- Red Sox pitching prospect Darwinzon Hernandez will make his first career start Tuesday against the Rangers, Christopher Smith of MassLive.com relays. MLB.com ranks the southpaw as the Red Sox’s best pitching prospect and No. 3 overall farmhand. The 22-year-old Hernandez got his first taste of the majors earlier this season with 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of Boston’s bullpen. Hernandez has been a mixed bag in 2019 at the Double-A level, where he has averaged a hefty 13.17 strikeouts per nine but has offset that with an untenable walk rate (7.14 BB/9) and a 5.13 ERA in 40 1/3 frames.
Red Sox Rumors
The Red Sox and Indians entered the 2019 season as popular picks to earn playoff berths. Both teams have been powerhouses in recent years, including in 2018, when the Red Sox went 108-54 en route to a World Series title and the Indians took home their third consecutive AL Central crown. Two-plus months into the season, though, Boston and Cleveland have had to sail through rougher waters than expected. Both teams are just a tad over .500 (the Red Sox are 34-32, the Indians 33-32) and currently sitting outside the AL playoff picture.
Just about everything that could have gone right did for the Red Sox a year ago. Their position players paced the entire league in runs and led the AL in fWAR, and their pitchers were toward the top of the game in ERA and fWAR. None of that’s true this season, however. While Boston continues to enjoy a formidable offense, it’s not the juggernaut it was a season ago. Last year’s AL MVP, Mookie Betts, as well as J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, World Series MVP Steve Pearce and Jackie Bradley Jr. have all seen their numbers dip. Much-improved production from Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez hasn’t been enough to offset the fallen output of that important group.
On the pitching side, ace Chris Sale has come back with a vengeance from a dreadful start, while David Price has also been outstanding. At the same time, though, late-2018 hero Nathan Eovaldi has barely pitched because of an elbow injury (and has struggled when he has taken the mound). Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez’s run prevention has tailed off, though his peripherals are encouraging, Rick Porcello hasn’t been close to his best self and enemy offenses have roughed up Hector Velazquez. Those starters have handed off to a bullpen that has been somewhat shaky in adjusting to life without the departed Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.
The Indians’ relief unit has taken enormous steps forward since 2018, on the other hand. It’s the rest of their roster that has gone backward. Top starters Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger have either battled serious injuries/illnesses or drastically underachieved. Francisco Lindor is having another great year, but his pal Jose Ramirez has gone from an MVP-level player to someone who can barely lift his OPS over .600. Michael Brantley’s now in Houston, replaced by players who have been incapable of matching his 2018 production. Jason Kipnis has been horrific, and the Indians’ offseason decision to trade Yandy Diaz for Jake Bauers simply hasn’t worked out to this point.
The Indians’ mediocre play has left them a whopping 10 1/2 games behind the AL Central-leading Twins. As a result, the Tribe may have to consider making some difficult decisions this summer as the July 31 trade deadline draws nearer. For now, though, the Indians are very much in the wild-card hunt, behind the surprising Rangers by a game and a half. Boston’s even closer to Texas, which it trails by one and began a four-game series against Monday, but might have trouble overcoming the seven-game advantage the Rays and Yankees have built in the AL East. By the time the regular season wraps up, do you expect the Indians and Red Sox to be part of the league’s playoff field?
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12:20pm: Rivera and Rojas report (via Twitter) that the Red Sox have sent a plane to the Dominican Republic in order to transport Ortiz back to Boston, where he’ll receive further treatment. Ortiz has been deemed stable enough by his doctors to travel.
June 10, 6:15am: Ortiz incurred some damage to his liver and had to have his gall bladder as well as parts of his colon removed as a result of the shooting, per Rivera and Rojas. Rivera adds that Ortiz is currently in intensive care but still considered to be in stable condition.
June 9, 11:43pm: In excellent news, Ortiz is expected to make a “total recovery” from the attack, Leo Ortiz tells Soldevila (Twitter link, with translation from Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe).
11:22pm: Ortiz is out of surgery and doing well, his brother tells Soldevila (via Twitter, with translation from James Wagner of the New York Times).
