Boston Red Sox – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-02-25T07:06:53Z WordPress Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Notes: Weber, Verdugo, Moreland, JBJ]]> 2020-02-25T02:28:53Z 2020-02-25T02:28:53Z Just what are the Red Sox thinking by tying up a 40-man roster spot on righty Ryan Weber? Chad Jennings of The Athletic explores (subscription link). The club sees Weber as a clear candidate to take the fifth starter’s role or at least to serve as valuable depth. (He can still be optioned.) While his stuff isn’t eye-popping, it seems the org’s talent evaluators were wowed by Weber’s “command and execution.” And new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom evidently hasn’t seen cause yet to disagree. Weber doesn’t throw hard and owns only a 5.04 ERA in 114 1/3 MLB innings over the past five seasons. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Sox can help him find a path to contributing value in 2020.

In other news out of Boston, Rob Bradford of rounds up a series of interesting stories on the Sox. We’ll take a brief look at those of particular hot stove relevance …

  • There’s some good news on the progress of recently acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo, but also some added questions. Bradford writes that the 23-year-old has made major strides just since camp opened — but also that he may miss a month or more of the regular season. “The fact it is taking this long is frustrating,” says Verdugo. “What keeps me positive is that all the players, the staff, the trainers, they all support me. They all want me to wait until I’m fully healthy and get back.” Verdugo spoke about the lingering back and related issues that have plagued him for some time now, saying that he had been on a “regular workout plan” from the Dodgers that (it now seems) may not have been the best approach.
  • Regardless whether this lengthy recovery process could’ve been shortened, it’s certainly disappointing that the Boston organization is dealing with this sort of uncertainty surrounding the key player acquired in exchange for Mookie Betts. And Verdugo’s potential also makes for a key component of the team’s 2020 outlook. Even without Betts, the club is certainly at least a plausible Wild Card contender. Fans feeling down about the situation may at least be buoyed somewhat to learn of Verdugo’s unabashed affinity for legend David Ortiz (Twitter link).
  • Returning veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland spoke of his most recent stint on the open market. While he again ended up inking with the Sox, it wasn’t an obvious outcome for much of the winter. Moreland, a Mississippi native, says he fielded interest from a number of other clubs, including some “really close to home that were enticing.” Ultimately, the Red Sox re-engaged — and Moreland says he was happy to work it out to remain in Boston. The Sox will be pleased if they get a repeat of Moreland’s 2019 output; he slashed .252/.328/.507 (112 wRC+) after putting up only league-average offensive output in his first two years with the club.
  • The free agent process can certainly have its twists and turns, but center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. sees it in a positive light. Bradley, who’ll hit the open market next winter, tells Bradford that he’s looking forward to having the ability “to finally make a choice for yourself.” There are ways in which nearing free agency can be stressful, he acknowledged, but that’s all a matter of perspective. For Bradley, there’s nothing but upside: “Why not be excited about it?” he queried.
George Miller <![CDATA[Red Sox Claim Phillips Valdez Off Waivers, Place Pedroia On 60-Day IL]]> 2020-02-23T22:27:28Z 2020-02-23T19:32:23Z The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Phillips Valdez off waivers from the Mariners, reports Chris Cotillo of MassLive. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 60-day injured list.

Valdez, 28, had been designated for assignment on Friday following the Mariners’ claim of Taylor Williams, another right-handed reliever. He debuted with Texas last year and was claimed off waivers by Seattle in November, but was unable to stay on the roster for the entirety of the offseason. In his brief Major League stint last year, he tossed 16 innings of 3.94-ERA ball, striking out 18 batters. He was deployed exclusively as a reliever after spending the majority of his minor-league career as a starter. We’ll have to wait and see how the Red Sox view his future role, but evidently they like Valdez enough to give him a shot with the team.

Pedroia’s placement on the 60-day IL isn’t reflective of any new developments in his recovery from left knee complications: after suffering a “significant setback” this winter, Pedroia targeted late May or June as the most optimistic date for his return to the field, meaning that those first 60 days were always out of the question. And with Pedroia having only appeared in nine games over the last two seasons, Boston surely hasn’t been planning around a sizable contribution from the former MVP.

