Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez tested positive for the coronavirus July 7, but he returned to the club over the weekend and detailed his serious bout with the illness. Rodriguez told Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe he has never been sicker, saying he felt “100 years old” and was concerned he wouldn’t “make it to the season.” Fortunately, Boston’s No. 1 starter will pitch this year, though it’s going to take time for him to ramp up before he makes his 2020 debut. Rodriguez took an encouraging step Saturday when he came out of a 25-pitch bullpen session feeling fine.
Red Sox Rumors
Red Sox right-hander Collin McHugh has announced his intention to opt out of the 2020 season, according to Ian Browne of MLB.com. Per Browne, McHugh said that his arm hasn’t recovered as well as he’d hoped after an elbow procedure in December.
As such, McHugh expected to spend a portion of the season on the injured list, and manager Ron Roenicke relayed (video courtesy of Rob Bradford of WEEI) that McHugh felt it best to spend that time at home with family during the pandemic. McHugh will be removed from the Boston 60-man player pool and 40-man roster.
The 33-year-old appeared to be making progress towards a return to action, but that progress seems to have stagnated recently, preventing McHugh from throwing live batting practice and ramping up into intrasquad game action.
McHugh signed on with the Red Sox in March, agreeing to an incentive-laden contract that only guaranteed him $650K for the season, but that would have allowed him to earn up to $3.625MM based on innings pitched and time spent on the active roster.
Interestingly, as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes, McHugh already received the entirety of his guaranteed salary for the season through the preseason advance; by opting out the season, he is forfeiting only pay from those incentives, which were far-fetched given the injury.
With McHugh choosing to sit this season out, he’ll once again enter free agency in the coming winter, hopefully at full health and ready to contribute to a Major League club. Interested teams won’t have data and footage from 2020 to rely on, and they’ll have to weigh whether to deploy McHugh as a starter or reliever. Speculatively, a contract similar to the one he signed last winter sounds feasible.
McHugh has spent the last six years of his career with the Astros, toggling between a role in the bullpen and in the starting rotation. He has succeeded in both roles in the past, though last year he faltered as a starter, shifting to relief before injury prevented him from playing in the last third of the season. He posted a mediocre 4.70 ERA in 35 games—8 starts. 2018, on the other hand, was McHugh’s best as a pro, as he excelled in a full-time relief role, notching a 1.99 ERA while striking out 94 batters in 72 1/3 innings of work.
From a baseball perspective, the loss of McHugh will no doubt make a dent in the depth of the Boston pitching staff, which was already looking thin. Nathan Eovaldi will start on Opening Day, but beyond him, there are a bunch of question marks. Free agent signing Martin Perez is probably next in line, with Ryan Weber, Brian Johnson, and Matt Hall all in the mix. Eduardo Rodriguez, back in Red Sox camp after contracting the coronavirus, will hopefully join the rotation in short order, and Zack Godley might find himself thrust into a bigger role.
McHugh is one of many players who have chosen to spend this season on the sidelines amidst the pandemic, joining the likes of David Price, Buster Posey, Ryan Zimmerman, among others. An ongoing list of players opting out can be found here.
Remember, if you can, that pre-pandemic world where matters such as the Red Sox’ stated and then de-emphasized desire to dip under the luxury tax line were of the utmost importance. While there are much bigger concerns now, even just in the arena of baseball finances, the luxury line is still of real moment to the Boston organization.
The Red Sox already did the hard work — especially, trading Mookie Betts and David Price — to drive down 2020 salary to the point that the team would not pay competitive balance tax penalties — and, more importantly, would reset its penalty rate for future seasons. Unfortunately, the uncertain nature of the 2020 campaign extends to that effort. If the season is cancelled, it won’t count as a luxury tax year, meaning the Red Sox would still be considered a multi-year offender at the start of the 2021 offseason.
It’s clear, then, what happens if the 2020 season is (reset!) or isn’t (no reset!) played. But what of a partial-season? Alex Speier of the Boston Globe has us covered.
For the 2020 campaign to count for logging luxury tax years, it must continue beyond the August 31st trade deadline. In the even of a mid-season cancellation prior to that time, the Sox will remain in the penalty box. Should MLB find a way to keep its contests going into September (and hopefully beyond), then the Red Sox’ record of excess spending will be expunged in advance of the 2020-21 offseason.
As Speier notes, the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t just altered the schedule. It also modifies what kind of revenue-sharing rebates the Red Sox can anticipate receiving if they avoid another year of repeat offender status. And it changes what kind of spending the club might wish to pursue in free agency this coming winter. Even without the stepped-up tax charges that apply to multi-season tax payors, revenue shortfalls are sure to impact the pursuit of big-ticket players.
While the motivation for the luxury reset isn’t as strong in retrospect as it was at the time, the Sox surely still hope to reap the rewards. So long as the league is still running as of the trade deadline — where some interesting questions may await — they’ll do just that.
