Former Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Franchy Cordero signs minor-league deal with Orioles

The Orioles have signed former Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Franchy Cordero to a minor-league contract, per the club’s transactions log. It is a one-year split deal that will net Cordero $1.35 million if he is in the majors and $450,000 in the minors, according to FanSided’s Robert Murray. Baltimore did not place him on its 40-man roster.

Cordero, 28, became a free agent last month after being non-tendered by the Red Sox. The native Dominican was projected to earn $1.5 million as an arbitration-eligible player next year but was cut loose by Boston well before then. He will now have the chance to earn close to that amount if he reaches the majors with Baltimore in 2023. And although Cordero will have to earn a spot on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, he should have a better chance to see more playing time with his new team.

The Red Sox originally acquired Cordero as part of the three-team, seven-player trade that sent fellow outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals in February 2021. In 132 games with Boston over the last two seasons, the left-handed hitter batted .209/.279/.350 with 23 doubles, one triple, nine home runs, 38 RBIs, 48 runs scored, five stolen bases, 36 walks, and 143 strikeouts across 411 total trips to the plate.

Cordero began his tenure with the Sox by posting a .497 OPS in his first 48 games before being sent down to Triple-A Worcester for the first time last May. While Cordero found success with the WooSox, he was designated for assignment in October and was subsequently re-signed to a minor-league deal.

In 2022, Cordero began the year in Worcester and was called up for the first time in late April. He proceeded to slash .282/.346/.479 with two homers and 12 RBIs in his first 25 games with the Red Sox this season and most notably hit a walk off grand slam against the Mariners at Fenway Park on May 22. As the calendar flipped from May to June, though, Cordero began to struggle again. He produced a .721 OPS in June and then slumped to the tune of a .162/.240/.279 line in July.

On August 2, Cordero was sent down to Worcester. He was recalled 19 days later after Eric Hosmer was placed on the injured list and homered four times over a 12-game stretch in his return. Unfortunately, Cordero’s season was cut short on September 5 after he crashed into the left field wall at Tropicana Field and suffered a high right ankle sprain.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox were still intrigued with Cordero’s speed and power even after cutting him. And while Cordero was beloved from within the clubhouse, the path to additional playing time moving forward became tough to envision with both Hosmer and Casas already on the roster as left-handed hitting first basemen.

Cordero, who does not turn 29 until next September, becomes the first Red Sox free agent to sign elsewhere this winter.

(Picture of Franchy Cordero: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to two-year, $17.5 million deal with reliever Chris Martin, per report

The Red Sox have agreed to terms on a two-year, $17.5 million contract with free agent reliever Chris Martin, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal is pending a physical.

Martin, 36, is a veteran of seven major-league seasons who split the 2022 campaign between the Cubs and Dodgers. The right-hander posted a 4.31 ERA and 3.02 FIP with 40 strikeouts to four walks in 34 appearances (31 1/3 innings) with Chicago before being traded to Los Angeles for infielder Zach McKinstry in late July.

In 26 appearances out of the Dodgers bullpen, Martin pitched to a dazzling 1.46 ERA and 1.13 FIP with 34 punchouts to just one walk over 24 2/3 innings of relief. He did not allow a run in either of his two outings against the Padres in the National League Division Series.

Martin’s journey through pro ball has certainly been a unique one. The native Texan was originally selected by the Rockies in the 21st round of the 2005 amateur draft as a freshman out of McLennan Community College in Waco, but he did not sign with the club. The following year, Martin suffered a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and underwent surgery to repair the tear in 2007.

After working a number of odd jobs, Martin landed with the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the independent American Association in 2010. He pitched well there and scored a tryout with the Red Sox in March 2011. Martin impressed in Fort Myers and was signed to a minor-league contract. He spent the next three seasons working his way through Boston’s farm system before being traded with Franklin Morales to the Rockies for infielder Jonathan Herrera in December 2013.

Martin made his big-league debut for Colorado the following April and had his contract purchased by the Yankees before the start of the 2015 season. He was released by New York that November and elected to take his talents to Japan by signing with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball. After two years overseas, Martin returned to the United States by signing a major-league contract with his hometown Rangers in December 2017.

