Boston Red Sox Rumors

Boston Red Sox trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

AL Notes: Watkins, Correia, Surkamp

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe profiles Red Sox minor-leaguer J.T. Watkins, a 25-year-old backstop who hopes to become the first West Point grad to make it to the Majors. Watkins has spent two years in military service since being drafted, but was given the chance to pursue a baseball career by the Army. Of course, his odds of cracking the majors are somewhat longer those of, say, his 2012 teammate Mookie Betts — who just happened to be signed by Watkins’ father Danny. Here are more quick notes from the American League.


Cafardo On Roster Size, Cueto, Moncada, Maddon

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines baseball needs to expand its roster and suggests a 28-man limit with 25 eligible on game day. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told Cafardo there have been discussions about roster expansion, but nothing has advanced. There are obstacles with increased salaries and insurances costs, but those issues, according to Cafardo, are outweighed by the 162-game schedule becoming too much for a player’s body to handle. Cafardo also proposes baseball convene a panel of players who avoided the disabled list throughout their careers to determine if there are any patterns to their remaining healthy.

In other items from Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes column:

  • According to one GM, Johnny Cueto “will get a Max Scherzer deal” if the Reds right-hander can put together a 15-20-win season. Cueto ranks fifth on MLBTR’s 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings list.
  • The Yankees were given the opportunity to top the Red Sox‘s $31.5MM offer to Yoan Moncada, but declined. “We scouted him extensively for years,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “I feel we put him through the highest level of scouting and medical evaluation. I just wasn’t comfortable offering what we actually offered ($25MM), let alone going any higher.
  • For now, the Red Sox will play Moncada at second base, but his eventual position will depend on Boston’s needs in the next couple of years.
  • The tampering allegation made by the Rays over the Cubs‘ hiring of Joe Maddon is still alive.
  • The Red Sox are showcasing Jemile Weeks, likely ticketed for Triple-A, as a super utility player and may be able sell fairly high on him with the Tigers one of the teams in the market for such a player.

 


Quick Hits: Concussions, Red Sox, Rays, Richard, Tomas

It may seem obvious, but a study has now shown that concussions diminish offensive performance, reports Nicholas Bakalar of the New York Times. The study appeared in the American Journal of Sports Medicine. A total of 66 position players were included in it. The group hit .249/.315/.393 in the two weeks prior to injury and .227/.287/.347. Some of the players involved never went on the disabled list. Based on the Times article, it’s unclear if more detailed analysis was performed. For example, missing time for any reason would hypothetically reduce performance some unknown amount. So it’s probably incorrect to attribute the entire decline to concussions alone.

Here’s more from around baseball:

  • ESPN’s Buster Olney has “real concerns about the Red Sox,” reports Nik Beimler on WEEI.com. Olney identified problems with four of the five members of the rotation. Rick Porcello was the one guy who didn’t draw a negative comment. While Cole Hamels is often connected to the Sox, Olney thinks they should wait on any trades. “I think there will be a lot of opportunities to trade for pitching during the course of summer.” Even with inconsistent pitching, the club could still hit enough to reach the postseason.
  • The Rays may need to play roster roulette while they wait for Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Alex Colome to recover, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The rotation will affect the number of NRIs the club can add. Presently, Bobby Wilson, Jake Elmore, Brandon Gomes, and Everett Teaford are battling for one or two spots (pending a trade of David DeJesus). Teaford may have a temporary advantage since he can provide long relief or a spot start.
  • Pirates pitcher Clayton Richard can opt out of his contract at the end of spring training, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Per Richard, he can opt out if not on the 40-man roster. He’s the latest in a long string of reclamation projects for the Pirates. His last successful season came in 2012 when he allowed a 3.99 ERA with 4.40 K/9 and 1.73 BB/9 in 218 innings.
  • Based upon interviews of rival scouts and executives, nobody believes Diamondbacks third baseman Yasmany Tomas can remain in the infield, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Most cited his thick body type, although they also said he doesn’t have the hands for the position. If Tomas moves to the outfield, it will create a roster crunch for Arizona. The current plan is to share playing time in left field between David Peralta, Ender Inciarte, and Cody Ross. Of course, the club could option Tomas to the minors too.


Red Sox Unlikely To Make Big Move Before Season

Ben Cherington and the Red Sox aren’t expecting to make a significant trade before the season begins, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Any moves the Red Sox might make before the end of the month are likely to be small ones. “You never know exactly who might be available right at the end … but I would say it’s much more likely that the 25 guys (who will break camp with the team) are already here,” says Cherington.

Independent of context, that’s more of a truism than a noteworthy statement. As Lauber points out, key trades rarely occur in Spring Training. Teams tend to be healthier (this year’s rash of pitcher injuries notwithstanding), and executives tend to be more optimistic about the players they already have on hand. “Since it’s the beginning of the year, you’re likely to have more healthy players,” says Cherington. “But the biggest thing is, you’ve put all this together. So there’s a sense of, give it a chance to see what it can do.”

