- The Rangers inquired about Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright during the offseason, Texas president and GM Jon Daniels told Rob Bradford of WEEI on Saturday. “We asked about him this winter and they did not want to move him,” said Daniels. Wright was out of options and coming off a season in which he threw 72 2/3 innings and recorded a 4.09 ERA, 6.44 K/9, 3.34 BB/9 and 43.2 percent ground-ball rate. Nearly all of those numbers have improved this season, especially the 31-year-old’s ERA – which stands at a sparkling 2.18 through 103 frames. Daniels told Bradford that the Rangers “would have tried harder” to land Wright had they known he would be this successful in 2016.
- If the opportunity arises, Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski would be willing to make a trade with the archenemy Yankees, he told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Specifically, the Red Sox would have interest in the Yankees’ top relievers, notes MacPherson. The only trade the AL East rivals have made since 1997 came when the Sox dealt shortstop Stephen Drew to the Yankees in 2014, but that lack of history wouldn’t stop Dombrowski from trying to swing a deal with Brian Cashman. “If they’re in it and we’re in it, probably the odds are longer,” Dombrowski said in regards to a potential move. Boston, which possesses the top Wild Card position in the AL, is currently four games ahead of New York.
- With Red Sox catcher Ryan Hanigan nearing a return from a neck strain and the out-of-options Sandy Leon swinging a red-hot bat, 25-year-old backstop Christian Vazquez’s playing time and-or roster spot could soon be in jeopardy, per Scott Lauber of ESPN.com. Vazquez has graded well as a pitch framer this year and has caught a solid 7 of 18 would-be base stealers, but he has offset his terrific defense with an anemic .215/.255/.302 batting line and one home run in 157 plate appearances. That adds up to a 41 wRC+, the third-worst mark among catchers with at least 150 PAs.
Cole Hamels, whose contract permits him to block deals to 20 teams, would not have prevented the Phillies from sending him to the Red Sox, writes WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. “It was a team I would have played for,” says Hamels, who adds that he believes the two sides were never close to trade. The Red Sox pursued Hamels before the Phillies traded him to Texas, but the lefty could block a trade to Boston, and at least some members of the organization believed that was an obstacle. The Hamels deal has, of course, worked out well for the Rangers so far — Hamels was solid down the stretch last year and has a 2.79 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 this season. There’s still plenty of time for the trade to turn out well for the Phillies, however, with Jerad Eickhoff already performing well in the big leagues and Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Jorge Alfaro and Alec Asher all looking like potential future contributors. Here’s more from the East divisions.
- The Red Sox have the strong farm system necessary to acquire Julio Teheran and Arodys Vizcaino from the Braves, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. Braves GM John Coppolella, of course, recently said he wasn’t going to trade Teheran, but Cafardo dismisses that claim as “GM speak” and points out that Red Sox senior vice president of baseball operations Frank Wren was GM of the Braves when Teheran and Vizcaino were coming through their system. (Vizcaino played minor league ball in the Yankees and Cubs organizations as well.) Cafardo points to the Red Sox’ 2005 trade of Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to the Marlins for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. The Red Sox paid heavily, as they would likely have to do to acquire Teheran and Vizcaino, but they won the 2007 World Series partially because of the deal.
The Red Sox have reached out to the Braves to inquire about ace Julio Teheran and closer Arodys Vizcaino, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link). However, it would appear that the talks are somewhat preliminary in nature, as he adds that there’s no traction between the two sides at this time. In an audio clip from MLB Network Radio, Bowden adds that the problem for the Sox is that Atlanta is interested in the likes of Yoan Moncada and Andrew Benintendi (understandably so — most clubs would ask for those names when potentially dealing their top players), and the Sox are loath to surrender either.
The two sides do, as Bowden points out, make a fairly logical match in terms of a trade. MLBTR’s Connor Byrne noted as much several weeks ago when examining Teheran’s market and trying to find the most reasonable trade partners. Boston has a high volume of top-tier prospects, many of whom are effectively blocked at the Major League level. That’s not the case for Benintendi (left field for the Sox has been a season-long problem), which one would imagine makes it even more difficult for the Red Sox to part with him. But, the Braves are said to want MLB-ready talent in any trade that would send Teheran away, and that’s presumably an even greater point of emphasis in a package that would see Atlanta part with both Teheran and Vizcaino. Benitendi has already spent five weeks at the Double-A level and has recently begun hitting quite well there after some early struggles. It’s not inconceivable that he could be ready to contribute in 2016, and 2017 certainly seems like a realistic expectation.
