- Red Sox right-hander Carson Smith is expected to throw off of a mound for the first time since his Tommy John surgery on or around March 10th, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal tweets. That would presumably set up Smith for a mid-season return; if he’s able to remain on track, he could provide a nice boost to the BoSox pen in advance of the trade deadline.
Though it’ll be a week or more before either Drew Pomeranz or Steven Wright is able to throw off a mound (as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes), Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski stated that he feels the Sox are deeper in rotation options than the vast majority of clubs (Twitter link via Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal). Mastrodonato’s colleague, Evan Drellich, recently took a look at the team’s lack of established options beyond the top six of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, Pomeranz and Wright, though, noting that each of Henry Owens, Roenis Elias and Brian Johnson comes with question marks. (The Sox also have Kyle Kendrick in camp on a non-roster invite.)
- Also from Mastrodonato’s column, Farrell acknowledged that Blake Swihart’s remaining minor league option could work against him in Spring Training. Both Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez are out of options, and the Red Sox won’t want to expose either to waivers at the end of camp, which seemingly signals a trip to Triple-A Pawtucket to open the season for Swihart. Certainly, injuries could change the plan for the Sox, but it’s tough to see all three fitting on the roster. “We’ve got three guys that are fully healthy, that’s No. 1, particularly with what Blake went through last year and the surgery in the offseason,” Farrell told Mastrodonato. “But with Sandy, Christian and Blake, yeah we feel really good about the core group that’s there. We’ll see how things unfold.”
Cuban left-hander Osvaldo Hernandez has been declared a free agent and can now sign with any team, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports (via Twitter). Several teams are already interested in the 18-year-old southpaw, including the Astros, Braves, Mets, Padres, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox.
Due to Hernandez’s young age, his signing is subject to international bonus pools. (As a reminder of how the international signing system has been altered by the new collective bargaining agreement, check out this refresher from Baseball America’s Ben Badler). One factor that hasn’t changed is that teams who exceeded their international spending limits in the last two July 2 classes are still serving their previously-mandated penalties, i.e. limited to spending no more than $300K on any pool-eligible player. By waiting until this July 2 to sign, Hernandez could open his market up to teams like the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays, Angels, Rays, Yankees and Red Sox, as those six clubs would no longer be held to the $300K limit. Boston, it should be noted, can’t sign Hernandez at all until July 2 since the Sox were banned from signing any pool-eligible players whatsoever during this signing class.
With significant interest in Hernandez’s services already, however, the young southpaw may not feel the need to wait. Also, since the old CBA’s rules are still in effect until the 2017-18 international signing period begins, Hernandez probably stands a better chance of scoring a richer contract now than he will when the stricter pool rules are instituted after July 2. Of the teams connected to Hernandez already, the Braves, Astros, Reds and Padres have already surpassed their bonus pools for the 2016-17 international signing period, so they would be paying a 100 percent tax on Hernandez’s signing bonus if a deal was reached.
Hernandez didn’t appear on any of the top prospects lists from Baseball America, Fangraphs or MLB.com for the current international signing period, though BA’s list didn’t include players who weren’t already eligible to sign. The 18-year-old does already possess a fastball clocked between 92-94mph, according to Sanchez.
- Along with Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox hurlers Steven Wright and Drew Pomeranz are set to vie for the fifth spot in the club’s rotation this spring, but it could be at least a week before the latter two are ready to throw off a mound, manager John Farrell revealed Sunday (via Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald). Wright still hasn’t returned to full strength since suffering a right shoulder injury as a pinch-runner last August, while Pomeranz received a stem cell injection on his ailing left elbow in October. Rodriguez hurt his right knee in December, but he got a clean bill of health in a recent checkup, per Ian Browne of MLB.com.
- On the offensive end, the Red Sox didn’t attempt to replace retired designated hitter David Ortiz with another big bat in the offseason. Farrell explained why Sunday, telling reporters – including Scott Lauber of ESPN.com – that the team didn’t want to make a long-term commitment to a right-handed-hitting veteran and block prospect Sam Travis. The Red Sox instead wanted a lefty-swinger, which led them to reel in Mitch Moreland on a one-year, $5.5MM deal. Moreland is no Ortiz, of course, but Farrell regards the longtime Ranger as an “ideal fit” for the Red Sox considering both his handedness and defensive prowess. Boston still feels it’ll have a high-end offense without Ortiz, so it prioritized upgrading its defense and went after Moreland.
- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, left-hander Drew Pomeranz, right-hander Joe Kelly, first baseman Sam Travis and catcher Christian Vazquez are among the Red Sox who will need strong spring performances this year, opines Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald. If the beleaguered Sandoval is unable to show enough defensively to win the third base job, the lefty-swinger could have trouble finding playing time in Boston, which is likely to deploy Hanley Ramirez as its designated hitter against righties. Vazquez, meanwhile, has no minor league options remaining and will battle with Sandy Leon (also out of options) and Blake Swihart for a roster spot. The Red Sox might attempt to trade Vazquez if he doesn’t crack their roster, or they could send Swihart to the minors, observes Mastrodonato.
