As we head into the meat of the offseason, the focus is almost entirely on high-end talent, and for good reason. The main targets for Boston this winter will be an elite, top-of-the-rotation pitcher as well as at least one reliever who can serve as one of the best on the roster. This is a team that is relatively well stocked in terms of secondary players, but they need a few extra stars. The roster already has plenty of infield depth, as Brock Holt and Travis Shaw can cover multiple injuries at multiple positions. There are enough pitchers to fill out a rotation and then some, with some of those backups hopefully heading to the bullpen and others making their way to Pawtucket. The one place in which Boston could use some major-league depth is in the outfield, and unsurprisingly they’ve already reached out to Chris Young to fill that role.
When your season is a 162-game grind, having this kind of depth is hugely important. Injuries are going to happen and players are going to underperform for long stretches, giving you needs that you didn’t anticipate in February and March. As such, it’s important to complement your major-league depth with plenty of reinforcements on the farm. We all know about how highly regarded this Boston farm system is, but that’s in terms of overall talent. Do they have the proper depth in the upper levels to help out the big-league squad at any position where a need may pop up?
We’ll start behind the plate, because that’s usually where people start this kind of thing and I have a crippling inability to think for myself. It’s here where the Red Sox possess an impressive amount of depth that will be the envy of the league barring any sort of trade. Boston wasn’t one of the best teams in the league here last year, but they’ll likely be returning a Blake Swihart/Ryan Hanigan duo that looked much better down the stretch. On top of that, they’ll also have Christian Vazquez back from his Tommy John rehab. The defensive wizard will probably work the rust off in Triple-A, but he’ll be ready whenever an injury occurs and gives the Red Sox maybe the best third catcher in the league. Sandy Leon accepted his assignment to Pawtucket after the season, giving them even more depth behind the plate. This will not be a worry this winter.
As I mentioned before, the Red Sox have two perfect backup infielders in Holt and Shaw, as they can both handle multiple positions and have shown an ability to thrive in an everyday role. However, if/when they need to step into the starting lineup, that will open up empty bench spots. In Pawtucket, they look like they’ll have some middle infield options, but the corner infield could be more iffy. Starting up the middle, Deven Marrero is the obvious guy to look to. He’s a plus defender and came up for the first time in 2015. There’s still plenty to worry about with his bat, but as a third option coming from Triple-A he works just fine. However, Marrero is also a possible trade candidate, which could leave a hole. Luckily, Boston acquired Marco Hernandez as the player to be named later in the Felix Doubront deal a couple years ago, and he looks like a future utility player. While he doesn’t possess the same kind of glove as Marrero, he plays good defense at both second base and shortstop. Hernandez has also showed off solid bat-to-ball skills in the minors and should see some MLB time in 2016.
On the corners, things are a little less certain, as Boston’s depth depends on some reclamation projects. Chief among them in Allen Craig, who was outrighted off the 40-man roster once again. The only way he’ll see the majors again is if he lights the International League on fire over the first month or two of the season. Garin Cecchini never reached the heights of Craig, but he’s also fallen pretty far from his top prospect days, and 2016 could be his last chance to earn a permanent spot on a major-league roster. Finally, Sean Coyle was one of the dark horses to play a role on the 2015 team, but injuries and underperformance in the minors nixed that idea. It doesn’t look likely that any of these players will bounce all the way back in 2016, but there is some hope here that at least one can get back to (or finally reach) a respectable level.
I alluded to this above, but this is the weakest area on the roster in terms of depth. Their current starting trio is full of youth and potential, but there’s not a lot of that in Pawtucket right now. On Opening Day, the only player who will be ready to step right in from Triple-A appears to be Bryce Brentz. That says about all you need to hear about the situation. Manuel Margot spent a good portion of last year in Double-A and should see Pawtucket at some point in 2016, but he’s not a viable depth option until at least July. That’s if he even stays with the organization. Expect the Red Sox to dip their toes into the minor-league free agent pool to find some extra outfield depth.
This is the antithesis of the outfield, as Pawtucket’s rotation should be filled with viable rotation depth for the majors. There’s a chance that Henry Owens, Brian Johnson and Steven Wright all start the year in that rotation, and they are likely to be three of the top four backup starting pitchers, along with Joe Kelly. You can never have enough starting pitching, of course, and they could look for some more depth to add to this group, but it’s not a dire need at this moment if they add some quality to the top.
Like the rotation, the Red Sox should have plenty of relief arms handy in the Pawtucket bullpen. We saw the same pattern in 2015, as there were plenty of options to call upon when a fresh arm was needed. Of course, the issue was that none of those arms were particularly good. They’ll likely be looking at a similar cast of faces in 2016, at least to start the year. Heath Hembree, Jonathan Aro and Edwin Escobar will lead the way, although Pat Light and Jorge Marban should be able to provide some depth as well. Later in the year, Brandon Workman could be back in the mix and guys like Madison Younginer and Williams Jerez could have taken an unexpected step forward. Bullpen depth changes and evolves quickly and often, but as of right now there is some solid depth to pick from in case of injury.
The Red Sox are going to be focusing on the David Prices of the world this winter, but every year we see the best teams in the league rely on strong depth. Injuries happen to every ball club, and players who start the year in the minors have to play unexpectedly large roles in the middle of the season. Boston appears to be prepared for this scenario at most positions, with corner infield potentially being an issue and the outfield looking particularly shallow. While most of your attention can be paid to the big names, don’t forget about the depth pieces that get brought in to supplement the fringes of the roster.
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