10:29pm: The operating doctor also says that Ortiz is stable, though he will still require another hour of surgery (from Soldevila with translation from Speier).
10:10pm: Ortiz is in stable condition, the local police chief tells Soldevila (Twitter link).
9:24pm: Former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz is in hospital in Santo Domingo Este after receiving a gunshot wound, according to multiple reports out of the Dominican Republic, including TV station CDN 37 (Twitter link). Ortiz was attacked while at a club, and the suspect is reportedly now in police custody. Leo Ortiz, David’s father, told ESPN.com’s Enrique Rojas that he was called about the situation, “but they did not tell me how he is or exactly where he was transferred.”
Original reports stated Ortiz was shot in the leg, but the latest update from Dominican reporter Dionisio Soldevila (original tweet, and translation from the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier) indicates that Ortiz was shot through his lower back on the left side, with the bullet coming out the other side of his body through the abdomen. Ortiz is currently in surgery, Soldevila told ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera (Twitter link).
Details are still scarce about the incident, though needless to say, it is a horrific situation for Ortiz, his family, friends, and millions of fans. Prayers and messages of support for Ortiz are already pouring in from all over the baseball world for one of the sport’s most beloved figures, and we at MLB Trade Rumors likewise sent our best wishes to the Ortiz family.
Nathan Eovaldi has suffered a setback in his recovery from elbow surgery, tweets Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe. Eovaldi is experiencing bicep soreness that caused his latest bullpen session to be pushed back.
Eovaldi had been on track to make a mid-June return to the Boston rotation after being tagged with a four-to-six-week recovery timetable from his April 22 elbow surgery. Abraham had previously reported that Eovaldi might return as early as June 15th, though it now seems unlikely that he will be able to meet that target date. At this juncture, it’s unclear just how long the latest setback will keep Eovaldi out of action, but there is undoubtedly some cause for concern for the Red Sox, who have struggled to find a stable replacement for Eovaldi in his absence.
It is perhaps notable that it’s a bicep issue rather than an elbow complication, since the surgery was needed to remove loose bodies in Eovaldi’s elbow. Whether that is a good or bad sign is subject to speculation, but this latest development is certainly frustrating for the Red Sox, who invested heavily in Eovaldi, rewarding his late-season heroics with a four-year, $68MM contract last winter.
His club has yet to see any real return on that investment, as the right-hander has been able to make just four starts this season and has posted a 6.00 ERA in that time. To be sure, it’s premature to draw conclusions from just four games, and Eovaldi has plenty of time to make good on the lucrative contract he earned. Nonetheless, the third-place Red Sox could use the fireballing righty sooner than later, and his extensive injury history is not particularly inspiring at present.
The Red Sox placed Mitch Moreland back onto the injured list just a day after he was activated. Moreland hits the 10-day IL this time with a right quad strain, per a team announcement. Though they don’t yet know the extent of the injury, there is a suspicion that Moreland may miss significant time, per Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com (via Twitter).
Moreland was removed from the sixth inning of yesterdays’ game, his first since returning from a lower back strain. For the season, Moreland, 34, has been worth 0.8 rWAR with a .225/.316/.543 line, the final number of which paces the Red Sox for the season. Not unrelated, he also leads the club with 13 home runs, though J.D Martinez and Xander Bogaerts are hot on his heels with 12 apiece. Rookie slugger Michael Chavis has been seeing time at first base in Moreland’s absence.
Josh Smith, meanwhile, has joined the team as the 26th man for today’s day-night doubleheader versus the Rays. The 31-year-old righty has appeared in four games thus far for the BoSox in 2019 while starting six games for Pawtucket. He owns a career 5.28 ERA across 134 2/3 innings for the Red Sox, A’s, and Reds. He signed with the Red Sox this past winter as a minor league free agent after being released by the Mariners. Smith will get the start in the first game of today’s doubleheader, after which he is likely ticketed for a return to Pawtucket.