- That the Red Sox were able to acquire ace Chris Sale from the White Sox without giving up left fielder Andrew Benintendi could propel them back to the World Series this year, opines Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Red Sox left-hander David Price called it “amazing” that the team landed Sale while retaining Benintendi, and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski observed that “Andrew is not a player you’re ever looking to trade.” The 22-year-old Benintendi was terrific in his 118-plate appearance major league debut last season (.295/.359/.476) and enters 2017 as an AL Rookie of the Year front-runner. He’s also No. 1 on Baseball America’s just-released Top 100 prospects list – one spot ahead of second baseman/third baseman Yoan Moncada, who headlined Chicago’s return in the Sale trade. Right-hander Michael Kopech, the second-biggest piece the White Sox received, is 32nd.
SATURDAY 9:57am: Quentin can make $750K in the Majors, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald tweets.
WEDNESDAY 2:00pm: There’s no invite to Major League camp on Quentin’s deal with the Red Sox, reports WEEI’s Rob Bradford, so it seems he’ll head to minor league camp and open the season in Triple-A. Bradford cites a lack of depth in the team’s current minor league outfield options as well as the fact that Quentin has dropped 40 pounds behind the signing.
12:52pm: The Red Sox have agreed to a deal with veteran slugger Carlos Quentin, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). It’s all but certain that the deal is of the minor-league variety, though it’s not clear whether Quentin will receive an invite to MLB camp.
Quentin last appeared in the pages here at MLBTR when he took his free agency from the Twins last spring. After failing to crack the Minnesota roster out of camp, he asked for his release rather than taking a spot at the Triple-A level.
That brought an end to Quentin’s most recent comeback attempt, but it seems he has at least one more try left in the tank. Now 34, the right-handed-hitting outfielder has not seen the majors since 2014, when he struggled in a fifty-game stint with the Padres.
Despite the recent layoff and long-running knee problems, Quentin does have a long track record of quality offensive production. Between 2008 and 2013, he posted a .260/.356/.503 batting line with 136 home runs over 2,638 plate appearances.
12:38pm: As expected, it’s a minor league contract, per Tim Britton of the Providence Journal (Twitter link).
9:21am: The Red Sox have signed corner infielder Mike Olt, who announced the news on Instagram (h/t Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe). It’s presumably a minor league deal for Olt, who didn’t crack the majors in 2016 after inking a minors pact with the Padres last March.
The 28-year-old Olt went to the Rangers in the first round of the 2010 draft and eventually topped out as Baseball America’s 22nd-best prospect after the 2012 campaign. The Rangers then sent Olt to the Cubs the next season in a trade centering on right-hander Matt Garza, but he failed to live up to his considerable promise in Chicago. In 2014, the only season in which Olt has seen extensive major league action, he batted .160/.248/.356 and struck out in 38.8 percent of his 258 plate appearances. All told, Olt has slashed .168/.250/.330 in a combined 400 PAs with the Rangers, Cubs and White Sox. He has been more successful, albeit not great, at the Triple-A level, having posted a .234/.318/.429 line in 774 PAs.
Primarily a third baseman, the Connecticut-born Olt, an ex-UConn star, will now return to his native New England and attempt to stick with the Red Sox organization. Boston does have questions at the hot corner, where Pablo Sandoval is aiming to bounce back from a horrid 2015 and a lost 2016. Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge are on hand as major league depth, while another of BA’s former top 100 prospects, Matt Dominguez, is in the minors.
- Blake Swihart’s eventual role with the Red Sox could be serving a multi-positional threat who can catch 90 games while also contributing at first, third, DH and the outfield, Peter Gammons writes in his latest piece at GammonsDaily.com. Boston moved Swihart to left field last season due to defensive issues behind the plate, though Swihart is intent on carving out a niche for himself as a catcher. Since Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez both have their own question marks, Swihart could still emerge as a catching option for the Sox in 2017. As Gammons and Sox bullpen coach Dana LeVangie both mention, Swihart doesn’t have all that much actual catching experience in his career, and got precious little time as a catcher last year due to the position switch and the ankle injury that shortened his season.
The Red Sox have announced that an arbitration panel found in the team’s favor after a hearing against lefty Fernando Abad. He’ll earn the team’s submitted salary of $2MM, instead of the $2.7MM that he sought.
That $2MM figure is also the exact projection of the MLBTR model developed by contributor Matt Swartz. Abad earned $1.25MM last year and is due to qualify for free agency after the 2017 season.
Acquired in a summer trade from the Twins, the 31-year-old Abad fell shy of expectations upon arriving in Boston. He had compiled a 2.65 ERA over 34 innings in Minnesota, but surrendered nine earned runs over his 12 2/3 frames with the Red Sox while struggling to limit the free passes (12:8 K/BB).
Still, Boston obviously saw enough value to tender a contract and keep Abad around as a second lefty to complement Robbie Ross Jr. Abad held same-handed hitters to a meager .153/.195/.264 batting line last year, and figures to be utilized as something of a lefty specialist in 2017.