- After seeing trade target Todd Frazier head to the Yankees last night, the Red Sox are now eyeing Giants third baseman Eduardo Nunez, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. That’s not the first time the BoSox have been linked to Nunez, though he’s among the first players to whom they Yankees have been linked following last night’s Frazier swap between Chicago and New York. The versatile Nunez is a free agent at season’s end and is earning a reasonable $4.2MM this year. He’s not a standout defender anywhere on the diamond, but he could hold down the fort at the hot corner for now and then bounce between third, shortstop, second base and perhaps the corner outfield later in the summer if the Sox give Rafael Devers an audition. Nunez is hitting .295/.319/.407 through 289 plate appearances.
After a great deal of speculation and legions of rumors connecting the Red Sox to Todd Frazier, the now-former White Sox third baseman instead went to the division-rival Yankees in a huge seven-player trade last night. Boston was linked to Frazier right up until the end, but they’ll now look elsewhere as they seek an upgrade at the hot corner. Here’s the latest out of Boston…
- The Red Sox have been connected to multiple other third basemen, and FanRag’s Jon Heyman adds Wilmer Flores of the Mets to the pile (Twitter link). Heyman notes that the Sox have scouted Flores, Asdrubal Cabrera and T.J. Rivera recently, which meshes with a recent report from the Boston Herald’s Michael Silverman. The 25-year-old Flores (26 next month) and his modest $2.2MM salary wouldn’t put the BoSox in danger of crossing the luxury tax threshold, and he’s versatile enough to slide into a utility role if/when the Red Sox ultimately give Rafael Devers the reins at third base. Flores is hitting .280/.310/.445 with seven homers and a dozen doubles this season, and he’s controllable through 2019.
- Speaking of Devers, it may come as little surprise, but MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand hears that the 20-year-old top prospect isn’t available in any trade, as far as the Red Sox are concerned (Twitter link). Devers was recently moved up to Triple-A Pawtucket, and while it’s not known exactly how long he’ll remain there — Boston’s pursuit of third basemen in trades suggests that he’s not viewed as an immediate option — he’s believed to be their third baseman of the future. Devers recently landed within the game’s top six prospects on the midseason rankings of Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN’s Keith Law.
- Looking to another of Boston’s now-former top prospects, Blake Swihart is still unable to catch regularly following last year’s ankle injury and is beginning to work out at first base and third base, manager John Farrell told reporters (Twitter link via ESPN’s Scott Lauber). Once one of the very best prospects in all of baseball, Swihart’s stock is now seemingly at a low point with another experiment at a new defensive home and a lack of production in Pawtucket to this point in the season. Through 163 plate appearances there, he’s hitting .213/.265/.327 with three homers, six doubles and a triple.
- Evan Drellich of CSN New England offers some praise for Red Sox president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski for exhibiting restraint by not pulling out all the stops to bring Frazier to Boston. Dombrowski has spoken publicly about retaining some of the team’s prospect depth after several significant trades, Drellich writes, and he stuck to that last night. However, Drellich continues by noting that last night also serves as a reminder of the “harsher reality” that following the acquisitions of Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Craig Kimbrel and Tyler Thornburg, the Sox have a lack of power in the current trade market. Most of those deals have paid dividends, of course (Sale, in particular), but a deal that significantly upgrades the team’s offense doesn’t look especially likely this year.
The Red Sox and White Sox are “in talks” on third baseman Todd Frazier, tweets Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Heyman notes that there’s nothing known to be done yet but adds that something could come together “fairly soon.” For what it’s worth, Frazier was announced as a healthy scratch from tonight’s lineup, which further lends credence to the notion that something could come together. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported over the weekend that the two sides had begun to move closer to a Frazier swap.
