The Red Sox are parting ways with first base coach Tom Goodwin, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including Molly Burkhardt of MLB.com). Goodwin had been in that role for the past four seasons, joining Alex Cora’s staff before the latter’s first year as Boston’s manager. After a fourteen-year major league playing career, Goodwin moved into coaching and minor league managing in the Red Sox’s system. Between two separate stints with the Sox, he spent six seasons as Mets’ first base coach. Goodwin’s departure might be the only change on Cora’s staff, as Bloom told reporters the Red Sox are hoping to bring back the rest of the group in 2022.
Red Sox Rumors
Oct. 25: Cordero went unclaimed on waivers and was assigned outright to Triple-A Worcester, tweets Ian Browne of MLB.com.
While Cordero could’ve rejected the assignment and become a free agent and tested the market, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that Cordero quietly signed a one-year, $825K contract for the 2022 season at some point before he was passed through waivers (Twitter links). He’s still off the 40-man roster and would be owed the prorated portion of that salary for any time spent in the big leagues next season.
Oct. 21: The Red Sox have reinstated right-hander Phillips Valdez from the Covid-19-related injured list and cleared a spot on the roster by designating outfielder Franchy Cordero for assignment, per a club announcement. The team’s 40-man roster remains at 40 players.
Cordero, 27, was one of several players acquired in the three-team swap that sent outfielder Andrew Benintendi from Boston to Kansas City. Long touted as an immensely athletic and toolsy but unpolished upside case, Cordero wasn’t able to put things together in his Red Sox debut. The former Padres and Royals prospect tallied 136 plate appearances but managed only a .189/.237/.260 slash with a sky-high 37.5% strikeout rate.
While Cordero possesses elite speed, huge raw power and off-the-charts exit velocity numbers, it’s that strikeout rate that has continually hampered his ability to break out at the MLB level. The punchouts are simply nothing new, as he’s fanned in 35.7% of his career plate appearances between those three organizations.
To his credit, Cordero mashed his way through another season of Triple-A upon being sent down early in the year. Through 78 games with the WooSox, he posted a .300/.398/.533 batting line with 13 home runs, 24 doubles, two triples and a dozen steals (in 13 attempts). It’s a reminder of the tantalizing, innate ability that Cordero possesses but has not yet delivered in the Majors. He’ll now hit outright waivers, where the league’s other 29 teams will have the opportunity to claim him. If he passes through without a claim, the Sox can retain him by sending him outright to Triple-A.
It should, of course, be noted that the DFA of Cordero hardly closes the book on the Red Sox’ end of the Benintendi deal. The Sox still have four other players to show for that deal, though none has reached the Majors yet. Boston acquired right-hander Josh Winckowski and outfielder Freddy Valdez from the Mets (who received Khalil Lee from Kansas City), in addition to picking up righties Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell from the Royals. Cordero was certainly the most recognizable name going back to Boston in the swap, but he wasn’t necessarily the key player in the deal.
As for Benintendi, he had a fine debut campaign in K.C., slashing .276/.324/.442 (106 wRC+) with 17 home runs, 27 doubles, two triples and eight steals (albeit with a woeful success rate, given his 17 attempts). He’s controllable for one more year via arbitration, with a projected 2022 salary of $9.3MM (courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz).
The Kyle Schwarber journey has been a rollercoaster over the past couple of years. It was fairly steady from 2017 to 2019, as he was in a groove as the Cubs’ regular left fielder, playing at least 129 games and hitting at least 26 home runs each year. His wRC+ was between 103 and 119 in each of those three campaigns. 2020, however, went in a completely different direction. Over 59 games in the shortened season, Schwarber’s slash line was a meager .188/.308/.393, producing a wRC+ of just 89. There was reason to think it was a fluke, however, as his BABIP on the season was .219, well below his previous campaigns. Nonetheless, the Cubs decided to move on from Schwarber by declining to tender him a contract for his final year of arbitration control, sending the lefty away from the organization that selected him fourth overall in the 2014 draft.
He then went on to have arguably the best season of his career in 2021, between Washington and Boston. He slashed .266/.374/.554, en route to a wRC+ of 145, easily a personal best. His 3.1 fWAR was just slightly below the 3.2 he produced in 2018, though he played 24 more games that season compared to 2021. Based on that excellent campaign, Schwarber is sure to decline his half of the $11MM mutual option for 2022 that was part of his deal with the Nationals, taking the $3MM buyout instead and heading to the open market in search of a big payday.