Since then, Martin has forged a respectable 3.44 ERA and 2.99 FIP to go along with 229 punchouts to 24 walks over 229 total relief outings (214 2/3 innings pitched) between the Rangers, Braves, Cubs, and Dodgers. He helped Atlanta win a World Series in 2021 and owns a lifetime 1.88 ERA (2.11 FIP) in the postseason.

Listed at 6-foot-8 and 225 pounds, Martin is a six-pitch pitcher who operates with a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a low-90s cutter, a high-80s splitter, a mid-90s sinker, a mid-80s slider, and a low-80s curveball. This past season, the righty ranked in the 99th percentile in the league in strikeout rate (32.9 percent) and the 100th percentile in walk rate (2.2 percent), per Baseball Savant. He did not miss many bats (41.7 percent hard-hit rate, 8.3 percent barrel rate), but proved to be effective in other areas.

Martin, who does not turn 37 until June, becomes the second free agent addition the Red Sox have have made to their bullpen this winter. Fellow reliever Joely Rodriguez was signed to a one-year, $2 million deal last week.

With the Winter Meetings set to get underway in San Diego next week, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. may just be getting started as different markets are expected to heat up sooner rather than later.

(Picture of Chris Martin: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Red Sox clear roster spot by outrighting Ronaldo Hernández to Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have outrighted catcher Ronaldo Hernandez to Triple-A Worcester, the club announced on Friday. The move clears a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster, which now sits at 39 players.

Hernandez, 25, was originally acquired from the Rays in a February 2021 trade that sent pitchers Jeffrey Springs and Chris Mazza to Tampa Bay. The native Colombian first signed with the Rays as an international free agent in 2014 and was regarded as on of their top prospects at the time the deal between the two division rivals was made.

For the better part of the last two seasons, Hernandez — who had been added to Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster in 2019, provided the Red Sox with upper-minors catching depth. He was called up from Worcester on two separate occasions this year but he has yet to make his major-league debut.

With the WooSox this year, the right-handed hitting Hernandez batted .261/.297/.451 with 27 doubles, 17 home runs, 63 RBIs, 50 runs scored, 21 walks, and 92 strikeouts over 105 games (439 plate appearances). From behind the plate, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound backstop threw out 16 of 65 possible base stealers while also allowing 13 passed balls and committing six errors.

Back in October, MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith reported that the Red Sox expected Hernandez to be eligible for a rare fourth minor-league option in 2023. While most minor-leaguers only receive three options, Hernandez qualified for a fourth since he played fewer than five full seasons of pro ball while using three options.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Hernandez did receive that fourth option, but the Red Sox elected to waive him anyway. Since he subsequently cleared waivers, Hernandez will remain in the organization without occupying a 40-man roster spot. He is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 28 prospect in Boston’s farm system and has been playing winter ball in the Colombian Professional Baseball League.

By outrighting Hernandez, the Red Sox have an open spot on their 40-man roster to work with. That does not necessarily mean a trade or free agent signing is imminent, but the club could be looking ahead to next week’s Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

With Hernandez out of the picture to some degree, the only catchers currently on Boston’s 40-man roster are Connor Wong and Reese McGuire. Caleb Hamilton, who was outrighted last month, and Hernandez project as the club’s top two depth options at Worcester heading into next season. The Red Sox, of course, could still look to add a clear-cut starting catcher between now and Opening Day.

(Picture of Ronaldo Hernandez: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox reportedly made attempt to sign Zach Eflin before right-hander agreed to three-year, $40 million deal with Rays

The Red Sox reportedly made an attempt to sign Zach Eflin before the free agent right-hander agreed to terms on a three-year contract with the division rival Rays on Thursday.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Boston offered Eflin the same three-year, $40 million deal he received from Tampa Bay. But Eflin — a native of nearby Orlando — ultimately decided to sign closer to home.

On that note, The Athletic’s Chad Jennings reports that the Red Sox were actually the highest bidder for Eflin, but the Rays were given the opportunity to match the offer and that is exactly what they did.

