- Red Sox ace Chris Sale isn’t one for excuses, but skipper Alex Cora did offer up a possible explanation for Sale’s otherwise concerning recent velocity drop. The star lefty was dealing with illness in the run-up to his last start, which reduced his intra-start work and may also have affected him on gameday, Cora told reporters including Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com (Twitter links). Sale’s velocity has trended back up in the first inning of today’s game, which is certainly a promising sign. There was also generally encouraging news for southpaw Brian Johnson, who was feared to have suffered a significant elbow injury. He’s actually just dealing with inflammation, so it seems reasonable to hope that a rest and rehab approach will allow him to get back to the mound in relatively short order.
Red Sox Rumors
The struggling Red Sox will get a boost as they finally play their 2019 home opener, as the club announced today that second baseman Dustin Pedroia has been activated from the injured list. Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin was optioned to Triple-A to create roster space.
The 35-year-old Pedroia played in just three games last year and saw only limited action in camp. His surgically repaired left knee remains a long-term concern, but it’s evidently in good enough form to enable him to get back onto the active roster — and into the lineup. He’ll line up at his customary second base and hit seventh.
When last we saw him in extended action, back in 2017, Pedroia was still capable of turning in a league-average performance at the plate. While he popped just seven home runs in 463 plate appearances and carried a marginal .099 isolated power mark that just barely topped his prior low point, Pedroia still displayed impeccable plate discipline and contact skills.
Pedroia ended the ’17 campaign with a .293/.369/.392 slash. He continued to draw stellar grades for his glovework from Ultimate Zone Rating, though Defensive Runs Saved took a dimmer view. Baserunning was an issue, according to Fangraphs’ BsR measure, which graded Pedroia as a clear negative.
He surely won’t ever be as spry as he once was, but Pedroia could still be quite a useful player for the Boston organization — if he can keep his knee in working order. The hard-nosed star remains under contract for $15MM this year and $25MM combined for the ensuing two seasons. Eduardo Nunez will surely spell him rather often to keep the joints fresh. Lin and Brock Holt (currently on the injured list) are among the options to fill in or supplement Pedroia as the season unfolds.
Injured Twins slugger Miguel Sano has resumed baseball activities and could begin a rehab assignment “within a week,” manager Rocco Baldelli said Sunday (via Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com). That would put Sano on track for a return to Major League action sometime in early May. Sano’s on the mend from a cut on his lower-right Achilles, which has left third base to free-agent pickup Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza. They’ve struggled mightily across a combined 33 plate appearances, having totaled a meager three hits (two singles and a double). Sano wasn’t nearly that woeful last year, but the 2017 All-Star’s .199/.281/.398 line in 299 plate appearances was still a major letdown. A bounce-back showing from the 25-year-old upon his return could help the Twins challenge the Indians for the AL Central crown.
Here’s the latest news from around the American League…
- Indians righty Mike Clevinger left Sunday’s start against the Blue Jays prematurely, throwing just 75 pitches over 5 innings of work. Mandy Bell of MLB.com later revealed that Clevinger’s early exit was indeed injury-related, as he experienced upper back tightness. Bell added in a subsequent Tweet that Clevinger said he will be ready to make his next scheduled start.
- Former All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran has excelled in his new role with the Yankees, writes James Wagner of The New York Times. Following his exceptional playing career, Beltran has brought his passion to an advisory role in Brian Cashman’s front office, where he develops scouting reports and offers counsel to younger players. Beltran, who had been considered for the Yankees’ vacant manager position prior to the 2018 season, would seem to have a chance to manage a Major League ballclub or serve as a primary decision-maker in a front office, if that’s what he wants.
- Longtime Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia should be available for the team’s home opener on Tuesday, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Assuming that all goes well in today’s game with Low-A Greenville, in which Pedroia will play all nine innings, he should be ready to be activated ahead of the reigning World Champions’ return to Fenway Park. He will be re-evaluated after Sunday’s game, but there is optimism that Boston will have its veteran second baseman back in the near future.
10:30am: The Red Sox have officially announced the roster changes. Holt hits the 10-day IL with a scratched cornea in his right eye, while Johnson is placed on the 10-day IL with left elbow inflammation.
Walden, 30, made eight relief appearances for the Red Sox last season, giving up six earned runs in 14 2/3 innings (3.86 ERA). He joined the Red Sox as a minor league free agent prior to the 2017 season after stints with the Blue Jays, Reds, Twins and A’s organizations. Though most of his time in the minors has been as a starter, the Joe-Kelly-lookalike pitched primarily out of the bullpen for Pawtucket last year after missing most of June and July due to injury.
