Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez Finishes Sixth in American League Cy Young Award Voting

2019 Cy Young Award winners for both the American and National League were announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Wednesday night, with New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom winning his second straight Cy Young for the senior circuit, and Houston Astros righty Justin Verlander also winning his second and first since 2011 for the junior circuit.

Sticking with the American League side of things in this award race, Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez was the only Boston hurler to receive any Cy Young votes this year, as he placed sixth by receiving three fourth-place votes and two fifth-place votes, good for eight total points.

Among the AL pitchers to finish between Verlander and Rodriguez were Houston’s Gerrit Cole, Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton, Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, and Texas’ Lance Lynn. Chicago’s Lucas Giolito and Texas’ Mike Minor rounded up the ballot, finishing in seventh and eighth place respectively.

Rodriguez came into this past season with a goal of pitching 200 innings and racking up 200 strikeouts, both of which would have been career-highs for the 26-year-old.

Throughout spring training, Sox manager Alex Cora seemed to work Rodriguez the hardest out of any Boston starting pitcher, even after the rotation pitched deep into October the year before.

“He’s old enough, ” Cora said of Rodriguez following a rough outing against the Mets back in March. “He’s been in the league for a long time. It’s time for him to step up.”

And step up Rodriguez did, as he posted a 3.81 ERA and 3.86 FIP to go along with a career-best 213 punchouts over 34 starts and 203 1/3 innings of work.

The Venezuela native was by far the best option the Red Sox had in the starting pitching department by the time the 2019 campaign came to its waining stages, so much so that he was just one winning decision away from 20 on the year headed into his final start against the Baltimore Orioles on September 29th.

It may have not happened due to events that transpired later in that contest, but that did not stop Rodriguez from putting up seven strong frames of work to end his season on a solid note.

“We’re very proud of him. 3.81 ERA and 200-plus innings,” Cora said of Rodriguez’s impressive season following his club’s 2019 finale. “I don’t feel that he’s going to be satisfied…try to improve a few things, the breaking ball is going to be part of the mix…We’re very proud of him.”

Heading into the 2020 season, Rodriguez is projected to earn $9.5 million in his third year of arbitration eligibility.

Depending on the statuses of Chris Sale, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi this offseason, Rodriguez could find himself at the top of Boston’s starting rotation going into spring training.

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Dustin Pedroia Intent on Playing in 2020, per Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has plans on playing in 2020, according to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran.

Pedroia, 36, has played in just a total of nine games since the start of the 2018 season due to issues with his left knee, a result of three separate surgeries in October 2017, July 2018, and most recently, August 2019.

Prior to that latest operation, Pedroia told reporters in May that he was uncertain if he’ll ever be able to play baseball again. That occurred right before the veteran infielder took a three-month sabbatical to spend time with his family in Arizona.

Fast forward to late August in Denver, Co., where Pedroia had just undergone joint preservation procedure on his left knee in nearby Vail three weeks earlier, and the California native again voiced uncertainty, saying that, “I need to strengthen my quad and the inside part of my leg because it has been through a lot the past few years,” Pedroia said. “The doctor told me, ‘Once you get all the strength back, your knee will tell you if you can play baseball or if that’s it.”

Now, with the GM winter meetings taking place in Scottsdale, Az., Bloom and co. hope to meet up with Pedroia sometime this week.

“Every indication I’ve gotten is he’s feeling good and intending on playing, ” said Boston’s new CBO. “I know he’s working really hard to make sure he’s in as good of shape as possible.”

Pedroia lives in Chandler, Az, which is right down the road from Scottsdale. He is set to earn approximately $25.25 million over the final two years of the eight-year, $110 million contract extension he signed with the Red Sox back in July 2013.

Red Sox Bring Back Six Minor-League Free Agents, Including Austin Maddox and Daniel McGrath

The Red Sox brought back six minor-league free agents on minor-league deals on Saturday, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Depending on how you look at things, the most significant of the six free agents mentioned above who were brought back could either be Austin Maddox or Daniel McGrath.

