With the Red Sox looking far and wide for third base help, a couple of creative solutions are proposed by ESPN’s Scott Lauber and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (writing on his Facebook page). Lauber suggests that Boston could explore a deal for the Athletics’ Yonder Alonso (14 games as a third baseman over his eight-year MLB career) while Rosenthal’s suggestion is perhaps even more outside-the-box: the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler, who has played all of two innings at third in his 12 years in the Show. Both suggestions, it should be noted, are based on only speculation from the two writers. Rosenthal reports that the Red Sox and Tigers haven’t mentioned Kinsler in trade talks between the two clubs, while WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford (Twitter link) reports that Boston isn’t considering Alonso to fill its third base gap. Still, as per Rosenthal, Dombrowski is apparently considering several infielders who could switch positions and play third, so the Sox might yet end up with a unique choice before the deadline.
- Reports seem to be mixed on Asdrubal Cabrera’s trade value. Puma reports that the veteran infielder has “several suitors” on the trade market, while Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News hears from an industry source that the Mets have received a “pretty light” amount of interest in Cabrera. That same source notes that the Red Sox, a team previously linked to Cabrera, had “yet to show any real interest.” It may be that Cabrera will need to show that he can handle playing third base before his market really takes off, or any clubs currently interested may have an eye on Cabrera at his usual shortstop position (or at second base).
- The Brewers are one of a half-dozen teams who have asked the Mets about closer Addison Reed, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports. Reed is getting the most attention of any Mets player likely to be dealt prior to the deadline, with other reports linking the right-hander to the Red Sox and Yankees. While Reed would be a setup man for those teams with established closers, there’s at least a chance Reed could share the ninth-inning job with Corey Knebel, who has been dominant for much of the season but has blown two of his last five save chances. Milwaukee has been on the search for starting and relief pitching, with Brad Hand, Pat Neshek and Justin Wilson among the names known to be considered by the Brew Crew as bullpen upgrades.
- The Red Sox now have Giants infielder Eduardo Nunez atop their list of possible third-base targets, a source tells MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). Indeed, the clubs have discussed Boston’s interest in both Nunez and reliever Hunter Strickland, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports. It seems the Sox are also still engaged with the Marlins on third bagger Martin Prado (as well as reliever David Phelps) along with Pirates infielders David Freese and Josh Harrison. Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that Prado is on the DL, while the Bucs may be hesitant to deal given the team’s improved outlook. All told, it still seems to be a wide-open search.
July 19: The Red Sox announced that Sandoval has been released.
July 14: The Red Sox announced that they have activated struggling third baseman Pablo Sandoval from the disabled list and designated him for assignment.
Sandoval is midway through the third season of a five-year, $95MM contract that proved to be a fatal misstep for the organization. Signed on the heels of a six-and-a-half-year span during which he posted a very strong .294/.346/.465 batting line through 3533 plate appearances with the Giants (to say nothing of his terrific postseason work), Sandoval flopped in year one of the pact, hitting just .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers in 505 plate appearances. He made just seven plate appearances in 2016 before undergoing shoulder surgery, and his 2017 work has resulted in a dismal .212/.269/.354 slash through 108 PAs.
Boston will now be on the hook for the remaining $49.8MM that Sandoval is owed through the end of the 2019 season. With a trade effectively unfathomable, Sandoval can either be outrighted to Triple-A (if he accepts the assignment) or released, at which point any club will be eligible to sign him for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.
Further exacerbating the pain that Sandoval has caused the Red Sox is the fact that his presence likely factored into the team’s thinking when it came to trading Travis Shaw to the Brewers this past offseason. Shaw, meanwhile, has broken out and been one of baseball’s most productive third baseman in his first half season with the Brewers.
For the time being, the Sox are deploying a makeshift platoon of Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin at the hot corner, and while that pairing leaves plenty to be desired from an offensive standpoint, it undoubtedly provides more defensive value than Sandoval brought to the table. Nonetheless, the Sox figure to be heavily linked to all of the third basemen that will be available on this summer’s trade market in the 17 days between now and the non-waiver trade deadline.
Of course, Boston also has a rapidly rising in-house option in the form of top prospect Rafael Devers, who ranks among the game’s five to 10 best overall prospects on most midseason rankings (No. 3 per ESPN’s Keith Law, No. 6 per Baseball America, No. 5 per Baseball Prospectus). Devers has yet to take an at-bat at the Triple-A level, and the team has said that he’ll head to Pawtucket before being promoted. That said, Devers has the potential to come up and impact the playoff race at some point in the season’s second half — particularly if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his staff don’t acquire a more established option at the hot corner.
