The Red Sox addressed a roster need on Thursday by signing free agent infielder Yu Chang to a one-year, $850,000 contract that comes with performance bonuses.
Coming into the spring, Boston was somewhat light on infield depth. With Trevor Story out for the foreseeable future after undergoing right elbow surgery in January and Adalberto Mondesi still rehabbing from a torn ACL in his left knee, the club found themselves in need of another infielder to add to the mix.
Chang, as it turns out, is someone the Red Sox are already familiar with. They originally claimed the 27-year-old off waivers from the Rays last September. He appeared in 11 games for Boston down the stretch and played every infield position besides third base.
When asked by reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) at JetBlue Park about why the Red Sox elected to bring Chang back on Thursday, manager Alex Cora highlighted Chang’s versatility as to how he helps deepen the team.
“He’s another shortstop,” Cora said. “Obviously, we know that (Mondesi), there’s a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day. We need a deeper roster. With him, we accomplished that.”
Since Story — who was placed on the 60-day injured list on Thursday — is not expected to be back until the second half and Mondesi may not be ready for the start of the season, Enrique Hernandez and Christian Arroyo currently project to be Boston’s starting shortstop and second baseman, respectively.
Beyond those four, the Red Sox were rather thin on middle infield depth. Prospects like David Hamilton, Ceddanne Rafaela, and Enmanuel Valdez were all added to the 40-man roster in the fall, but none of them have ever played in the majors before.
Chang, on the other hand, is a veteran of four major-league seasons who first broke in with Cleveland in 2019. The 2022 campaign proved to be an eventful one for Chang, as the Taiwan native played in 69 games for four teams (Guardians, Pirates, Rays, and Red Sox) before being non-tendered by Boston in November.
Though he is just a lifetime .213/.279/.360 hitter with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs in 196 career games at the big-league level, Chang — a former top prospect in his own right — is well-regarded for his defense. Last year, for instance, 6-foot-1, 180-pounder had a positive Ultimate Zone Rating at all four infield positions and ranked in the 81st percentile of all major-leaguers in Outs Above Average (+3), per Baseball Savant.
“His defense was good. He put good at-bats but defensively, he’s solid,” Cora said. “You can move him around. Good athlete. He put together competitive at-bats but I think his defense is what separates him from the others.”
Chang will not be joining the Red Sox in Fort Myers until mid-March since he will be suiting up for Team Chinese Taipei in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Once Chang arrives at the Fenway South complex, though, he will likely have an inside track on making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training.
(Picture of Yu Chang: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)