Infielder Marco Hernandez, 26, was recalled from Triple-A to fill Moreland’s roster spot. The versatile infielder makes his first appearance with the Red Sox since 2017. He missed most of that season and all of 2018 with a shoulder injury, but since his return, he holds a .303 batting average in Pawtucket while playing mostly up the middle. There’s some opportunity for Hernandez at second, where Brock Holt and Eduardo Nunez will compete for at-bats while Chavis slides over to first. Holt has been injured for much of the season, whereas Nunez struggled to the tune of .238/.257/.324 in 105 at-bats.
- Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland could come off the IL as early as Friday, according to Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe. The lefty-swinging Moreland was put on the list May 29 because of a lower back strain, temporarily halting a powerful start to the season for the 33-year-old. Moreland’s a .228/.320/.550 hitter (121 wRC+) with a Red Sox-best 13 home runs and a team high isolated power mark (.322) through 172 trips to the plate.
Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi could return from the injured list as early as June 15, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe suggests. As Abraham notes, that would mark 52 days since Eovaldi underwent right elbow surgery April 22, at which point he was reportedly supposed to miss four to six weeks. Eovaldi’s absence has deprived Boston of a second-half hero from 2018, someone whose late-season excellence convinced the reigning world champions to bring him back on a four-year, $68MM contract in free agency. The hard-throwing Eovaldi, 29, then came out of the gates slowly prior to his surgery, logging a 6.00 ERA/7.05 FIP with 6.86 K/9 and 4.71 BB/9 over 21 frames and four starts. Still, considering the Red Sox are fighting for a playoff spot and haven’t gotten enough from their rotation in general, Eovaldi’s return should be a welcome one for the club.
It is officially draft day in Major League Baseball, and as the clock has struck midnight on the east coast, it also means that teams can sign free agents who rejected the qualifying offer without having to surrender the draft pick compensation usually attached to QO picks. Thus, after months of speculation, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel have been one of their chief obstacles to a new contract fall by the wayside.
While several players have seen their free agent markets impacted by the qualifying offer over the QO’s seven offseasons of existence, Keuchel and Kimbrel join Kendrys Morales as the only players to escape the qualifying offer’s draft penalties by simply waiting out the draft itself to sign new contracts. Stephen Drew’s free agent visit also extended into the 2014 season, though he ultimately re-signed with the Red Sox before the draft.
Of course, waiting this long to sign has the obvious drawback of inactivity. The two pitchers have now given up over two months of their careers and a proper Spring Training camp, though Keuchel and Kimbrel have both been working in preparation to eventually get on the field, Keuchel and Kimbrel will have to ramp up their activity without the benefit of a proper Spring Training camp. According to Keuchel’s agent Scott Boras, the southpaw will be ready to join his new team about a week after signing, which seems like a somewhat optimistic projection. It’s worth noting that Morales and Drew both struggled badly in their abbreviated 2014 seasons, and we’ve seen several other examples (i.e. Greg Holland last season) of how players with QO-induced extended layoffs can struggle without the benefit of a proper offseason.
As a reminder, here is what each team would have had to give up in terms of compensation had they signed Keuchel or Kimbrel at any point in the last seven months. The large majority of teams would have had to give up just one draft selection (either their second-highest or third-highest pick), and the 12 clubs who didn’t exceed the luxury tax or receive revenue-sharing payments would have also had to surrender $500K in international bonus pool money. The Nationals and Red Sox were the only two teams who did surpass the luxury tax threshold in 2018, and thus would have had to give up their second- and fifth-highest picks plus $1MM in international bonus pool money. (This only applies to Boston in regards to Keuchel, as the Sox obviously could have re-signed Kimbrel with no penalty since he was most recently on their team.)
The Red Sox and Astros are further impacted, as the two clubs will now no longer receive the extra picks that would have been owed to them had Kimbrel and Keuchel indeed signed elsewhere. Since they paid into the luxury tax, the Red Sox would have only received a pick between the fourth and fifth rounds, while Houston would have received a pick between Competitive Balance Round B and the third round. While the current draft order would have been altered in this scenario depending on what team gave up their pick to sign Keuchel, the Astros would have had either the 78th or 79th overall pick if Keuchel had indeed landed on another team.
