Photo Credit: NBC Sports Boston
The Red Sox are clearly one of the best teams in baseball, but will need to sure up the roster to compete for a World Series.
28-14 after 42 games and sitting one game back in the AL East.
A team that looks like a legitimate contender as the season turns the corner on the quarter-way through mark and reinforcements are on the way.
Tyler Thornburg has been sharp in his rehab assignment and will be up with the club to solidify the bridge to Craig Kimbrel in the coming days. Steven Wright‘s suspension is coming to an end and the 2016 All-Star will look to make his mark somewhere on the pitching staff. Plus fan favorite and franchise icon, Dustin Pedroia will begin his path back to Fenway with a rehab stint in Pawtucket with his eye on playing in the Majors before the calendar turns to June.
While most would say too many qualified candidates for a finite number of roster spots is a nice problem to have, the Red Sox have some serious decisions to make in the very near future. Like now. The bullpen has started to take shape in the past few weeks, but the return of Thornburg and Wright have been long anticipated.
Pedroia battled through knee issues for much of the 2017 season after taking a Manny Machado spike to his knee and didn’t look right at the plate or in the field upon his return from the DL.
Where does that leave the roster?
Likely candidates to be replaced / demoted:
Blake Swihart, Brian Johnson, Sandy Leon, and Heath Hembree are out of minor league options and would be exposed to waivers before they could be sent down. A minimal impact on the Major League roster this season may not deter a team from adding a veteran to their roster. There is no doubt that Johnson could start on a lesser team, such as the Cincinnati Reds, but there is no room for the lefty on the current Red Sox pitching staff. A battery-mate, Sandy Leon has presented very little offensive output and could force the Red Sox to look elsewhere for other options.
Swihart continues the never-ending question of how long does a team wait before giving up on pure potential? The former top catching prospect has been unable to sustain offensive production while regressing defensively. Finally, Hembree has been a model of inconsistency since being acquired from the San Francisco Giants. Adding Thornburg presents a large upgrade in the bullpen.
Hector Velazquez and Brock Holt are excelling in their roles with the ball club, but do have minor league options available for use. Sending these players down to AAA doesn’t represent improvement to the team.
A little used player like Swihart could be a trade candidate, but the club has been unable to showcase his ability to this point in the season and the return would likely be dismal for the once highly touted prospect.
So, what’s best?
It may be in the best interest for the team to expose Swihart and Johnson to waivers with the hope they go unclaimed and can be sent to AAA without having to lose their services within the organization. However, that scenario seems unlikely, as there is always a need for starting pitching depth, and Swihart seems healthy for the first time in years and can provide a team with an offense oriented catching or utility option.
Regardless, the roster will see some major changes in the coming days. Proving that maybe there is too much of a good thing.