“The Red Sox were not given an opportunity to raise their bid,” Jennings wrote late Thursday. “They also didn’t know until the deal was done that the Rays were going to have the final opportunity to match.”

Eflin, who turns 29 in April, is slated to earn $11 million in each of the next two seasons and will then see his salary increase to $18 million in 2025, per the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin. The $40 million in guaranteed money represents the largest free agent contract the Rays have ever given out.

A former first-round draft pick of the Padres out of high school in 2012, Eflin was dealt to the Dodgers — who then traded him to the Phillies — in December 2014. The righty broke in with Philadelphia in 2016 and spent the last seven seasons with the club before becoming a free agent for the first time last month.

Eflin has traditionally been used as a starter throughout his big-league career and that was once again the case to kick off the 2022 campaign. He posted a 4.37 ERA and 3.83 FIP with 56 strikeouts to 15 walks in his first 13 starts (68 innings) of the season before suffering a right knee contusion towards the end of May. That led to him being sidelined nor nearly two months, and so the Phillies elected to bring Eflin back as a reliever once he was healthy to pitch again in September.

In that role, Eflin pitched to a 1.17 ERA with nine punchouts to zero walks over seven appearances (7 2/3 innings) out of the bullpen. He was also the Phillies’ second-most used reliever (10 outings) in the postseason and walked just two of the 45 batters he faced during their run to the National League pennant.

While he may have enjoyed some success as a reliever, Eflin is expected to join a Rays starting rotation that includes the likes of Tyler Glasnow, Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen, among others. The Red Sox, meanwhile, have been in the market for starting pitching this offseason. They remain engaged with Nathan Eovaldi and have had conversations with Corey Kluber, who made 31 starts for Tampa Bay this past season.

With that being said, the Red Sox being interested in and making a contract offer to Eflin should come as no surprise. While his strikeout numbers and whiff rates do not jump off the page, Eflin was extremely effective this year when it came to limiting both hard contact and walks. Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound hurler ranked in the 96th percentile in the league in average exit velocity (85.3 mph), the 94th percentile in hard-hit rate (31.3 percent), and the 91st percentile in walk rate (4.8 percent).

Even with a somewhat concerning injury history, the Rays opted to take a gamble on Eflin in order to fortify their starting rotation depth heading into 2023. The Red Sox, on the other hand, will have to look elsewhere if they are keen on addressing that area of need in free agency.

This is not the first time this offseason Boston has lost out on a free agent they were interested in. Earlier this week, veteran slugger Jose Abreu inked a three-year, $58.5 million deal with the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros. Shortly after that news broke, The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reported that Abreu was the Sox’ “No. 1 outside target” and relayed that the club met with him as soon as free agency opened.

In similar fashion to Abreu choosing the Astros, the Rays may have represented a more attractive destination for Eflin. Pitching closer to home is one thing, but Eflin will also be able to see more of his record-setting salary than he would in other places since there is no state income tax in Florida.

Either way, the Red Sox failed to sign a free agent who would have helped in filling an area of need for a team coming off a last-place finish in the American League East. For team president and CEO Sam Kennedy, who spoke with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) at Fenway Park on Wednesday, what takes place between now and Opening Day will go a long way in improving for 2023.

“There’s a lot of different irons in the fire,” said Kennedy, who acknowledged that things could pick up when the Winter Meetings begin in San Diego next week. “It’s Chaim [Bloom] and [Brian O’Halloran] and their team’s job to uncover every opportunity. That’s what’s great about hot stove season. Things could go in any number of directions.

“I think we’re going to build a club this city is going to be proud of,” he added. “There’s definitely a chip on everybody’s shoulder. Last year was disappointing and frustrating. People are fired up.”

(Picture of Zach Eflin: Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox among ‘most serious suitors’ for Mitch Haniger, per report

The Red Sox are among the most serious suitors for free agent outfielder Mitch Haniger, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported on Thursday.