But could the Red Sox sign him and bring him back? Schwarber tells Alex Speier of The Boston Globe that he’s open to it. “It’d be pretty stupid not to think about [returning],” said Schwarber. “My team here has been unbelievable. … If they feel like they would like to talk about [a new deal], I’d be all ears. I just think it would be stupid to ‘X’ someone off for no reason. Especially for a place like this, I’d be all ears.”
As Schwarber astutely points out, it would be silly for a free agent to eliminate any potential bidders for their services, especially publicly. So, it’s not terribly surprising for him to say he’s interested in returning. However, it would make for a potentially awkward fit. Schwarber was moved from his usual corner outfield position to first base with Boston, due to the Red Sox already having Enrique Hernandez, Alex Verdugo, Hunter Renfroe and J.D. Martinez on hand as outfield options. The switch wasn’t without hiccups, as Schwarber made a few obvious flubs in his time at first, and defensive metrics seemed aligned in their disapproval of his initial attempts at the position.
Although there is the designated hitter slot to think of, Speier’s piece says that Martinez is unlikely to opt out of the final year of his contract, meaning that bringing Schwarber back would give the club two bat-first players with defensive limitations. With Hernandez, Verdugo and Renfroe also coming back for 2022, it will still be difficult to make all the puzzle pieces fit. Schwarber will be one of the premier corner outfield options in this winter’s free agent market, meaning he should get plenty of interest without having to continue the first base experiment.
The Red Sox, for their part, could also turn to more-seasoned options at first, with Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo and Brandon Belt being the top names available. They could also let Bobby Dalbec have the position for now, as he’s been productive in his major league time so far. There’s also Triston Casas to think about. He’s considered a top-20 prospect in all of baseball, according to FanGraphs, Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. He finished 2021 in Triple-A and could soon force his way onto the big league roster. But a reunion between Schwarber and the Red Sox can’t be ruled out, as the slugger himself adds, “This is definitely a clubhouse that I could see myself wanting to stay in. These guys are amazing,” he said. “This is a World Series clubhouse, and I would love to hopefully see if that opportunity comes back.”
The Red Sox could have room for Schwarber from a financial standpoint as their current payroll for 2022 sits just under $160MM, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. Their opening day payroll in 2021 was just north of $180MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. However, the Red Sox could use their resources to address things besides first base, such as a pitching staff that is seeing Eduardo Rodriguez, Adam Ottavino and Hansel Robles head into free agency.
In pregame scrum before tonight’s ALCS game six, Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters that reliever Hirokazu Sawamura is dealing with a hamstring injury was potentially going to be removed from the roster. (Twitter links from Chris Cotillo of MassLive and Alex Speier of the Boston Globe.) However, Ian Browne of MLB.com later relayed word from Cora that Sawamura will be sticking around.
The Red Sox have their backs against the wall, as they are down 3-2 in the ALCS and will have to win in Houston tonight and tomorrow in order to survive. The health and effectiveness of every pitcher on the staff will be integral to their success in that regard. News of this hamstring issue is certainly concerning, though the fact that Sawamura has held his roster spot implies that the club still feels he’s a better option than bringing in a fresh arm, such as Matt Barnes. Sawamura has been a solid contributor out of the pen this year, as he had an ERA of 3.06 over 53 innings in the regular season, with a strikeout rate of 26.2% and 13.7% walk rate. He wasn’t on the team roster for the ALDS but has appeared three times in the ALCS so far, logging two innings in total.
Other injury notes…
- Chris McCosky of The Detroit News relays some updates on a few Tigers prospects from the Arizona Fall League. Infielders Spencer Torkelson and Ryan Kreidler will both miss the remainder of the league due to an ankle injury and calf injury, respectively. Meanwhile, outfielder Riley Greene has completed his concussion protocol. It had already been announced last week that Greene would miss the AFL because of a concussion sustained at the end of the Triple-A season. For a Tigers club that has been rebuilding in recent seasons, their prospects are incredibly important to turning the corner into being competitive, and that includes these three. MLB Pipeline has Torkelson, Greene and Kreidler as the club’s first-, second- and tenth-best prospects. Baseball America has the same 1-2 punch at the top but has Kreidler at 12th. FanGraphs also starts out with Torkelson and Greene at the top but has Kreidler at 25th. All three players reached Triple-A this season for at least 40 games, meaning they are right on the doorstep and knocking on the door of the majors.
