- The cost for the Red Sox to purchase right-hander Hector Velazquez from the Mexican League last week was just $30K, reports Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald. Velazquez’s pact with the Red Sox includes escalators based on consecutive days he spends on Boston’s roster, and one general manager told Drellich it’s the first such deal he has seen. Red Sox front office members Allard Baird, Jared Banner, Marcus Cuellar and Edgar Perez were all involved in the signing, per Drellich. Velazquez is familiar with Cuellar, notes Drellich, which helped the Sox beat out other teams (including the Yankees) for his services.
- With Blake Swihart facing a tough path to playing time as a catcher, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald wonders why the Red Sox didn’t experiment with Swihart at third base. Swihart has long been cited for his athletic ability and his potential to play all over the diamond, and the Sox are facing uncertainty at the hot corner as Pablo Sandoval attempts to revive his career. As president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski explained, however, the Red Sox have Rafael Devers as the top future prospect at third, and Swihart is more valuable as a long-term piece for Boston if he can stick behind the plate. “I think Blake has a chance to be, with the type of offensive capabilities and athletic capabilities he has, if he can make that transition on a permanent basis to catching, that’s a real plus for the organization….Then as we go into the future, if he can be our catcher for us, he can be our catcher for a lengthy time period,” Dombrowski said.
- As the Red Sox have moved to cash in prospect assets for talented major leaguers since the arrival of president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the remaining young players have seemingly taken on added importance to the club’s future. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes, the Sox refused to part with third baseman Rafael Devers in the deal that ultimately netted Chris Sale. He and first baseman Sam Travis — who missed a significant chunk of 2016 due to knee surgery — aren’t expected to head north with the club out of camp, but could play a major role not long from now. As Dombrowski observes: “The best clubs are constantly breaking in young players on a consistent basis, year in, year out. And you also need it from a cost basis perspective.”
The Red Sox are embarking upon a transition from their old information system (“Carmine”) to a new one (“Beacon”) that will support all of the team’s critical analytics work, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes that the club . The changing nature of data, a shifting focus in analyzing it, and new means of digesting it have all occasioned the initiative, as Speier explains. Readers interested in that element of the baseball decisionmaking process, or fans of the club, will want to give the piece a full read.
Here’s more out of Boston:
- The Red Sox placed a bid on veteran reliever Koji Uehara before he signed on with the Cubs, manager John Farrell tells Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald (via Twitter). Farrell hinted that it fell shy of the $6MM guaranteed by Chicago. The offer, he said, was not “to what [Uehara] expected.” Boston acquired a new setup option in Tyler Thornburg before Uehara put pen to paper with the Cubs, but it’s unclear just when those discussions took place.
- We’ve already seen visual evidence of Pablo Sandoval’s improved physique, but it’s not yet clear whether that’ll translate to a full turnaround. There’s hope, though, a loss of weight — along with a healthy shoulder and perhaps renewed focus — will allow the embattled veteran to return to being a productive player. Farrell said today that the expectation is for Sandoval to show an “increase in range maybe some better foot quickness, [and] better body control” in the field, as ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber reports. Of course, he’ll also need to bounce back at the plate.
- Last year’s Drew Pomeranz drama has spurred a renewed effort to address medical information on a leaguewide basis, as we’ve heard previously and MLBPA chief Tony Clark addressed yesterday with reporters including Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com. With new “checks and balances and accountability and transparency” now in place following the recent round of collective bargaining talks, says Clark, the hope is that positive “changes are being made to the protocols and the system itself.” The Pomeranz situation itself, he said, was regrettable. “To say it’s unfortunate would be an understatement,” said Clark. “We’re hopeful here moving forward with the changes and adjustments that are being made that it won’t happen again.”
Former Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart recently expressed regret for trading a package headlined by Dansby Swanson for Shelby Miller. But the Snakes control Miller for three more years, and Miller is hoping to redeem himself this season, as FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. Miller says he struggled with the pressure of being the marquee player in a high-profile trade. “I wasn’t using my stuff like I did in the years before. I wasn’t as confident in my pitches as I should have been. I really didn’t throw any sinkers. My cutter wasn’t good,” he says. Now, he says, he’s trying to “almost go back to being a Little Leaguer and have fun.” Here’s more out of Arizona.
