Tomase: Roberto Osuna shouldn't even be on table for Red Sox in bullpen search

John Tomase
July 30, 2018 - 12:33 pm
Roberto Osuna

Ray Carlin/USA Today Sports

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Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna, a 2017 All-Star, is reportedly on the trade market. The Red Sox should stay far, far away.

While the 23-year-old checks a lot of boxes from a baseball perspective -- he owns over 100 career save, remains under team control through 2021, and represents a possible successor to impending free agent Craig Kimbrel -- he'd be a disaster from a brand perspective and a risk from a legal one.

Osuna was arrested in Toronto on May 8 and charged with assaulting the mother of his child. Though details about the case have been scarce, the arrest was enough to earn Osuna a 75-game ban, with pay, under baseball's domestic violence policy.

His suspension ends on Aug. 4, and he'd be eligible to pitch in the postseason. He has pleaded not guilty and will return to court on Aug. 1, one day after MLB's trade deadline. Osuna's lawyer told the Toronto Sun that a guilty verdict could impact the player's ability to cross the border and travel with a team.

"I'm working in a manner to avoid getting a conviction on an assault charge," lawyer Domenic Basile told the paper. "If Osuna were to receive a conviction on an assault charge, there would be issues with him crossing the border."

That would obviously make him a risk for any team that acquires him. The larger issue, though, is how Osuna would be received by a new fanbase and in the community.

The Red Sox are rolling and have galvanized their fans with one of the greatest starts in team history. From confident manager Alex Cora to burgeoning megastar Mookie Betts to no-nonsense ace Chris Sale to cerebral slugger J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox have clicked with the public in ways we didn't see even when they were winning consecutive division titles in 2016 and 2017.

Acquiring Osuna could disrupt those good vibes and minimize the seriousness of the charges against him.  There's not even a guarantee he'd help, since he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since May (he's currently on a rehab assignment), he blew 10 saves last year, and his strikeout rate was only 7.6/9 in the very small sample of the season's first five weeks.

The Red Sox have some experience in this department. Knuckleballer Steven Wright was arrested and charged with domestic assault in December before receiving a 15-game suspension from MLB. He has maintained that the argument that led to his arrest was purely verbal. The charges against him were retired for a year, meaning they'll be dropped if he commits no further offenses for 12 months.

So what makes Wright's case different from Osuna's? For one, the charges are in the process of being dropped and the couple released a joint statement that they're working on their issues. For two, no one has disputed his claims that the incident didn't involve physical violence. For three, MLB suspended Wright for 60 fewer games.

Osuna deserves the same chance as anyone else to accept his punishment, learn from his mistakes, and grow. He's not there yet, however, which is why the Red Sox should focus their attention elsewhere.

There are plenty of other relievers on the market without Osuna's issues and baggage. The Red Sox should go after one of them.

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