As anticipated, the Red Sox have reached agreement with righty Zack Godley, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports on Twitter. The deal is now formally wrapped up, with Godley taking a 60-man player pool spot and heading to Summer Camp.
Godley will still need to earn his way onto the Boston 40-man and active roster. But he’s expected to have ample opportunity to do so.
The Red Sox did finally get some other good news on the pitching front. Southpaws Eduardo Rodriguez and Darwinzon Hernandez, each sidelined due to coronavirus considerations, are back in camp, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe tweets. They’ll still need to build up to regular season readiness.
Godley, 30, was cut free recently by the Tigers. Since he had participated in the Detroit organization’s Summer Camp, Godley is in a relatively advanced position in terms of readiness. With the Boston rotation short on experienced options, he’s seen as a plug-and-go option.
Whether Godley can seize the opportunity remains to be seen. He has had his chances in recent years but has thus far failed to regain the form he showed earlier in his career. In his best season, 2017, Godley turned in 155 innings of 3.37 ERA pitching with 9.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and a 55.3% groundball rate.
JULY 15: Godley’s in Boston, likely to get a physical, per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. A deal looks “imminent,” Bradford adds.
JULY 14: The Red Sox are nearing a deal with free-agent right-hander Zack Godley, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports. It’s unclear whether it will be a major league contract for Godley, whom the Tigers released from a minors pact Monday.
Godley will get an opportunity to win a starting spot in Boston, whose rotation looks shaky after taking multiple hits in recent months. They’ll go the whole season without ace and recent Tommy John recipient Chris Sale. Meanwhile, Eduardo Rodriguez has been down since last week because of a positive COVID-19 test. It seems unlikely he’ll be good to go for Opening Day, while Collin McHugh definitely won’t be ready as he continues his recovery from elbow troubles.
As things stand, the Red Sox are down to Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez as their most experienced starters who are actually healthy. Matt Hall, Brian Johnson, Jeffrey Springs and Chris Mazza are among in-house options competing for roles after Eovaldi and Perez.
The 30-year-old Godley, like Eovaldi and Perez, brings a somewhat lengthy but inconsistent track record to the table. Godley seemed to break out in 2017 as a Diamondback with 155 innings of 3.37 ERA/3.41 FIP pitching. While he was less effective at preventing runs the next season (4.74 ERA/3.82 FIP), he still amassed 178 1/3 frames and struck out more than a batter per inning for the second straight campaign.
Unfortunately, Godley continued to fall off last season. He performed so badly in Arizona that the team designated him for assignment in August, and while Toronto did end up adding him on waivers, he didn’t last long there. All told, Godley made 33 appearances (only nine starts) and registered a 5.97 ERA/5.20 FIP over 92 innings. His K/9 took a major turn for the worse along the way, plummeting to 6.85.
Despite his 2019 downturn, Godley would seem to represent a worthwhile buy-low arm who may have some multiyear upside. If he actually sticks with his next team, he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season.
- The Red Sox have inked fourth-round left-hander Jeremy Wu-Yelland, Jim Callis of MLB.com tweets. Wu-Yelland’s pick, No. 118, came with a recommended value of $487,900, but the Red Sox landed him on a below-slot deal worth $200K. Previously a reliever with the University of Hawaii, Wu-Yelland entered the draft as Baseball America’s 261st-ranked prospect. BA writes that he has “considerable arm strength” but may not have the strike-throwing ability to start in the majors.
6:39pm: Red Sox righty Collin McHugh is also excluded from the agreement, Martino tweets. McHugh, who’s still working back from the nonsurgical procedure he underwent on his pitching elbow over the winter, signed an incentive-laden deal with Boston in March. Back when McHugh inked the contract, it included $3.625MM in available incentives based on between 30 and 115 innings pitched; it also featured roster bonuses for 15 to 90 days on the team’s active roster.
1:02pm: It emerged yesterday that the league and union had agreed upon how to handle vesting clauses and certain bonuses in a highly modified 2020 season. But it seems the general agreement includes carve-outs for certain players.
Among those known to be excluded are Yankees lefty J.A. Happ and Twins southpaw Rich Hill, according to reports from Joel Sherman of the New York Post and Andy Martino of SNY.tv. In those cases — and, it seems, a few unidentified others — the team and player will have to reach modified agreements or submit cases to an arbitrator to decide how their contracts should be treated.
In Happ’s case, his original contract included a $17MM vesting/club option for the 2021 season. It would become guaranteed if he made 27 starts and/or threw 165 innings this year. As for Hill, there aren’t any options. But his deal included generous incentive pay for accumulating relatively small numbers of games started and/or innings pitched (maxing out at $9.5MM with 15 starts and/or 75 innings).