The 31-year-old Frazier is set to hit free agency at season’s end, and while his production this year hasn’t been up to par, he’s turned things on since the the calendar flipped to June. Over his past 37 games, Frazier has batted .234/.361/.508 with nine homers and eight doubles — all of which would be a mammoth upgrade over the woeful production that Boston has received at the hot corner this season. To date, Boston third baseman have collectively posted a miserable .227/.281/.325 batting line through 359 plate appearances.
Overall, Frazier’s .207/.328/.432 slash line is hardly eye-popping, but he’s also shown some positive indicators that point toward positive regression. He’s upped his walk rate to a career-high 14.3 percent in 2017 while also cutting his strikeout rate by more than three percent — from 24.5 percent in 2016 to 21.2 percent in 2017. Beyond that, Frazier has cut his infield-fly rate and seen increases in his line-drive and hard-contact rates. As such, it stands to reason that he could continue to improve upon a .214 batting average on balls in play that is currently the second-worst mark among all qualified Major League hitters.
- Mets righty Addison Reed is said to be drawing quite a lot of interest, with the Red Sox are among the teams weighing pursuit, per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (via Twitter). Boston will surely be casting a wide net as it looks to address what is perhaps a growing need at the back of the pen. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal highlights the need and also looks at some possibilities from the Red Sox’ perspective.
- If Gray is the top starter who’s likely to be dealt, the best position player on the market is probably Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez. The Cardinals were said previously to have looked into the high-powered slugger, but Nightengale says they won’t spend big on a rental of his ilk. Rather, he says, the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks are the three clubs that have “shown the most interest” in Martinez. We’ve also heard of a few other organizations poking around on the righty slugger, so there seems to be no shortage of interest.
- As many as 10 teams are still in the mix for Marlins righty David Phelps, tweets Nightengale. Phelps is indeed an attractive trade chip, though it’s unlikely that all 10 of those clubs are expressing serious interest and making competitive bids to acquire him. Nightengale names the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, and Rangers as the chief pursuers of Phelps.
- The Red Sox are one team rumored to have some level of interest in Lowrie, though Boston has been most closely connected with Todd Frazier in its third base search. Odds are, a source tells ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber (Twitter link), the Sox won’t be parting with significant prospect assets to meet its needs at the hot corner and in the bullpen. That likely wouldn’t be necessary for Lowrie or Frazier; one wonders, though, whether the club will still at least look into more significant deadline additions.
Already known to have Todd Frazier, Martin Prado, Jed Lowrie and Yangervis Solarte on their radar, the Red Sox are also scouting two Pirates (Josh Harrison and David Freese), a pair of Mets (T.J. Rivera and Asdrubal Cabrera) and the Giants’ Eduardo Nunez as they search for a third baseman, according to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald.
Of that five-man group, the versatile Harrison may be the most difficult to acquire – especially considering the Pirates will aim to contend next year even if they don’t make a serious playoff push this season. With a .273/.352/.424 line to go with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases across 377 plate appearances, in which he has accumulated 2.1 fWAR, the 30-year-old is having a fine campaign. Harrison is also on a reasonable contract, one that pays him $7.5MM this year, $10MM in 2018 and carries club options for 2019 ($10.5MM) and ’20 ($11.5MM). While Harrison would be an immediate upgrade at third for the Red Sox, it’s questionable how he’d fit into the organization in the coming years. Boston’s much-ballyhooed third base prospect, Rafael Devers, is nearly major league ready, and the club has Harrison’s other positions – second base and the corner outfield – covered with Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi.
Freese, 34, would also be more than a rental, as he’s due a guaranteed $4.25MM next season and has either a $6MM club option or a $500K buyout for 2019. Currently on a $6.25MM salary, the long-competent hitter has paired a respectable .245/.376/.364 slash in 271 trips to the plate with decent work at third (two defensive runs saved, 1.7 UZR/150).