Both Teheran and Vizcaino make sense as long-term options for the Sox. Teheran is guaranteed about $28MM through the 2019 season, and his contract contains a $12MM club option for the 2020 campaign, at which point he’ll still be just 29 years of age. Vizcaino, meanwhile, is controllable through 2019 by way of arbitration. Both players solve not only 2016 needs for the Sox but represent long-term upgrades. With Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa both slated to depart after 2016, the long-term appeal of Vizcaino, in particular, is easy to see.
From a bigger-picture perspective, the Red Sox’ search for pitching likely won’t be limited to just Atlanta. Boston has received stunningly excellent results from knuckleballer Steven Wright this season, and David Price has improved after a slow start while Rick Porcello has been a solid mid-rotation piece. Beyond that trio, however, the likes of Eduardo Rodriguez, Joe Kelly, Clay Buchholz and Henry Owens have been decidedly ineffective, resulting in a team that ranks 18th in the Majors with a collective 4.53 ERA from its starting pitchers. The bullpen has been better, pitching to a combined 3.56 ERA, but Uehara has struggled this season and Matt Barnes is averaging nearly five walks per nine innings despite a solid 3.21 ERA. Additionally, the team lost one of its top projected bullpen arms when offseason acquisition Carson Smith underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Given the lack of traction in talks referenced by the initial report, the Sox may ultimately deem Atlanta’s asking price too steep and venture elsewhere to address their pitching needs, but this figures to be the first of many times that the Sox are connected to this pair of arms as the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline approaches.
Regarding the Braves, there’s a fairly split camp on whether Teheran should be shopped at all. The entire MLBTR staff recently weighed in on the matter, and no consensus was reached. Similarly, a poll of MLBTR readers within that same roundtable showed that about two thirds of our reader base felt it worthwhile to shop Teheran, whereas the other third felt him valuable of a building block to surrender.
Red Sox outfielder Chris Young hit the DL with a hamstring injury, as Chris Mason of the Boston Herald writes. He joins Brock Holt and Blake Swihart as unavailable left field options for Boston, which already had ample justification to pursue an upgrade at the position. There’s some optimism for both of those players, at least, as Holt has begun a rehab assignment and Swihart is out of his walking boot.
- Clay Buchholz will receive another start from the Red Sox, manager John Farrell told reporters including Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). The veteran righty re-entered the rotation after a stint in the pen, and was greeted with a home run on his first pitch. Despite the shaky start, he ultimately allowed three earned runs on just four hits and a walk over five innings, while recording five strikeouts. Boston needs Buchholz at least to provide some solid innings for the time being, but will certainly hope that he can rediscover his form from 2015.
- As the Red Sox approach negotiations with first-round selection Jason Groome, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald writes that it’ll require a careful approach to find agreement. The team has yet to make a specific offer to the touted high-school lefty, though it has opened talks. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski struck a cautious but generally optimistic tone. “We’re hopeful to still sign him,” he said. “We went into there with open eyes. We know what his demands are from what his agent passed on to the clubs. We think we can sign him, but only time will tell.”
- Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski indicated that he’s still feeling out the trade market, as Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports. “[A] lot of times the conversations now are just as much an informational, feeling out [type],” he said. “And I think it’s also a situation where a lot of clubs really haven’t decided what they’re going to do yet.” While there are some obvious sellers, he noted, not many teams that came into the year with hopes of contending are now prepared to change course. “It’s important for us to stay in contact with those organizations so we know when they shift their focus,” said Dombrowski.
JUNE 20: Castillo has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Pawtucket, tweets Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
JUNE 19, 1:21pm: The Red Sox hadn’t contacted Castillo as of an hour ago, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI. Castillo has three days before he’ll have to report to the team, Bradford adds.