Haniger, who turns 32 later this month, hit the open market for the first time earlier this winter after spending the last six years with the Mariners. The right-handed hitter was limited to just 57 games this past season due to a high right ankle sprain he sustained in late April. All told, he batted .246/.308/.429 with eight doubles, 11 home runs, 34 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 20 walks, and 65 strikeouts across 247 trips to the plate in 2022.

The Mariners did not extend a qualifying offer to Haniger in November, meaning the Red Sox could sign him without forfeiting their second- and fifth-highest picks in next year’s draft. The California native is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a three-year deal in the range of $39 million this offseason.

A former first-round pick of the Brewers out of Cal Poly in 2012, Haniger was dealt to the Diamondbacks as part of a package for fellow outfielder Gerardo Parra at the 2014 trade deadline. Haniger broke in with Arizona in August 2016, but was then traded to Seattle with left-hander Zac Curtis and infielder Jean Segura for Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker three months later.

Haniger’s time with the Mariners was marred by injuries. He appeared in just 96 games in 2017 due to a strained right oblique and facial laceration. In 2019, he was limited to 63 games because of a ruptured testicle. He missed the entirety of the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign after undergoing lumbar microdiscectomy surgery on his lower back that February.

When healthy, though, Haniger has proven to be a capable big-league outfielder. He was named an All-Star for the first time and finished 11th in American League MVP voting in 2018 after clubbing 26 homers and collecting 93 RBIs over a career-high 157 games. Last year, he matched that total while mashing 39 home runs and reaching the century mark in runs driven in.

Per Baseball Savant, balls left Haniger’s bat at an average exit velocity of 91.9 mph in 2022. His 47.2 percent hard-hit rate would have ranked 38th among qualified hitters this year while his 11.8 percent barrel rate would have ranked 42nd.

Defensively, Haniger was used exclusively as a right fielder by the Mariners this season. The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder logged 396 innings at the position and posted three defensive runs saved and two outs above average. He also has past experience in left and center field and could almost certainly be used as designated hitter when needed.

After trading Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers last December, the Red Sox received minimal power production from their outfield group in 2022. Boston outfielders this year ranked 13th in the American League in home runs (44), 10th in isolated power (.135), and ninth in slugging percentage (.381), according to FanGraphs.

Haniger would provide the Sox with a power threat from the right side of the plate who could play both corner outfield spots and DH. That role — for the most part — belonged to J.D. Martinez (also a free agent) in recent years, but it does not appear as though chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. are all that interested in a reunion with the veteran slugger.

That being said, the Red Sox are not alone in their apparent pursuit of Haniger. Morosi reports that the Rangers have also been linked with the one-time All-Star while the Angels, Dodgers, and Giants have already checked in with his representatives from Apex Baseball. As the Winter Meetings get underway in San Diego on Sunday, Haniger’s market could heat up.

(Picture of Mitch Haniger: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox drafted 8 pitchers in 2021; how did each of them fare during first full pro season?

The Red Sox selected and signed eight pitchers in the 2021 amateur draft. Of those eight, seven were taken out of college, one was taken out of high school, and one has yet to make his professional debut.

For the vast majority of these pitchers, the 2022 minor-league campaign represented their first full seasons in pro balls. Here is a rundown of how each of them fared this year, beginning with the highest draft pick and ending with the lowest one.

Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz, RHP (4th round, 105th overall pick)

Taken out of Leadership Christian Academy in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez-Cruz forwent his commitment to the University of Oregon by signing with Boston for $497,500. The 19-year-old right-hander made his pro debut in the Florida Complex League this summer and posted a 1.95 ERA with 36 strikeouts to 12 walks over 11 appearances (8 starts, 32 1/3 innings) before earning a promotion to Low-A Salem in late August. He then allowed one run while striking out six and walking three in two starts (6 innings) with the Salem Sox.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 160 pounds with room to grow, Rodriguez-Cruz throws from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 90-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph, a 75-78 mph curveball, an 80-83 mph changeup, and a slider that is considered to be a work in progress. He is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 19 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Wyatt Olds, RHP (7th round, 196th overall pick)

Olds, 23, broke camp with High-A Greenville this spring after ending the 2021 season in Salem. The University of Oklahoma product forged a 6.01 ERA with 130 strikeouts to 50 walks over 26 outings (25 starts) and 106 1/3 innings for the Drive. He also made one start for Double-A Portland in September and allowed two earned runs across 4 2/3 innings of work.