George Miller <![CDATA[Red Sox Hire Jerry Narron As Bench Coach]]> 2020-02-22T22:24:38Z 2020-02-22T21:21:17Z The Red Sox have hired Jerry Narron to serve as Ron Roenicke’s bench coach, according to Chris Cotillo of MassLive. Narron had spent the last three seasons in the same role with the Diamondbacks.

Although it’s a change of scenery for Narron, he should inherit a fairly familiar situation. It won’t be the first time he’ll have held the title of Red Sox bench coach; in 2003, he was second-in-command to manager Grady Little for Boston’s run to the ALCS. He’s also coached in tandem with new Sox manager Ron Roenicke, working as Milwaukee’s bench coach concurrent with Roenicke’s five-year stint as the Brewer skipper.

Narron brings to the table his own experience as a Major League manager, having presided over the Rangers and Reds in the early 2000s for 633 total games. His teams compiled a 291-341 record in his career and never appeared in postseason play.

Between his days as a coach and Major League catcher, the 64-year-old Narron has been around the MLB game for 32 seasons—not to mention plenty more coaching and playing in the minor leagues.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[The Athletics Have Placed Their Betts]]> 2020-02-22T04:13:18Z 2020-02-22T03:30:24Z At first glance, the Athletics didn’t really do much of note this winter. The club retained southpaw Jake Diekman and picked up infielders Tony Kemp and … picked up a club option over Yusmeiro Petit and … umm …. signed Ryan Goins to a minor-league deal.

Viewed through another lens, though, the notoriously low-budget A’s had a blockbuster, all-in offseason. Which lens is that? The one through which Red Sox owner John Henry views the game of baseball.

After trading away homegrown superstar Mookie Betts, Henry conveyed his cherished memories of Stan The Man for brownie points with the Boston fanbase. Saying his young heart would’ve shattered had childhood hero Stan Musial “ever been traded — for any reason,” the now-grown Henry … well, gave some reasons why Betts was sent west by one of the richest teams in sports.

It wasn’t about getting under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold, Henry says. Rather, it’s just the sort of thing that is foisted upon MLB teams — even those “consistently among the highest-spending clubs in baseball” — by the collective bargaining agreement (a deal those same teams negotiated to their general advantage).

The Red Sox, per Henry, were forced to “make hard judgments about competing for the future as well as the present.” Their hands were tied by the fact that, “In today’s game there is a cost to losing a great player to free agency — one that cannot nearly be made up by the draft pick given.” Ultimately, Henry said of the organization’s leadership: “we could not sit on our hands and lose [Betts] next offseason without getting value in return to help us on our path forward.”

There are many ways to approach and discuss these comments. For our purposes here, we’re not even going to consider what they mean for the Red Sox or the game of baseball. There’s no need to call for pitchforks; that statement has already had its day in the news cycle anyway. The Boston club certainly has spent and put a winner on the field of late. And Henry at least fessed up to the fact that the team simply decided to punt near-term performance for future value, even if he didn’t want to acknowledge the rather obvious financial component of that calculus.

What’s most interesting to me about the comments is that … holy smokes, the Oakland Athletics really believe! If Henry is to be taken at his word, then the A’s are making one heckuva roll of the dice by keeping, rather than trading, their own pending free agent star: shortstop Marcus Semien.

True, Semien almost assuredly isn’t as good as Betts, but the former actually contributed a full fWAR more than the latter in 2019. Semien is only earning $13MM, just under half the $27MM Betts will receive. But it’s a much bigger portion of the Oakland payroll than Betts was to the Boston budget. (That’s true just based upon simple math, but that tends to undersell the impact. The A’s have to consider every dollar spent over league minimum, while the Red Sox have far greater operating leeway to shoehorn in cost-efficient but more-than-minimum players.)

What of the odds of success in 2020, which is obviously a huge component of this decision? The Red Sox are well behind the Yankees on paper. But the A’s are chasing an uber-talented Astros team that remains mighty even without its crack signals operations unit. Both of these teams are unlikely to take their division, but each is a solid Wild Card contender. Fangraphs’ postseason odds aren’t gospel and obviously must be taken only as a guide to true roster capability (as they are intended) … but wait, how does this make sense? The Red Sox, sans Betts, project at about a coin flip of making the postseason. That tops the A’s, even with Semien! You might quibble with the projections and point to the upside on the Oakland roster. But don’t the Red Sox still have Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers?