The idea that the Red Sox are planning on going with the roster they have is perhaps noteworthy in their specific case, however. They have an abundance of outfielders, with Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig and Daniel Nava all on hand. They’ve also repeatedly been connected to Cole Hamels of the Phillies, although nothing appears close on that front.


Rangers, Phillies Still Discussing Hamels Deal, But Nothing Close

The Rangers and Phillies are still talking about a deal that would send top lefty Cole Hamels to Texas, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. While the sides are talking about possible prospect packages, nothing is close at the moment.

Heyman notes that “there is no evidence the Red Sox and Phillies have talked seriously in recent weeks” on a deal involving Hamels, meaning that the Rangers could be the most promising landing spot at present. Philly is reportedly looking to add three legitimate prospects in a deal, with at least one potential impact player among them.

In addition to its impressive list of youngsters, the Rangers have some payroll flexibility, according to Heyman. After foregoing any significant spending this winter, the team appears likely to open the year with just under $140MM committed to its 25-man roster (and disabled list). Looking forward, Texas has over $100MM already on the books for 2016 and at least $50MM in each of the three years that follow. Hamels’s contract would tack on $22.5MM to those tallies over each of the next four years, and it also includes a $20MM option for 2019 that carries a $6MM buyout.

Yu Darvish‘s season-ending Tommy John surgery has left a void atop the Rangers’ rotation, and it is surely tempting to replace him with Hamels. Of course, such a deal probably would have made as much or more sense prior to that injury, given the team’s other rotation questions. Part of the motivation for continuing to talk with Philadelphia could well be that the club already had designs on adding another long-term arm at some point in the near future.


East Notes: Swihart, Howard, Soriano

The Red Sox announced this morning that they’ve optioned catcher Blake Swihart and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez to Triple-A Pawtucket. Swihart, of course, has attracted attention as a key name in Cole Hamels trade rumors, although the Red Sox have so far been unwilling to part with him. It comes as no surprise that he’ll evidently start the season in Pawtucket — he’s only played 18 games at the Triple-A level, and Christian Vazquez and Ryan Hanigan are set to begin the season as the Red Sox’ catchers. Here’s more from the East divisions.

  • With the Phillies reportedly willing to pay $50MM of the $60MM remaining on Ryan Howard‘s contract, SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee examines which AL teams might have a use for Howard. He suggests the Indians and Blue Jays might be the best fits, and even then, it wouldn’t make sense for either team to pay $10MM.
  • Free-agent closer Rafael Soriano has been working out in the Dominican, but he will soon stop by the Boras Sport Training Institute at St. Thomas University in Florida, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. (The institute hosted Boras clients Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales while those players when through protracted free-agent periods last year, Heyman notes.) Soriano could then host a workout for interested teams. Heyman suggests that the Blue Jays, who will probably have Aaron Sanchez head from the bullpen to the rotation to replace the injured Marcus Stroman, could be the best fit for Soriano, who remains a free agent deep into Spring Training.

AL East Notes: Wieters, Castillo, Sanchez, Jays, Rays

The Orioles got good news on Matt Wieters today, whose elbow X-ray came back clean, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets. While his new UCL will obviously handled with care, that is good news for the top catcher in next year’s free agent class.

Here’s more from the AL East:

  • Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo still hopes to be able to get enough work in this spring to be ready to make the Opening Day roster, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald reports. But with the time he has lost to an oblique strain, the outstanding play of Mookie Betts, and the team’s otherwise less flexible group of plausible big league outfielders, it seems that a stint at Triple-A is certainly possible — in spite of his huge salary. Castillo says he “wouldn’t feel bad about that at all if that’s the decision that’s made.” As Lauber notes, Boston’s outfield situation remains a fascinating story line as the season fast approaches.
  • Another interesting situation to watch — the Blue Jays staff makeup — is gaining some clarity, as Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. Aaron Sanchez is highly likely to open in the rotation, according to manager John Gibbons, with Marco Estrada and Daniel Norris still in the mix for the last starting spot. Meanwhile, it appears that fellow youngster Miguel Castro is headed for a slot in the pen. Those much-hyped arms all saw their timelines accelerated when fellow young right-hander Marcus Stroman went down to an ACL tear; he had successful surgery today.
  • Meanwhile, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said today on The Fan 590 that the club could still look around for another option at first, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets. The team currently appears set to utilize Justin Smoak and, potentially, Daric Barton at the position when Edwin Encarnacion is in the DH slot. Given Encarnacion’s back issues, that could be more often than not in the season’s early going. The team’s decisions regarding catcher Dioner Navarro could also factor into things, as he could potentially take a bench role if he is not dealt.
  • Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said today that he is still not seeing progress on stadium talks, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Emphasizing that he sees a future for the organization in the greater Tampa area, Sternberg nevertheless expressed frustration with opposition that has been encountered from the St. Petersburg City Council regarding issues relating to the team’s quest to find a new park.

Red Sox Considering Extension For Mookie Betts

The Red Sox have “at least internally discussed” looking into a contract extension with star youngster Mookie Betts, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports.  The team has yet to broach the subject with Betts or his representatives at Relativity Baseball, as Betts told Bradford “No, I haven’t done anything for that.”

