Boston Red Sox – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-03-29T12:41:04Z WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Red Sox Option 5 Players To Triple-A]]> 2020-03-27T06:01:36Z 2020-03-27T05:46:13Z
  • The Red Sox made their minor league signing of utilityman Yairo Munoz official, assigning him to Triple-A Pawtucket, and sent down pitchers Colten Brewer, Chris Mazza, Matt Hall and Jeffrey Springs. Brewer’s the most notable name among the pitchers. The 27-year-old ranked fifth among Red Sox relievers last season in innings (54 2/3). Brewer recorded a passable 4.12 ERA with 8.56 K/9 and a 50.3 percent groundball rate along the way, but he also walked 5.6 batters per nine. 
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Rob Manfred Discusses Red Sox Investigation, Season Length]]> 2020-03-26T03:42:44Z 2020-03-26T03:42:44Z Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll have to continue to wait for answers on Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Red Sox regarding their alleged misuse of technology to steal signs. Commissioner Rob Manfred did reveal to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on Wednesday that he’s “done” investigating the matter. Manfred has not had time to write a public report yet, though, but he will issue a verdict sometime before the season begins (via Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times).

    Of course, no one knows how long the coronavirus will continue to delay the campaign. Thursday was supposed to be Opening Day, but that event (if it comes at all this year) is probably at least a couple months away. However, Manfred is hopeful that the league will be able to ramp back up within the next several weeks.

    “My optimistic outlook is that at some point in May we’ll be gearing back up,” he said (per Evan Drellich of The Athletic). “We’ll have to make a determination depending on what the precise date is as to how much of a preparation period we need.”

    That’s at least somewhat encouraging. But sadly, such a late start seems sure to render a typical 162-game season impossible. Manfred admitted as much, telling Van Pelt (via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle): Obviously our fans love a 162-game season and the postseason format that we have. We’re probably not going to be able to do that this year. I think that’s clear.”

    Despite what’s sure to be a shortened season at best, Manfred’s confident that MLB, whenever it returns, will play a role inthe healing in this country.”

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Red Sox Sign Yairo Munoz]]> 2020-03-25T23:47:18Z 2020-03-25T23:47:18Z The Red Sox have signed utility player Yairo Munoz to a minor league contract, according to their transactions page. The club assigned Munoz to Triple-A Pawtucket.

    Munoz came available when the Cardinals released him March 7. The two sides’ relationship took an especially sour turn when Munoz, upset by the lack of playing time he received last season, flew home from spring training without informing the Cardinals. Manager Mike Shildt suggested then that Munoz, who was also dealing with a hamstring injury, would have been in position to earn an Opening Day roster spot in St. Louis had he stuck around. Instead, though, if we even get a baseball season in 2020, Munoz will have to work his way back via Boston’s minor league system.

    Now 25 years old, Munoz was an effective hitter off the bench for the Cardinals when he debuted in 2018. He was a .276/.350/.413 batter with eight home runs and five stolen bases across 329 plate appearances that year. However, his production tanked during a 2019 campaign in which he slashed .267/.298/.355 with a pair of homers and eight steals in 181 PA. Munoz’s walk rate dropped by almost 6 percent, one of the reasons he wasn’t able to replicate his successful rookie showing.

    Despite last year’s struggles at the plate, Munoz does at least bring defensive versatility to the table. He has amassed 20 or more lifetime appearances at three infield spots (shortstop, third and second) and has totaled double-digit games at all three outfield positions. The Red Sox are clearly set at third (Rafael Devers) and short (Xander Bogaerts), but Munoz could still see action elsewhere if he does land a spot on their roster sometime in 2020.

    Darragh McDonald <![CDATA[Red Sox Minor Leaguer Tests Positive For Coronavirus]]> 2020-03-25T01:10:58Z 2020-03-25T01:10:58Z An unnamed Red Sox minor leaguer has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Tuesday. According to the statement:

    His positive test occurred on March 23rd following his return home and he was last at the Fenway South Player Development Complex on March 15th.  Given the timing of the player’s positive test and travel, we believe it is more likely that he contracted COVID-19 after he left Fort Myers.  Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, the club is shutting down Fenway South from all activity effective today, for at least two weeks.

    The statement goes on to say that the facility will now receive a “deep cleaning” and that anyone who came into contact with this player has been instructed to go into self-quarantine for two weeks.

    This illustrates the potential dangers of attempting to maintain camps and group workouts during the pandemic. According to Chris Cotillo of, many Red Sox players, including major leaguers, had still been working out at the facility (Twitter link). Hopefully, the team is correct in its assessment that the player in question contracted the virus after leaving.

    This is now the fourth case of a positive test for COVID-19 for someone connected to Major League Baseball, joining a Reds employee and two minor leaguers in the Yankees system. The statement notes that the player in question is “doing well” but does not elaborate because of privacy concerns.

    Darragh McDonald <![CDATA[Extension Candidates: AL East]]> 2020-03-24T02:45:36Z 2020-03-24T02:45:36Z There’s no baseball in the present, which has many fans turning to the past, as broadcasters are helping us addicts get our fix by filling the air with classic games from days gone by. But what about the future? Which players are logical fits for contract extensions for the days yet to come?

    We’ve already checked in on the NL East, NL Central and NL West. Now it’s time to switch over to the Junior Circuit and check in on the AL East.