So, even as the Red Sox determined they couldn’t “sit on [their] hands and lose” Betts without adequate compensation after the coming season, the Athletics decided to keep Semien in roughly analogous circumstances. Well, analogous from a roster talent and postseason odds perspective. The low-budget A’s are the sort of team that’s typically forced to take its Betts-type players off the table on the rationale set forth by Henry, even if it stings, in order to preserve a long-term flow of talent and keep up with deeper-pocketed rivals. Instead, they’re letting their version of Betts ride.

It’s quite the juxtaposition. Perhaps the A’s still have designs on a Semien extension, but it’s far from inevitable and we haven’t heard indication that a deal is particularly likely. And if one is to be struck, it’ll require convincing him to forego free agency … which will assuredly require the kind of price that makes the A’s squirm (even if they can now finally see a new ballpark on the horizon). A mid-summer trade fall-back is available but isn’t exactly plan A. All things considered, in relative terms, the situation is quite similar to that which would’ve faced the Red Sox on Betts.

Look, I don’t really have a Take here. I’m not here to call the Oakland front office reckless or label Henry’s explanation feckless. My point is only this: given those two teams’ divergent approaches, doesn’t Henry’s statement suggest that one or the other is true?

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Red Sox Notes: Rusney, Sale]]> 2020-02-21T05:44:10Z 2020-02-21T05:44:10Z Remember Rusney Castillo? Signed to a seven-year, $72.5MM contract in August 2014, the Cuban outfielder had a rough season in the majors with the Red Sox the next year and has barely appeared in the majors since. The Red Sox have minimized their luxury-tax bill by keeping Castillo in the minors, and he’s likely to stay with Triple-A Pawtucket this season, but he’ll be a free agent thereafter. The 32-year-old discussed his status with Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald, saying: “My goal remains the same: I want to make it to the big leagues. And if given the opportunity, give 100% to Boston. That’s the goal, to get up there.”  As Mastrodonato notes, there’s at least an outside chance Castillo will return to Boston late in the season if the team’s well under the tax threshold by then (he’s due a $14.3MM salary, so it could be a tall order to fit him in). Castillo will first have to impress in Pawtucket for that to happen, though. He wasn’t great at the highest level of the minors in 2019, when he hit .278/.321/.448 with 17 home runs in 493 plate appearances.

  • Sticking with the Red Sox, ace Chris Sale has been on the mend from 2019 elbow problems and a recent bout of pneumonia, but he’s recovering well. Sale’s “progressing quickly and could begin to face live hitters soon,” Chris Cotillo of writes. However, it’s not clear whether Sale will be ready for the start of the season. The 30-year-old had a stunning amount of difficulty preventing runs in 2019, when his ERA ballooned from 2.11 the prior season to a career-worst 4.40, but most of his other numbers looked fine. Sale notched a 3.39 FIP/2.93 xFIP with 13.32 K/9 and 2.26 BB/9, suggesting he’s still a front-of-the-rotation talent.
Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Lucroy Discusses Decision To Sign With BoSox]]> 2020-02-20T22:51:56Z 2020-02-20T22:51:56Z
  • Ron Roenicke was Jonathan Lucroy’s manager with the Brewers for over four seasons, and with Roenicke now serving as the Red Sox interim manager, he was the motivating factor in convincing Jonathan Lucroy to sign with Boston.  “He called me and he wanted me to come.  It was a big one,” Lucroy told reporters, including’s Chris Cotillo and’s Ian Browne.  “He’s like, you’ll get an opportunity to come here and make the team.  Right now, that’s all you can ask for with a guy in my position.”  Lucroy signed a minor league contract with the Sox after a pretty quiet stint in free agency, as Cotillo notes that Lucroy “negotiated with a few clubs who backed out of deals at the last minute.”  This isn’t to say that Lucroy is surprised at how his trip through the free agent market went, given his struggles over the last three seasons: “Analytically, I’ve been terrible.  Seriously. I’m not trying to make excuses.  I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer.”  Now, Lucroy is reunited with his old skipper and will compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catching position.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox Sign Jonathan Lucroy]]> 2020-02-19T22:50:02Z 2020-02-19T22:50:54Z 4:50pm: Lucroy would earn a $1.5MM base salary were he to crack the Major League roster, Rob Bradford of WEEI reports (via Twitter).