He’ll join a Red Sox bullpen that is second in volume usage thus far in 2019 with 33 2/3 innings of work. The unit is under the microscope this season after management chose not to resign back-end stalwarts Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel, the latter of whom, of course, remains available on the open market. The 8-man unit has held form thus far, striking out 10.69 batters per nine innings while stranding 77.4% of inherited baserunners.
Walden can help as a long man to bolster a rotation that has, meanwhile, absolutely cratered (to put it nicely). The unit as a whole is 0-7 in nine starts with a 9.60 ERA and -1.5 fWAR in a little over a week. Their 5.76 xFIP paints a slightly less face-melting picture, though even that number ranks dead last among starting units this season.
Infielder Tzu-Wei Lin is also being added to the 25-man roster, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). Lin started at least one game at shortstop, second base, third base and centerfield for the Red Sox last season. Brock Holt and Brian Johnson will land on the injured list as the corresponding roster moves, per Speier (via Twitter).
Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks was cleared to resume baseball activities today and, according to manager Aaron Boone, won’t need a rehab stint that mirrors Spring Training’s six-week length (Twitter link via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com). However, Hicks is still multiple weeks away from surfacing as an option for the injury-plagued Yankees, whose outfield currently consists of Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner and Clint Frazier. Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and Jacoby Ellsbury are among the 11 players New York currently has on the injured list.
More from the AL East…
- WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford explores the manner in which Xander Bogaerts’ $120MM extension with the Red Sox came together. As agent Scott Boras explained, the Sox had made previous overtures during Bogaerts’ arbitration seasons, but the two sides had never been on the same page. Part of that, per Boras, was a belief that Bogaerts’ offense was eventually going to jump to the level it did last season. A greater driving factor, as Boras tells it, was Boston’s eventual willingness to include an opt-out clause to sweeten the deal. The opt-out not only gives Bogaerts the chance to reevaluate the Red Sox in a few years but more importantly provides him another bite at the free-agent apple. “He’s going to be a 29-year-old free agent,” Boras said. Both president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski and Boras noted that Bogaerts had a strong desire to stay in Boston, which pushed the deal across the finish line in the end.
- Chris Davis’ season is already off to a nightmare start, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes. The 33-year-old is off to an 0-for-17 start with 11 strikeouts and four walks through 21 plate appearances, including three punchouts in today’s home opener. Davis spoke to reporters after the game and conceded that he wasn’t surprised to be met with a chorus of boos after his third strikeout of the game but noted that it was still “tough” to hear even if Orioles fans are rightful in expressing their displeasure. Rookie manager Brandon Hyde voiced support of the beleaguered slugger and said he plans to continue playing Davis and trying to put him in advantageous matchups to get him going. Davis’ teammates spoke positively of him as well. “He’s one of the better teammates that I’ve had in my time in the big leagues,” said Alex Cobb. “I know he cares so much. To feel that in front of your own fans, I can’t even imagine.”
Though the Red Sox have hammered out extensions with free-agents-to-be Chris Sale and Xander Bogaerts in recent weeks, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski strongly suggested that the team won’t be negotiating any additional deals, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. The team has no ongoing discussions, per Dombrowski, who added that he is “pretty certain” there will not be another extension brokered this season. The Sox initially placed an Opening Day deadline on wrapping up negotiations, though the Bogaerts deal was announced a few days into the season. As Dombrowski explains, talks with Bogaerts were advanced enough that the team was confident they wouldn’t linger into the season.
Just a week after locking up free-agent-to-be Chris Sale with a five-year extension, the Red Sox secured long-term control over another member of their core Monday when they announced a six-year extension with shortstop Xander Bogaerts. The deal reportedly guarantees Bogaerts $120MM from 2020-25 (in even, $20MM increments) and contains a vesting option for the 2026 season. The vesting option is reportedly worth another $20MM and would kick in if Bogaerts made 535 plate appearances in 2025. Bogaerts, a client of the Boras Corporation, is also said to have received an opt-out provision after the 2022 season.
Bogaerts and the club had been in talks during the winter, and though neither side wanted negotiations to extend into the season itself, it seems things were close enough to the finish line that a deal was able to be struck just beyond Opening Day.
