Barring injuries, there doesn’t figure to be that much drama when it comes to figuring out the Red Sox
You have the four outfielders — Chris Young, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. — playing three positions. Travis Shaw and Brock Holt figure to serve as back-up plans in both the infield and OF.
The catching situation might offer some intrigue, but that dynamic will largely depend on the health of Christian Vazquez, and continued progress of Blake Swihart. If both are perceived to be ready to hit the ground running when April rolls around, then you might be hearing some Ryan Hanigan trade talk.
The rotation? David Price, Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly.
Then there is the bullpen.
There would seem to be some certainties in what figures to be a group of seven. Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Robbie Ross Jr., Tommy Layne and Roenis Elias enter mid-February as the odds on favorites to be the pen’s inhabitants.
But, according to a major league source, the Red Sox continue to look at lefty relief options, with veteran Neal Cotts perhaps the most realistic option on a minor league deal if such an acquisition is made. The team has had an offer to Craig Breslow, also on a minor league contract, but that reunion doesn’t seem likely at this point.
So, where might there be some wiggle room?
Layne is out of options, so unless he falls apart in spring training, he is the kind of lefty specialist the Red Sox seemingly wouldn’t want to part with.
Ross Jr. has options, but the Red Sox were very impressed with his performance at the tail-end of 2015 after the southpaw figured out his knee issues. If there are any hiccups in March, the 26-year-old’s spot might represent the window of opportunity for someone on the outside looking in.
Matt Barnes is on the 40-man roster, and also had a strong finish. So, as long as John Farrell is comfortable with the likes of Layne and Elias (or a lefty to be named later), the righty’s velocity might be a welcomed addition. Heath Hembree, Edwin Escobar and Noe Ramirez (both also on the 40-man) are two other guys in that same boat as Barnes.
Williams Jerez, a 23-year-old who just converted to pitching two seasons ago, should be very intriguing this spring. He is on the 40-man roster and struck out 86 in 88 2/3 innings at three different minor league levels. The left-handeder almost certainly won’t be immediately in the mix, but he could make an interesting impression. Hard-throwing Pat Light’s situation is similar, seemingly needing more time to learn the art of relieving, but in position to make his mark in case needed at some point in 2016.
Then there is Steven Wright.
Like Layne and Tazawa, Wright is out of options. The knuckleballer is a favorite of the Red Sox’ coaching staff, and certainly has already proven his value on a big league roster.
And while it might seem that Wright should have the advantage over Elias when talking about possibly transforming a starter into a reliever due to roster flexibility, understand that the former Mariners hurler has a proven track record as an everyday major leaguer. This is a guy who not only started 49 games over the last two seasons, but held left-handed batters to a .608 OPS in 2015.
Other non-roster candidates also loom, with Anthony Varvaro back on a minor league deal. (It should be noted that the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is currently maxed out.) Brandon Workman still needs time after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
At least there is some intrigue to hang our hats on heading into the kick off of camp next week.