    February 19, 1:30pm: The Red Sox have formally announced the deal. They’re now up to 67 players in Major League camp.

    February 18: The Red Sox have a minor-league deal in place with free agent backstop Jonathan Lucroy. Chris Cotillo of (via Twitter) first reported it was coming close; Jon Heyman of MLB Network added on Twitter that a minors pact had been completed.

    At 33 years of age, Lucroy is no longer the multi-dimensional performer he once was. One of the game’s best all-around backstops from 2012 through 2016, the vet has since settled into a journeyman existence.

    Over the past three seasons, Lucroy carries a cumulative .248/.315/.350 batting line over 1,263 plate appearances. He’s still tough to strike out but just doesn’t make the kind of contact he once did. That’s reflected in declines in his power numbers, batting average and on-base percentage.

    Lucroy’s once-vaunted skills behind the dish have also diminished. Although he was at one point the face of the pitch-framing awakening and a highly regarded smotherer of errant pitches, Lucroy has in recent years consistently graded in the negative in both areas (by measure of Baseball Prospectus).

    If that’s all a bit negative, it’s because Lucroy set such a high standard earlier in his career. He promises to represent worthwhile catching depth for the Red Sox and could perhaps even challenge for a roster spot if there’s an injury or the team considers a third catcher behind Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki.

    Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[MLBTR Video: The MLBPA & The Astros Scandal; Red Sox Still Discussing Wil Myers]]> 2020-02-19T15:53:21Z 2020-02-19T15:53:21Z What is the role of the Players’ Union in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal? Why are the Padres and Red Sox still discussing Wil Myers? MLBTR’s Jeff Todd has you covered in today’s video:

    For further reading, be sure to check out Jeff’s article, How MLB & The Astros Dug Their Own Hole.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Red Sox, Padres Reportedly Still Negotiating Wil Myers Swap]]> 2020-02-19T14:27:35Z 2020-02-19T14:27:37Z FEBRUARY 19: The Pads are indeed interested in both Lindor and Senzel, Dennis Lin of The Athletic reports (subscription link). It’s even possible that the Myers talks with the Red Sox could morph into a three-team arrangement involving the Reds, Lin adds.

    FEBRUARY 18: Spring Training is now upon us. Prior talks failed to result in a deal. And yet the Red Sox are still holding talks with the Padres about a potential deal that would send first baseman/outfielder Wil Myers to Boston, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

    Details are about as firm as you could ever hope to see them in a rumor of a potential swap. As before, the Friars want the Sox to take over about half of Myers’s salary (total guarantee of $61MM) over the next three years. Young talent would go to Boston to sweeten the pot. Players that have been discussed include Cal Quantrill, Luis Campusano, and Gabriel Arias, though it’s not clear which would be included and the Sox wouldn’t be able to obtain all of them just to take on half of what’s owed Myers.

    That leaves out one major component of the as-yet-uncompleted trade talks: what would come back from the Red Sox? The original chatter between these teams involved Mookie Betts, who is no longer in the Boston stable. There’s no real indication just yet as to what current Red Sox might pique the interest of Padres GM A.J. Preller.

    Yet more intriguing? The real goal, per Acee, is to swing a blockbuster for a high-level talent. He notes Nick Senzel of the Reds and Francisco Lindor of the Indians as longstanding targets, but it’s not really clear whether either is realistically available at this point. There aren’t many other conceivable candidates to be acquired who’d meet the description of a “difference-making” performer.

    It’s fair to hold some skepticism here, especially as to the possible second prong of this scenario. Then again, Preller once pulled off a trade for Craig Kimbrel just before the start of a season, so it’s tough to rule out any mid-spring fireworks.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox Ownership Downplays Role Of Luxury Tax In Mookie Betts Trade]]> 2020-02-17T23:35:17Z 2020-02-17T23:35:17Z Apparently not content to let Jim Crane draw all the headlines for ownership comments worthy of skepticism, Red Sox principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president/CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday all denied that the trade of Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers was driven by a desire to dip south of the luxury tax barrier.

