The Major League Baseball schedule is not going to be kind to the Boston Red Sox for the foreseeable future, as the team begins a brutal stretch of 33 games in 33 days through the middle of June. It will not be an easy 33 games either, as that part of the schedule includes series against some of the best the American League has to offer in the Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros.
Luckily for the Red Sox, they have managed to somewhat climb out of the early hole they dug themselves into in April, going 11-5 so far through the first few weeks of May and finding themselves just 4.5 games back in the American League East division.
One of the biggest reasons for Boston’s turnaround has been the sensational play of its newest farm system call-up, Michael Chavis. The 23-year-old infielder is off to a hot start through the first 25 games of his major league career, batting .280 with nine homers and 24 runs batted in. Chavis has proven to be a middle-of-the-order threat that the Red Sox can rely on to help stimulate their offense.
The only slight problem, and it’s a nice problem to have if you’re the Red Sox, is that Chavis’ unyielding production is going to cause a logjam on the roster in the near future. Both Dustin Pedroia and Brock Holt, key members of the Red Sox’ offense, are on rehab assignments with Triple-A Pawtucket and are nearing a return to the big league club. Pedroia has missed virtually all of the season thus far with lingering knee problems stemming from the surgery he had in the offseason. Holt, on the other hand, landed on the injured list due to a scratched cornea and later suffered a small setback due to shoulder inflammation.
Despite several setbacks, both Holt and Pedroia are now on pace to rejoin the Red Sox soon. This raises the question: who do they replace when they’re called back up?
The Red Sox are currently carrying 13 pitchers and just 12 hitters, which is contrary to the norm, as most teams prefer to have four batters on their bench. The team will likely revert back to the typical 13 batter formula and will option down an extra pitcher, such as Ryan Weber, to make room for either Holt or Pedroia. However, that only takes care of one roster spot and making the next roster spot available proves to be a little bit more tricky. The Red Sox cannot shorten their pitching staff any further, meaning that the next most likely candidates to be moved are the team’s current utility backups, Eduardo Nunez and Steve Pearce.
Both Nunez and Pearce have struggled mightily thus far in 2019 after being major factors in Boston’s 2018 World Series run. The simple fact of the matter is that the Red Sox will not have room for Pedroia, Holt, Nunez, Pearce, and their backup catcher on the bench. Chavis is here to stay as he is quickly entering the Rookie of the Year discussion, and Rafael Devers has turned things around offensively after a slow start.
Both Pearce and Nunez’s numbers do not help their argument for staying on the roster. Nunez is slashing .173/.192/.240 through 27 games, while Pearce is slashing an even worse .121/.183/.152 through 21 games so far this season. Nunez is signed through the rest of the season for $5 million while Pearce, who is also signed through the remainder of 2019, is making $6.5 million. Those numbers make it hard for the Red Sox to move either man and, quite frankly, they might be better served not attempting to just ship them off anyway.
The hard truth that the Red Sox have to accept is that they cannot rely on Pedroia’s health to stay consistent at this point in his career. He has a lingering knee problem that is not going to get any better any time soon. Certainly, the Red Sox and Pedroia alike hope that the former American League MVP and Rookie of the Year can come back and, at the very least, be a reliable utility option off the bench for Alex Cora‘s squad.
The Red Sox could attempt to go with the “phantom injury” approach by placing someone like Pearce on the injured list to make room on the roster. This would allow Pearce to go down to Triple-A Pawtucket and attempt to sort himself out before returning to the big league club. However, this approach requires passing through a lot of red tape, and it also risks alienating Pearce by taking away his spot on the roster.
Even if the team were to pursue that strategy it would only be a temporary fix. At some point somebody on the current Red Sox roster is going to lose his spot permanently; the team just has to decide who they can afford to do without as they continue to fight their way through the 2019 season.