Daniel Hudson’s strong season is drawing trade attention from the Red Sox and multiple other teams, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports (Twitter link). The Blue Jays signed Hudson to a one-year, $1.5MM contract over the offseason, and the 32-year-old is on pace to deliver his best season as a relief pitcher, with a 2.72 ERA, 8.8 K/9, and 2.00 K/BB rate over 43 innings. The Red Sox are known to be looking at the high end of the bullpen market, though it isn’t surprising that they would also be seeking out pitchers like Hudson, who wouldn’t cost nearly as much in the way of prospects.
Red Sox Rumors
While Nathan Eovaldi has been slated to become Boston’s closer, the Red Sox continue to monitor the closer market, with MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi (via Twitter) reporting that the Sox have “active interest” in the Blue Jays’ Ken Giles and the Padres’ Kirby Yates.
The bullpen has been seen as a longstanding problem for the Sox dating back to the offseason, when the team seemed content to let Craig Kimbrel leave in free agency and then more or less stand pat with its relief options. That strategy has resulted in some pretty inconsistent results from the Red Sox pen this season, with Eovaldi’s recent role change seen as a two birds-with-one stone idea that would both help preserve Eovaldi’s elbow and get him back on a mound quicker, and also address Boston’s need for a stable closer.
Of course, Eovaldi has no experience closing games, so it makes sense that the Sox would at least be checking into options like Yates and Giles to see if another move was possible. That said, there are a lot of obstacles standing in the way of a trade for either closer. The Jays have a big asking price on Giles, while the Padres would reportedly only trade Yates for “an overwhelming offer.” Ergo, acquiring either right-hander would require the Sox to dig deep into an already-thin farm system.
In a pure bidding war for young minor leaguers, it seems unlikely that the Sox would be able to outbid most other interested suitors for either Giles or Yates, and their normal financial might (in terms of taking on money to accommodate trades) is limited by the team’s close proximity to the top luxury tax threshold of $246MM. Neither Giles or Yates are on particularly big salaries, though every dollar counts considering Roster Resource has Boston’s luxury tax number at just under $244MM.
While high-profile trades between division rivals are usually pretty rare, the Red Sox and Blue Jays combined on a notable deal just last summer, when the Sox acquired future World Series MVP from Toronto. By contrast, one wonders if the Sox could actually have a tougher time completing a trade with the Padres given the controversy that erupted between the two clubs over the Drew Pomeranz deal in July 2016. That said, San Diego and Boston have combined on one swap since the Pomeranz trade, the relatively minor deal last November that saw Colten Brewer go to the Sox.
If nothing else, Boston’s interest in Giles and Yates indicates that the team still sees itself as a contender and a buyer at the trade deadline. At this point, however, it seems like the Sox are vying only for a wild card spot, as Boston sits 11 games behind the Yankees in the AL East race. The Red Sox are three games behind Oakland for the final AL wild card berth, and with a tough road to travel just to get to a one-game playoff, there has been some suggestion (from both the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham and MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) that the Sox should consider trading some veterans to unload salary and restock on young talent for another run in 2020.
Boston’s next 14 games are all against either the Yankees or the Rays, with eight of those games coming before the July 31 trade deadline. Both Abraham and Cotillo cite this upcoming stretch as the potential turning point of the Red Sox season, with Abraham describing the team’s July 29 off-day as “the organization’s deadline to decide whether this season is worth trying to save.”
Back in May, right-hander Andrew Cashner suggested to Dan Connolly of The Athletic that he’d consider sitting out the rest of the season if the Orioles sent him to an undesirable destination by the July 31 trade deadline. Cashner, whom Baltimore traded to Boston last weekend, confirmed to Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com that he indeed would have held out through year’s end had the Orioles dealt him somewhere he didn’t want to go.
“I mean what I said,” he told Cotillo. “This is one of the places I would come. It wasn’t a place that I would ever not come to. We’re talking about the World Series champions. Why would you not come here?”
Philadelphia was the only other team that showed reported interest in Cashner before his trade to the Red Sox, but the Phillies stopped their pursuit because of concerns over his makeup. The well-traveled Cashner then fell flat in his Red Sox debut in a loss Tuesday to the Blue Jays, who roughed him up for six runs (five earned) on eight hits and a pair of homers in five innings. Cashner had been much more productive than that toward the tail end of his Orioles tenure, though, and has managed a playable 4.09 ERA/4.53 FIP with 6.04 K/9, 2.75 BB/9 and a 48.9 percent groundball rate in 101 1/3 innings this season.