    In a lengthy prepared statement released on Twitter, Henry appealed directly to Red Sox fans, speaking of the “extraordinary challenges” with which the team was faced this winter and praising the work of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, general manager Brian O’Halloran and the rest of the team’s baseball operations department.

    Henry attempted to connect to the fan base by reminding that everyone in the ownership group was first a fan, thus making them empathetic toward the pain and frustration fans have voiced in the days since the trade. “I grew up a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals,” said Henry. “My favorite player was Stan Musial. My heart would have been broken if Stan the Man had ever been traded — for any reason.”

    Sticking with the Musial thread, Henry went on to lament the unfair system that prevented Musial and other players from generations past from being paid at their market rate and present the decision to part with Betts as the type of choice all clubs are forced to make “in this economic system.” To quote Henry at greater length:

    “We were faced with a difficult choice. You can talk about dollars. You can talk about metrics and value. But in the end, even though we are consistently among the highest-spending clubs in baseball — with this year being no exception — we have to make hard judgments about competing for the future as well as the present. … In today’s game there is a cost to losing a great player to free agency — one that cannot nearly be made up by the draft pick given. We’ve seen other examples of this recently. … We felt we could not sit on our hands and lose [Betts] next offseason without getting value in return to help us on our path forward. We carefully considered the alternative over the last year and made a decision when this opportunity presented itself to acquire substantial, young talent for the years ahead.”

    Werner suggested that the team had other ways to shed salary if that had been the main goal, noting that they could “hypothetically” have traded Price without moving Betts as well (Twitter link via WEEI’s John Tomase). Kennedy at least appeared to acknowledge that the financial element of the trade played a role, noting that the trade wasn’t “exclusively” about resetting the team’s penalty level (Twitter link, with video, via NBC Sports Boston):

    “There are clearly certain advantages by resetting and getting under [the luxury tax], but we’ve tried to be clear that this was not exclusively about the CBT and getting under that CBT threshold. There would’ve been other ways to have done that. You don’t trade Mookie Betts to get under the CBT. We traded Mookie Betts and David Price and got back significant value in return.”

    Of course, all of this comes fewer than five months after Henry said unequivocally that the Red Sox “need to be under” the $208MM luxury tax threshold for the upcoming 2020 season (link via the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier). “We’ve known for some time now we needed to reset [the penalties by staying under the threshold], as other clubs have done,” Henry said as recently Sept. 27.

    Months later, Henry tried to walk that statement back, emphasizing that the team was more focused on “competitiveness” than resetting its luxury penalty in 2020. Red Sox brass will surely argue that the team is indeed better-poised to compete over the next half decade with Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong now in the organization, but there’s no doubt that the Boston club is a demonstrably worse team in 2020 without Betts in right field and without Price in the rotation. Perhaps the Red Sox could chase a Wild Card spot if things break right, but they look to be squarely behind the Yankees and Rays, at the very least, and the competition for the Wild Card spots in the AL will be steeper after active offseasons from the White Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers and Angels.

    It seems particularly important to point out that Red Sox brass has sought to paint this as an either-or scenario: either trade Betts (and, ahem, $48MM of the $96MM owed to Price) now or risk losing Betts as a free agent this winter. That seems to ignore the possibility of taking aim at a rebound effort in 2020 with Betts and Price in the mix, then trading Betts at the deadline if the division looks out of hand. The return, of course, would be diminished, but the Sox would surely have been able to extract some long-term pieces while endeavoring for a competitive 2020 season.

    It would be inaccurate to call the Betts/Price trade a pure salary dump. Henry, Werner, Kennedy and other Red Sox officials have a legitimate point when highlighting the long-term value they received in dealing away that pair of highly paid stars. But it also feels disingenuous not to acknowledge that dropping below the CBT threshold was a key — perhaps even the key — in making this deal. After all, Boston has previously let key players walk as free agents for minimal or no compensation — Craig Kimbrel and Jacoby Ellsbury come to mind — and they traded Jon Lester midseason in 2014 after spring extension talks didn’t come to fruition.