Betts’ huge spring and Rusney Castillo‘s oblique injury have seemingly cleared the path for Betts to begin the season as the Red Sox center fielder.  Now that Betts has won a regular job within Boston’s crowded outfield situation, Bradford notes that the team has even more confidence in Betts’ future and could be willing to put that confidence into writing in the form of a multi-year contract.  Of course, the Red Sox have already demonstrated their belief in Betts by making a virtual  untouchable in trade talks this winter, particularly in holding firm when the Phillies have asked for Betts in exchange for Cole Hamels.

While every team would undoubtedly prefer to have is top young players locked up on affordable multi-year deals, such aggressive moves to sign players to early extensions are usually made by lower-revenue or rebuilding teams (i.e. the Astros extending Jon Singleton, the Royals extending Salvador Perez, or the Rays extending Chris Archer, Matt Moore or Evan Longoria).  A larger-revenue team like the Red Sox, in theory, has more financial flexibility to “wait and see” with its prospects rather than try to achieve cost-certainty so soon.  Bradford observes the the Sox didn’t look into early extensions for the likes of Will Middlebrooks, Jackie Bradley or Xander Bogaerts, though since the latter two are represented by Scott Boras, those talks might’ve been a tough sell in any case.

Waiting even a year to extend Betts, however, could save the Red Sox some significant money.  If Betts plays as well in 2015 as Boston expects, he’ll be a similar position service time-wise as Christian Yelich is now; Yelich, of course, just agreed to a seven-year, $49.57MM extension with the Marlins.

Betts made his Major League debut last season, hitting .291/.368/.444 over 213 plate appearances.  He’s already under team control for the next six seasons, not being eligible for arbitration until after the 2017 campaign and not eligible for free agency until after 2020.  Looking at other recent extensions for players with under a year of service time, it seems likely that Boston would aim for at least five guaranteed years and at least two option years on the contract, which would extend their control over Betts though at least one of his free agent years.

For his part, the 22-year-old outfielder hasn’t yet put much thought into signing an extension.  “That’s a tough question. I don’t really know,” Betts said. “I think I would weigh my options and see what’s best for me with what’s best for the team. It’s kind of a mutual thing. It has to be fair and something that would give me some stability and not have to worry about it. It just depends on how things play out.”


AL East Notes: Red Sox, Craig, Wieters, Bailey, Tanaka

Here’s the latest from the American League East:

  • The Red Sox risk losing a chance to acquire Cole Hamels of the Phillies by waiting to deal for him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. While it is too early to judge the team’s current rotation, results — and, perhaps more importantly, reviews from rival scouts — have been less than promising.
  • Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still “trying to find a trade partner” for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, per Cafardo. He notes that the club has assigned several “top pro scouts” to watch the Giants, Padres, and Cubs recently, though it is not entirely clear that all of those clubs could match up on Craig.
  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be shut down for about a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right elbow after his first stint behind the dish, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Manage Buck Showalter said that he does not see the news as a setback, and indicated that the move was made as an exercise of caution. Wieters’ ability to return to his usually sturdy work with the mask on is critical not only to the team’s hopes this year, but also to his free agent case after the season.
  • Reliever Andrew Bailey made his return to competitive action today for the Yankees, with Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeting that Bailey’s fastball sat in the low 90s in his inning of work. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka continued to show strong form this spring, as Jennings further reports. If both of those arms can prove healthy and effective, the club’s run prevention efforts will obviously receive a significant boost. While Tanaka pitched much of last season before being shut down with a partial UCL tear, Bailey has not thrown a big league pitch since 2013 and represents pure upside for New York.

Giants Not Actively Pursuing Outfielder

TODAY: The Giants’ inquiry regarding Craig actually took place before Spring Training opened, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. In other words, it was not in response to Pence’s injury.

YESTERDAY: As they prepare to open the season without star right fielder Hunter Pence, the Giants are not presently in active pursuit of another outfield option, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports on Twitter. If an addition is made, says Gammons, the club would be looking for a power bat.

San Francisco did recently inquire with the Red Sox on veteran Allen Craig, per the report, but found that Boston was not interested in “selling low.” Craig’s name has come up repeatedly this winter as a trade candidate; after struggling through 2014 and heading to the Sox in a deadline deal, he found himself battling with numerous other viable candidates for a roster spot. His trade value, of course, is weighed down by the $26.5MM left on his contract. Most recently, however, reports out of Boston indicated that the team expects to open the season with him on the 25-man roster.

While losing Pence for a significant stretch was undoubtedly a blow, it is at least somewhat surprising to learn that the team actually showed interest in Craig, particularly since he would not appear to have much of a role when Pence returns. After all, the Giants seemingly utilized their available payroll space over the offseason, and have a reasonable temporary replacement in Gregor Blanco.

On the other hand, the club does figure to have a rather left-leaning lineup at present. Regardless, the report seemingly suggests that San Francisco was not inclined to take on a large portion of Craig’s deal, echoing prior reports that the team would only be interested in a low-risk acquisition of the former All-Star. And with no current efforts underway, Blanco remains the odds-on favorite to keep Pence’s seat warm in the season’s early going.