At 6-foot and 183 pounds, Olds pitches exclusively from the stretch and possesses a 93-96 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 85-88 mph slider, and an 87-89 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. He is currently regarded by the site as the No. 56 prospect in the organization.

Hunter Dobbins, RHP (8th round, 226th overall pick)

Sliding in right ahead of Olds in SoxProspects.com’s year-end rankings is Dobbins. The Texas Tech product missed the entirety of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last March and signed with Boston for $197,500 four months later. After making a full recovery from the procedure, Dobbins debuted with the Salem Red Sox back in June. He compiled a 5.22 ERA — but much more respectable 3.76 xFIP — with 68 strikeouts to 22 walks over 17 starts spanning 69 innings pitched.

Dobbins, also 23, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds. The former Red Raider works with a four-pitch arsenal that includes a 91-94 mph heater that tops out at 96 mph, a 74-78 mph curveball, an 83-85 mph changeup, and a high-80s slider that is used sparingly, according to SoxProspects.com. He is projected by the site to make the jump to Greenville next spring.

Matt Litwicki, RHP (10th round, 286th overall pick)

Litwicki is the one pitcher in this draft class who has yet to take the mound in an organized game. The 24-year-old righty was limited to just 31 1/3 innings at Indiana University (missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, missed time in 2021 because of back and shoulder injuries) and received a $47,500 signing bonus from the Sox.

Per SoxProspects.com, Litwicki suffered a setback while rehabbing earlier this year and wound up missing the entirety of the 2022 campaign as a result. When healthy, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound hurler has shown that he can reach 99 mph with his four-seamer while also mixing in a low-80s slider. As of now, it remains to be seen if Litwicki is on track to be ready for spring training.

Christopher Troye, RHP (12th round, 346th overall pick)

Troye, who turns 24 in February, received a $122,500 signing bonus from Boston after spending four years (and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Brentwood native missed the first month or so of the 2022 season with an undisclosed injury, but he made his way to Salem by mid-May.

In 26 relief appearances for the Red Sox, Troye produced a 4.86 ERA (3.10 FIP) with 50 strikeouts to 24 walks over 33 1/3 innings of work. His 35 percent punchout rate ranked ninth among Carolina League pitchers who accrued at least 30 innings, though his 16.8 percent walk rate was the 16th-highest in the league using that same parameter.

Given that he has the ability to strike out hitters and miss bats at a high rate, it should come as no surprise that Troye possesses tantalizing stuff. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and can reach 99 mph with the pitch, according to SoxProspects.com. He also flashes a 12-6 curveball, but has shown that he can struggle with his command at times. How he works to improve that will likely play a key role in his development moving forward.

Jacob Webb, RHP (14th round, 406th overall pick)

Webb may be the furthest along of any pitcher listed here. The 23-year-old righty out of Miami University of Ohio pitched across three different levels this season and made it as far as Portland. He posted a 3.18 ERA with 88 strikeouts to 28 walks in 44 total appearances (56 2/3 innings) between Salem, Greenville, and Portland before heading out west to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. With the Scottsdale Scorpions, Webb yielded four earned runs over 10 innings of relief while fanning 12 of the 41 batters he faced.

Listed at a burly 6-foot-5 and 246 pounds, Webb is currently ranked by SoxProspects.com as the No. 60 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Dayton native operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 94-96 mph heater that can reach 98 mph, an 82-84 mph slider, and an 88-90 mph changeup. He is projected to return to the Sea Dogs bullpen for the start of the 2023 season.