The two Mets also come with control beyond this season, though the Red Sox would have the ability to decline Cabrera’s $8.5MM club option for 2018 in favor of a $2MM buyout. Cabrera, who’s earning $8.25MM now, brings a solid offensive track record to the table and has been OK in that department this year (.250/.333/.408 with nine homers in 270 PAs). However, the switch-hitter has just one career appearance at third base, which came back in 2007, and hasn’t looked good at all in the middle infield in his age-31 campaign. Cabrera has combined for minus-14 DRS and a minus-15.2 UZR/150 at shortstop and second, his customary positions.
Rivera, who at 28 is younger than Cabrera and won’t even be arbitration eligible until after the 2019 season, has survived a low walk rate (3.9 percent) since debuting last year to post quality numbers at the plate. Through 311 PAs, including 202 this year, Rivera has batted .315/.348/.469 – a line that’s either 15 percent or 17 percent better than league average, depending on whether you prefer OPS+ or wRC+. As such, he joins Harrison in looking like someone who’d be rather tough to pry from his current employer.
Nunez, a pure rental, is earning $4.2MM and has hit a playable .297/.323/.414 over 280 trips to the plate during his platform year. More impressively, the 30-year-old has stolen 17 of 20 bases, meaning he’d provide another speed threat to a Boston team that already ranks eighth in the majors in steals. Nunez is also capable of playing second, short and left field, though he hasn’t garnered particularly positive reviews anywhere as a defender.
As Boston continues to mull its options before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, it’ll utilize a platoon of Brock Holt and Deven Marrero at the hot corner, tweets Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. After the Red Sox defeated the Yankees on Sunday night, they optioned third baseman Tzu-Wei Lin to Triple-A. Lin fared nicely before his demotion, hitting .280/.379/.360 over the first 59 PAs of his career, but the 23-year-old owns a meager .638 OPS in a much larger minor league sample of 1,954 PAs.
In Aaron Judge, the Yankees have a cornerstone right fielder. In Mookie Betts, the Red Sox have a cornerstone right fielder. The 6-foot-7, 272-pound Judge is radically different than the 5-9, 180-pound Betts, but the two American League All-Stars are among the majors’ premier players. To find out who’s the superior building block, Scott Lauber of ESPN.com polled two AL executives, three NL scouts and an AL scout. Each player ended up receiving three votes. One Judge supporter, an NL scout, said of the 25-year-old: “He has gotten shorter and quicker with his swing, more selective and disciplined. I understand that Dave Winfield has really helped him, as they are similarly tall and great athletes. Winfield talked to him about not striking out as much and thinking about RBIs, not home runs.” Meanwhile, an AL executive who prefers Betts, 24, reasoned: “Given the track record of Betts and positional value that likely tracks better during the aging curve, I’d lean in his direction slightly. There’s clearly more upside in Judge if he keeps up this pace and retains such elite value for a longer term of control. But if I had to take one tomorrow, I’d take Betts.”
The Red Sox are “moving closer” to a deal with the White Sox that would send third baseman Todd Frazier to Boston, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link). Both the Red Sox and archrival Yankees, who are 2.5 games behind AL East-leading Boston, sent scouts to Chicago on Sunday to observe Frazier and teammate David Robertson, according to FanRag’s Jon Heyman. However, it seems the teams have different motives. While the Red Sox are more interested in landing Frazier than Robertson, it’s the other way around for the Yankees, per Heyman.
If the White Sox move Frazier prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the soon-to-be free agent’s unlikely to bring back a big return, with Nightengale suggesting he’d net the White Sox a “fringe prospect.” Moreover, Chicago would probably have to eat some of the remaining $5MM-plus left on Frazier’s contract, adds Nightengale (on Twitter). The 31-year-old would offer an acquiring team a competent everyday player, though, as he’s in the midst of his sixth straight respectable full season. Overall, the slugger has hit .210/.330/.483 with 16 home runs in 330 plate appearances. Those numbers are clearly superior to the production the Red Sox have gotten from their slew of third basemen, who have batted a woeful .234/.292/.327 with seven homers in 494 PAs.