- After seeing trade target Todd Frazier head to the Yankees last night, the Red Sox are now eyeing Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. That’s not the first time the BoSox have been linked to Nunez, though he’s among the first players to whom they Yankees have been linked following last night’s Frazier swap between Chicago and New York. The versatile Nunez is a free agent at season’s end and is earning a reasonable $4.2MM this year. He’s not a standout defender anywhere on the diamond, but he could hold down the fort at the hot corner for now and then bounce between third, shortstop, second base and perhaps the corner outfield later in the summer if the Sox give Rafael Devers an audition. Nunez is hitting .295/.319/.407 through 289 plate appearances.
After a great deal of speculation and legions of rumors connecting the Red Sox to Todd Frazier, the now-former White Sox third baseman instead went to the division-rival Yankees in a huge seven-player trade last night. Boston was linked to Frazier right up until the end, but they’ll now look elsewhere as they seek an upgrade at the hot corner. Here’s the latest out of Boston…
- The Red Sox have been connected to multiple other third basemen, and FanRag’s Jon Heyman adds Wilmer Flores of the Mets to the pile (Twitter link). Heyman notes that the Sox have scouted Flores, Asdrubal Cabrera and T.J. Rivera recently, which meshes with a recent report from the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman. The 25-year-old Flores (26 next month) and his modest $2.2MM salary wouldn’t put the BoSox in danger of crossing the luxury tax threshold, and he’s versatile enough to slide into a utility role if/when the Red Sox ultimately give Rafael Devers the reins at third base. Flores is hitting .280/.310/.445 with seven homers and a dozen doubles this season, and he’s controllable through 2019.
- Speaking of Devers, it may come as little surprise, but MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand hears that the 20-year-old top prospect isn’t available in any trade, as far as the Red Sox are concerned (Twitter link). Devers was recently moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket, and while it’s not known exactly how long he’ll remain there — Boston’s pursuit of third basemen in trades suggests that he’s not viewed as an immediate option — he’s believed to be their third baseman of the future. Devers recently landed within the game’s top six prospects on the midseason rankings of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN’s Keith Law.
- Looking to another of Boston’s now-former top prospects, Blake Swihart is still unable to catch regularly following last year’s ankle injury and is beginning to work out at first base and third base, manager John Farrell told reporters (Twitter link via ESPN’s Scott Lauber). Once one of the very best prospects in all of baseball, Swihart’s stock is now seemingly at a low point with another experiment at a new defensive home and a lack of production in Pawtucket to this point in the season. Through 163 plate appearances there, he’s hitting .213/.265/.327 with three homers, six doubles and a triple.
- Evan Drellich of CSN New England offers some praise for Red Sox president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski for exhibiting restraint by not pulling out all the stops to bring Frazier to Boston. Dombrowski has spoken publicly about retaining some of the team’s prospect depth after several significant trades, Drellich writes, and he stuck to that last night. However, Drellich continues by noting that last night also serves as a reminder of the “harsher reality” that following the acquisitions of Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Craig Kimbrel and Tyler Thornburg, the Sox have a lack of power in the current trade market. Most of those deals have paid dividends, of course (Sale, in particular), but a deal that significantly upgrades the team’s offense doesn’t look especially likely this year.
The Red Sox and White Sox are “in talks” on third baseman Todd Frazier, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Heyman notes that there’s nothing known to be done yet but adds that something could come together “fairly soon.” For what it’s worth, Frazier was announced as a healthy scratch from tonight’s lineup, which further lends credence to the notion that something could come together. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported over the weekend that the two sides had begun to move closer to a Frazier swap.
The 31-year-old Frazier is set to hit free agency at season’s end, and while his production this year hasn’t been up to par, he’s turned things on since the the calendar flipped to June. Over his past 37 games, Frazier has batted .234/.361/.508 with nine homers and eight doubles — all of which would be a mammoth upgrade over the woeful production that Boston has received at the hot corner this season. To date, Boston third baseman have collectively posted a miserable .227/.281/.325 batting line through 359 plate appearances.
Overall, Frazier’s .207/.328/.432 slash line is hardly eye-popping, but he’s also shown some positive indicators that point toward positive regression. He’s upped his walk rate to a career-high 14.3 percent in 2017 while also cutting his strikeout rate by more than three percent — from 24.5 percent in 2016 to 21.2 percent in 2017. Beyond that, Frazier has cut his infield-fly rate and seen increases in his line-drive and hard-contact rates. As such, it stands to reason that he could continue to improve upon a .214 batting average on balls in play that is currently the second-worst mark among all qualified Major League hitters.