- Rays’ righty Yonny Chirinos won’t be ready for next year’s opening day, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Chirinos has been out of action for more than year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August of 2020, but has suffered a setback that will keep him out even longer. Topkin’s report says that the hurler fractured his elbow last month and that the best case scenario for his recovery would be for him to be on a rehab assignment in April or May. Before this extended absence, Chirinos was looking like he could be a foundational piece for the Rays. From 2018 to 2020, he threw 234 1/3 innings with an ERA of 3.65. Even without Chirinos, the rotation should be in decent shape, with the presence of arms such as Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, Ryan Yarbrough, Luis Patino, Shane Baz, Josh Fleming, Brendan McKay and Dietrich Enns. The Rays have never had an opening day payroll higher than $77MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and Jason Martinez of Roster Resource estimates their payroll for next year to already be above $70MM. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for reinforcements, though they will surely non-tender a few of their arbitration-eligible players and bring that down a tad. The Rays are also always a candidate to figure out a way to move some money around, such as the contract of Kevin Kiermaier, whose name has been floated in trade talks for years and is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, valued just over $12MM.
- “The first four months, five months, everything was perfect. The last six weeks anything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong,” Matt Barnes told Alex Speier of The Boston Globe, discussing the rough end to the season that turned the former Red Sox closer into a postseason question mark. Barnes was enjoying a tremendous season until August, when he ran into some struggles on the mound and was then sidelined with a case of COVID-19. If that wasn’t enough, Barnes revealed that he also suffered a self-inflicted left thumb injury in late September, as he sliced off the tip of his thumb while chopping peppers to make an omelet. Barnes was able to keep playing, albeit with a bandage on his thumb and what Speier describes as “a hard plastic casing inside his glove so he can catch the ball without pain.” Though Barnes was part of the roster for Boston’s wild card game victory over the Yankees, he wasn’t included on the ALCS roster and wasn’t originally on the ALDS roster until rejoining the team as an injury replacement. Given the circumstances, it is difficult to see Barnes figuring into a potential World Series roster unless there’s another injury absence.
The Red Sox on Friday announced their roster for their forthcoming ALCS date with the Astros. It’s largely the same collection of names, although Boston has shuffled up its bullpen mix. Right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura and lefty Darwinzon Hernandez have both been added, while righty Matt Barnes and lefty Austin Davis have been removed. Barnes was initially omitted from Boston’s ALDS roster, but he was added as an injury replacement when fellow righty Garrett Richards sustained a hamstring strain. Because he was removed from the ALDS roster due to injury, Richards was ineligible for the ALCS roster, but he could potentially be added back to the World Series roster — if the Red Sox advance and if he is deemed healthy enough.
Here’s how Boston’s ALCS roster breaks down…
- Ryan Brasier
- Nathan Eovaldi
- Tanner Houck
- Adam Ottavino
- Nick Pivetta
- Hansel Robles
- Hirokazu Sawamura
- Garrett Whitlock
The 33-year-old Sawamura signed a two-year deal with the Sox last winter on the heels of an excellent career with the Yomiuri Giants and (more briefly) the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. His rookie campaign in Major League Baseball was a strong one, as he pitched to a 3.06 ERA with a solid 26.2 percent strikeout rate and a hefty 51.8 percent ground-ball rate in 53 innings of relief. The primary knock on Sawamura is an untenable 13.7 percent walk rate. He’ll hope to curb that problematic lack of command in any ALCS matchups for which he’s called upon, but Sawamura’s 15.5 percent swinging-strike rate and 33.7 percent opponents’ chase rate both underline his ability to get a punchout in late-game settings when he’s at his best.
As for Hernandez, he’ll bring a power fastball to Boston’s arsenal of lefties. Like Sawamura, Hernandez has no problem when it comes to racking up punchouts (29.7 percent) but has been far too charitable in terms of free passes (17 percent). Walks aside, however, Hernandez has been extremely difficult for both lefties (.204 batting average, .370 slugging) and righties (.202 average, .326 slugging). It’d certainly be ideal if he had better command of his pitches, but his stinginess in yielding hits, regardless of platoon situation, could prove critical against a balanced Houston lineup that is deep in impact lefties (Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Michael Brantley) and righties (Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman).
