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Red Sox names Hansel Robles for assignment

The Red Sox designate relievers Hansel Robles for the mission, reports Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal. The move frees up an active roster slot for those interested in pitching Brayan Bello, who will be called back to his major league debut tomorrow against the Rays. Boston’s 40-man roster will drop to 39.

Originally acquired by the twins as of last summer’s deadline, Robles spent the final months of the 2021 season in Boston. Despite erratic control, he was a generally viable late-game arm for manager Alex Cora. Through 25 innings, Robles posted a 3.60 ERA while eliminating more than 30% of batters faced. After an off-season in the open market, the right-hander returned to the organization with a minor-league deal in spring training.

Robles was included in Boston’s opening day list, securing a salary of $2.25 million in the process. However, he posts one of the worst seasons of his career, struggling with a 5.84 ERA over 24 2/3 frames. Robles continued to battle patchy control, walking 12.6% of opponents. But the swing-and-miss promise he showed late last season has all but evaporated as he punched under 19% of batters. Robles was also tagged for five homers, a problem he’s struggled with in the past given his flyball inclination.

The 2022 season was generally disappointing, and the extent of his struggles appears to have prompted the Sox to move on. However, the 31-year-old has plenty of big league successes on his resume. He posted under-4.00 ERAs in four of his first five big league campaigns, including a 2.48 mark in 72 2/3 innings with the 2019 Angels. Prior to this season, Robles had been hitting sweeping strikes and punchouts with an average clip or better in virtually every year of his career (save for a downturn with the Mets in 2017). He still has plenty of arm strength, averaging 96 MPH on his heater and just under 89 MPH on the slider, which serves as his primary secondary pitch.

Robles’ combination of pre-2022 work performance and existing arm strength will certainly draw interest from other teams, although that will likely come after he clarifies waivers. He’s still due about half of this season’s salary (a little north of $1M). Any team stopping him from making waivers would take on the remainder of that commitment, a development that seems unlikely given his underperformance over the first three months of the year.

If he clears waivers, Robles would have the right to turn down a minor league stint in favor of free agency while continuing to collect the remainder of his salary. (This is granted under the CBA to outspoken players with more than five years of MLB service). At that point, another team could add him for just a prorated portion of the league minimum for any time he’s spent in the big leagues. The Red Sox would remain on the hook for the remainder of the total.