(Photo Credit: SI.com)
By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
Each year as spring training winds down, players and invitees are often competing for the final few spots on the team. Usually the bench. This year will be more intense than usual due to the fact a few players no longer have any minor league options remaining. Some players we all expected to play for the Red Sox in 2018 and beyond could soon be off the team altogether. Here’s the list of players hoping for a spot on the bench:
It kind of goes without saying that his role on the team is not in any jeopardy whatsoever. Moreland is a solid left handed bat, a golden glover, and will likely have his fair share of starts and plate appearances. However, all things considered, the fact he was signed to a two year deal is somewhat perplexing. To say he was an insurance policy to J.D. Martinez is a very tough sell. If Alex Cora truly intends to bat Hanley Ramirez third in the order, that tells me the Front Office is not concerned about his 2019 option vesting after 497 at bats. How many three-hole hitters play “part-time” in MLB? Basically none. Michael Chavis and Sam Travis are essentially major league ready should they need to be called up. So while signing Moreland made very little sense, his spot is definitely safe.
It has been widely reported that Leon is an absolute lock to be added to the bench due to his own defensive prowess, and familiarity of the current starting pitching staff. His switch hitting ability also makes him a very attractive asset.
Swihart is perhaps one of the more intriguing players who currently hangs in the balance. Once considered “untouchable” in any trade talks for Cole Hamels back in 2015 (bet Cherington could have that to do all over), he now finds himself out of minor league options. Due to this fact, Swihart will either have to be allowed to make the team, or possibly be subject to a trade. His value to the Red Sox in terms of versatility greatly outweighs his current value to the trade block. It’s hard to imagine the hard luck catcher would net a strong haul of prospects. He would have been traded by now if this was the case. I personally would love to see Swihart taking reps at second base in addition to some outfield work. That was the initial plan. How many teams in MLB have on their roster a super utility guy who can also catch? What if Leon or Vazquez get injured? I would hate to see Swihart get shipped out of town. I’m not even sure I value Sandy Leon at this point more than I do Swihart.
After spending some lengthy stints with the Red Sox last season, Marrero too is out of options. He has a career .208 average in 109 MLB games, and a .245 average throughout his career in the minors. Quite frankly, I will not be sad to see him get DFA’ed and/or traded. Marrero has a solid glove for a defensive utility role, but not enough offensive upside to occupy a spot on the bench. Especially during a season where there are so many strong options.
Surprisingly, Holt actually does still have one minor league option remaining if the Red Sox decide to stash him down there in favor of more convenient scenarios. Given the fact Boston’s payroll is currently at $232M, and the next luxury tax threshold is $237M, they could possibly trade Holt to free up approximately another $2.5M. Players such as him tend to have short shelf lives. Daniel Nava is a great example of this. He was a great story while it lasted, but hopped from team to team after Boston. However, any scenario is possible for Holt due to the existence of that final option, but I strongly feel that his future in Boston is more short term than anything.
This guy can’t catch a break. Castillo was relegated off of the 40-man roster, and down to Pawtucket in 2017 due to the fact the Red Sox could not go over the initial $197M threshold. This was necessary in order to “reset” the penalties, which enabled them to exceed it for 2018. But now that they drastically done so ($232M), Castillo still can’t be added to the 40-man because they will thrust beyond the next threshold ($237M). So despite hitting .314 with 15 home runs last season, it’s highly unlikely Castillo will play any games with the big club in 2018. Which is too bad since he is a very formidable option for a fourth outfielder now that Bryce Brentz has been traded.
Surprisingly, Lin has put up far better numbers in the major leagues (albeit short sample size) than he has down in the minors. The Taiwan native hit .268 at Fenway last season, and is a career .236 hitter across the minor leagues. Much like the older Holt, Lin can play virtually any position, and run the bases very well. Making the team out of spring training would definitely be a stretch since Boston has of options remaining on Lin, but I do view him as a candidate who could serve as a long term bench player in 2018 and beyond.
Not many Red Sox fans have heard of Barfield. Much like the above mentioned Daniel Nava, he is nearing 30 years old, and has bounced around from one independent league to another, even having played in Mexico. Barfield had a break out year in the minor’s during 2017, hitting .293, with 28 home runs and 76 RBI’s. Of everyone in our system, Barfield could very possibly force his way not only onto the Red Sox roster, but the starting lineup should his bat continue to be explosive. If Jackie Bradley Jr is scuffling at the plate, the journeyman minor leaguer could certainly take his place. That being said, I still expect Barfield to at least begin the season in the minors.
Sam Travis/Michael Chavis
Both are basically major league ready, but unfortunately neither are an immediate fit on the big league roster at the moment. Chavis also suffered an oblique injury this week, which could set him back several weeks regardless. If Hanley or Moreland get injured or traded, one of those two prospects could potentially earn a call up. But it’s a long shot. The good news is that one or both of them will very likely be long term assets to the Red Sox, especially after 2019 when several players will reach free agency.
My Projected Bench:
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