    As for where they stand in the 2020 season, Henry didn’t want to concede that the Sox might be taking a step back, instead rhetorically asking reporters (Twitter link via the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato: “Don’t you think this would be a record payroll for a bridge year?” That’s not exactly a declaration that the team is all-in on winning in 2020, but it’s also less than an acknowledgment that this diminished version of the Red Sox is clearly something less than a division contender.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Rob Manfred Addresses Astros Scandal]]> 2020-02-17T02:39:12Z 2020-02-17T02:38:41Z In an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech and during a press conference at the Braves’ Spring Training camp earlier today, commissioner Rob Manfred discussed a number of topics surrounding the game, but the bulk of attention was directly on the ongoing fallout from the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

    Asked by Ravech why no Astros players were suspended or fined as part of the league’s investigation, Manfred said that “in a perfect world it would have happened.  We ended up where we ended up in pursuit of really, I think, the most important goal of getting the facts and getting them out there for people to know it.”

    Players were given immunity so that the league could freely acquire information on the details of the now-infamous sign-stealing process, which involved Astros players alerting (using signals ranging from whistling to banging a trash can) teammates at the plate as to what pitches were coming, after the Astros used real-time video technology to observe rival catchers’ signs.  Such use of available video was forbade in a memo sent from the Commissioner’s Office to teams in 2017, but Manfred said Astros players weren’t made aware of the seriousness of the offense.

    The memorandum went to the general manager, and then nothing was done from the GM down,” Manfred said. “So we knew if we had disciplined the players in all likelihood we were going to have grievances and grievances that we were going to lose on the basis that we never properly informed them of the rules.  Given those two things, No. 1, I knew where, or I’m certain where the responsibilities should lay in the first instance and given the fact we didn’t think we could make discipline stick with the players, we made the decision we made.”

    Since the league’s ruling on the Astros’ punishment last month, Major League Baseball has faced widespread criticism from both fans and rival players about not only a seeming lack of discipline directed towards Houston players, but also at the franchise itself.  While the Astros were fined $5MM and lost four draft picks, the fact that the organization wasn’t formally stripped of its 2017 World Series title has not sat well with many around the sport.

    As Manfred told the Associated Press and other journalists, the league considered such a singular measure but decided against taking the championship away from the Astros.

    First of all, it had never happened in baseball,” Manfred said.  “I am a precedent guy.  The 2017 World Series will always be looked at as different, whether not you put an asterisk or ask for the trophy back.  Once you go down that road as for changing the result on the field, I just don’t know where you stop.

    In regards to Astros players, Manfred told Ravech that the outrage directed at the team has served as a measure of additional punishment unto itself.  “I think if you watch the players, watch their faces when they have to deal with this issue publicly, they have paid a price,” Manfred said.  “To think they’re skipping down the road into spring training, happy, that’s just a mischaracterization of where we are.”

    The early response to Manfred’s comments have not been positive, with particular criticism directed towards his rather flippant description of the Commissioner’s Trophy (as Manfred told Ravech, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act“).  As much as the league and the Astros would like to put the incident behind them, that outcome doesn’t seem possible in the near future given the amount of attention that several of the game’s biggest stars continue to focus on the situation.  It also doesn’t help that Astros management and players continue to dig themselves into deeper public relations holes on a near-daily basis, whether it’s giving non-specific apologies during awkward press conferences, being unduly outraged at being accused of different methods of cheating during the 2017-19 span, and all the while insisting that the 2017 World Series was legitimately won.

    The heated comments between the Astros and rival players has troubled Manfred, particularly statements from such pitchers as Ross Stripling and Mike Clevinger that Astros players might be hit by pitches as retaliation.  Manfred met with several MLB managers today, and told reporters at Sunday’s press event that, “I hope that I made it extremely clear to them that retaliation in-game by throwing at a batter intentionally will not be tolerated, whether it’s Houston or anybody else.  It’s dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.”