    Blue Jays

    The youth movement is in full effect north of the border, as the team currently has no position players on the 40-man roster who have reached their 30th birthday. That means there are extension candidates up and down the line. From the team’s perspective, they would surely love to lock up their young core players of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, all of whom have less than a year of service time and are therefore at least two years away from arbitration. However, since all three are the sons of retired big leaguers who made millions during their playing days, they might not be as motivated as some other players to sign away years of free agency in exchange for the security of having guaranteed money in the bank.

    One promising youngster without a famous lineage is catcher Danny Jansen. The team could have some desire to lock him up if they think he’s their catcher of the future. But does the team still believe that after his lackluster offensive numbers in 2019?

    On the pitching side, the most promising young arm is prospect Nate Pearson, who hasn’t even made it onto the roster yet. We’ve seen some recent extensions given to players before their MLB debuts, such as Luis Robert, Evan White and Eloy Jimenez, but none for pitchers just yet. One wild card is Ken Giles. The 29-year-old has been lights out since leaving Houston and is one year away from free agency. But because of injury concerns, perhaps the right deal could give him enough peace of mind to forgo the open market.


    The Orioles are about as full into rebuild as a team can be. And the path out of the AL East basement seems to be long and arduous. But one way to brighten the light at the end of the tunnel would be to lock in some quality players for the happier days down the road. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of guys that currently meet that description.

    The team had four players produce more than 2.0 fWAR in 2019. Two of them are now on different teams (Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Villar). And another, Trey Mancini, is suddenly in an uncertain position after recently undergoing surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon.

    That leaves only hurler John Means, who had a fantastic breakout season in 2019. And since he’s about to turn 27 and is two years away from arbitration, he might want to lock up some cash while he can. But from the team perspective, Means might not be worth betting on at this stage. His 2019 ERA of 3.60 was nice, but FIP and xFIP are less bullish, pegging him at 4.41 and 5.48, respectively. It would be prudent for the Orioles to be patient and see if he has the ability to find repeat success.


    The cash-strapped Rays are big fans of the extension, having signed 11 of them in the decade that just ended. Since they almost never reel in big fish in free agency, Charlie Morton notwithstanding, extensions are the best way for them to get bang for their buck and keep talent on the roster. Just a few weeks ago, they were reportedly discussions extensions with Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows.

    As for Glasnow, he finally had his long-awaited breakout in 2019. He just reached arbitration as a Super Two and could conceivably make some decent money with four trips through arbitration. The club would surely prefer to put a cap on his earnings ceiling if they could. And since Glasnow struggled through his first few years in Pittsburgh, he might welcome the security of guaranteed cash to insure himself against those struggles returning. But because of injuries, he only logged 60 2/3 innings last year. He still hasn’t proven he can maintain his abilities over a full season. Until he does, that limits his leverage in negotiations.

    As for Meadows, he had a tremendous season in 2019, putting up the kind of classical power numbers that should reward him well in arbitration. As long as he can stay healthy and repeat them. But since arbitration is still two years away, perhaps a compromise could be worked out wherein he gets more money now but sacrifices the top end of his earning power.

    In terms of other guys, there are a whole whack of them that the Rays could try to nail down before they start getting paid real money. The list includes Joey Wendle, Willy AdamesRyan Yarbrough, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe and a big batch of relievers. But of course, with the Rays, there’s always a decent chance they’ll just trade a guy as soon as they get uncomfortable with his cost.

    Red Sox

    After trading away Mookie Betts and David Price and then losing Chris Sale to Tommy John surgery, it might feel like the Red Sox are a hollowed-out husk. But there’s still a lot of talent on the roster that they should want to keep around. And now that they’ve accomplished their goal of getting under the luxury tax barrier, they should have some room on the payroll to actually do it.

    Andrew Benintendi recently signed a two-year deal. But he will still have one arbitration year remaining after that. That means he would hit the free agent market as a 28-year-old, potentially lining himself up for a nice payday, unless the Sox pay him first. Eduardo Rodriguez just had his best season and could also reach free agency at 28. He’s making $8.3MM in 2020 and still has one more pass through arbitration remaining. With Price and Sale gone, and Eovaldi’s injury history, it could make sense to keep Rodriguez around for a few more years for some rotation stability.

    Rafael Devers won’t even get into arbitration until after this season. And since he’s only 23, he could bank some cash, give away a few free agent years and still reach the open market before he turns 30. Alex Verdugo is just a bit older but has one more year of team control than Devers. If Boston believed in him enough to make him the centrepiece of their return for giving up a franchise player like Mookie Betts, they must believe he’s capable of helping them down the road.


    The big-spending Yankees of old seem to have returned, after they blew way past the luxury tax for 2020. But you can never rule out another dump truck of money coming around the corner. They’re the Yankees, after all.

    They already struck gold with the first time they signed DJ LeMahieu. He somehow managed to have his best offensive output during a season in which he turned 31, and after leaving the friendly confines of Coors Field. Last month, it didn’t seem like anything was imminent. But that doesn’t mean a deal couldn’t be reached at some point this year to prevent him going on the block. James Paxton is also just one year away from free agency. But given his persistent injuries, would the Yankees bet on him in a big way?