- The Diamondbacks’ new braintrust contains a number of former employees of the Red Sox organization, including GM Mike Hazen, manager Torey Lovullo, and assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter. The new D’backs front office wants to emulate the Red Sox’ in some respects, Sawdaye tells David Laurila of FanGraphs. “We’re trying to build a culture similar to the one we were used to in Boston,” Sawdaye says. “We want people to want to come to work. We want them to be open with each other and communicate well. A lot of good decisions are made that way — in conjunction with other’s opinions. … We’ve worked on implementing that. It’s something that was maybe not here in the past, or at least it was a little different.” In the same interview, Sawdaye also describes the way the front office has reshaped the Diamondbacks’ analytics and scouting departments.
- Interestingly, Sawdaye notes that one factor in the Diamondbacks’ big November trade involving Jean Segura and Taijuan Walker this offseason was that the D’backs’ front office was new and therefore didn’t directly experience Segura’s success last season. “[I]n some ways, not being here last year was probably a little helpful,” says Sawdaye. “[H]aving not been here to see how good Segura was, day in and day out, took any bias out. We were able to be more objective with our assessment.”
Yankees GM Brian Cashman tells Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald that he wants his team to develop top talent rather than acquiring it via the free-agent market. The lens of the piece is the Yankees’ rivalry with the Red Sox, which has changed in recent years as the Yankees have backed away somewhat from their previously big-spending ways. Here’s the latest on the Yankees’ current approach, as well as a player the Yankees and Red Sox did compete with one another to acquire.
- A number of key players, including Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, are set to become free agents in the 2018-19 offseason. But Cashman says the Yankees aren’t building their strategy on the availability of those types of talents. “We’re not planning that way,” says Cashman. “We’re waiting to transition out of some contracts and some older players and then eventually I’m hoping that we develop enough young players that would prevent us from having to go crazy in the free agent market. … Doesn’t mean we won’t participate in free agency, but we’re hoping to develop.” The Yankees, of course, did make a splash in free agency this winter, signing Aroldis Chapman to a record-shattering deal for a reliever. They also added Matt Holliday and Chris Carter. Still, they didn’t dominate the winter the way they have in the recent past, and will head into 2017 with a number of young players at key positions.
- Going forward, Cashman says he expects to see different teams drive the winter market and the summer trade market depending on the year. “One year it was the Padres, they spent a ton of money,” he says, referring to the 2014-15 offseason, when the Padres made a number of high-profile trades and signed James Shields. “I think it’s every year it’s different, every winter it seems to be different and other clubs emerge and step up, just like at the deadline the Indians stepped up to deals with us. They’re a small market club that typically doesn’t do that. But this was their window time.”
- While the Yankees/Red Sox free agent arms race isn’t as frenzied as it’s been in years past, the two sides recently did compete for one free agent — Mexican pitcher Hector Velazquez, who went to the Red Sox on a low-profile deal when the Sox purchased his contract from the Piratas de Campeche in the Mexican League. “After the Caribbean Series they told me that the Red Sox were interested,” says Velazquez through a translator. “[S]oon after, Campeche, which is the team that I play for, told me that the Yankees were also interested. The way things in work in Mexico is, Campeche is the one who decides exactly who do you go to. They asked me at the end of the day who I wanted to go to, and I chose the Red Sox because they were the first ones to come to me.”
- Rusney Castillo is something of a forgotten man in the Red Sox camp, as ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber writes that the outfielder has no clear path to MLB playing time or even the 40-man roster. Castillo is still hopeful of making an impact, as he is retooling his swing and is enjoying more personal comfort now that his five-year-old son and other family members have been able to leave Cuba to join him in the United States. Castillo signed a seven-year, $72.5MM deal with Boston in August 2014 but has just a .679 OPS over 337 big league plate appearances.