10:57am: The Red Sox placed outfielder Rusney Castillo on outright waivers Saturday, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Castillo will clear waivers Monday if nobody claims him. Given that Castillo is on a $10.5MM salary this year and is set to rake in upward of $50MM through 2019, odds are strongly against a team claiming the Cuba native.
This obviously isn’t the outcome the Red Sox or Castillo anticipated when the two sides agreed to a seven-year, $72.5MM contract in 2014. Castillo came to the United States as a potential five-tool center field option for Boston, but he never lived up to that promise with the Red Sox after an excellent initial taste of the majors.
When he first joined the Red Sox late in the 2014 season, Castillo appeared in 10 games and collected 12 hits – including three home runs – three walks and three steals in 40 plate appearances. Over a much larger sample size last season, he batted a poor .253/.288/.359 with five homers and four steals across 289 trips to the plate. That lack of production has carried into this year, with Castillo having posted a .245/.304/.320 line in 161 PAs with Triple-A Pawtucket. Despite the Red Sox’s injury issues in left field, where Blake Swihart and Brock Holt are both on the shelf, the 28-year-old Castillo has collected just eight PAs in the majors this season.
Going forward, there’s a chance Castillo will remain with the Red Sox organization if he clears waivers, according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. While Castillo would no longer be on the club’s 40-man roster, he’d still be able to suit up for Pawtucket.
Here are the latest minor moves from around baseball, with the newest transactions at the top of the page…
- The Rockies acquired lefty Pat McCoy from the Blue Jays, according to the Jays’ Triple-A affiliate (Twitter link). McCoy has pitched in four different organizations during a pro career that began in 2007, and his Major League experience consists of 14 relief innings with Detroit in 2014. McCoy has a 4.43 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.63 K/BB rate over 491 2/3 career minor league frames, with 288 of his 312 games coming as a reliever.
- The Pirates selected the contract of catcher Jacob Stallings from Triple-A and added him to both their Major League and 40-man rosters. Jason Rogers was optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding move. Stallings will give the Bucs some depth behind the plate with Francisco Cervelli on the DL and Chris Stewart also battling an ankle injury. A seventh-round pick in the 2012, Stallings has a .675 OPS over 1266 career minor league PA and wasn’t listed on Baseball America’s ranking of the Pirates’ top 30 prospects.
- The Mariners have sent right-hander Steve Johnson outright to Triple-A Tacoma, the team announced. Johnson has been outrighted in the past, so he’ll have the option of declining in favor of free agency. The Mariners designated him for assignment Friday after he totaled a 4.32 ERA and 11 walks over 16 2/3 innings.
- The Rays have outrighted lefty Dana Eveland to Triple-A Durham, according to the club. Eveland, like Johnson, has been outrighted previously. The 32-year-old has racked up 16 2/3 frames of 7.56 ERA ball at the major league level this season.
- Minor league Red Sox reliever Anthony Varvaro has retired, per a club announcement. Varvaro, 31, concluded his career by recording a 2.83 ERA, 9.73 K/9 and 4.08 BB/9 in 28 2/3 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket this year. Prior to tossing 11 frames at the major league level for the Red Sox in 2015, he was a member of the Braves, with whom he had a pair of standout seasons from 2013-14. Varvaro combined for 128 innings of 2.74 ERA pitching in that span, also posting a 6.54 K/9, 2.67 BB/9 and 48.2 percent ground-ball rate. Over the course of 183 2/3 innings in the majors with the Mariners, Braves and Red Sox, Varvaro logged a 3.23 ERA, 7.35 K/9 and 3.43 BB/9.
- The White Sox have signed first baseman K.J. Woods, whom the Marlins released, and outfielder Slade Heathcott to minor league deals, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America (Twitter link). The Marlins used a fourth-round pick in 2013 on Woods, who hit .239/.326/.386 in 872 minor league plate appearances with their organization. Heathcott, the more notable player of the two, was the Yankees’ first-rounder (29th overall) in 2009. BA ranked him as baseball’s 63rd-best prospect entering the 2013 season, but injuries and disappointing production led the Yankees to release him last month. Heathcott did perform well during his first taste of major league action last year, though, collecting 10 hits – including two home runs and a pair of doubles – in 30 PAs.