    Of course, the 6’7″ elephant in the room is Aaron Judge. The delayed start to the season is giving him a chance to convalesce and approach full health. The slugger will make $8.5MM in 2020 and still has two passes through arbitration remaining before he hits free agency as a 30-year-old. Will the Yankees shell out the big bucks to keep the fan favorite around? Or does his injury history give them pause? Gary Sanchez is in a similar position, but just a few months younger than Judge and with a slightly smaller salary at $5MM.

    In the pre-arb department, Gleyber Torres is the shining star. He is sure to reach arbitration after 2020 as a Super Two, meaning he’ll have four chances to get a raise through arbitration unless the Yanks can fork over enough to get him not to. Since he’s on pace to reach the open market at 27, he could give up a few free agent years and still become a free agent at a relatively young age.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox Acquire Jhonny Pereda From Cubs To Complete Travis Lakins Trade]]> 2020-03-23T14:33:56Z 2020-03-23T14:20:34Z The Red Sox announced Monday that they’ve acquired minor league catcher Jhonny Pereda from the Cubs as the player to be named later in the January trade that sent righty Travis Lakins from Boston to Chicago. Lakins, oddly enough, is no longer even in the Cubs organization; he was claimed off waivers by the Orioles just 10 days after the Cubs acquired him. Pereda is not on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding move isn’t necessary for the Sox.

    Pereda, 24 next month, had a rough year in Double-A this past season, slashing .241/.336/.305 with just two home runs and 16 doubles in 398 plate appearances. Pereda caught a third of the runners who attempted to steal against him and won a minor league Gold Glove Award, but he also turned in poor framing metrics, per Baseball Prospectus. Baseball America ranked Pereda as the Cubs’ No. 26 prospect last offseason, before the poor 2019 showing, calling him a potential backup catcher with a bit of offensive upside due to his on-base skills (while also pointing out an utter dearth of power).

    Regardless of how Pereda turns out, things unfolded in a sub-optimal manner for the Cubs, who presumably hoped that they’d be able to pass Lakins through waivers and retain him without committing a 40-man roster spot to the righty. That didn’t prove to be the case, however, as the Orioles (who hold the No. 2 waiver priority) quickly nabbed him and have continued to carry him on the 40-man roster.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Revisiting The Chris Sale Extension]]> 2020-03-23T02:52:19Z 2020-03-23T02:52:19Z The Red Sox were as busy as any team during last spring’s extension flurry, inking a pair of star players to long-term deals that kept them out of the 2019-2020 free agent market.  One of the extensions was a six-year deal with Xander Bogaerts worth $120MM in guaranteed money, a contract that now looks like a pretty sound investment given how Bogaerts followed up a strong 2018 season with an even better 2019 campaign.

    The other extension is already off to a rough start.  Chris Sale signed a five-year, $145MM pact covering the 2020-24 seasons, with a club/vesting option for the 2025 campaign worth at least $20MM.  After vastly outperforming his early-career extension with the White Sox (which ended up as a seven-year, $59MM deal once both option years were exercised), Sale now had a new deal that better reflected his status as one of the better pitchers over the last decade.

    Exactly one year after that extension was signed, however, the deal looms as a significant misfire for the Red Sox on a couple of different levels.  The club announced on Thursday that Sale would be undergoing Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out of action for whatever becomes of the 2020 season and, in all likelihood, around half of the 2021 season.  The surgery comes on the heels of Sale being shut down last August due to elbow inflamation, and while a platelet-rich plasma injection and some months of rest looked to have the left-hander back on track earlier this winter, Sale was shut down again earlier this month after suffering a flexor strain.

    In the short term, this means Boston loses its best pitcher for 2020.  It is a major blow to a rotation that was only okay in 2019, and already had lost David Price after the Sox traded the veteran southpaw and Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in February.  While Sale could conceivably get back to something close to his old form post-surgery and still pitch well over the rest of his contract, the Betts/Price trade plays a critical role in evaluating the big-picture impact of Sale’s extension.

    As much as Red Sox ownership has tried to deny it, the luxury tax was clearly a major reason the team was willing to part ways with Betts and Price.  Between moving Betts’ $27.7MM salary and half of the $96MM remaining on Price’s deal, the Sox have gotten themselves under the $208MM Competitive Balance Tax threshold, with Roster Resource projecting a current tax number just shy of $196MM for the 2020 Red Sox.

    After two seasons of tax overages, getting under the CBT limit in 2020 would save the Red Sox millions in future tax payments, and theoretically allow them to spend past the threshold again as early as 2021 with only a minimal “first-timer” penalty attached.  As many Boston fans angrily noted over the winter, of course, trading Betts was a pretty extreme measure to achieve these luxury tax savings, and it’s a measure that could have well been avoided had the Red Sox not spent so much money elsewhere….for instance, on Sale’s extension.

    Due to deferred money and the structure of the extension, Sale’s contract has a luxury tax number of $25.6MM per season from 2020-24.  Boston’s overall luxury tax payroll stood at roughly $236.3MM at the start of November, so subtracting Sale’s salary would have dropped their figure to $210.7MM, already within shouting distance of the $208MM threshold.  From that point it would’ve been much easier for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to make few more cuts and duck under the $208MM line without having to move Betts or Price.

    Sale isn’t the only problematic salary on Boston’s payroll, of course, as the four-year, $68MM free agent deal Nathan Eovaldi signed last offseason is also looking questionable after Eovaldi’s injury-plagued 2019.  That said, the Red Sox were far from the only team who thought Eovaldi turned a corner in his breakout 2018 campaign, and they had to outbid the market to re-sign him.