Luis Guerrero, RHP (17th round, 496th overall pick)

The lone junior college pitcher included here, Guerrero turned in a solid 2022 campaign after not pitching professionally in 2021. The 22-year-old right-hander out of Chipola College appeared in a total of 27 games between the FCL, Salem, and Greenville. He produced a 3.23 ERA with 59 punchouts to 17 walks over 39 combined innings of work. That includes a 2.08 ERA (1.66 FIP) in seven outings with the Drive.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Guerrero is listed at 6-foot and 215 pounds. The Bani native can reach triple digits with his four-seam fastball and also possesses an 83-85 mph splitter, an 88-91 mph slider, and a 75-79 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. He is currently regarded by the site as the 34th-ranked prospect in the system.

Tyler Uberstine, RHP (19th round, 556th overall pick)

A former member of the University of Southern California’s club baseball team, Uberstine transferred to Northwestern University in 2020 and has only seen his stock rise since then. This past season, the 23-year-old righty posted a 3.83 ERA with 101 strikeouts to 35 walks over 21 combined appearances (15 starts, 91 2/3 innings) between Salem and Greenville. He pitched well for the Drive (2.43 ERA) after being promoted in July, but was limited to just seven starts from that point forward due to a quad strain.

Uberstine, who turns 24 in June, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 32 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound hurler works with a 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph, an 85-87 mph changeup, and an 83-85 mph slider, according to the site’s scouting report on him.

(Picture of Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox will have MassMutual logo on their jerseys beginning in 2023

The Red Sox have entered into a 10-year agreement with MassMutual in which the Springfield-based insurer will become the club’s signature sponsor beginning next season.

As part of the agreement, the Red Sox will wear ad patches on their jerseys for the first time ever in 2023. MassMutual’s logo will be featured on either the left or right sleeve of every Red Sox uniform, as was revealed at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

When Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association ratified a new collective bargaining agreement back in March, teams were granted the ability to put advertisements on their uniforms for the first time in league history starting in 2023.

Over the summer, Terry Lefton of Sports Business Journal reported that MassMutual had agreed to sponsor the Red Sox for $17 million per year over the next 10 years. In addition to the jersey patches, MassMutual will install an 80-foot sign over the center field scoreboard, replacing the iconic John Hancock sign, and have  highly visible messaging throughout Fenway Park.

For team president and CEO Sam Kennedy, this new partnership not only represents an exciting opportunity for the Red Sox, but for the baseball industry as a whole.

“Making a deal with MassMutual made a lot of sense in so many ways,” Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said. “Just being headquartered here, a company that’s 50 years older than the Red Sox even, being founded in Springfield, a local connection, made a ton of sense. Their shared commitment to the community, giving back, creating this program that’s going to bring Boston Public School kids in to have a learning lab that is Fenway Park will be really exciting for us and we’re looking forward to that.

“For the baseball industry, it’s huge,” he added. “It opens up a new revenue opportunity that didn’t exist before. At the end of the day, huge credit to Commissioner (Rob) Manfred for pushing forward on this. We needed this new opportunity. Our job is to grow the game and that includes growing the revenue opportunity which ultimately gets reinvested into players and into our ballparks and facilities. It’s a great thing for baseball and we’re excited about it.”

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox targeted José Abreu in free agency before veteran slugger signed with Astros, per report

The Red Sox apparently made an attempt to sign Jose Abreu before the veteran slugger inked a three-year deal with the Astros earlier this week.

Around the same time Abreu was introduced to the Houston media at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, Jon Heyman of The New York Post reported that the soon-to-be 36-year-old first base baseman and designated hitter was “Boston’s No. 1 outside target” in free agency.

According to Heyman, the Red Sox met with Abreu as soon as he officially hit the open market earlier this month. The former White Sox star would have been a logical fit for the Sox and drew interest from other clubs — such as the Padres and Guardians — as well. But he ultimately landed with the Astros on a three-year, $58.5 million contract.

It seems as though the Red Sox were not willing to go as far as the Astros, who will be giving Abreu $19.5 million per year through his age-38 campaign. This is not the first time Boston has been outbid for Abreu’s services, either.

Before he first signed with the White Sox as an international free agent coming out of Cuba in 2013, the Red Sox made a push for Abreu but instead came up short. In nine seasons on the South Side of Chicago, the right-handed hitter won American League Rookie of the Year, made three All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards, and was named AL MVP in 2020.