    In addition, Manfred told Ravech that the league is preparing “a memorandum about intentionally throwing at batters.  It’s really dangerous.  Completely independent from the Astros investigation, we’ll be issuing a memorandum on hit by pitches which will increase the disciplinary ramifications of that type of behavior.  I think that will be a tool for dealing with whatever flows from the Houston situation.”

    If the Astros controversy wasn’t enough, there’s also the other ongoing league investigation into another championship team’s alleged improper use of video equipment, namely the 2018 Red Sox.  Manfred said that he hopes that investigation will be concluded within two weeks’ time.  It isn’t known what punishment could await the Boston organization, though as with the Astros case, Red Sox players were also given immunity in exchange for their insight on the matter.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Latest On Chris Sale]]> 2020-02-16T17:35:18Z 2020-02-16T17:31:49Z Chris Sale’s 2019 season came to an end in August when he hit the shelf with left elbow inflammation. Fortunately, he was able to treat the injury with a PRP injection and rest. The Red Sox ace began a throwing program in December, and he told reporters today (including Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe) his elbow is now fine. Tommy John surgery was never on the table, Sale said (via Chris Cotillo of MassLive).

    More recently, though, the 30-year-old (31 in March) came down with a mild case of pneumonia, reports Christopher Smith of MassLive. Boston won’t ramp him up too hard during spring training, manager Ron Roenicke told Smith, preferring to cautiously monitor as he rebuilds strength. Roenicke acknowledged that conservative build-up leaves open the possibility Sale could miss Opening Day. Nevertheless, the left-hander expressed hope (via Cotillo) he will indeed be ready for the start of the season.

    A return to form for Sale is critical if the Red Sox are to compete for a playoff spot. He posted only a 4.40 ERA in 2019, nearly a full run higher than his previous career-worst mark. Of course, Sale’s peripherals tell a different story. His 35.6% strikeout rate trailed only Gerrit Cole’s 39.9% mark (minimum 100 innings). Sale’s 6.1% walk rate, too, was much better than average. Even with an uptick in home runs to a career-worst 1.47/9, Sale’s 3.39 FIP was among the top 20 in the league.

    He, Eduardo Rodríguez, and Nathan Eovaldi will lead a rotation with a fair bit of upside but ample uncertainty. A healthy, productive season from Sale is all the more important in the wake of the recent Mookie Betts/David Price trade.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Alex Verdugo Appears Unlikely To Be Ready For Opening Day]]> 2020-02-15T18:26:41Z 2020-02-15T18:06:18Z
  • Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has a stress fracture in his lower back, the team told reporters (including Chris Cotillo of MassLive). The organization is comfortable with Verdugo’s progression but unsurprisingly plans to take things slowly in the early going, Cotillo notes. Interim manager Ron Roenicke acknowledged to reporters (including Cotillo) that “if everything goes right, he still might not be ready for Opening Day.” That’ll surely raise some eyebrows among Sox fans, but the organization was fully aware of the issue at the time they made the Mookie Betts trade, reiterates Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (on Twitter). Surgery won’t be necessary, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, but this is the firmest indication we’ve heard yet that Verdugo is likely to start the season on the shelf. Of course, Boston finalized a deal with Kevin Pillar yesterday. He figures to take on a significant role if Verdugo ends up sidelined.
  • Angels reliever Ty Buttrey suffered an intercostal strain and will be out for one or two weeks, manager Joe Maddon told reporters (including Rhett Bollinger of The club still anticipates he’ll be a full-go by Opening Day. The 26-year-old posted a 3.98 ERA with a strong combination of strikeouts (27.2%) and walks (7.4%) in 2019. The former Red Sox prospect figures to be a key bullpen piece for Maddon in the latter’s first year at the helm in Anaheim.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Red Sox Sign Kevin Pillar]]> 2020-02-15T01:38:17Z 2020-02-15T01:38:17Z 7:37pm: This one’s in the books, with the Sox announcing the signing.

    5:25am: The Red Sox are reportedly in agreement on a one-year, $4.25MM deal with free-agent outfielder Kevin Pillar. The All Bases Covered Sports Management client is said to be set for a physical this weekend, after which the deal will be officially announced by the club (assuming all goes well).

