New Podding the Red Sox episode: outfield prospect Wil Dalton joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox outfield prospect Wil Dalton.

Dalton, 23, was drafted by Boston in the eighth round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Florida.

Among the topics we discussed in this episode, which is available on iTunes and Spotify, were Dalton’s path from junior college to Florida, takeaways from his first professional season in Lowell in 2019, his performance at the fall instructional league in 2020, and his personal expectations for the 2021 minor-league season.

Thanks to Wil for taking time out of his Monday evening to answer some questions.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Wil Dalton: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox expected ‘to take a conservative approach’ in Chris Sale’s return from Tommy John surgery, per report

Even though left-hander Chris Sale is slated to throw off a mound later this month for the first since undergoing Tommy John surgery last March, the Red Sox could be taking things slow with the starting pitcher’s rehab, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Sale, who turns 32 in March, last pitched in a big-league game on August 13, 2019.

The Florida native signed a five-year, $145 million contract extension — which includes an opt-out after 2022 and a vesting option for 2025 — with Boston shortly before the start of the 2019 season.

Because of the money they have invested in him, the Red Sox, writes Olney, “would love for Sale to come back and be a factor at some point in 2021, [but are more] apt to take a conservative approach.”

Put another way, “the pace for [Sale’s] return from Tommy John surgery is expected to be deliberate, according to sources.”

As Olney notes, pitchers typically take anywhere from 12 to 15 months to recover from the elbow reconstruction that is Tommy John surgery.

With that time frame in mind, Sale, in theory, could be on track for a June or July return to the mound this coming season, especially given the hurler’s drive.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters back in November.

“With Chris, we’re still looking at a midsummer return to have him fully stretched out as a starter,” said Bloom. “But everything continues going along with that. Arm’s doing great, which is awesome.”

While Sale’s arm may be “doing great” at the moment, there is a legitimate possibility that the Red Sox would not want to rush the seven-time All-Star back too soon given the fact he is still under contract for at least two more seasons, and likely more.

“Both the team and the pitcher have reason to take a long view on his recovery,” Olney wrote earlier Monday. “The bulk of the left-hander’s production for the Red Sox will happen in the last three years of the deal.”

Per Spotrac, Sale is set to earn $30 million in 2021 as well as $30 million in 2022, $27.5 million in 2023, and another $27.5 million in 2024. Good for a hefty sum of $85 million over the final three years of his contract. He has a full no-trade clause included in there as well.

Taking the idea that Sale’s time table could be pushed back further than initially expected, Boston may need to do even more to address their starting rotation needs between now and the start of the 2021 season.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora touched upon this issue when appearing on MLB Network Radio over the weekend.

“I think being deeper means the world this year,” said Cora. “You come from a short season and all of a sudden you’re asking these guys to perform at the high levels for a lot of innings. So you’ve gotta be careful. So we’re trying to do that and at the same time, compete at the highest level on a daily basis.”

Last year, Boston starters put up the second-worst ERA in baseball (5.34) while finishing second-to-last in innings pitched (246). As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “that’s a 162-game pace of just 664.2 innings.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox trade infield prospect CJ Chatham to Phillies in exchange for player to be named later or cash considerations

The Red Sox have traded infield prospect C.J. Chatham to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations, per the club’s official Twitter account.

Chatham, who turned 26 last month, was regarded by MLB Pipeline as the organization’s No. 14 prospect.

The Sox originally selected Chatham in the second round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Florida Atlantic University.

The Fort Lauderdale native progressed at a modest pace in the minors to the point where he was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November 2019.

This past season, Chatham was included in the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool for the duration of the year, though he only saw playing time at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket as opposed to getting a call up to the majors.

In 266 career minor-league contests between the Gulf Coast League, Lowell, Greenville, Salem, Portland, and Pawtucket, the right-handed hitter posted a decent .298/.337/.402 slash line (.739 OPS) to go along with 14 home runs, 57 doubles, 124 RBI, and 18 stolen bases.

He also spent the fall of 2019 playing in the Arizona Fall League as well as for Team USA in the Premier12 tournament alongside now-former teammates Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, and Noah Song.

By dealing Chatham to Philadelphia, the Red Sox have opened up a spot on their 40-man roster spot, as noted in the above tweet.

This was a necessity given the fact that the club has reportedly brought back left-hander Martin Perez on a one-year deal that includes a club option for 2022.