Abreu’s numbers were down from where they typically were this past season, but the Cienfuegos native still batted .304/.378/.446 with 40 doubles, 15 home runs, 75 RBIs, 85 runs scored, 62 walks, and 110 strikeouts over 157 games (679 plate appearances) in 2022. He ranked in the 93rd percentile of MLB in average exit velocity (92.2 mph) and the 97th percentile in hard-hit rate (51.8 mph), per Baseball Savant.

Since the White Sox did not extend Abreu a qualifying offer, the Red Sox could have signed him without forfeiting any signing bonus money or draft-pick compensation. It remains to be seen how aggressive Boston was in its pursuit of Abreu, but Houston certainly represents an attractive destination for any sought-after free agent.

The Astros are only weeks removed from their second World Series title in six seasons and have shown a willingness to spend under owner Jim Crane, who has seemingly taken over as the team’s general manager following the firing of James Click.

Abreu was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a two-year, $40 million deal in free agency this winter. The $58.5 million he will be getting from the Astros obviously exceeds that, and he will also be seeing more of that money than he would elsewhere since there is no state income tax in Texas.

Had he landed with the Red Sox, Abreu could have taken over as Boston’s next designated hitter while also spelling the left-handed hitting Triston Casas at first base on occasion. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. will now have to look elsewhere for offensive additions.

J.D. Martinez, who spent the last five seasons in Boston, remains a free agent. While a reunion between the two sides still seems unlikely, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reports that the Red Sox could look to bring Martinez back at a lower salary depending on how the rest of the offseason pans out.

Beyond Martinez, the Sox could explore deals with the likes of Josh Bell, Mitch Haniger, and Trey Mancini if they intend on scouring the free agent market for a potential designated hitter.

(Picture of Jose Abreu: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Garrett Whitlock once again has idol Rick Porcello’s number after losing it in spring training

It appears as though Garrett Whitlock has once again obtained the uniform number he has long yearned for.

Whitlock, who wore No. 72 in his first two seasons with the Red Sox, is now listed as No. 22 on the club’s 40-man roster, per MLB.com. The right-hander initially planned on changing his number after his rookie year, but he gave up the No. 22 after Derek Holland — who signed a minor-league deal with Boston in March — asked for it in spring training.

Holland did not make the Sox’ Opening Day roster out of camp and was granted his release in May. The No. 22 then went unclaimed until veteran outfielder Tommy Pham elected to wear it after being acquired from the Reds in early August.

Pham batted just .234/.298/.374 in 53 games with the Red Sox and became a free agent earlier this month after his mutual option was declined earlier this month. That gave Whitlock the opportunity to re-claim the number and the righty has since taken advantage of it.

Whitlock grew up a fan of longtime big-league starter Rick Porcello, who donned the No. 22 in his five seasons with the Red Sox from 2015-2019. In a conversation with The Athletic’s Chad Jennings last October, Whitlock described Porcello as his “favorite pitcher ever.”

Growing up in Georgia, Whitlock tried to watch as many Tigers and Red Sox games as possible when Porcello was on the mound. He was a sophomore at the University of Alabama at Birmingham when Porcello won the American League Cy Young Award in 2016.

After coming over from the Yankees to the Red Sox in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock gained an even greater respect for Porcello as teammates told him about the kind of leader he was during his time in Boston. Those same teammates encouraged Whitlock to switch to the No. 22, but Whitlock would only do so if he received permission from Porcello himself.

“The only way I’m going to change my number is if Porcello tells me, in person, ‘It’s OK for you to be 22,” Whitlock told Jennings. “And the only other number would be 48, because that’s what he was in Detroit. So, those are the only numbers I really care about that I would do. But I don’t want to taint his number. I don’t want to do anything like that, so I would only do it with his permission.”

Porcello, as it turns out, watched Whitlock from afar in 2021 and came away impressed with what he saw from the then-rookie hurler. The 12-year veteran told Jennings he wanted Whitlock to take the No. 22 since “he would do nothing but increase the value” of it.