As of now, Cashner’s output looks as if it’ll earn him another guaranteed contract in the offseason – if he reaches free agency. The soon-to-be 33-year-old’s current deal includes a $10MM vesting option if he throws 340 innings from 2018-19 or a player option should he amass 360. But Cashner is well short of either figure, having accrued 254 1/3 dating back to last season, so another trip to the open market appears inevitable. Obviously, though, Cashner isn’t willing to simply play anywhere going forward. The hirsute Cashner also isn’t going to shave his beard at a team’s request, which – as funny as it sounds – could have an effect on where he pitches after this season.
The Red Sox have released INF Eduardo Nunez, Chris Cotillo of masslive.com was among those to report. Nunez was designated for assignment Monday after a dreadful (.228/.243/.305, 36 wRC+) start to the 2019 campaign, and is now eligible to sign with any team for the pro-rated league minimum.
Long a productive utility player, if defensive liability, over the course of his ten-year MLB career thus far, Nunez’s recent output, on the heels of a -0.3 fWAR 2018 campaign, may relegate him to minor-league duty if he’s to latch on with another club this season. The longtime Yankee posted three consecutive 100 wRC+ or better seasons from 2015-17, but the current campaign marked the fourth season in which he’s checked in beneath the replacement-level fWAR baseline.
Nunez’s ineffectiveness, coupled with Dustin Pedroia’s injury issues, spawned an unlikely Brock Holt/Michael Chavis platoon at the keystone, the latter of whom – a converted corner infielder – shouldered the bulk of the early-season load. It’s been a mostly productive mix thus far, with each player posting above-league-average offensive totals through yesterday’s games; Chavis, for his part, has acquitted himself well defensively in his first professional crack at the position.
The Red Sox activated Nathan Eovaldi from the 60-day injured list today, per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham (via Twitter). Optioning Ryan Weber to Triple-A will be the corresponding roster move. The team announced the moves as well.
Eovaldi will step into the closer’s role, as has been the plan coming out of Boston since the beginning of this month. Eovaldi certainly has the chops to cover the back-end innings for the BoSox, but the decision was surprising because of Eovaldi’s stated preference for the rotation. The injury history, his success out of the pen in last year’s World Series, and the middling production from the Red Sox pen (4.56 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 4.35 xFIP) add up to a fairly compelling case to support Boston’s decision, however.
Ryan Brasier leads the team in saves with seven, but his recent struggles landed him back in Pawtucket earlier this week. Freeing Brandon Workman and Matt Barnes from regular closing responsibilities will lengthen the bullpen and give manager Alex Cora weapons to deploy earlier in ballgames. Given the scarcity of natural sellers in this year’s trade market, the Red Sox already sidestepped the long line of teams angling for bullpen additions by finding an easier get for their rotation in the form of ex-Oriole Andrew Cashner. Rather than mortgaging the farm to outspend the many of pen-hungry buyers, the Red Sox are hoping Eovaldi can settle a relief core than has been the worst in the majors by ERA (6.88) over the last month.
As for Weber, he made two appearances in this most recent go-round with the major league club, struggling through 4 2/3 innings of work. For the season, he’s made three starts and five relief appearances for the Red Sox, amassing 24 innings and a 5.25 ERA (4.31 FIP). The 28-year-old righty returns to Pawtucket for the time being, where he owns a 5.16 ERA this season across 11 starts.
Steve Pearce proved to be a brilliant in-season pickup by the Red Sox a year ago, when they acquired him from the division-rival Blue Jays in late June. Pearce not only put up excellent regular-season production with Boston, but the first baseman dominated during the Fall Classic to earn World Series MVP honors in a five-game victory over the Dodgers. The Red Sox and Pearce could have gone their separate ways then and ended their relationship on a high note, but a couple weeks after the team won its latest title, it re-signed the 36-year-old to a $6.25MM guarantee.
While Boston undoubtedly expected the good times to continue rolling for Pearce in 2019, he has instead trudged through a season defined by underperformance and injuries. After starting the campaign on the shelf because of a strained left calf, Pearce debuted in early April and proceeded to hit a ghastly .180/.245/.258 (29 wRC+) with one home run in 99 plate appearances through May. The Red Sox sent Pearce back to the IL on June 1 with back problems. Pearce hasn’t returned to action since then, owing largely to the posterior ligament knee injury he suffered while on a rehab stint. A month and a half later, he’s still not slated to make his way back to the majors anytime soon, Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reports.