Starting with Maddox, the 28-year-old right-hander is the only one of the bunch who has seen major league action, which came in five different stints with Boston over the course of the 2017 season.

In those five stints, Maddox yielded just one earned run on 13 hits, two walks, and 14 strikeouts over 13 relief outings and 17 1/3 total innings pitched, which in turn earned him a spot on the Sox’ ALDS roster, where he tossed two innings of one-run ball against the Houston Astros.

With that strong showing, the former 2012 third-round pick out of the University of Florida figured to play a key role in Boston’s bullpen plans for the 2018 campaign, but persistent right shoulder issues prevented that from happening, ultimately leading to Maddox undergoing rotator cuff surgery last September. A procedure that held him out for all of 2019.

As for McGrath, the 25-year-old left-hander was one of the better pitchers in the Eastern League this past season, posting a 1.68 ERA and .184 batting average against over 27 total outings (15 starts) and 112 1/3 innings pitched for Double-A Portland. He also had two brief stints with Triple-A Pawtucket in June and early September, where he allowed a total of six runs over 10 /13 frames of work.

McGrath is fascinating in that he signed with the Sox as a 17-year-old out of Melbourne, Australia back in January 2013. The contract the southpaw signed at that time was good for seven years, and now he figures to vie for a rotation spot with the PawSox in 2020.

These moves come just days ahead of the start of the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Az on Monday.

 

Red Sox’ Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts Take Home Third Career Silver Slugger Awards

For the third time in both of their respective careers, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts were named Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners on Thursday night, with Betts being one of three American League outfielders selected, and Bogaerts being the lone American League shortstop to win the award.

Betts, 27, followed up an MVP Award-winning 2018 season with another solid campaign at the plate in 2019, slashing .295/.391/.524 to go along with 29 home runs and 80 RBI over 150 games, 102 of which came batting out of the leadoff spot.

Among qualified American League outfielders this year, Betts ranked first in runs scored (135), second in OBP, and sixth in wRC+ (135). The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and Houston Astros’ George Springer took home the other two Silver Slugger Awards for AL outfielders.

The Tennessee native has now won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award in the same year three times, becoming the first Red Sox player to ever accomplish the feat. It sure would be nice to see him try and do it a fourth time.

Bogaerts, meanwhile, built on a strong 2018 season and broke out even more in ’19, as he posted a .309/.384/.555 slash line to go along with a career-best 33 homers and 117 runs driven in over 155 games.

In terms of qualified AL shortstops not named Alex Bregman, who played 61 games at short for the Houston Astros, the 27-year-old ranked first in hits, (190), first in doubles (52), first in RBI, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, and first in wRC+ (141).

Back in April, Bogaerts inked a six-year, $120 million contract extension with Boston. The extension does not come into effect until next year, but the Aruba native seemed to settle into his own in 2019 and establish himself as a veteran presence in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.

Even if Boston is looking to shred payroll this winter, trading Bogaerts should not be on the table.

J.D. Martinez, who won two Silver Slugger awards last year, was not named an award winner for designated hitters this year. That honor went to Minnesota Twins slugger Nelson Cruz.

Gordon Hayward Has Career Night as Celtics Hold on to Top Cavaliers for Fifth Straight Win

In the venue that severely altered his career just a little more than two years ago, Gordon Hayward put together his best performance as a Boston Celtic in a 119-113 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night.

The 29-year-old had it all going in this one, leading the C’s in scoring with 39 points to tie a career-high on 17/20 (85%) shooting to go along with eight assists, seven total rebounds, and a team-leading +/- of 12 in 33 minutes of play.

The final five of those 39 points wound up to be huge for the Celtics, as Hayward drilled his only corner three of the night coming off some quality ball movement from Daniel Theis, Marcus Smart, and Brad Wanamaker to give his side a 110-99 edge with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

That more than likely should have sealed things for Boston, but a quick 14-6 run on the part of the Cavs made it a three-point contest with 93 seconds to go.