Bogaerts, who turned 26 last October, originally signed with Boston as a 16-year-old amateur out of his native Aruba, and quickly developed into one of baseball’s best prospects. He made a quick impact in his 2013 rookie season, helping solidify a problematic third base position for the Red Sox as the team went on to win the World Series. He didn’t fully begin to blossom until the 2015 season, and Bogaerts has gone on to generate 17.6 fWAR over the last four seasons, hitting .295/.354/.446 with 61 homers over 2588 plate appearances. This includes a career-best 23 homers, .883 OPS, and 133 wRC+ in 2018, as Bogaerts rebounded from an injury-marred 2017 campaign to help lead the Red Sox to another World Series title.
Defensively, Bogaerts has been something of a mixed bag at shortstop. The Defensive Runs Saved metric has never looked kindly on his glovework (-48 DRS) while his UZR/150 mark of -0.3 posits him as just slightly below average. There has been some speculation that Bogaerts could eventually move from shortstop, and while that change doesn’t look to be happening anytime soon, that decision could eventually hinge on Rafael Devers’ development as a third baseman, plus whether prospect Michael Chavis plays at second base, third base, or elsewhere around the diamond.
The pact between Boston and Bogaerts is just the latest in a precedent-setting number of extensions over the last few weeks, as multiple superstars (both near and far from free agency) have chosen to lock in guaranteed paydays with their current teams. Of this group, players who were going to be free agents after the 2019 season included Bogaerts, Sale, Nolan Arenado, Justin Verlander, Paul Goldschmidt, and Aaron Hicks.
It’s clear that the lack of free agent activity in the last two offseasons has influenced many of these decisions, and in Bogaerts’ case, he’ll forego entering the open market for his age-27 season. Keeping a young player who may just be entering his prime on a $20MM average annual value looks like a very solid deal for the Red Sox. Bogaerts also has the ability to opt out of the contract as he enters his age-30 season, if he feels he can top the three years and $60MM still owed to him.
For luxury tax purposes, Bogaerts’ new deal will add an even $20MM to Boston’s Competitive Balance Tax bill beginning in 2020. This is no small factor in the contract, given the rather onerous tax situation the Red Sox find themselves in, though some relief from at least the top level of the CBT structure could come as several contracts come off the books for the club next winter.
It also helps the Red Sox afford what would be their biggest extension yet — a pact with Mookie Betts before the reigning AL MVP hits free agency following the 2020 season. Betts has been firm in his desire to go year-to-year in arbitration rather than sign a long-term deal before getting his chance on the open market, so the topic of an extension could be moot, though Boston will surely continue to explore the possibility of keeping the star outfielder at Fenway Park even if a $300MM+ commitment is required. The Bogaerts and Sale extensions are evidence, if Betts needs any, that the Sox are serious about keeping this winning core of players together.
WEEI’s Evan Drellich broke the news that the two sides were close to a deal (Twitter link). ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan reported the terms of the contract (Twitter links). The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported the inclusion of the vesting option (Twitter links). MLB Network’s Jon Heyman added some details on the option and also first reported that Bogaerts had passed his physical Monday morning (Twitter links). The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported the final details on the vesting option, while Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com tweeted the annual breakdown.
This is the latest post of MLBTR’s annual Offseason in Review series, in which we take stock of every team’s winter dealings.
The Red Sox made some long-term investments in core members of their World Series team, though saying goodbye (maybe?) to some important relievers has left uncertainty within the bullpen.
Major League Signings
Trades And Claims
Notable Minor League Signings
- Erasmo Ramirez, Carson Smith, Gorkys Hernandez, Juan Centeno, Zach Putnam, Jenrry Mejia, Brian Ellington, Ryan Weber, Dan Runzler, Bryce Brentz, Tony Renda
- Chris Sale, SP: Five years, $145MM (Sale can opt out after the 2022 season; contract contains a vesting option for the 2025 season)
- Xander Bogaerts, SS: Six years, $120MM (Bogaerts can opt out after the 2022 season; contract contains a vesting option for the 2026 season)
- Craig Kimbrel (still unsigned), Joe Kelly, Drew Pomeranz, Ian Kinsler, Brandon Phillips (still unsigned), Robby Scott, William Cuevas
It didn’t take long for the Red Sox to bring back their World Series MVP, as Steve Pearce was re-signed to a one-year contract by mid-November. Pearce began the season on the injured list due to a strained calf but isn’t expected to miss much time before resuming his duties as Mitch Moreland’s first base platoon partner and a late-game pinch-hit candidate. His $6.25MM price tag is a bit steep compared to what other aging (Pearce turns 36 in mid-April) first base/DH types received on the open market, though it’s probably safe to assume that the team might have considered it an extra thank-you bonus for Pearce’s postseason exploits. Plus, if he replicates the .901 OPS he posted over 165 PA with the Sox last season, Pearce may suddenly look like a bargain.