“That number needs some steady success like he’s doing,” said Porcello. “I would love to see him wear it. He’s his own guy, too. He’s going to have his own success and carve his own path. Whatever he wants, but a number, they’re there to be worn. I hope I’ll get a chance to see him and tell him to wear it.”

While Whitlock and Porcello have yet to meet in-person, Jennings’ article was enough for Whitlock to first make the switch in the spring. It may have taken longer than expected thanks to some unique circumstances, but the 26-year-old will now have the chance to pay homage to his favorite pitcher t0 an even greater extent. He already wore three-quarter sleeves and bent the bill of his cap as a tribute to Porcello.

“Hopefully I can do No. 22 proud by him,” Whitlock told MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo back in March. “He pitched like a blue-collar guy. He pitched. He didn’t just try to throw hard. He hated walks and I loved that aspect, too. He just wanted to win. Whatever the outcome was or whatever happens, I’m going to grind it out, be a workhorse and get the W and try to put up as many innings I can in a year. I just loved that fact so that’s what I want to aspire to be.”

Whitlock has primarily been used as a reliever through the first two years of his major-league career. He made nine starts from April 23-June 7 this past season and posted a 4.15 ERA with 38 strikeouts to nine walks over 39 innings of work. The Red Sox are now planning on using Whitlock as a full-time starter heading into the 2023 campaign. This has seemingly always been the plan since Whitlock was a rotation prospect in his time with the Yankees organization and was signed to a four-year, $18.75 million contract extension in April that includes significant incentive clauses based on the number of innings he pitches moving forward.

Whitlock’s 2022 season was cut short due to a right hip impingement that ultimately required arthroscopic surgery in September. He told The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey last week that his rehab is going well and he expects to be fully ready for spring training when pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers in February.

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox officially promote Ramón Vázquez to bench coach

UPDATE: The Red Sox have officially named Vazquez as their next bench coach, the club announced on Tuesday. Vazquez becomes the fourth different bench coach Boston has had since the start of the 2018 season.

The Red Sox are promoting Ramon Vazquez from first base coach to bench coach, according to reporter Edwin Hernandez Jr. (@LBPRCinEnglish) on Twitter.

Vazquez, who has been managing the Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, will be taking over for Will Venable. After serving as Boston’s bench coach for the last two seasons, Venable left the club earlier this month to become the associate manager of the Rangers under Bruce Bochy.

A native of Puerto Rico himself, Vazquez first joined manager Alex Cora’s coaching staff as a statistical analysis coordinator in November 2017. He remained in that role for three seasons before taking on more responsibility as a quality control coach in 2021. When Tom Goodwin’s unvaccinated status kept him off the field, Vazquez filled in as the first base coach for the entirety of the Sox’ postseason run. He was named the full-time first base coach last December after the club elected to part ways with Goodwin.

Prior to joining the Red Sox as a coach, Vazquez spent three seasons (2014-2016) in the Astros organization. He served as Houston’s developmental specialist from 2014-15 and then managed its High-A minor-league affiliate in 2016. The following season, Vazquez got his first taste of life as a big-league coach with the Padres while working under Andy Green.

Going back to his playing days, the 46-year-old Vazquez is a veteran of nine major-league seasons (2001-2009) between the Mariners, Padres, Red Sox, Guardians, Rangers, and Pirates. In July 2005, Vazquez was traded from Boston to Cleveland in exchange for a fellow infielder (and Puerto Rican) in Cora.

In becoming the Red Sox’ next bench coach, Vazquez has opted to step down as Caguas’ manager in order to focus on his new duties. This comes just 10 months after he became the third manager ever to win four titles in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

With Vazquez taking over for Venable as Cora’s top lieutenant, the Red Sox now have an opening at first base coach. It remains to be seen how they will go about filling that vacancy. As far as internal candidates are concerned, major-league field coordinator Andy Fox and Triple-A Worcester bench coach Jose David Flores could garner consideration since they have prior experience at the position. Fox was the Marlins’ first base coach from 2007-2009 while Flores served in the role with the Phillies in 2018.

(Picture of Ramon Vazquez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)