Manager Alex Cora issued an update Thursday on Pearce, saying he’s “just rehabbing” at the team’s complex in Fort Myers, Fla., and not “even close to (being) back.” As of now, Pearce isn’t “participating in many baseball activities” and is only hitting off a tee, Smith writes.
The absences of Pearce and Mitch Moreland (who has taken two at-bats since late May) have thrown a wrench into the plans Boston had at first base entering the season. The righty-swinging Pearce and the left-handed Moreland were supposed to be the Red Sox’s solution at the position. Rookie Michael Chavis, who had been at second base, has instead emerged as the team’s starter at first with Pearce and Moreland unavailable. Meanwhile, Brock Holt and Marco Hernandez have taken the reins at second, which played a part in the Red Sox’s decision to to designate struggling veteran Eduardo Nunez for assignment this week. Moreland’s due back soon, Smith notes, though it’s not yet clear how the Red Sox will dole out playing time at first and second when he returns.
Starter-turned-possible closer Nathan Eovaldi will join the Red Sox for their upcoming series in Baltimore beginning on Friday, as per multiple reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo). Eovaldi may not necessarily be activated from the 60-day injured list on Friday, since his final minor league rehab outing came today and the Sox could be hesitant about having Eovaldi pitch on consecutive days in the wake of elbow surgery in April.
Eovaldi tossed just 21 innings (of 6.00 ERA ball) before going under the knife this season, and rather than extend his rehab process by stretching him out in preparation to start, Boston will instead try to solve its season-long issues at the back of the bullpen by deploying Eovaldi as a closer. It’s a creative solution that has some real upside, though using Eovaldi as a reliever surely wasn’t on Boston’s mind when the club re-signed Eovaldi to a four-year/$68MM deal last winter.
How Eovaldi performs even in the short term will be of significant consequence to the Red Sox as they approach the trade deadline. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski suggested that the team’s recent acquisition of Andrew Cashner to address the back of the rotation (more or less filling the hole left by Eovaldi) could potentially be the sum total of Boston’s pre-deadline moves. It’s possible Dombrowski’s stance could change should Eovaldi get off to a rough beginning out of the bullpen, even if it’s adding one more lower-tier arm to further bolster the pen.
- Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree’s average fastball velocity is down roughly 2.5 mph since his return from the injured list, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com observes. As one would expect, Hembree’s decreased velocity and his potentially related struggles — three runs on three hits and no outs recorded Tuesday — raised red flags with manager Alex Cora and the coaching staff. Cora said after the game that the Sox would “check in” Hembree to gauge how he’s feeling, acknowledging some concern over the right-hander.
Brasier’s demotion is the latest in a series of suboptimal outcomes for a Boston relief corps that the front office neglected to address in the offseason. Brasier and fellow righty Matt Barnes opened the season expected to share closing duties, but neither has performed up to expectations. Brasier’s last couple of weeks have been particularly rough, as he’s allowed runs in four of his past seven outings — including four runs in two-thirds of an inning last night. In all, he’s sitting on a 4.24 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.56 HR/9 and a 28.8 percent ground-ball rate. ERA alternatives like FIP (4.72) and xFIP (5.40) paint an even uglier picture than Brasier’s lackluster ERA.
The bullpen will receive a boost when Nathan Eovaldi returns from the injured list later this month and assumes closing duties. Boston re-signed its postseason hero on a hefty four-year, $68MM contract with the idea that he’d serve as a key rotation piece, but he’s been out since late April due to elbow surgery and will now return in a bullpen role. The Red Sox already acquired Andrew Cashner to step into Eovaldi’s rotation spot alongside Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez, but additional bullpen help will surely be on president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s radar in the 15 days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
- Red Sox soon-to-be closer Nathan Eovaldi will embark on a rehab stint Wednesday or Thursday, likely with Triple-A Pawtucket, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe tweets. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Saturday that Eovaldi could rejoin Boston’s staff sometime this week. Eovaldi, who has been out since late April because of right elbow surgery, will be pitching in a full-time relief role for the first time in his career when he returns. The 29-year-old has started in 152 of 160 appearances thus far.