It’s still not fully clear just why certain players were excluded from the broader deal. A source tells Martino it relates to health situations at the start of the season, though as he notes that doesn’t quite align with Happ’s case.
The Red Sox have added five of their top prospects to the organization’s 60-man player pool, according to Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com (via Twitter) and Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (Twitter links). That leaves the organization with five remaining openings.
Infielder Jeter Downs, the club’s consensus top prospect, leads the way. He’ll report for Summer Camp along with outfielder Jarren Duran, southpaw Jay Groome, and righties Tanner Houck and Bryan Mata.
Every one of those players has a top-ten spot on the latest MLB.com Red Sox farm ranking, so it’s a significant infusion of organizational talent. The club obviously doesn’t expect any of these youngsters to crack the Opening Day roster, or they’d have been in camp already, but they’ll now have a chance to train at full throttle with the team’s other best players.
Though Downs is the most-awaited of the group — expectations are high after he came over in the Mookie Betts swap — it seems the two righties have the clearest near-term path to the majors. Houck reached Triple-A last year and Mata topped out at Double-A, so both are among the more advanced arms that could be called upon if a need arises.
It’s no surprise that the Red Sox are seeking pitching help, considering the issues facing their staff. The team’s rotation won’t have ace Chris Sale, who’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, while de facto No. 1 starter Eduardo Rodriguez is questionable for Opening Day as a result of a positive COVID-19 test. At the moment, then, the club is perilously low on proven starters after Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez, who each come with plenty of question marks in their own right.
Of course, Godley’s also no sure bet to produce these days. The 30-year-old was a good source of innings with the Diamondbacks from 2017-18, during which he made 57 starts and tossed 333 1/3 frames of 4.10 ERA/3.63 FIP ball with 9.45 K/9, 3.62 BB/9 and a 51.6 percent groundball rate. However, Godley’s career went off the rails enough last year for the Diamondbacks to designate him for assignment in August.
Godley caught on with Toronto after the D-backs cut the cord, but the Blue Jays outrighted him after just six appearances in their uniform, leading him to elect free agency. Between the two teams, he ended 2019 with a grisly 5.97 ERA/5.20 FIP over 92 frames – most of which came in relief. Godley also saw his strikeout rate plummet to a personal-worst 6.85 per nine, while he posted a below-average 4.11 BB/9 at the same time.
Athletics Manager Bob Melvin discussed his plans for the team’s second base position, as reported by Shayna Rubin of the Mercury News. The longtime Oakland skipper expects to deploy the tandem of Franklin Barreto and Tony Kemp in a platoon, with Barreto getting at-bats against lefties and Kemp playing versus right-handers. That’s promising news regarding the 24-year-old Barreto, who has long been regarded as a talented prospect but has gotten limited exposure since the A’s acquired him from the Blue Jays. But after a strong showing in summer camp, he may finally get consistent at-bats. Thus far, he’s appeared in parts of three seasons but has played just 80 games in total, making 209 plate appearances. As talented as Barreto may be, one has to think that it’d be hard to find a rhythm at the plate when opportunities against MLB pitching come so sparingly. We’ll keep our eyes on Barreto this season, hoping he can tap into the power that made him a key prospect in the Josh Donaldson trade.
- Music City Baseball, an organization working to bring a Major League Baseball team to Nashville, is expected to pitch a proposal to MLB at the 2021 Winter Meetings, writes the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham as part of a piece that also details former Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski’s involvement with the group. Dombrowski hopped on board as an advisor to the group, along with the likes of Tony La Russa, Dave Stewart, and Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin. Of course, if such a proposal is to come to fruition, they’ll need the approval of MLB, which is not actively planning for expansion in the near future. Certainly, there are plenty of obstacles to the venture, making a 2024 or 2025 arrival seem like the best-case scenario for the Nashville Stars.
- After a possible exposure to COVID-19 led the Astros to shut down workouts yesterday, pitching coach Brent Strom and the Major League pitching staff were all absent from camp today, as reported by Mark Berman of Fox Houston. Manager Dusty Baker said that Strom was “part of” the exposure that caused yesterday’s cancellation. That group is undergoing COVID-19 testing and is currently awaiting results. Of course, Baker said that the hope is that is Strom and the Astros’ pitchers will be able to rejoin the team in short order, though for the time being the team will wait with bated breath for the results of those tests.
- Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec has been cleared to play after a positive test for COVID-19 prevented him from participating until now, reports Christopher Smith of MassLive. He rejoined the Sox at Fenway Park today after spending Saturday working out at Boston College. The 25-year-old infielder is regarded as one of Boston’s best prospects, and could contribute to the big league team this year. Rising through the minors as a third baseman, Dalbec may be best suited for first base in the Majors, but there’s little doubt about his raw power and on-base skills. Dalbec is one of four Red Sox who tested positive for the virus, with pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez, Josh Taylor, and Darwinzon Hernandez still recovering.