The Red Sox acquired righthanded reliever Wyatt Mills from the Kansas City Royals on Friday in exchange for minor league righthander Jacob Wallace. Mills was designated for assignment by the Royals on Tuesday.
To make room for Mills, first baseman Eric Hosmer was designated for assignment. The Sox acquired Hosmer from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline in early August in an effort to settle their first base woes as they tried to make a late-season playoff push.
But Hosmer played in just 14 games due to a back injury which led to the Red Sox calling up their top prospect, Triston Casas, from Triple-A Worcester. Hosmer hit .244 (11 for 45) with no homers and 4 RBIs for the Sox.
Casas hit just .197 with 5 homers and 12 RBIs in 95 plate appearances. But the Sox were impressed with Casas’s ability to put together a quality at-bat and his keen eye at the dish which reflected in his .358 on-base percentage.
Both Hosmer and Casas are lefthanded hitters.
Mills, 27, made his big league for the Seattle Mariners, making 11 appearances in 2021 and eight more in 2022, before heading to Kansas City as part of the Carlos Santana deal in June. He pitched 19 times out of the bullpen for the Royals, posting a 4.79 ERA over 20⅔ innings.
Wallace, a Methuen native and UConn product, pitched for Double-A Portland in 2022. The Sox acquired Wallace in a 2020 trade with the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Kevin Pillar.
The Sox could have opened up the season with the veteran Hosmer, who has a no-trade clause in an eight-year, $144 million contract signed with the Padres that runs through 2025, serving as an insurance policy for Casas. The Padres remain on the hook for the vast majority of Hosmer’s contract.
“We think highly of both of them,” manager Alex Cora said during Winter Meetings. “We traded for Eric last year and he got hurt. But we’ve seen him as a veteran that can put together good at-bats and he’s a good defender.”
But having two lefthanded-hitting first basemen with no versatility on the roster, seemingly, was a waste of a roster spot. And given the fact that Hosmer would have the right to approve or decline a trade, it would have made it difficult for the Sox to move him.
Moreover, though, the decision to DFA Hosmer proves the Sox are confident Casas, who turns 23 next month, is ready to take on the role as the everyday first baseman.
Despite the vote of confidence, Casas needs to prove he can stay healthy. Casas has dealt with a couple of lower-body injuries, including knee soreness this offseason, leading to just three games played in the Dominican Winter League. An earlier call-up from Worcester was a possibility last season, but an ankle injury sidelined him for a large chunk of games in Triple A.
Casas has a large frame at 6 feet 4 inches and 252 pounds. The Sox have made it their priority this offseason to assist Casas in working on his body.
“It’s something that we have talked about,” said Cora. “He’s a big dude. He’s still a kid. He’s still growing. You see the power, there’s more there, but obviously the body is going to change and we’ve been on top of him.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.