Barnes’ omission is surely a disappointment to the embattled closer but can’t come as a surprise after he was also omitted from the Division Series roster. The 31-year-old Barnes had a Jekyll-and-Hyde season, pitching to a 2.25 ERA with a 42 percent strikeout rate through 44 innings before crumbling with a 10.13 ERA in his final 10 2/3 frames. Those 10 2/3 innings were spread across 16 ugly appearances, with Barnes regularly being unable to complete a full inning of work. His strikeout rate plummeted to 26.7 percent in that time, while his walk rate spiked to 15 percent. Barnes also yielded four long balls in those 10 2/3 innings — matching his total through his season’s first 44 innings. A sudden decline of this nature and an omission from the postseason roster seemed unimaginable in July, when he signed a two-year, $18.75MM extension.
Both League Championship Series are now set, following the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the Giants in Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Over the next week-plus, we’ll see the Astros (home field advantage) battle the Red Sox for the AL pennant while the Braves (home field advantage) take on the Dodgers for the NL crown.
All four teams are dealing with either uncertainty surrounding a key player. It’s still not clear whether the Astros will have Lance McCullers Jr. for the ALCS after he exited his last start against the White Sox due to forearm discomfort and underwent an MRI. On the other side of this matchup, Red Sox star third baseman Rafael Devers has been playing through a forearm injury that has impacted his swing but has yet to detract from his production.
The Braves, meanwhile, don’t know when or whether they’ll get slugger Jorge Soler back into the mix after he tested positive for Covid-19 just hours before their own Game 5 showdown against Milwaukee. The Dodgers have been without Max Muncy throughout the postseason, and both manager Dave Roberts and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman were deliberately vague when asked about him following last night’s win (Twitter links via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times and Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register).
With just four teams remaining in the field and a fresh pair of best-of-seven series set to kick off over the next two days, it seems like a good time to give MLBTR readers a chance to weigh in on who they’re taking in the ALCS and the NLCS (and perhaps an avenue to voice their thoughts on any, um… questionable… calls from last night’s game).link to poll for Trade Rumors iOS/Android app users)
The uncertainty stems not from an uneven rotation, but from an uncertain group of relievers. Manager Alex Cora’s other available starters – Eduardo Rodriguez, Tanner Houck, and Nick Pivetta – will be available out in the bullpen for the start of the series, writes MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer. That’s a strategy that worked for Cora in the ALDS. Pivetta proved crucial out of the pen against the Rays, a performance redolent of Eovaldi’s own in the 2018 World Series. Houck tossed seven innings of relief in the series as well, yielding just a pair of runs.
Whereas the Red Sox were able to patchwork their bullpen for a four-game series win against the Rays, they will likely need an even more dynamic approach to survive a seven-game tilt against the Astros’ potent offense. There is definite potential for this series to turn into a slugfest, not only because these two clubs boast the first and fifth ranked offenses in the game by runs scored in the regular season, but because the Astros are likely to be without Lance McCullers Jr. Results of the MRI on his sore forearm have yet to be revealed.
McCullers may not be viewed nationally as an ace, he’s been nothing short of stellar in the postseason. He owns a 2.83 ERA in 57 1/3 career postseason innings.
And while McCullers can boast the distinction of having started a game seven of the World Series back in 2017 (a win), he could be replaced by another righty who’s held that honor. Zack Greinke started game seven of the World Series in 2019 for Houston (a loss), and though he’s not likely to put up a full starter’s load, he could be used as an opener in McCullers’ stead, writes The Athletic’s Jack Kaplan. Jose Urquidy, Cristian Javier, and Jake Odorizzi are also candidates to pick up bulk innings if McCullers is unavailable.
What we do know is that Framber Valdez will take on Sale in game one, while Luis Garcia will go head-to-head with Eovaldi in game two, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. The Red Sox have the experience edge, but Valdez is no stranger to postseason success. Garcia, meanwhile, has at least gotten his feet wet in the playoffs: he had a scoreless two-inning outing in 2020 and 2 2/3 innings as the starter in game three versus the White Sox.
