The Red Sox announced to reporters, including Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe, that catcher Jorge Alfaro has been reassigned to minor league camp while infielder Bobby Dalbec has been optioned. That seemingly paves the way for catcher Connor Wong and infielder Yu Chang to make the club in reserve roles.
Alfaro, 30 in June, signed a minor league deal with the Sox in the offseason and seemed to have a legitimate chance to make the roster. Reese McGuire and Wong are the only two catchers currently on the club’s roster and the latter suffered a hamstring strain early in camp that seemed to open a path for Alfaro. However, Wong has since recovered and will be with the team on Opening Day.
It had been reported this offseason that Alfaro’s deal has an upward mobility clause, which meant that the Sox would have to contact the other 29 teams to see if any of them wanted to give him a roster spot, in the event he didn’t get one from Boston. As Abraham notes, he didn’t get an opportunity elsewhere and will seemingly head to Triple-A Worcester to start the season. He’ll give the club some experienced catching depth for the start of the season, though he has further opt-out opportunities on June 1 and July 1.
As for Dalbec, 28 in June, he debuted with a tremendous showing in 2020 but has dropped off since. He hit eight home runs in just 20 games in the shortened season, though with a concerning 42.4% strikeout rate. Those punchouts have continued to be an issue, as he’s posted rates above 33% in each of the past two seasons. His batting line last year ended up at .215/.283/.369 for a wRC+ of 80. The strong debut of Triston Casas last year has knocked Dalbec off the first base gig at Fenway and he’ll now head down to the minors to try to get in a good groove.
Chris Cotillo of MassLive reports that Dalbec will move all around the infield for the WooSox, perhaps allowing him to return to the big leagues in a utility role somewhere down the line. Dalbec has played all four infield spots in the majors but mostly at first, followed by some decent time at third and very brief spells in the middle. The club is on firmer ground at the corner, especially with Rafael Devers at third. Casas is inexperienced but will have first base locked down for years to come if he hits major league pitching. But the departure of Xander Bogaerts and the injury to Trevor Story leave the club with Enrique Hernández and Christian Arroyo as their main duo up the middle. Hernández has played a decent amount of shortstop but as a utility guy and not on an everyday basis, while Arroyo has mostly served as a backup to this point in his career. If Dalbec can become a serviceable defender up the middle, that would improve his chances of finding a path back to the club.
For now, the backup infield job will fall to Chang, who is out of options. He has struggled to hit in his major league time thus far but continues to intrigue teams due to his defensive versatility. He bounced around from the Guardians to the Pirates, Rays and Red Sox last year, eventually getting non-tendered by Boston but returning later in the offseason. He hit just .208/.289/.315 between those four clubs but is coming off a strong showing in the World Baseball Classic. He hit .438 while representing Chinese Taipei and won the Most Valuable Player award in Pool A. Adalberto Mondesi will also be in the mix for a backup infield role at some point, though he’s slated to begin the year on the injured list as he’s still recovering from last year’s ACL tear.