    In Sale’s case, the Sox didn’t necessarily have to pursue that extension, particularly given that a few red flags were already apparent.  Sale lost some effectiveness down the stretch in the 2017 season, and had an even shakier ending to his 2018, as shoulder problems limited him to just 17 regular-season innings after July 27 of that year.  The Red Sox were as judicious as possible in spacing out Sale’s appearances during the postseason, when he posted a 4.11 ERA over 15 1/3 innings en route to Boston’s World Series championship.

    While Sale had been a very durable pitcher for the bulk of his career, seemingly running out of stream in consecutive seasons should probably have been enough to give the Red Sox some pause before guaranteeing him $145MM through his age 31-35 seasons.  As The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham recently noted, the Sox may have been motivated to keep Sale out of a lingering regret over the Jon Lester situation from 2014, when the team was perhaps too rigid in extension talks prior to Lester’s final season under contract, which led to Lester being dealt to the Athletics at midseason and then going on deliver several more fine years after signing with the Cubs.

    Abraham argues that waiting until after Sale’s final season could have been the more prudent decision for the Sox, as they would have had the added information of Sale’s 2019 numbers.  While the elbow injury was the biggest concern, Sale’s 36% hard-hit ball rate was the highest of his career, and his average fastball velocity dropped by 1.5 mph (to 93.2) from his 2018 speed.  Sale’s 2019 season was the worst of his ten-year MLB career, though given his high standards, a “bad” Chris Sale season was still very solid — a 4.40 ERA, 5.89 K/BB rate, 13.3 K/9 over 147 1/3 innings, and a wealth of advanced metrics (3.39 FIP, 2.93 xFIP, 3.00 SIERA) hinting that Sale’s 4.40 ERA was the result of some bad luck, such as a 1.47 HR/9 that far surpassed his previous career high.

    Would this platform year have been enough to make Sale a big player in free agency?  We saw multiple top arms score larger-than-expected contracts this winter, though none of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner and company had a mid-August shutdown hanging over their heads.  It’s probably safe to assume that Sale would have still landed a pretty sizable multi-year contract if he had been a free agent, though that also assumes he would have tested the market at all.  His elbow injury could have led to Sale accepting a one-year, $17.8MM qualifying offer to remain in Boston, in the hopes that he’d return to better health in 2020 and deliver a prime season that would lead to a bigger deal in the 2020-21 offseason.

    Adding another wrinkle to the mix, perhaps the Red Sox don’t even issue Sale a QO in this scenario out of a concern that he might accept it.  Boston’s approach to payroll seemed to shift radically from the start of the 2019 season to the end, as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was fired and eventually replaced with Bloom, who was under that rather clumsily-issued edict to trim salaries.  In the wake of Sale’s 2019 season, perhaps the Red Sox would’ve been comfortable just letting Sale walk entirely, thus removing one more contractual concern from their books.

    A major-market team like the Sox can weather a big contract not working out, but the franchise’s self-imposed desire to avoid the luxury tax suddenly puts many of the big deals of the Dombrowski era (the Sale extension, plus the signings of Price, Eovaldi, and maybe even J.D. Martinez considering the sheer dollars involved) under the radar.  This being said, blaming Dombrowski for Boston’s financial situation is unfair, as these nine-figure deals aren’t happening without the green light from ownership.

    Sale’s extension is a prime example of how no transaction exists in a vacuum, as every signing/extension/trade/release/etc. is itself a response to some other move, and also sets off a chain reaction of other moves.  As Abraham pointed out, who knows if Red Sox ownership makes such a move if they had acted differently with Lester all those years ago, or if maybe Sale (or Price, or Eovaldi, or even Dombrowski) ends up in Boston whatsoever if the Sox had still had Lester in their rotation.  Unfortunately for Sale and the Red Sox, the second-guessing over the extension will continue at least until the southpaw can finally get back on the mound.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Should The Red Sox Rebuild?]]> 2020-03-22T03:09:45Z 2020-03-22T03:09:45Z Should the Red Sox reload or rebuild?  The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham votes for the latter option, arguing that Chris Sale’s season-ending injury should inspire the Sox to “consider trading anybody outside of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Eduardo Rodriguez.”  (Personally speaking, I’d also add Christian Vazquez and Andrew Benintendi to Abraham’s no-trade list.)  Such a move may seem drastic, though the Red Sox already faced a tough battle to reach the playoffs in 2020 even with Sale, and that was assuming the left-hander was able to rebound from a down year in 2019.  With building blocks like Bogaerts and Devers already in place and their luxury tax penalties reset to zero, Boston could look to get back into playoff contention as early as 2021 after trading veterans for the right young talent, and then adding some other higher-priced players in trades or free agency.

    Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Video: Is There Any Hope For Chris Sale?]]> 2020-03-21T06:33:11Z 2020-03-21T06:33:26Z With the news of Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale needing Tommy John surgery, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd seeks out comparable aces who were able to return to prominence after the procedure.  Click here for today’s video.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Chaim Bloom On Chris Sale's Injury ]]> 2020-03-21T04:50:41Z 2020-03-21T04:50:41Z Boston’s rotation took a hit it may not recover from in 2020 with this week’s news that ace Chris Sale will undergo Tommy John surgery. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who has been faced with no shortage of adversity during his first several months atop the Red Sox’s baseball department, addressed the surgery decision this week, as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald details. The left-handed Sale dealt with elbow problems last season, but Bloom and the Red Sox don’t regret putting off his procedure. “Based on everything that went on last summer, the symptoms, the imaging, it seemed very reasonable to me to take that time off and try to rest, strengthen everything and hope for a successful path forward,” Bloom said. “Obviously up until (he felt pain) in early March, there was every indication that he was doing great.” Indeed, it was just this Wednesday that Sale seemed to be progressing in his recovery from a flexor strain. That changed a day later, and now Boston will have to go without its best pitcher until sometime in 2021.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Red Sox Sign Stealing Investigation]]> 2020-03-21T02:14:52Z 2020-03-21T02:14:52Z Public court proceedings have opened a knothole for peering into the state of the MLB investigation into the Red Sox regarding illicit electronic sign stealing. The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan reported on the most recent developments (subscription link).

    It was once anticipated that we’d see some resolution this spring. While reports have indicated that the Boston organization wasn’t terribly worried about significant blowback — at least, in comparison to the fury that met the Astros — it was entirely unclear just what commissioner Rob Manfred would discover and do about allegations that the Red Sox wrongly utilized video for sign-stealing in 2018.

    This subject has quite rightly faded to the background as a global crisis unfolds. But it’s a big deal in regular baseball terms. And now it seems there could be more at stake than had previously been let on.

    We owe our window of insight to a lawsuit filed by daily fantasy players. Today the court held oral arguments on the team’s motion to dismiss. Based upon the questions posed by the judge, it’s rather clear that Manfred has reached a finding of some wrongdoing — even if the public isn’t yet aware of the specifics.

    Just what Manfred found and what punishment he has or will mete out isn’t quite clear. The team’s lawyer did acknowledge that the Sox accept some of the underlying factual findings, but left ambiguous what they actually are. “Certainly, we did find on certain occasions in 2017, that this electronic device was used to communicate sign information.”

    The Sox’ attorney also made clear the team doesn’t agree (at least in the litigation context) with Manfred’s broader determinations. In particular, the attorney argued, the team is “entitled to disagree that that activity happened at the club level.” That statement certainly could be read to imply that Manfred identified participation in illicit activities that went beyond uniformed personnel.

    It’s rather frustrating to see such long-running uncertainty. But the evolution of the Astros scandal surely played a role in the slow unfolding of the Red Sox case. And the league is understandably focused on much more pressing matters at the moment. Today’s drip of information doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but does increase the intrigue.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Ryan Weber Likely To Be In Red Sox’ Rotation]]> 2020-03-20T14:52:35Z 2020-03-20T14:52:35Z Red Sox right-hander Ryan Weber entered camp hoping to win a battle for the fifth and final spot in the rotation, but manager Ron Roenicke has suggested that the 29-year-old now looks like the team’s fourth starter, per the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato.

    Weber inked a minor league deal with the Red Sox in December 2018 and found himself in the big leagues as early as May, when now-former Sox lefty David Price hit the injured list. He spent the rest of the season bouncing between Pawtucket and Boston, ultimately appearing in 18 games and pitching to a 5.08 ERA in 40 2/3 innings. That’s not a particularly appealing number, of course, but Weber’s 4.20 FIP was much more palatable, and there’s reason to think he could be more effective yet.

    Among the 436 pitchers who had 100 balls put into play against them in 2019, Weber posted the 17th-lowest hard-hit rate, per Statcast. Weber exhibited good control both in Triple-A and the Majors, and over the course of his pro career, his sinker has generated above-average ground-ball rates each year. The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham wrote earlier in the month that the Sox were intrigued by the small handful of cutters that Weber threw last season and believe the pitch could develop into a quality offering with more use. To his credit, Weber also has an excellent Triple-A track record, having pitched to a 2.85 ERA in 360 1/3 innings there.

    Even if Weber does surface as a serviceable rotation piece, Boston’s collection of starters is shaky following yesterday’s announcement that Chris Sale will miss the 2020 season due to Tommy John surgery. Eduardo Rodriguez turned in the finest season of his career in 2019 and should be a solid leader of the group. But right-hander Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t made more than 21 starts in a season since 2015, and lefty Martin Perez is fresh off a second consecutive sub-par season. The fifth spot in the rotation could go to an opener, although Mastrodonato and other reporters that spoke with Roenicke yesterday noted that he also mentioned lefty Brian Johnson as a possibility.

    Sox fans may hope that righty Collin McHugh, signed as a free agent earlier this month, could eventually emerge as an option. However, The Athletic’s Chad Jennings wrote yesterday (subscription required) that McHugh still hasn’t begun a throwing program as he works back from elbow troubles of his own. He’s reportedly been cleared to do so, although workouts for all players are in limbo to some extent, given the suspended state of play. Perhaps by the time the season eventually gets underway, he’ll be built up, but it’s difficult to pencil him in even as a tentative rotation piece for the time being.

    The Red Sox’ lineup should still be solid even without Mookie Betts, anchored by a formidable trio of Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez. But between Sale’s surgery, the trade of Price and the lack of a steady addition in the offseason, Boston’s starting staff looks like it’ll be a patchwork unit.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Red Sox Option Josh Osich]]> 2020-03-20T04:10:23Z 2020-03-20T04:10:23Z The Red Sox have optioned left-handed reliever Josh Osich to Triple-A Pawtucket, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Thursday (via Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe).

