The Red Sox are among the teams with some level of early interest in free-agent infielder Javier Baez, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported this week. Boston already has a high-end shortstop in place, but Xander Bogaerts can opt out of the remaining three years and $60MM of guaranteed money on his contract at the end of the 2022 season. Baez, 29 next month, is also a markedly better defender at shortstop, which could open the possibility of the Sox realigning their infield in some capacity.
Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has made it clear that his front office values defensive versatility since taking the reins in Boston — evidenced by the signings of Enrique Hernandez, Marwin Gonzalez and Danny Santana. Of course, Baez figures to be in an entirely different stratosphere from a salary standpoint, and the Sox also now have some additional needs on the pitching staff with Eduardo Rodriguez officially joining the Tigers on a five-year contract. The Red Sox already have about $173MM in projected 2022 payroll at this point, plus about $184MM of luxury-tax obligations, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez.
Bloom spoke this week about the difficulty of losing Rodriguez, candidly acknowledging that the left-hander’s market simply reached a point where the Sox were no longer certain that making the top offer “was the best use of our resources” (link via MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo). That said, the decision did not come lightly for Bloom and his colleagues — some of whom have been with Rodriguez since he debuted in 2015.
“We were certainly fighting our emotions on that the whole way because of how highly we think of him and how much we enjoyed having him here,” said Bloom, who went on to add that the club was happy to see the market reward Rodriguez after a trying 2020 season lost to Covid-19 and myocarditis:
“There were points in time where we weren’t even sure if he was going to be able to play again, so to see him come back this year, do what he did, and now to have the market reward him for it, it’s a really great story.”
Nevertheless, with Rodriguez out the door, the Sox figure to explore other avenues to address a rotation that currently projects to include Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock. It’s an undeniably talented mix, but neither Houck nor Whitlock has actually produced for a full big league season while shouldering a starter’s workload. Sale, meanwhile, will be in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, while Eovaldi has a lengthy injury history of his own. The 28-year-old Pivetta (29 in February) was solid in 30 starts last year, but his career has been punctuated by inconsistency thus far.
With those questions in mind, southpaw Steven Matz is among the free agents with whom the Red Sox are in contact, tweets Cotillo. The 30-year-old Matz just wrapped up a strong season with the division-rival Jays, for whom he pitched to a 3.82 ERA with a 22.3% strikeout rate and 6.6% walk rate through 150 2/3 frames. Toronto declined to issue a qualifying offer to Matz, meaning he won’t come with any draft compensation for the Red Sox or any other interested parties. It’s been a robust market for starters so far, which bodes well for Matz and other arms remaining on the market — particularly with quite a few big-market clubs like Boston still on the hunt for arms.