- Mets righty Addison Reed is said to be drawing quite a lot of interest, with the Red Sox are among the teams weighing pursuit, per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (via Twitter). Boston will surely be casting a wide net as it looks to address what is perhaps a growing need at the back of the pen. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal highlights the need and also looks at some possibilities from the Red Sox’ perspective.
- If Gray is the top starter who’s likely to be dealt, the best position player on the market is probably Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez. The Cardinals were said previously to have looked into the high-powered slugger, but Nightengale says they won’t spend big on a rental of his ilk. Rather, he says, the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks are the three clubs that have “shown the most interest” in Martinez. We’ve also heard of a few other organizations poking around on the righty slugger, so there seems to be no shortage of interest.
- As many as 10 teams are still in the mix for Marlins righty David Phelps, tweets Nightengale. Phelps is indeed an attractive trade chip, though it’s unlikely that all 10 of those clubs are expressing serious interest and making competitive bids to acquire him. Nightengale names the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, and Rangers as the chief pursuers of Phelps.
- The Red Sox are one team rumored to have some level of interest in Lowrie, though Boston has been most closely connected with Todd Frazier in its third base search. Odds are, a source tells ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber (Twitter link), the Sox won’t be parting with significant prospect assets to meet its needs at the hot corner and in the bullpen. That likely wouldn’t be necessary for Lowrie or Frazier; one wonders, though, whether the club will still at least look into more significant deadline additions.
Already known to have Todd Frazier, Martin Prado, Jed Lowrie and Yangervis Solarte on their radar, the Red Sox are also scouting two Pirates (Josh Harrison and David Freese), a pair of Mets (T.J. Rivera and Asdrubal Cabrera) and the Giants’ Eduardo Nunez as they search for a third baseman, according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
Of that five-man group, the versatile Harrison may be the most difficult to acquire – especially considering the Pirates will aim to contend next year even if they don’t make a serious playoff push this season. With a .273/.352/.424 line to go with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases across 377 plate appearances, in which he has accumulated 2.1 fWAR, the 30-year-old is having a fine campaign. Harrison is also on a reasonable contract, one that pays him $7.5MM this year, $10MM in 2018 and carries club options for 2019 ($10.5MM) and ’20 ($11.5MM). While Harrison would be an immediate upgrade at third for the Red Sox, it’s questionable how he’d fit into the organization in the coming years. Boston’s much-ballyhooed third base prospect, Rafael Devers, is nearly major league ready, and the club has Harrison’s other positions – second base and the corner outfield – covered with Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.
Freese, 34, would also be more than a rental, as he’s due a guaranteed $4.25MM next season and has either a $6MM club option or a $500K buyout for 2019. Currently on a $6.25MM salary, the long-competent hitter has paired a respectable .245/.376/.364 slash in 271 trips to the plate with decent work at third (two defensive runs saved, 1.7 UZR/150).
The two Mets also come with control beyond this season, though the Red Sox would have the ability to decline Cabrera’s $8.5MM club option for 2018 in favor of a $2MM buyout. Cabrera, who’s earning $8.25MM now, brings a solid offensive track record to the table and has been OK in that department this year (.250/.333/.408 with nine homers in 270 PAs). However, the switch-hitter has just one career appearance at third base, which came back in 2007, and hasn’t looked good at all in the middle infield in his age-31 campaign. Cabrera has combined for minus-14 DRS and a minus-15.2 UZR/150 at shortstop and second, his customary positions.
Rivera, who at 28 is younger than Cabrera and won’t even be arbitration eligible until after the 2019 season, has survived a low walk rate (3.9 percent) since debuting last year to post quality numbers at the plate. Through 311 PAs, including 202 this year, Rivera has batted .315/.348/.469 – a line that’s either 15 percent or 17 percent better than league average, depending on whether you prefer OPS+ or wRC+. As such, he joins Harrison in looking like someone who’d be rather tough to pry from his current employer.
Nunez, a pure rental, is earning $4.2MM and has hit a playable .297/.323/.414 over 280 trips to the plate during his platform year. More impressively, the 30-year-old has stolen 17 of 20 bases, meaning he’d provide another speed threat to a Boston team that already ranks eighth in the majors in steals. Nunez is also capable of playing second, short and left field, though he hasn’t garnered particularly positive reviews anywhere as a defender.
As Boston continues to mull its options before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, it’ll utilize a platoon of Brock Holt and Deven Marrero at the hot corner, tweets Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. After the Red Sox defeated the Yankees on Sunday night, they optioned third baseman Tzu-Wei Lin to Triple-A. Lin fared nicely before his demotion, hitting .280/.379/.360 over the first 59 PAs of his career, but the 23-year-old owns a meager .638 OPS in a much larger minor league sample of 1,954 PAs.