While Frazier to Boston may be “almost inevitable,” as Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network reported Saturday, there are other third basemen on the Red Sox’s radar, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets, with a source describing their search as “wide open.” One other possible candidate could be A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie, whom the BoSox have been scouting, Crasnick relays (Twitter link). Heyman lists the Padres’ Yangervis Solarte and the Marlins’ Martin Prado (previously reported) as other possibilities.
Lowrie began his career in Boston, which selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft and dealt him to Houston in 2011 for reliever Mark Melancon. Now 33, Lowrie hasn’t seen significant action at third base since 2015, when he was still with the Astros, but his bat would bat be an upgrade over what the Red Sox’s hot corner choices have offered this year. The switch-hitter has slashed .273/.340/.448 with nine homers in 365 trips to the plate with the A’s, who are rebuilding and have no real reason to keep the $6.5MM man around through the season. With a $6MM club option (or a $1MM buyout) for 2018, Lowrie could be more than a rest-of-season stopgap for Boston, though the club might only need a Band-Aid at third with highly touted prospect Rafael Devers creeping closer to the majors.
Solarte, 30, carries even more team control than Lowrie. He’s due a guaranteed $6.5MM through 2018 ($2.5MM this season, $4MM next) and has two affordable club options after that ($5.5MM in 2019, $8MM in 2020). Also a switch-hitter, Solarte has slashed .268/.349/.425 with 10 long balls in 289 PAs this season. However, a strained oblique has kept him out of action since June 20.
While Lowrie to Boston would be a homecoming of sorts, the same would apply to Robertson going to New York. The Yankees drafted Robertson in 2006, in Round 17, and he developed into a shutdown reliever with the club a few years later. Robertson was so effective as both a setup man and closer with the Yankees that Chicago handed him a four-year, $46MM contract as a free agent in 2014.
Even though the Yankees let Robertson depart, they “always have” been bullish on the right-hander, a source told Heyman. His $12MM salary this year and $13MM guarantee in 2018 aside, any bullpen-needy team would love to have Robertson, who’s amid the best of his three seasons in Chicago and has posted a 2.78 ERA with 12.8 K/9 and 3.06 BB/9 over 32 1/3 innings. Robertson is the closer for the White Sox, but he’d return to his old setup job with the Yankees and form what would figure to be an elite game-ending trio with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. Robertson would also fill a seventh- or eighth-inning role with the Red Sox, who have an all-world closer in Craig Kimbrel.
- The Red Sox have placed two relievers on the 10-day DL in as many days, with Joe Kelly sidelined with a left hamstring strain yesterday and veteran righty Blaine Boyer announced this morning as suffering from a right elbow strain. The hard-throwing Kelly has a 1.49 ERA over 36 1/3 relief innings for the Sox this season, with peripheral stats indicating some good fortune (.228 BABIP, 88.1% strand rate) to go along with Kelly’s 54.9% grounder rate. Boyer, meanwhile, has a 3.00 ERA, 7.5 K/9 and 3.33 K/BB rate over 24 innings after signing a minor league deal with Boston in April. The Red Sox were already rumored to be looking for relief help at the deadline, and it’s likely that the search will intensify after losing two bullpen arms.
- Along with the previously reported Astros and Nationals, the Red Sox are interested in Tigers closer Justin Wilson, writes Cafardo. The Red Sox have come up as potential suitors for other on-the-block relievers, including David Phelps and Pat Neshek, so the connection to Wilson isn’t exactly shocking. The 29-year-old left-hander has posted outstanding numbers over 34 1/3 innings (2.36 ERA, 12.84 K/9, 3.41 BB/9) and would immediately become Boston’s top southpaw reliever, though Fernando Abad has held his own this season and Robby Scott has fared well against lefty-swingers. Wilson is making a highly affordable $2.7MM this season and comes with another year of arbitration eligibility.