With Chatham now off the 40-man roster, the Perez signing could be made official as early as Monday evening.

On another note, this was former Red Sox boss Dave Dombrowski’s first interaction with his former team since he took over the Phillies’ baseball operations department in December.

Perhaps he and Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom can build a solid relationship moving forward.

(Picture of C.J. Chatham: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda takes home Venezuelan winter ball Rookie of the Year honors

Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda took home Rookie of the Year honors in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League Saturday night.

The 24-year-old, playing for Leones del Caracas, slashed an impressive .338/.421/.421 to go along with one home run and 16 RBI over 39 games and 153 plate appearances this season, which ended on January 10.

He also threw out six of a possible 13 runners on the base paths, which translates to a 46% success rate.

Pereda received 37 of 50 possible first-place votes in the league’s MVP race while also finishing with 205 voting points, 105 more than the runner-up.

“This makes me very happy because last year was a strong year because of the virus. There were no minor-leagues and that affected many players, both me and many, because there was no season,” Pereda said (in Spanish) of winning the award. “But I kept working to come to Venezuela. Thank God and Leones, who gave me the opportunity to play here.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Pereda from the Cubs back in March as the player to be named later in a January trade that involved right-hander Travis Lakins.

The club briefly released the Venezuelan from his contract on July 15 only to re-sign him to a two-year minor-league deal on July 17 and promptly add him to their 60-man player pool. He would go on to spend the rest of the summer at the alternate training site in Pawtucket.

After baseball activities ended at the alternate training site in late September, Pereda did not attend the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers, but he did receive an invite to major-league spring training in December.

In addition to his catching abilities that netted him a minor-league Gold Glove Award in 2019, the right-handed hitting backstop can play a little first base as well, as evidenced by what he did this winter.

Going into spring training next month, Pereda should figure to be an intriguing component of the Red Sox’ catching depth equation given the fact Deivy Grullon was lost on a waiver claim by the Cincinnati Reds in December.

As of this writing, the 6-foot-1, 202 lb. catcher is Boston’s top backstop not included on their 40-man roster, according to SoxProspects.com’s depth charts.

Pereda, along with fellow catching prospect Connor Wong, is expected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“I know that this season here in Venezuela will help me. It gave me many experiences that I will put into practice in the training field,” said Pereda (in Spanish) of his time in his home country. “I played with a very experienced team. I had teammates who have played in the major-leagues, who have been in pro ball for many years and I always tried to listen to what they talked about baseball, and those little details that can help me.”

(Picture of Jhonny Pereda: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox ‘have inquired on’ free-agent outfielder Jake Marisnick, per report

The Red Sox might not be considered favorites to land George Springer at this point, but there is another former Astros outfielder the club could pursue in free agency.

That particular outfielder’s name? Jake Marisnick.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Sox are looking at a number of outfield options in the event that they are unable to re-sign Jackie Bradley Jr., who they are “still in on” as of this moment.

“If the Red Sox aren’t able to bring back Bradley Jr., they’ll start considering other options,” Cotillo wrote Friday. “One name they’ve inquired on — at least primarily — is Jake Marisnick.”

Marisnick, who turns 30 in March, was limited to just 16 games with the Mets this past season due to issues related to both his left and right hamstrings.

Over that small sample size, the California native was impressive, going 11-for-33 at the plate (.333) to go along with two home runs, three doubles, and five RBI. He declared for free agency in late October.

Prior to getting traded to the Mets from the Astros in December 2019, Marisnick was somewhat of a mainstay in the Houston outfield more so for what he could do with the glove in his hand as opposed to the bat, with the majority of his playing time coming in center.

From the start of the 2015 season until the end of the 2019 season, the 6-foot-4, 220 lb. outfielder played a total of 3,676 2/3 innings in the outfield for Houston.

While doing so, he posted a positive-53 defensive runs saved as well as an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 19.7, per FanGraphs.

Marisnick’s best year defensively might have come in 2016, but Baseball Savant does not go that far back with its outs above average (OAA) leaderboards.

Going back to 2019 though, the former third-round draft pick was worth eight outs above average, placing ninth among qualified major-league centerfielders that year, per Statcast.

In summary, Marisnick may be approaching 30, but he still has the makings to be a quality defensive center field option for whichever club he signs with.