    Osich, whom the Red Sox claimed from the White Sox last October, was competing for a spot in Boston’s bullpen before the coronavirus reared its ugly head. The 31-year-old garnered quite a bit of experience between the Giants and White Sox from 2015-19, though he wasn’t especially effective during that span. Thus far, despite a strong 48.5 percent groundball rate, Osich has pitched to a 4.88 ERA/5.14 FIP with 7.95 K/9 and 3.64 BB/9.

    To his credit, Osich has been tough for same-handed hitters to deal with, as shown by their .286 weighted on-base average against him during his career. However, righties have smacked him around for a .375 wOBA. That’s not going to cut it in a league that will implement a three-batter minimum rule for pitchers whenever the regular season starts.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Chris Sale To Undergo Tommy John Surgery]]> 2020-03-19T21:56:51Z 2020-03-19T21:04:25Z Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will undergo Tommy John surgery, as per a team announcement.  Sale will be out of action for roughly the next 12-15 months, as per the usual recovery timeline, and will miss all of the 2020 season.

    The news less than three weeks after Sale was diagnosed with a flexor strain, following some elbow soreness in his throwing elbow.  Sale only resumed throwing yesterday, though it’s fair to assume that he experienced further discomfort that resulted in today’s decision.

    The Red Sox press release didn’t include any actual date for Sale’s surgery, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post speculated that it could perhaps be some time before Sale actually goes under the knife, given how elective medical procedures are increasingly being canceled (both in the United States and all around the world) in order to give hospitals and doctors more time to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.  It’s also worth wondering if the uncertainty surrounding how much (or any) of the 2020 season will be played could have contributed to Sale’s decision, as he perhaps figured that missing time now was preferable to missing time when games were firmly on the schedule.  Regardless, Sale will now miss whatever exists of the 2020 campaign and also likely at least two or three months of the 2021 season.

    Due to his relatively thin stature and his unique throwing motion, durability questions dogged Sale as far back as his days as a vaunted prospect coming out of Florida Gulf Coast University, to the point that he dropped to the White Sox with the 13th pick of the 2010 draft.  Sale proved those criticisms wrong after almost a full decade as one of the game’s best starters, with a career 3.03 ERA, 11.1 K/9, and the best career K/BB rate (5.37) in baseball history, while also averaging 205 innings per season between 2012-17.

    The Red Sox acquired Sale in a December 2016 blockbuster trade that saw budding superstar Yoan Moncada go to Chicago, though the hefty price tag was worth it from Boston’s perspective, given Sale’s strong results for the club and his role in helping the Red Sox win the 2018 World Series.  That said, Sale seemed to wear down at the end of the 2017 season and was bothered by shoulder problems late in the 2018 campaign, which led the Sox to limit his innings down the stretch and during their postseason run.

    Those injury concerns didn’t stop Boston from signing Sale to a five-year, $145MM extension almost exactly one year ago.  That deal covered the 2020-24 seasons, meaning the Red Sox won’t see any return on that investment for at least the next 15 months.  Warning signs already began to crop up last season, as Sale got off to a slow start and only somewhat looked like himself (a career-high 4.40 ERA, though advanced metrics painted a much more favorable picture of his 2019 performance) over 147 1/3 innings before being shut down in mid-August due to elbow inflammation.  Treatment for that inflammation included a platelet-rich plasma injection in Sale’s elbow, and he was seemingly making good progress in his offseason workouts before a bout of pneumonia set him back a couple of weeks.

    Given that so much of Boston’s offseason revolved around getting under the luxury tax threshold, the Sale extension now looms as a seriously questionable decision.  If Sale hadn’t been extended and his $25.6MM average annual value wasn’t on the team’s books, the Red Sox wouldn’t have faced nearly the (self-imposed) crunch to reset their tax bill after two years of overages.  This could have meant the Sox may have explored other, lower-level methods of getting under the $208MM threshold rather than the extreme measure of trading Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers.

    With Sale now out of the picture entirely for 2020, Eduardo Rodriguez is now the ace of the Red Sox rotation following the lefty’s big 2019 performance.  E-Rod leaves a staff that is severely lacking in sure things, as Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez, and Collin McHugh are all looking to rebound from either injury or inconsistency last season (McHugh could even still wind up in the bullpen).  A long list of names were competing for the final two rotation jobs before Spring Training was halted, and manager Ron Roenicke hinted that the Sox would use an opener/bulk pitcher strategy for at least one of the two slots.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Boston Red Sox]]> 2020-03-18T23:43:18Z 2020-03-18T23:43:18Z A transformative offseason for the Red Sox saw the club trade its franchise player, make an unexpected managerial change, and (perhaps most importantly in ownership’s view?) duck under the luxury tax threshold.

    Major League Signings

    Trades And Claims

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Notable Losses

    When Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski, Mookie Betts, and David Price were all taking turns hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy in October 2018, it would’ve seemed inconceivable that all four men would no longer be members of the Red Sox organization just 15 months later.  And yet, it didn’t take long for the Sox to go from a 108-win World Series champion to a team suddenly facing a lot of questions.