    Kevin Pillar | Zach Gardner/MLBTR Photoshop

    Pillar, 31, was non-tendered by the Giants earlier in the winter after hitting .259/.287/.432 with a career-high 21 home runs in 2019. He’d been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $9.7MM in arbitration. Pillar also swiped 14 bags — his fifth straight season with at least that many — and struck out in just 13.8 percent of his plate appearances. However, the longtime Blue Jays center fielder also only walked at a 2.8 percent clip — a career low — and the resulting .287 on-base percentage was one of the worst marks of any qualified MLB hitter.

    Defensively, he played a roughly average center field by measure of metrics like Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average. That’s a step back from the days when he graded out as one of MLB’s premier defensive players, but Pillar is still at least a serviceable option in center and likely an above-average glove in the corners.

    Following the trade of Mookie Betts, the Red Sox had an all-left-handed-hitting outfield comprised of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and newly acquired Alex Verdugo. Pillar will give them a right-handed hitting complement to that bunch as well as insurance against an injury (or perhaps an eventual trade of Bradley) at any of the three positions. He’s a career .281/.313/.453 hitter against southpaws, so while he’s not exactly a lefty masher, he’s still a bit above average in those situations.

    Dumping the salaries of Betts and David Price (well, half of his deal) in the Dodgers trade dropped the Red Sox south of the $208MM luxury tax threshold by a bit less than $10MM. They should be able to bring Pillar aboard while maintaining ownership’s preference to remain south of that cutoff.

    MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the two sides were close to a deal. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal added that a Major League pact was in the works. Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reported that a deal had been reached, and Heyman tweeted the final guarantee.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Red Sox/Dodgers Notes: Betts, Friedman, Verdugo]]> 2020-02-13T23:53:35Z 2020-02-13T23:53:35Z The latest news from two coasts, as the Dodgers and Red Sox continue to adjust to new realities after the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Chavez Ravine…

    • Talks between the Dodgers and Red Sox about Betts began to develop in late December, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times and other reporters, though Los Angeles first looked into acquiring Betts prior to last July’s trade deadline.  A late surge for the Sox (who had an 8-3 run during an 11-game between July 17 and 27) convinced them to keep Betts and make a push for the postseason.  Pondering about what a deadline Sox/Dodgers trade would’ve looked like is an interesting what-if, especially since Friedman would’ve been negotiating with a different person — Dave Dombrowski was still Boston’s president of baseball operations at the time, before being replaced by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom (who used to work with Friedman in the Rays’ front office).
    • Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers don’t see Betts as just a one-year rental, as team president Stan Kasten told The Athletic’s Andy McCullough that pursuing a long-term extension with the outfielder was “certainly was part of our thinking [with the trade] — that that’s what we would like the outcome to be.”  Friedman concurred, saying “from our standpoint, I think he’s going to fall in love with the city, the fan support, the teammates, the facilities.  And we’re just trying to do everything we can to continue that and have our own guys want to stay.”  Keeping Betts would require a financial commitment that would far surpass anything Friedman has made since he joined the organization in 2015, though surely the baseball ops head and Dodgers ownership are aware of what it will cost the team to lock Betts up — in all likelihood a $400MM+ deal.  However, as McCullough notes, the Dodgers have seemingly laid the groundwork for big future expenditures with less than $45MM in guaranteed payroll commitments on the books following the 2021 season.  It remains a question as to whether Betts would be open to an extension, of course, given how he has so steadfastly expressed his desire to test the open market as a free agent.  Future contracts weren’t on Betts’ mind as he spoke with reporters, saying “I’m still trying to find a house and all those types of things. I’m not even really thinking about that.  I’m just focused on staying with 2020 and going from there.”
    • As to Betts’ projected replacement in the Red Sox outfield, Alex Verdugo might not be ready for Boston’s Opening Day lineup, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports.  Back and oblique problems sent Verdugo to the injured list on August 6 of last season, and he only appeared in one minor league game after that placement.  Speier writes that Verdugo’s back is still bothering him, though the Sox don’t see the injury as a long-term problem.  If Verdugo does miss time at the start of the season, it could be for precautionary reasons, as “a small number of games missed early in the year is better than a substantial stretch on the sideline if he is rushed into the lineup.