The Boston Red Sox have some very difficult decisions to make in the upcoming weeks. Steven Wright is set to return to the active roster today after recovering from injury and serving his 15-game suspension. Tyler Thornburg will also be joining the Red Sox at some point, most likely by the end of the week, and Dustin Pedroia is working his way back to full health and will be ready to go by either late May or early June. That’s 3 spots on the roster that will need to open up, and there’s anywhere from 5-7 guys currently on the roster who are in jeopardy of losing their place.
The opening for Wright is fairly clear cut, with Brian Johnson being the overwhelmingly logical choice as the guy to go. Johnson began the year very well, perhaps riding the high of making the first Opening Day roster of his career, and he logged 13 IP, 10 hits (1 HR), 3 runs and 14 K’s in his first 5 games, one of them being a start. In his 6 games since, though, he’s allowed 14 hits (3 HR) and 11 runs with only 5 K’s, and in 2 of those appearances he failed to even record an out. So, common sense would point to him being sent away, likely on waivers, considering he’s out of minor league options.
Thornburg’s return, though, is a bit more complicated. When he joins the big club, it’s likely between Heath Hembree and Hector Velazquez as the guy to be sent down. Hembree is a Red Sox vet, having spent the last 4 seasons in Boston, and he seems to be a favorite of Alex Cora, despite being wholly unreliable out of the bullpen this year, but Velazquez has been masterful for Boston this year, and it seems like he’s probably locked up his long term spot in the team, leaving Hembree as the odd man out.
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If the Thornburg situation is complicated, the process of Pedroia’s return could potentially be maddening. The options for this one are plentiful, with everything from a simple assignment to a multi-player trade as possibilities to clear the room.
If an assignment to AAA is the route the Sox choose to take, it would have to be Brock Holt who gets sent down. Holt has played very well for the Sox this year, but he’s the only fitting player on the squad who wouldn’t be a huge loss that has options left.
Blake Swihart is another option as the player to go. He’s barely played at all, and when he has he’s been pretty poor, but he’s out of options, and he’d have to either be waived or traded to make the necessary room.
Speaking of trades, if Boston chooses that route to clear the room on the roster, it could go one of many ways. Swihart or, in what would be a much more surprising development, Sandy Leon would probably be the 1st piece to go on the trade block. Their returns individually would be very low, though, so Boston would likely have to pair either of them with someone else, most likely either Eduardo Nunez or Jackie Bradley Jr. According to experts, this scenario is far less likely, but it’s not one to be completely discounted.
Pedroia’s return, though, is still a ways away, and all of the guys mentioned here still have time to state their cases for retention. Whatever the Red Sox choose to do, it will likely be a controversial decision, but faith and trust in GM Dave Dombrowski and the coaching staff is abundant in the clubhouse, and their decision will be accepted among the players.