Speaking of Boston postseason heroes, Nathan Eovaldi posted a 1.61 ERA over 22 1/3 innings during the 2018 playoffs, including an instantly-legendary six-inning relief stint in the marathon that was Game 3 of the World Series. That performance was the cherry on top of an outstanding comeback season for Eovaldi, who missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery before returning for a 3.81 ERA, 5.05 K/BB rate, and 8.2 K/9 over 111 regular season frames for the Rays and Red Sox. Beyond just regaining his velocity post-surgery, Eovaldi’s 97.2mph average fastball actually represented a new career high for the right-hander.
Now re-established as a quality starter, Eovaldi drew a lot of attention in the free agent market, though the Sox were helped by the fact that Eovaldi reportedly only gave serious consideration to Boston and Houston (Eovaldi’s hometown club). Boston ultimately re-signed Eovaldi on a four-year, $68MM contract.
There is no small amount of risk baked into that signing, as Eovaldi has two Tommy John surgeries under his belt and has averaged just 121 innings per year during his eight MLB seasons. (The Phillies and perhaps at least one more of Eovaldi’s many suitors this winter apparently had interest in signing him to work as a reliever, which seems like it would’ve been a hard sell to a pitcher with so many rotation offers on the table.) Despite the concerns, Eovaldi has never pitched as consistently well as he did during his three-plus months in a Red Sox uniform, so it could be that the team’s vaunted pitching braintrust may have unlocked something within Eovaldi to give the Sox faith that the righty can be a front-of-the-rotation arm going forward.
With some key players slated to reach free agency after the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Eovaldi’s deal also helped solidify the team’s core over a slightly longer term. The Sox took another big step towards this end by extending Chris Sale, keeping the ace southpaw out of the 2019-20 free agent market by inking him to a five-year, $145MM deal. We’ll address some of the concerns about the Sale contract in the next section, though in terms of pure performance, it’s hard to argue that Sale wasn’t deserving of such a financial commitment. Sale has the best K/9 (10.9) and K/BB ratio (5.29) of any pitcher in the history of the sport with at least 1000 career innings, to go along with a 2.93 ERA.
Xander Bogaerts was the next 2019-20 free agent land a new contract, agreeing to remain in Boston for a guaranteed $120MM from 2020-25. The shortstop has generated 17.6 fWAR from 2015-18 and is coming off a 2018 season that saw him post his best numbers yet (.288/.360/.522 in 580 PA). A similar season could have pushed Bogaerts’ price tag close to the $200MM mark since he doesn’t turn 27 until October. Instead, now the Sox know they have Bogaerts in the fold for a $20MM average annual value through at least 2025, and maybe 2026 depending on a vesting option.
Boston tried to shop its group of catchers all offseason long but never found a deal. Instead, the Sox kept Sandy Leon in the organization after he cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A. This might count as something of a minor victory for the club, since Leon is still on hand to provide defensive depth behind Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart.
It was a relatively quiet winter in Beantown, and there was certainly more than a bit of speculation surrounding what moves the Red Sox didn’t make, rather the ones they did.
With Joe Kelly gone to the Dodgers and a reunion with Craig Kimbrel looking unlikely, Boston’s bullpen is down its closer and one of its top setup men from 2018. The Red Sox didn’t address these vacancies in any major way — rookie Colten Brewer made the Opening Day roster after being acquired from San Diego, while some experienced names like Erasmo Ramirez, Zach Putnam, Jenrry Mejia, and old friend Carson Smith were brought into the mix on minor league deals.
As it stands, Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier will share closing duties, leading a bullpen mix comprised mostly of returning pitchers now expected on take on a larger role. Since Boston’s relief corps was pretty solid on the whole last year, it isn’t quite the nightmare scenario that many Boston fans are fearing. The Sox seem to be taking the stance that since they’re such overwhelming favorites for a postseason spot already, they can take the first couple of months to evaluate their relief options and see if anyone emerges. If not, Boston will likely pursue an established late-game reliever at the trade deadline (or they might do so even if Barnes and/or Brasier thrive, to add further depth).