In the Red Sox’ case, the ex-Astro may serve as a solid replacement for Bradley Jr. if the Gold Glover were to sign with another team in the coming weeks. He’s another free-agent who has a connection to Alex Cora (former bench coach in Houston as well.”

On top of his ability to potentially fill the hypothetical void left by Bradley Jr., Marisnick would presumably command a shorter-term deal on the open market, meaning he could serve as a bridge of sorts for Boston as Jarren Duran inches closer to the majors.

Duran, currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s top outfield prospect, is projected to start 2021 with Triple-A Worcester and could very well make his big-league debut for the Sox later on in the summer.

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen wrote last week that “Duran’s instincts in center field are still not good (though they’ve improved), and he relies on his speed to make up for what he lacks in off-the-bat feel and anticipation,” but it’s clear that the organization has high hopes for the 24-year-old.

That being said, under the assumption that Bradley Jr. does not return, Marisnick could be brought in to patrol center field to start the 2021 season. And if the timing is right, Duran could be called up to learn the ropes at the major-league level sometime in July, August, or even September.

This, of course, all depends on what Chaim Bloom and Co. have in mind for the puzzle that is the Red Sox outfield picture moving forward.

Boston’s chief baseball officer said back in November that he believes all three of Andrew Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and Hunter Renfroe could play center field if needed, but he would not be opposed to adding another outfielder, either.

“I think we have guys on this club who are capable of playing center field,” Bloom said during a Zoom call with reporters. “But we certainly would like to be in as strong of a defensive position as you can. We know we play in a ballpark where you basically have two center fields here in Fenway Park. So we want to be mindful of that.

“We’d certainly like to have as strong of a defensive outfield as possible,” he added. “And a lot of that is contingent on having multiple guys who can play center field.”

Bringing on someone as capable of playing center field as Marisnick would certainly seem to fit the mantra of “having multiple guys” who can play that position when asked to.

(Picture of Jake Marisnick: Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Red Sox bring back left-hander Martín Pérez on one-year deal that includes club option for 2022

The Red Sox are bringing back left-hander Martin Perez on a one-year, $5 million deal for the 2021 season, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Per Rosenthal, Perez will earn a base salary of $4.5 million this year and will have the opportunity to earn $6 million in 2022 via a club option. The deal also includes incentives for number of innings pitched for both 2021 and 2022.

If the Red Sox were decline that club option, the southpaw could then earn an additional $500,000 through a buyout, which would take the total value of the contract to $5 million.

Perez, who turns 30 in April, is coming off a debut season with Boston in which he posted a 4.50 ERA and 5.12 xFIP over 12 starts spanning 62 innings of work in 2020.

Those numbers might not look great on the surface, but there was a stretch from July 30 until August 22 and another stretch from September 3 until September 18 where Perez was one of, if not the best starter in Boston’s rotation.

The Venezuelan international originally inked a one-year, $6 million pact with the Red Sox in December 2019. That contract also included a team option — worth approximately $6.25 million — for a potential second year, but the Sox declined said option in early November.

Since that time, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have not made too many major moves to address Boston’s pitching needs, as right-handers Matt Andriese (signed a one-year deal in December) and Garrett Whitlock (Rule 5 Draft selection) have been the only significant additions thus far in terms of potential rotation depth.

With that in mind, perhaps the Sox thought it was in their best interest to shore up their starting rotation a little bit by bringing back a familiar face in Perez.

The fact that the one-time Rangers hurler was even still available was somewhat of a surprise given the notion that the Padres — run by former Texas director of international and professional scouting A.J. Preller — were among the teams interested in his services.

Now that Perez is back in Boston, though, he joins the likes of Andriese, Whitlock, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Nick Pivetta, and Tanner Houck among those currently on the team who will have a spot in the rotation to start the year and those who will have to fight for a spot during spring training.

That said, expect more pitching additions (Jake Odorizzi?) for the Red Sox to come relatively soon.

Also, the Red Sox will have to clear a spot on their 40-man roster to make the Perez signing official, so that’s another thing to monitor.

(Picture of Martin Perez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Might Red Sox consider adding George Springer if free-agent outfielder remains unsigned going into spring training?

Alongside the likes of Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto, outfielder George Springer remains one of the top free-agents still on the market.

The 31-year-old is coming off a 2020 season with the Astros in which he posted a .265/.359/.540 slash to go along with 14 home runs and 32 RBI over 51 games played, which was enough to finish 13th in American League MVP voting.