    Dombrowski was the first to depart, let go in early September amidst some reports suggesting Red Sox ownership considered firing him even a year prior.  As surprising as Dombrowski’s ouster was, Cora’s quick fall from grace was even more of a shock.  After the league’s report on the Astros’ sign-stealing exploits during the 2017 season cited Cora (then the Astros’ bench coach) as a key author of how Houston’s system of video footage and trash can-banging was constructed, the Sox fired Cora before MLB could announce even what punishment the now-former Red Sox skipper would face.

    Speaking of stolen signs, the Red Sox are still currently awaiting the results of Major League Baseball’s investigation into whether or not the Sox made inappropriate use of video footage to steal signs during their own World Series campaign in 2018.  While the Red Sox aren’t expected to be as punished as severely as the Astros were, it’s probably safe to assume that some type of penalty is forthcoming, perhaps in the form of a lost draft pick or two.

    Needless to say, Chaim Bloom had a lot to deal with after being hired as Boston’s new chief baseball officer in late October.  Bloom was already deep into offseason business before having to deal with an unforeseen managerial change, which could be one reason why the Sox chose to promote from within by naming bench coach Ron Roenicke as the interim manager.  Roenicke is a safe choice but hardly a bad one, as he is a known figure to Boston’s roster and had success in his only prior big league managerial stint with the Brewers from 2011-15.  If the Sox play well in 2020, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Roenicke become a longer-term answer in Boston’s dugout.

    As a longtime member of the Rays front office, Bloom’s first offseason in total control of a baseball operations department resulted in something of a Tampa Bay-esque winter for the Sox.  It was an offseason of mostly low-cost signings and acquisitions, while moving a pair of expensive players in a trade that was driven largely by financial motivations.

    Let’s start with the biggest blockbuster of the entire offseason: the Betts/Price trade with the Dodgers. What began as a three-team deal involving the Twins turned into another Los Angeles/Boston blockbuster after the Sox took issue with the medical records of Minnesota prospect Brusdar Graterol, who was supposed to be the one of the young minor league centerpieces headed to Boston in the deal.  In the end, the three-team arrangement was broken down in to two separate deals, with Graterol ending up going to Los Angeles as part of the trade that sent Kenta Maeda to the Twins, and the Red Sox swinging a deal with the Dodgers that saw Betts, Price, and $48MM (covering half of Price’s contract) for three interesting young talents.

    Jeter Downs immediately became the top prospect in Boston’s farm system and potential second baseman of the future, while catcher/infielder Connor Wong also gives the Red Sox a future option behind the plate or even as a multi-positional backup catcher.  Both of these youngsters could be on track for the big leagues as early as 2021, while outfielder Alex Verdugo is already coming off a strong performance (.294/.342/.475 in 377 PA) in 2019, his first extended stint against Major League pitching.  Verdugo is expected to take over for Betts in right field, perhaps as early as the new Opening Day, as the delayed start to the season will likely give him time to recover from a stress fracture in his lower back.

    It’s not at all a bad prospect haul, yet it’s also one many Boston fans and media members found inconceivable, given that one of pro sports’ wealthiest franchises was surrendering one of the game’s best players in what seemed like more or less a salary dump.  Principal owner John Henry’s late-September statement that the 2020 Sox “need to be under” the Competitive Balance Tax threshold after two seasons of overages loomed large over each transaction Bloom made this winter, no matter how much Henry tried to downplay his original comments both before and after the Betts trade.  Boston’s luxury tax number now stands at just under $196MM, as per Roster Resource, below the $208MM luxury tax threshold and indeed putting the Red Sox in line to reset their tax bill to zero.

    A third consecutive season of CBT overage would have cost the Sox a 50 percent tax on every dollar spent over the $208MM threshold, plus an additional 12 percent surtax if their luxury tax number stood within the secondary penalty range ($228MM-$248MM).  As well, the Red Sox would’ve received a 50 percent deduction in their cut of revenue-sharing rebates, as outlined by the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

    As of mid-January, Boston’s luxury tax payroll stood at roughly $237.89MM, so that third-timer penalty rate wouldn’t have been an insignificant extra expenditure….yet considering the franchise’s vast resources, it’s also hard to consider it a truly significant expenditure either, considering the on-field value lost by removing Betts from the lineup.

    With a bit more hindsight, the Sox could’ve given themselves more CBT breathing room had they non-tendered Jackie Bradley Jr. back in December, as their subsequent efforts to trade the center fielder ended up fruitless.  Perhaps the Red Sox could have re-signed Bradley for a lower amount than his $11MM salary, or perhaps just replaced him with Kevin Pillar (a comparable player) at a much lesser price.  An outfield of Betts, Pillar, and Andrew Benintendi clearly looks more imposing than Boston’s current alignment of Verdugo, Bradley, and Benintendi, with Pillar as the fourth outfielder.

    From a pure baseball perspective, Boston’s argument for trading Betts was that it made more sense to deal him now rather than risk letting him leave in free agency for nothing (save a qualifying offer compensation pick) next winter, or perhaps dealing him for a lesser package closer to the trade deadline if the Red Sox were out of the playoff race.  But, ownership has maintained all along that they intend the Sox to be contenders in 2020, and trading Betts and Price runs counter to that notion.

    Going back to the hypothetical scenario I floated earlier, let’s pretend the Red Sox kept Price and Betts, non-tendered Bradley, and still signed Pillar and Mitch Moreland.  Let’s also assume a few more dollars are spent here and there over the course of the season to bring Boston’s tax number to $245MM.  That works out to a three-timer CBT bill just shy of $21MM, plus the approximately $6MM in lost revenue-sharing rebate money as calculated in Speier’s piece.