Of course, this is something of a risky strategy with the Yankees (or maybe even the Rays) poised to battle for the AL East title. Settling for even a middle-of-the-pack bullpen for a few months could cost the Red Sox in a division race that could easily come down to a game or two in the standings. While the Sox might still have an advantage over the American League as a whole, they surely want to win the division rather than tempt fate in the Wild Card game.
Bogaerts’ extension came after the team’s self-imposed Opening Day deadline for extension talks, so we probably shouldn’t rule out any further deals. Still, there was more buzz about a potential new Bogaerts contract than there was about a new pact for pending free agent Rick Porcello, as the Red Sox didn’t seem overly interested in a new contract even with Porcello offering something of a discount.
J.D. Martinez is another possible departure if he opts out of the final three years and $62.5MM left on his contract. There also hasn’t been much traction between Martinez and the team in solidifying their future arrangement, though the Sox could be betting that Martinez chooses to stick with his contract rather than test a free agent market that has been increasingly hostile to defensively-limited players. Even with another elite hitting season, would Martinez land more than $62.5MM for his age 32-34 seasons, as he becomes increasingly closer to being a DH-only player? Martinez saw a limited market even last winter, and his situation might not improve now that he’d be two years older and with a compensatory draft pick via the qualifying offer (which the Sox would surely offer) hanging over his services.
The biggest unanswered question is what it will cost to keep Mookie Betts beyond the 2020 season. Betts certainly doesn’t sound as if he’s considering signing an extension, so there might not have been much Boston could have done to get him to reconsider his stance on testing free agency (aside from a Mike Trout-esque offer). With two years of team control remaining, there isn’t necessarily any urgency to lock Betts up immediately, though his price tag only seems to be rising. Betts already rejected a $200MM extension offer prior to his MVP season in 2018, and retaining his services may take a $300MM+ commitment at this point.
Boston’s major investment in Sale also carries some red flags. While Sale has been a durable arm over his career, his performance declined down the stretch in 2017, and he pitched just 17 regular-season innings after July 27 in 2018 due to shoulder issues (plus 15 1/3 innings over five postseason appearances). If health problems are only starting to crop up now that Sale has celebrated his 30th birthday, it doesn’t auger well for him continuing to stay healthy for the life of that extension. The Red Sox are also now averaging $75MM in salary to three rotation members in Sale, Eovaldi, and David Price through the 2022 season. Price has also had some health issues over the last few years, while Eovaldi’s injury history is well-documented.
The question of money, of course, is at the heart of every transaction (or non-transaction) Boston made this winter. The Red Sox soared over the luxury tax threshold last season, topping the highest penalty level ($237MM) and thus faced slightly under $12MM in tax payments and a ten-slot drop for their first round draft pick. Even as the Competitive Balance Tax has risen to $206MM for 2019, Roster Resource has Boston’s projected luxury tax number at slightly more than $253.2MM, well over the $246MM threshold that would trigger another maximum penalty. If the Sox spend more than $246MM, their 2020 first-round pick will again drop back ten spots. They’ll also pay $14.4MM in taxes for their payroll up to that $246MM mark and an additional 75 percent tax on every dollar from that point forth. If that $253.2MM projection proves accurate, the Sox would pay a total of $19.8MM in luxury taxes.
MLBTR’s Steve Adams detailed Boston’s payroll situation in a recent analysis of why the Sox were hesitant about re-signing Kimbrel, or making a lot of big splashes this winter. Extending Sale increased his luxury tax number, thus sending the team over the $246MM threshold and into the max penalty danger zone once more. With this in mind, the Red Sox were reportedly even open to trade offers for Bogaerts, Porcello, and Jackie Bradley Jr. this winter as the club looked to cut costs.
The counter-argument, as Steve noted, is that the big-market Red Sox could absorb that tax hit as a giant one-year expense in the name of fully reloading for another World Series run while their core group is still together. Enough salary will come off the books after the season (Porcello, Pearce, Moreland, Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, and Boston’s remaining commitment to Pablo Sandoval) that the Sox might even have a shot at ducking under the $208MM luxury threshold for 2020 entirely, though it’ll be difficult considering the arbitration raises due to Betts, Bradley, Andrew Benintendi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and maybe Barnes is his arbitration salary is boosted due to accumulating saves. (Brasier could even reach arbitration as well, depending on where this year’s Super Two cutoff lands.)