While there have not been too many definitive rumblings as to where Springer could land this offseason, it is apparent that the Blue Jays and the Mets are pursuing the three-time All-Star the hardest.

That being the case because according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, “indications are [Toronto’s] No. 1 free-agent priority is still center fielder George Springer.”

MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi, meanwhile, notes that Springer “has drawn the most significant interest from the Blue Jays and Mets” and “the 31-year-old is said to have a preference to play near his home state of Connecticut.”

Given that reported preference, Springer — a UCONN product — would seem more likely to lean towards signing with the Mets, although New York might be limited in what they can do now in order to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

As SNY’s Andy Martino wrote on Friday, “Once the Mets traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco last week, their pursuit of Springer downshifted significantly, according to people involved in the talks.”

Martino also reports that Springer, who does not turn 32 until September, has a five-year deal on the table from the Blue Jays worth anywhere from $115 million to $125 million.

Assuming what has already been reported is true, it does not seem like the two-time Silver Slugger will remain on the open market for too much longer.

That being said, the possibility still remains that Springer could remain unsigned going into the start of spring training, as has been the case with past coveted free-agents such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2019.

In that scenario, it might not be too crazy for a team that has not been seriously linked to the right-handed hitting, 6-foot-3, 221 lb. outfielder to this point, like the Red Sox for instance, to explore a potential deal there.

Of course, any team outside of the Astros that signs Springer would have to forfeit a second-round draft pick as well as $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money due to the fact that Houston extended a qualifying offer, which was later rejected, to its former first-round draft pick in November.

Even with that caveat in mind, though, the Sox could at least consider negotiating with Springer if he is still a free agent come mid to late-February.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo discussed that possibility with MLB.com’s Ian Browne and The Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam on the latest installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast.

“I think if the bottom falls out of this George Springer market, and he is unsigned into spring training, which it feels like the Mets aren’t going there, the Blue Jays are a lot of talk and not a lot of action like another team we know… If the bottom really falls out of that, I think [the Red Sox] will legitimately consider whether it’s worth giving up a second-round pick for him. He might be the one exception to that rule there,” Cotillo said.

“He has the talent of somebody you would give up a second-round pick for. That would justify cheaping out on some of these other guys if they go out and get George Springer,” Browne added.

“He solves a ton of problems. He gives you an above-average defender in center — I don’t think he’s equal to [Jackie Bradley Jr.] but he’s good — but more importantly…he’s a terrific leadoff option. So you don’t have to worry about, in the event that [Andrew] Benintendi somehow stayed, putting [Benintendi] there since he’s not crazy about it. [Alex] Verdugo, I think, has made it well known that while he’ll do it, he’d prefer to hit lower. So it takes care of your leadoff guy.

“And as we know, Springer has shown himself to be a fabulous October player. He’s had a ton of experience on the big stage with Houston the last four years. So, presumably, if someone can do that in the big moment in October, then playing in Boston with expectations would not be anything that would rattle him. Of course, he’s got a New England background having gone to UCONN,” said McAdam.

“And Alex Cora. There are some damaged relationships from all the fallout of the Astros’ scandal. That’s not one of them. Alex has said that he communicates with Springer pretty frequently, so that won’t be an issue,” concluded Cotillo.

So, even though Queens may be slightly closer to New Britain, Conn. — Springer’s hometown — than Boston, it’s probably fair to say that the Red Sox, with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the helm, cannot be ruled out of the Springer sweepstakes at this point in time.

If push were to come to shove within the next few weeks, then perhaps former UCONN right-hander turned Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, who was teammates with Springer on the Huskies baseball team from 2009-2011, would be willing to do some recruiting as well.

(Picture of George Springer: Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

Red Sox, Rafael Devers avoid arbitration with $4.575 million deal for 2021

The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers have avoided salary arbitration, as the two sides reached agreement on a $4.575 million contract for the 2021 season, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand

UPDATE: It’s official now.

Devers, 24, was entering his first season of arbitration eligibility. He was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $6.3 million in 2021.

Had Devers and the Red Sox not settled on a dollar figure by Friday’s deadline, the two sides would have had to appear in front of an arbitrator sometime next month in order to determine the infielder’s salary for the upcoming season.

Prior to Friday’s deadline, Devers had been the only arbitration-eligible player the Sox had yet to come to terms with, as the club signed the likes of Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Kevin Plawecki, and Eduardo Rodriguez to contracts in December.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, neither Boston nor Devers’ camp talked about a potential long-term contract extension leading up to Friday’s agreement. The Dominican national’s agent, Nelson Montes de Oca of REP1 Baseball, said as much when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier last week.