    In essence, that makes the decision to trade Betts and Price a $27MM choice in terms of immediate money, plus the Red Sox get the peace of mind of knowing that they’re under the threshold now rather than having to perhaps scramble next winter to avoid a fourth year of CBT payments.  Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez are due for big arbitration raises next offseason, which would’ve counteracted some of the savings from having Moreland, Pillar, Perez, Workman, and still-with-the-Red Sox Betts all coming off the books.  (Plus, J.D. Martinez also has another opt-out decision at season’s end, so he might not be part of the 2021 roster.)

    Is saving $27MM worth a much more difficult path back to the postseason?  Even with Betts and Price, obviously the Red Sox would’ve still faced a stiff test from their AL East rivals, plus more competition from the American League as a whole for wild card positions.  But, had the Sox not been in contention by the deadline this year, they could’ve traded some contracts to duck under the luxury tax anyway — or, had until the end of the 2021 season to figure out ways to avoid paying a penalty for a fourth straight season.

    The Reds, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and Padres were all reported to have interest in acquiring Price over the offseason, but since the Red Sox weren’t able to trade the left-hander (and enough of his $96MM contract) alone, they ultimately had to package Price together with Betts to finally swing a deal.  Figuring out a solo Price deal quite possibly could have kept Betts in a Sox uniform in 2020, though Price’s own departure has no small impact on Boston’s roster.

    Martin Perez was signed prior to the Price trade, but he will essentially serve as a southpaw-for-southpaw replacement in the rotation.  Perez had a fairly hot start to his 2019 season with Minnesota but saw his productivity plummet beginning in late May.  As much as Bloom is optimistic about Perez’s untapped potential, the lefty has been a mid-rotation innings-eater even during the best of times during his eight MLB seasons.

    While Price’s age and injury history also make him a question mark heading into 2020, his presence would’ve brought more stability to the pitching staff than the current mix.  Ostensible staff ace Chris Sale is battling elbow problems and could still potentially face some type of surgery, though he’s begun a throwing program, and the Sox are hoping the extra rest in the elongated offseason allows Sale time to heal without missing any games.  Rodriguez is coming off a strong year, but Nathan Eovaldi is coming off an injury-plagued season and a wide array of arms (or an opener) could end up filling that fifth rotation spot.  The newly-signed Collin McHugh is a bit of a wild card as a either a rotation or bullpen candidate, assuming McHugh (who was only cleared to throw in late February) is himself healthy after dealing with elbow injuries.

    McHugh could ultimately make more of an impact to the relief corps, which didn’t get much attention despite an overall middle-of-the-road performance in 2019.  The Sox are hoping that a change in roles can help, as Brandon Workman’s emergence as the closer can add some clarity to the rest of the bullpen’s roles.  If openers do become a part of Boston’s rotation picture, there could be more mix-and-match than usual in the Red Sox pen, perhaps taking a page from how the Rays used their relievers under Bloom over the last couple of seasons.

    Besides Price, the Red Sox said goodbye to another veteran starter this offseason when Rick Porcello signed a free agent contract with the Mets.  A pair of other recent roster staples also departed, as super-utilityman Brock Holt signed with the Brewers and backup catcher Sandy Leon was dealt to the Indians.  New signings Kevin Plawecki and Jonathan Lucroy are competing for the backup catching job, while Jose Peraza will now somewhat replace Holt as a multi-position asset.  For now, Boston plans to use Peraza mostly as a second baseman, splitting time with Michael Chavis whenever Chavis isn’t filling in for Moreland at first base against left-handed pitching.  However, Peraza has experience at short and in the outfield, so he could move around in the event of injuries elsewhere on the roster.

    2020 Season Outlook

    We’ve gone this deep into the offseason review without really mentioning the three biggest reasons why the Red Sox could still contend for a wild card berth — Devers, Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts, who form as tough of a 1-2-3 punch as any lineup trio in baseball.  That group of sluggers goes a long way towards propping up a lineup that has some uncertainty, but also a lot of potential in Christian Vazquez, Verdugo, Benintendi, Chavis, Peraza and Moreland.  Even pitching-wise, despite all the injury questions, the Sox certainly have talent on hand if Sale and Eovaldi can stay healthy and Rodriguez matches his 2019 form.

    Simply running it back with Betts and Price on this roster would’ve been a perfectly respectable idea on paper, except that Red Sox ownership felt it was more prudent to take a step back to reload the farm system and take the opportunity to get what they felt was an untenable contract (Price) off the books.  Ideally, the Sox wouldn’t have had to trade Betts to make that work, though perhaps reading between the tea leaves, the club felt Betts wasn’t going to re-sign with with Boston anyway next winter, making him ultimately expendable as a trade chip rather than as a long-term asset.

    It’s a tough pill to swallow for the Fenway faithful, who have a right to be annoyed that the same Red Sox ownership group who has okayed several big-money signings and extensions over the years now feel the “need to” (to use Henry’s words from September) enact some financial prudence, even if it meant trading Betts.  Time will tell if the decision ends up being wise, but the window of contention that looked so wide open after the 2018 season is now much narrower.

    How would you grade the Red Sox offseason?  (Link for app users.)