoes fall: Peralta or Panda show some type of competence offensively and defensively at third and/or Lin shows his AA stat line can translate to the majors this year and/or the Red Sox make a move for another third baseman on the trade market and/or Rutledge or Holt come back from their head injuries. But, being on his final option year and showing no discernable hitting skills, Marrero is unlikely to be in the Red Sox plans next season, which might be enough to push him off the roster.

Of course, with Smith’s potential re-emergence unlikely to happen for another few weeks, there may be one more option that would be palatable to many Red Sox fans. The convergence of time and forces may see Smith coming in with Boston waving bye-bye to Pablo Sandoval – especially if he shows no offensive skills in his rehab work. It would certainly be a difficult financial decision for the Red Sox to make, but it very well may be the best baseball decision for Boston.


Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt

Featured image courtesy of Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

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