Alex Verdugo has worked exclusively as an outfielder to this point in his professional career, but the 25-year-old is hoping for an expanded role at some point in the future. Verdugo told reporters (including Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald) he’s hoping to serve as a two-way player by the 2023 season.
The Red Sox outfielder plans to begin a throwing program this offseason to kick off that process. While Verdugo cautioned that he didn’t want to take on a rotation role, he expressed an earnest desire to work out of the bullpen. “I don’t know if I’ll pitch next year, but definitely by 2023 I want to try to just be a two-way player,” Verdugo said “Not a (Shohei Ohtani), where he is starting and all that. I just want to be a reliever. Come in, help the boys out, something like that.”
Two-way players obviously remain quite infrequent, but they’re not without recent precedent. Ohtani is the AL MVP favorite for his stellar contributions on both sides of the ball. A two-way star of Ohtani’s caliber is unlike anything in recent memory, but a limited outfield/relief role seems more plausible. The Reds dabbled in that kind of experiment with Michael Lorenzen, giving him 83 1/3 innings of relief and six starts in center field in 2019. Anthony Gose hasn’t worked as a two-way player concurrently, but he played in the big leagues as an outfielder from 2012-16 before returning as a reliever with the Indians this season.
Verdugo certainly has the arm strength to at least make the notion of him working in relief potentially realistic. The left-handed hitter and thrower was a two-way star in high school, and he flashed intriguing upside on the mound. Baseball America named Verdugo the #55 prospect in the 2014 draft class, writing at the time that he worked his fastball into the 90s with a promising slider and changeup. BA noted that most amateur scouts actually favored Verdugo as a pitcher, with the broad consensus that his “professional future is definitely on the mound.”
The concept of Verdugo as a two-way weapon is certainly intriguing, although it sounds he’ll first have to convince his own manager to give him the opportunity. Alex Cora seemed less enthused about the prospect, telling reporters “(Verdugo) feels he can throw 97, 98 mph. I guess he used to do that. We’re like, ‘No, you’re not doing that. You’re actually going to get better physically and you have to take care of yourself.”
It’s easy to understand Cora’s seeming trepidation, since Verdugo’s plenty valuable working solely as an outfielder. He hit .289/.351/.426 (107 wRC+) over 604 plate appearances while splitting his time between all three spots on the grass this season. It remains to be seen if the Sox would allow Verdugo to take on additional work on the mound — or, of course, whether Verdugo progresses enough as a pitcher to even make that a viable question — but it’ll be an intriguing storyline to follow over the offseason and through next year. For his part, Boston chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom didn’t dismiss the idea out of hand, saying that while the Sox hadn’t discussed the matter too deeply, he wouldn’t past it past Verdugo developing into a useful pitcher based on his high school form (via Mastrodonato).
Teams must request approval from the commissioner’s office to replace injured players on a playoff roster. Injury removal renders that player ineligible both for the remainder of the current series and the next series, should the team advance. Were the Red Sox to erase their 1-0 deficit and take down the Rays, Richards would not be eligible to return until the World Series.
While Richards’ season-long numbers are underwhelming, they’re also a bit misleading. The 33-year-old began the season as a member of the rotation but struggled, leading to his transfer to a bullpen role in mid-August. Since moving into shorter stints, Richards has been far better than he was a starter, as MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored. Over 26 1/3 frames of relief to close out the regular season, he pitched to a 3.42 ERA/2.90 FIP.
Richards’ strikeout (24.8%) and walk (10.6%) rates were right around the league average, but he’s racked up grounders on nearly half the balls in play against him. He garnered increased trust of manager Alex Cora along the way, seeing increasingly higher-leverage work as the season progressed. His contract contains a $10MM club option (or a $1.5MM buyout) for the 2022 season.
Barnes’ year has gone in the opposite direction. The 31-year-old was among the game’s best relievers through the season’s first couple months, earning an All-Star nod and a two-year, $18.75MM contract extension in the process. He’s had a stunningly poor second half, posting a 6.48 ERA over 16 2/3 frames since the Break. He’s still fanned a solid 26.6% of opposing hitters in that time, but Barnes’ walk and home run rates have spiked dramatically over the past couple months. Those recent struggles led the Red Sox to leave him off the initial Division Series roster, but he’ll get another opportunity to step up after Richards’ injury.