Red Sox Make First Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Before they took on the Detroit Tigers in some Grapefruit League action earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox made their first round of spring roster cuts and reassigned five players to minor-league camp.

Those five players were first baseman Tommy Joseph, left-handed pitchers Daniel McGrath and Bobby Poyner, and right-handed pitchers Bryan Mata and Denyi Reyes.

Joseph has gotten off to a far from ideal start this spring, slashing .133//235/.133 with two RBI through his first seven games played and 17 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old, who has major-league experience with the Phillies, signed a minor-league deal with Boston last August after coming back over to the states from the Korean Baseball Organization. Depending on how the rest of the team’s depth at first base shakes out, he’ll likely start the 2020 season in either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.

As for the left-handed pitchers, McGrath has made two relief appearances for Boston so far this spring, allowing two earned runs on four hits, one walk, and one strikeout over four total innings of work.

Signed out of Australia as an 18-year-old back in January 2013, McGrath, now 25, will likely serve as starting pitching depth with the PawSox this season. He was brought back on a minor-league deal last October.

Poyner, meanwhile, was taken off the Sox’ 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket in January after clearing waivers. The 27-year-old does own an ERA of 18.00 through two relief appearances this spring, but it would not shock me if he does make his way back to the majors with the Red Sox at some point this season. Even if it is just a short stint.

Turning to the right-handed pitchers now, I’m going to start with Denyi Reyes because I want to discuss Bryan Mata in more depth later.

Like Poyner, Reyes was designated for assignment and eventually outrighted to Triple-A to make room for another player on the Sox’ 40-man roster. In Poyner’s case, that player was left-hander Jeffrey Springs. In Reyes’ case, it was the re-signing of Mitch Moreland.

The 23-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has surrendered four runs over four innings spanning two relief appearances so far this spring. He has experience as both a starter and reliever since signing with the Sox as an international free agent in 2016, so I would not be against the idea of him starting the 2020 season in the PawSox’ bullpen.

Finally, we’ll end with arguably the most talented player on this list in Bryan Mata, who is the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Given the current state of the Sox’ starting rotation with Chris Sale’s season currently in limbo, Mata could be one of the names Boston is evaluating to take the left-hander’s spot to begin the year.

Per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, the 20-year-old was among a group of hurlers that included Chris Mazza and Matt Hall, all of whom tossed three innings each in an intrasquad game at JetBlue Park on Tuesday, the same day it was revealed that Sale had been dealing with soreness in his left elbow.

Granted, Mata has yet to pitch above the Double-A level in his young career, but the potential is certainly there for him to be a middle of the rotation starting pitcher in the majors in the near future. That much is for sure.

Following Wednesday’s slew of transactions, the Red Sox now have 62 players at major-league camp. That number will eventually have to be trimmed down to 26 before March 26th. More moves are likely to come this weekend, I would guess.

Red Sox Bring Back Mitch Moreland on One-Year Deal

The Red Sox have brought back free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland on a one-year, $3 million deal for the 2020 season. In a corresponding move, right-handed pitching prospect Denyi Reyes was designated for assignment in order to make room for Moreland on the 40-man roster. The club made the transactions official earlier Tuesday.

According to The Athletics’ Ken Rosenthal, Moreland’s new contract will net him $2.5 million in 2020 and also includes a $3 million club option or $500,000 buyout for 2021.

The 34-year-old veteran had spent the previous three seasons with Boston after agreeing to a one-year, $5.5 million deal in December 2016 and a two-year, $13 million deal in December 2017.

Most recently, Moreland slashed .252/.328/.507 with 19 home runs and 58 RBI over 91 games in an injury-riddled campaign this past season.

Since free agency began at the beginning of November, bringing back Moreland always seemed like an appealing option even with the influx of infielders the Red Sox have.

With Moreland returning, the Sox get a familiar veteran presence back at a time when it will more than likely be needed under a new manager. They now also have the ability to platoon the Mississippi native, a left-handed bat, with either of Michael Chavis or Bobby Dalbec, both right-handed bats, at first base.

Dalbec, the Sox’ No. 2 prospect, might need more time at Triple-A Pawtucket at the start of the season for development or service time purposes, so there will be no need to rush the 24-year-old up now.

Chavis, meanwhile, has the opportunity to hover around the field now without committing to a single position, as noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

As for the other side of this move, Denyi Reyes was ranked as Boston’s No. 26 prospect on MLB.com

The 23-year-old right-hander was a surprising addition to the 40-man roster in November 2018 given how he had yet to pitch past the High-A level.

Making 26 starts for Double-A Portland last year, Reyes posted a 4.16 ERA and .243 batting average against over 151 1/3 innings pitched.

Presumably, the Red Sox would like Reyes to sneak through waivers so that he can remain with the club in a non-40-man roster spot capacity.