“We haven’t talked about 2021 or a multiyear deal right now,” Montes de Oca said. “Right now he’s just concentrated on getting in shape for 2021 and put in the best season and helping the team win. We haven’t talked or thought about any multiyear deal at this point.”

Despite the notion that there have been no talks about an extension to this point, the two sides are free to explore that possibility in the meantime. Though, as noted by Cotillo, “conversations about those types of contracts usually take place before or during spring training and are tabled before the beginning of the season.”

As of this writing, Devers is eligible to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2023 campaign.

For now, the former top prospect will prepare to embark on his fifth big-league season (fourth full) as he reunites with manager Alex Cora.

According to Speier, Devers is currently working out in Tampa to prepare for the season. The start of spring training is just a few short weeks away, after all.

By reaching an agreement with Devers, the Red Sox — or any players on the team for that matter — won’t have to attend any arbitration hearings this spring for the first time since 2019.

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox ‘are in’ on free-agent utilityman Marwin Gonzalez, per report

In their pursuit to upgrade their depth at second base, the Red Sox are reportedly “in” on free-agent utilityman Marwin Gonzalez, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, Gonzalez is “one of a few versatile options” the Sox are looking at to address the apparent hole at second base.

Gonzalez, who turns 32 in March, has spent the last two seasons with the Twins, most recently posting a slash line of .211/.286/.320 to go along with five home runs and 22 RBI across 53 games and 199 plate appearances for Minnesota in 2020.

If you’re not a fan of evaluating players based off a shortened season, then going back to 2019, Gonzalez was okay in his debut season in the Twin Cities.

Per FanGraphs, the Venezuelan put up an OPS of .736 as well as a 93 wRC+ while clubbing 15 homers and driving in 55 runs over 114 games played.

Prior to signing with the Twins in February 2019, Gonzalez had established himself as a legitimate utility player as a member of the Astros from 2012 until 2018, even finishing 19th in American League MVP voting the same year Houston won the World Series (2017).

Given his past with the Astros, Gonzalez obviously established a relationship with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as the ‘Stros’ bench coach under A.J. Hinch in 2017.

That being said, it’s extremely likely that the switch-hitting veteran used the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing system to his full advantage when he was with the club.

In the two seasons leading up to his free agency during the winter of 2018/2019, Gonzalez collected 39 home runs and 59 doubles over 279 total games and 1,067 plate appearances with Houston.

Since that time, all of which was spent with the Twins, Gonzalez has hit just 20 home runs and 23 doubles over 167 games and 662 plate appearances dating back to the start of the 2019 campaign.

Even with that disparity in mind, it’s unlikely that the Sox would shy away from signing a former Astro — like Gonzalez — if they believe he provides what they are in search for. That being, someone who can play second base on an everyday basis while also being more than capable of playing all around the infield and even both corner outfield spots if necessary.

If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. were to lock down Gonzalez to what would likely be a short-term deal, it would be somewhat of a homecoming for the former international free agent.

That being the case because going back to 2011, Boston selected Gonzalez from the Cubs in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, though they dealt him to Houston in exchange for minor-league right-hander Marco Duarte that same day.

With Gonzalez now added to the mix, here is a full list of free-agent second base options the Red Sox “have been in touch with,” according to Cotillo.

As Cotillo notes in the above tweet, D.J LeMahieu signing with the Yankees on Friday could get this particular market moving relatively soon. We will have to wait and see on that.

(Photo of Marwin Gonzalez: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Andrew Benintendi trade rumors, Corey Kluber’s market, and missing Winter Weekend this year

After debuting with a short, two-minute trailer last week, Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast is back with its first full official episode on Friday.

In said episode, which is available on iTunes and Spotify among other platforms, I discuss recent topics surrounding the Red Sox and their offseason thus far, such as trade rumors involving Andrew Benintendi, free-agency rumors surrounding Corey Kluber, Marcus Semien, and others.

Finally, I wrapped this episode up by taking a moment to highlight Red Sox Winter Weekend, the club’s signature offseason fan fest that likely would have commenced at MGM Springfield on Friday night were it not for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Apologies for this being another relatively short podcast due to the fact I was doing it solo. I’m still trying to line up some guests in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)