- If Pablo Sandoval doesn’t reestablish himself as a capable third baseman this year, the Red Sox could eventually swing a trade for Todd Frazier of the White Sox, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Chicago will have paid more than half of Frazier’s $12.5MM salary by the trade deadline, which should make the 31-year-old an attractive target for Boston or other contenders, Cafardo observes. Given that the White Sox are amid a rebuild, it seems they’d prefer to ship out established veterans like Frazier sooner than later, as general manager Rick Hahn implied in an interview with MLBTR contributor Brett Ballantini earlier this week.
- The Red Sox have announced that they’ve purchased the contract of righty Hector Velazquez from the Piratas de Campeche in the Mexican League. The deal will be official once a physical is completed. The 28-year-old pitched well over the winter for the Mayos de Navojoa in the Mexican Pacific Winter League, with a 2.32 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 85 1/3 innings. He also fared well in the regular season for the Acereros de Monclova, with a 2.47 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9 over 131 1/3 innings. He has spent his entire career in Mexico to this point.
Major League Baseball’s investigation into domestic violence allegations against Mets closer Jeurys Familia could be nearing a conclusion, according to Ken Davidoff and Matt Puma of the New York Post. The Mets excused Familia from their pitchers and catchers workout Saturday (and he won’t be in attendance Sunday), which is related to the league’s case, two sources informed Davidoff and Puma. Mets manager Terry Collins doesn’t expect Familia to miss any more time this spring beyond Sunday, but the league could hand the reliever a 30- to 50-game regular-season suspension in the coming weeks, Davidoff and Puma suggest.
More from the East Coast:
- While there’s interest across the majors in utilityman Brock Holt, the Red Sox aren’t looking to trade him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “Many clubs like him a great deal,” said president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. Since debuting in the majors with Pittsburgh in 2012, the versatile Holt has seen action everywhere but catcher and pitcher, though Boston doesn’t have an obvious place to put him this year. Most of Holt’s playing time last season came in left field, where ballyhooed rookie Andrew Benintendi will line up in 2017. Even including 2016, though, the majority of Holt’s big league experience has come at third base, but the Red Sox are banking on a revival at the hot corner from fellow lefty-swinger Pablo Sandoval. Thus, barring another poor showing from Sandoval – which is quite possible, of course – Holt could struggle to find reps. Nevertheless, Holt told Cafardo he’s “extremely happy” to be in Boston. The 2015 All-Star is under Red Sox control through the 2019 season.
- Justin Smoak manning first base and Steve Pearce handling left field on an everyday basis would be the “best-case scenario” for the Blue Jays this year, general manager Ross Atkins told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. “A lot could change, a lot could evolve,” continued Atkins. “(Melvin Upton Jr.) is a very good major-league player and he very well could be the guy that’s playing regularly in left field for us. What we’d like to do is to have a spring training that gives us that choice to make.” Hoping the 30-year-old Smoak carves out an everyday role seems unrealistic, as the former top prospect has underwhelmed in the majors and is coming off a subpar season. After signing a two-year contract extension in mid-July, the switch-hitting Smoak posted a .184/.283/.368 batting line in 99 second-half plate appearances. Should the lifetime .223/.308/.392 hitter’s issues continue in 2017, Pearce would primarily take the reins at first, which would open up left for Upton and Ezequiel Carrera.
- With Sean Rodriguez set to miss most or all of the season, the Braves are trying to find an in-house backup for star first baseman Freddie Freeman, details David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Right fielder Nick Markakis, utilityman Chase d’Arnaud, infielder Jace Peterson and catcher Tyler Flowers are all candidates to slot in behind Freeman – who missed just four games last year and has appeared in no fewer than 147 contests five of six full seasons. If Atlanta doesn’t settle on any of those four as a reserve first baseman, it could turn to free agent Kelly Johnson, as he and the team are still in touch, tweets O’Brien. Another go-around in Atlanta would be the fourth for Johnson, whom the Braves drafted in 2000 and then signed as a free agent in each of the two prior winters. The club subsequently traded the journeyman to the Mets during both the 2015 and ’16 seasons.