Rather than discussing how Keuchel would impact a new rotation, or how Kimbrel would shore up the back of a contending team’s bullpen, the two pitchers instead became the poster children for the increasing lack of action in baseball’s free agent market. With modern front offices putting so much value on possessing a young player (either a draft pick or an international signing) through six or as many as seven seasons pre-free agency, as well as an increased wariness in how veteran players decline in their 30’s, teams are simply loathe to give up draft capital and/or spend money on established free agents, even noted stars like Keuchel and Kimbrel.
In fairness to teams, the qualifying offer draft compensation wasn’t the only reason both pitchers are still available as the calendar turned to June. There were legitimate baseball reasons to hold off on spending huge money on either player — Keuchel’s grounder-heavy arsenal and lack of a power fastball might not age well, while Kimbrel looked shaky down the stretch and throughout Boston’s postseason run in 2018.
Keuchel and Boras were looking for at least a five-year contract, while Kimbrel entered the offseason hoping for what would have been a record-setting $100MM+ contract for a closer. Both those sky-high initial asking prices have since been lowered, as Kimbrel was said to be looking for a three-year deal in early April, while Kimbrel was reportedly open to a one-year contract worth more than the value of the $17.9MM qualifying offer he turned down from Houston. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, however, notes that such a prorated one-year offer isn’t being considered by either Keuchel or Kimbrel, as “both would be signed” if they were willing to settle for such contracts.
With the draft pick hurdle now cleared and over a third of the season gone, it remains to be seen exactly what type of contracts Keuchel and Kimbrel will end up signing. A one-year pact would have allowed either pitcher to test free agency again this winter without the qualifying offer, though that scenario might not be appealing if the shortened season does lead to a downturn in performance. At the same time, it’s rather hard to imagine teams extended multi-year guarantees given the circumstances.
As odd as it sounds after seven months of inaction, but Keuchel and Kimbrel now aim to be hot commodities for a wide range of teams looking for rotation or bullpen help. The Braves, Brewers, and Rays have each had interest in both pitchers, with Atlanta, St. Louis and the Yankees considered “favorites” for Keuchel, as per Heyman, and such teams as the Mets, Diamondbacks, and Twins have also been mentioned as possible candidates to sign Keuchel. For Kimbrel, the Phillies and Cubs are known to have some level of interest in the closer. A signing could some relatively quickly, or Keuchel and Kimbrel may still take a bit more time to properly sort through the offers coming their way.
- The Red Sox re-signed Steve Pearce on a one-year, $6.25MM contract last November in the wake of Pearce’s epic performance as the World Series MVP. The deal looked like a solid move at the time, though as the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham notes, now looks like a misstep given Pearce’s rough 2019 season. Pearce has slashed just .180/.245/.258 over 99 plate appearances, and is currently on the IL with back spasms. Considering that many comparable first base/DH types of free agents signed for considerably less than Pearce’s $6.5MM guarantee last offseason, the contract now looks like an overpay in hindsight. A few million dollars normally wouldn’t be a big issue for a wealthy team like the Red Sox, though with the Sox wanting to stay under the $246MM maximum penalty luxury tax threshold, Abraham notes that signing Pearce to a smaller deal (or letting him go altogether) would have freed up more money for Boston to pursue some needed bullpen help, either in the offseason or at the deadline.
Pearce was removed from yesterday’s game in the second inning after experiencing back spasms. The rest itself may not be the worst thing for Pearce, who has struggled to get going after being crowned World Series MVP to end 2018. While rarely an everyday player throughout his career, more was certainly expected from Pearce than the .180/.245/.258 line he currently owns – and that’s after some improvement of late.
It’s not a lost season for Pearce, who with only 89 at-bats has more than enough time to raise his numbers, even if his stint on the injured list proves lengthy. A rehab assignment wherein he has the opportunity to play everyday and get into a rhythm could do Pearce some good as well, should they take that route upon his return.
For Travis, the 25-year-old Chicagoan is no stranger to the Red Sox, for whom he has appeared in every season since 2017. This will be his second stint with the club this year after going 2-7 in Boston’s opening series of the year against Seattle. Since then, Travis has slashed .251/.359/.371 in 49 games with Pawtucket. As a right-handed hitter, Travis can slot right into Pearce’s role on the lesser half of a platoon with regular first baseman Mitch Moreland.