The Red Sox announced they have the selected the contract of utilityman Chris Owings. First baseman Steve Pearce was transferred to the 60-day injured list to create 40-man roster space. Right-hander Hector Velázquez was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket in a corresponding active roster move.
Owings, who’s immediately getting a chance to start at second base and lead off for Boston in this afternoon’s game against the Angels, played his way back to the big leagues with a monster showing in Triple-A. The 27 year-old slashed .325/.385/.595 over 183 plate appearances with Pawtucket, blasting 11 home runs along the way. He also struck out in 27.3% of his Triple-A plate appearances, though, and he’s never been much of a power threat before his barrage in the International League. Clearly, the introduction of the MLB ball to Triple-A has inflated Owings’ power output, but he’ll obviously have the luxury of hitting with the same ball at the game’s highest level.
Even still, it’s tough to imagine Owings emerging as a major offensive threat in Boston. The 27 year-old was a below-average hitter every year with the Diamondbacks between 2014 and 2018, and he struggled mightily after signing a one-year contract this offseason with the Royals. Owings slashed .133/.193/.222 with a 37.9% strikeout rate over 145 plate appearances before being released June 4. Only Zack Cozart (-13 wRC+) has put up a worse offensive performance than Owings (6 wRC+) among players with at least 100 plate appearances this year.
Even if he’s not much of a threat in the box, though, Owings is a plus baserunner with ample experience up-the-middle defensively. Defensive metrics haven’t traditionally loved him at shortstop, but he’s rated well at the keystone, where he seems likely to get the most work in Boston. He also transitioned well to center field in Arizona, giving the Red Sox some additional outfield depth on hand, even if it’s tough to imagine him spending much time on the grass in Fenway.
The IL transfer for Pearce is entirely procedural. He hit the 10-day IL June 1 with a lower back strain, so he’s already exceeded the 60-day minimum on the shelf. We last heard about Pearce a month ago, when the organization confirmed he was “nowhere close” to returning. It’s been a lost season for the reigning World Series MVP, who hit just .180/.245/.258 before hitting the shelf for the long haul.
Velázquez has logged 48 big league innings in 2019 as a swingman. He’ll be optioned for the second time this year, reflecting his subpar MLB results. Velázquez has worked to a 5.81 ERA with mediocre strikeout (21.6%) and walk (10.6%) rates.