Extensions to retain stars like Sale and Bogaerts, however, look to have been the only type of big splurge the club was willing to make to send it beyond the $246MM border this year. Any further moves the Red Sox could make are likely to wait until midseason, when their deadline pickups will only have two-plus months of salary commitments remaining. These pickups could include finding a reliever, maybe rotation depth, or possibly another second baseman in the vein of their acquisition of Ian Kinsler last summer. It’s still unknown how much Dustin Pedroia will be able to contribute in 2019, leaving Boston with a combination of Holt and Nunez until Pedroia is ready, with Tzu-Wei Lin, an injured Marco Hernandez, and top prospect Michael Chavis as further potential options.
Second base is the biggest question mark around the diamond, as the Sox can be reasonably hopeful that Vazquez and Rafael Devers take steps forward from their mediocre 2018 showings to shore up the catcher and third base positions. Without a ton of bench depth and a lack of money to spend on more upgrades, however, Boston will again be counting heavily on its superstars.
2019 Season Outlook
With all of these questions in mind, Fangraphs projected the Red Sox to take a big dropoff from their 108-win performance in 2018, as Boston is currently projected to win “only”…. 94 games. Needless to say, the Sox still look like heavy favorites to again reach the postseason, though they’ll be neck-and-neck with the Yankees all year long for the AL East crown.
How would you grade what the Red Sox did this offseason? (Link to poll for Trade Rumors app users.)
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Following an offseason that featured an arms race between several of the NL East’s contenders, expectations are higher than ever for the Braves, Mets, Nationals, and Phillies. For that reason, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post, there will be no excuses for managers Gabe Kapler, Dave Martinez, and Mickey Callaway this time around. The trio of rookie managers all endured disappointing 2018 seasons, but with their ballclubs making significant additions in the winter, the new year comes with heightened pressure to deliver and win now. It bears mentioning that first-year Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen was not part of the front office that hired Callaway prior to last season. Though it’s still early to speculate about managerial turnover, the developing bloodbath in the NL East will be a story to watch throughout the season and into the winter.
Here are some other notes from the East…
- Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy, once an uber-prospect with tantalizing potential, has undergone well-documented struggles in recent years, culminating in his surrendering 41 home runs last season. Jon Meoli of The Baltimore Sun details new pitching coach Doug Brocail’s plan to implement changes that will help Bundy return to the form that brought him success earlier in his career, including his career-best 2016 season.
- Also in Baltimore, new skipper Brandon Hyde has thus far refrained from anointing a closer and does not intend to do so anytime soon, writes Meoli. Though Mychal Givens, who finished the 2018 season in the closer role after the midseason trades of Zack Britton and Brad Brach, appeared the best candidate to close, Hyde’s Orioles are comfortable sticking to a committee approach for the foreseeable future.
- Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has been dealing with left knee inflammation and began the season on the IL, will begin a rehab assignment on Thursday with the Class-A Greenville Drive, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Pedroia has been receiving at-bats in extended spring training; the timetable for his return to MLB action is yet unknown.
March 28: Leon has accepted his assignment to Triple-A, the team announced.
March 26: 1:14pm: Abraham now tweets that Leon has not actually not yet made a decision on whether he’ll accept the assignment. He has 48 hours to do so.
12:54pm: The Red Sox announced Tuesday that catcher Sandy Leon has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket. Evan Drellich first reported (via Twitter) that Leon had gone unclaimed, and the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham tweets that Leon has accepted an outright assignment.
Because Leon has more than three years of MLB service time (4.149 years), he could’ve rejected the assignment in favor of free agency. However, only players with five-plus years of service can reject an outright assignment without forfeiting the salary on their contract, so electing free agency would’ve cost Leon $2.475MM. He’ll remain with the organization and, while he won’t count against the 40-man roster, he will count against the team’s luxury tax calculations (a technicality that was changed in the last CBA).
Leon, 30, struggled through an awful season at the plate in 2018, hitting just .177/.232/.279 through 288 PAs. His bat has continually declined since what now looks like a clear outlier campaign in 2016, but he’s regarded as a terrific defender in terms of limiting the running game, framing pitches, and managing a staff.
Despite that proficient glovework, however, Leon found himself squeezed off the Boston roster by a cluttered catching mix no longer deemed tenable by the organization. Boston spent the entire 2018 campaign juggling playing time for Leon, Christian Vazquez and seldom-used former top prospect Blake Swihart. With both Swihart and Leon out of minor league options and Vazquez locked in as the team’s No. 1 catcher, the Sox ultimately cut bait on Leon in favor of Swihart, who’ll now serve as the primary backup in 2019. If Leon does stick with the club, he could eventually resurface in the big leagues in the event of an injury or prolonged struggles for one either Vazquez or Swihart.