Fast forward about a minute in game time later, coming off a jump ball, and Hayward came through in the clutch yet again, this time beating out Cavs forward Kevin Love to corral a missed three pointer from Kemba Walker, his first and only offensive board, and putting it back in the bucket for an easy two.

Hayward’s 17th make, the most he has ever hit on in a single game in his career, put the Celts up by five, and 119-113 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

“He was aggressive going to the basket,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens following his team’s fifth straight victory, “He just kept making the right play over and over.”

Through six games this season, the Indiana native is averaging 20.3 points per on 56.5% shooting (50% from three).

Now in his third full year with Boston, it appears that Hayward is finally comfortable and is settling into things nicely. Consistency is key, and Hayward has been exactly that to start out the early stages of the 2019-2020 campaign.

At 5-1 now, the Celtics’ next game will come against the Charlotte Hornets in the Queen City on Thursday night. A homecoming of sorts for Kemba Walker.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Pedro Strop

MLB Trade Rumors on Tuesday released their annual predictions for where this year’s crop of top 50 free agents will land this winter.

As it is already known, the Red Sox find themselves needing help out of the bullpen. That much is evident by how team chairman Tom Werner said that, ” we’re going to hopefully supplement our relief pitching,” back in September.

Whether adding new arms to the mix comes via trade or free agency has yet to be determined, but that should not stop new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from exploring his options.

Last month, I brought up the idea of the club reaching out to right-handed reliever and Massachusetts native Steve Cishek. Now, I am going to throw out another name who also spent the 2019 season with the Chicago Cubs in right-hander Pedro Strop.

MLBTR has the 34-year-old inking a one-year, $5 million deal with the Sox this winter.

Strop is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he posted a 4.97 ERA and 4.53 FIP over 50 relief appearances and 41 2/3 innings of work. Those numbers may not seem great on the surface, but it is worth mentioning that Strop did spend time on the injured list twice this year due to a left hamstring strain in May and left neck tightness in late July/early August.

Before that though, the Dominican Republic native had established himself as one of the better relievers in the National League since joining the Cubs from the Baltimore Orioles as part of the Jake Arrieta trade in July 2013.

Strop’s pitch arsenal includes a slider, four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, and split-finger fastball. He certainly appears to be someone who could very well bounce back in 2020.

Although Strop was the only free agent directly linked to the Sox by MLBTR, other named that Boston could be interested in include Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Will Smith, Cole Hamels, Jose Abreu, Daniel Hudson, Brock Holt, and Rich Hill.

J.D. Martinez Decides Not to Opt out of Contract With Red Sox

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez has decided NOT to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old had until midnight eastern time Monday to make his decision, and is now locked in for at least one more year, as he also has two more opt outs remaining in his contract following the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In his second season with Boston, Martinez slashed .304/.383/.557 to go along with 36 home runs and 105 RBI across 146 games played in 2019.

Back in September, Sox ownership came out and said that it is a goal, not a mandate, to cut down on payroll ahead of the 2020 campaign. Following Monday’s events, Martinez is expected to earn $23.75 million next year. Combine that with Mookie Betts’ projected salary of $27.7 million, and that seemingly puts Boston’s new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in a difficult spot.

Of course, there are plenty of options available here. For starters, Martinez’s deal could be restructured to presumably do away with the opt-outs and lock in one of the best hitters in the game for the next three years. Another avenue worth exploring could be looking into trading both Betts and Martinez.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Martinez can block trades to three teams, and no adjustments to his current deal have been made to this point.

During his introductory presser last week, Bloom emphasized being both “sustainable and competitive over the long term.” If the Sox really want to avoid paying those luxury tax penalties once more next year, then they’re going to have to get really creative to do so.

With that said, it would not be much of a surprise if Bloom and Co. listen to trade offers on any player besides Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.

There was already that report out of Arlington last week that the Texas Rangers had begun having preliminary, internal conversations about acquiring a Sox starter like Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, or even Chris Sale, so that is definitely an avenue to explore as well.