Red Sox sign Kevin Plawecki to one-year deal, thus avoiding arbitration; veteran catcher will earn $2.25 million in 2022

The Red Sox have signed catcher Kevin Plawecki to a one-year deal for the 2022 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration, the club announced Wednesday morning.

Plawecki, who turns 31 in February, will earn $2.25 million in 2022, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. He was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive $2 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility.

Originally signed to a one-year deal last January, Plawecki has emerged as a stable presence behind the plate while backing up Christian Vazquez in his time with the Red Sox.

This past season, the 30-year-old backstop slashed a solid .287/.349/.389 to go along with seven doubles, three home runs, 15 RBIs, 15 runs scored, 12 walks, and 26 strikeouts over 64 games spanning 173 plate appearances.

Plawecki put up those numbers while earning $1.6 million in 2021, so the $2.25 million he will receive this coming season represents a a 40.6% increase from that amount.

The right-handed hitter out of Purdue University figures to once again slot in behind Vazquez as Boston’s No. 2 catcher going into the spring and is slated to become a free agent for the first time in his career at the conclusion of the 2022 campaign.

By locking up Plawecki for 2022, the Red Sox have now signed two of their eight arbitration-eligible players after inking right-handed reliever Ryan Brasier to a one-year pact and not tendering a contract to speedy outfielder Tim Locastro on Tuesday.

Besides Plawecki and Brasier, Alex Verdugo, Christian Arroyo, Rafael Devers, Hunter Renfroe, Nick Pivetta, and Josh Taylor are all arbitration-eligible players who remain unsigned, though they have been tendered contracts for the 2022 season.

(Picture of Kevin Plawecki: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to one-year, $10 million deal with left-hander James Paxton, per report; contract includes two-year club option

The Red Sox are in agreement with free agent left-hander James Paxton on a one-year, $10 million contract for the 2022 season, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal, which is pending a physical, includes a two-year club option and was first reported by Sportsnet 650’s Chad Dey.

Per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the total value of Paxton’s contract could reach $35 million if the Red Sox were to pick up his two-year option for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

Paxton, 33, underwent Tommy John surgery this past April after making just one start for the Mariners in which he allowed one earned run in 1 1/3 innings against the White Sox at T-Mobile Park.

The Canadian-born southpaw was originally selected by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky and later made his major-league debut for the Mariners in September 2013.

After spending the first six years of his big-league career with the M’s, however, Paxton was dealt to the Yankees in exchange for three players at the conclusion of the 2018 campaign.

While donning the pinstripes, Paxton enjoyed a solid inaugural season with the Yankees in 2019, posting a 3.82 ERA and 3.86 FIP to go along with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks over 29 starts spanning 150 2/3 innings of work.

The following year was a different story, though, as Paxton managed to make just six starts for New York before his season prematurely came to a close in late August due to a left flexor strain.

Despite signing a one-year deal to return to Seattle in February, the same discomfort Paxton experienced in his left elbow in 2020 clearly carried over into 2021 since it ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Having undergone the elbow reconstruction procedure on April 14, Paxton likely won’t be able to return to in-game action until the later stages of the 2022 season at the earliest

Still, perhaps following a similar timeline they used with Chris Sale this year, the Sox elected to take a chance on Paxton. The veteran lefty operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Paxton — a native of British Columbia — is represented by the Boras Corporation and does not turn 34 until next November.

He also becomes the second significant starting pitching-related addition Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have made via free agency in the last week. Over the weekend, the club announced that they had signed veteran right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal for 2022.

Once he passes his physical and his signing is made official, Paxton will bring the size of Boston’s 40-man roster up to 38 players.

(Picture of James Paxton: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox non-tender Tim Locastro, but ‘are already trying to re-sign’ speedy outfielder, per report

The Red Sox may have non-tendered Tim Locastro on Tuesday night, but the club may already be looking into bringing the speedy outfielder back.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Sox are indeed trying to re-sign Locastro, who was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $700,000 in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2022.

Locastro, 29, was originally claimed off waivers from the Yankees on November 5 and was subsequently added to Boston’s 40-man roster. He spent the 2021 season with the Diamondbacks and Yankees, slashing .180/.263/.252 with four doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs, 15 runs scored, five stolen bases, seven walks, and 33 strikeouts over 64 games (156 plate appearances) between both clubs.

Upon getting traded from Arizona to New York on July 1, Locastro suffered a season-ending injury very early into his Yankees career, as he tore his right ACL in a game against the Red Sox in the Bronx on July 17.

After undergoing season-ending knee surgery on July 21, Locastro later lost his spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, thus allowing the Red Sox to claim him in the first place.

As of early November, the right-handed hitting speedster had began running again and was making significant progress in his rehab.

“Tim’s on track for a full recovery from his injury,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said in a recent conversation with BloggingtheRedSox.com. “With his speed and athleticism, he’s great depth for us to add at the beginning of the off-season.”

At that time, Bloom also said, “We’ll see how things play out from here.” Less than a full month later, it turns out Boston has removed Locastro from their 40-man roster.

While coming off a tough injury such as an ACL tear, Locastro had previously established himself as one of the quickest base runners in the majors. Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-1, 190 pounder led the league in sprint speed in 2019 (30.8 feet per second) and 2020 (30.7 feet per second) and was tied with Trea Turner atop the leaderboard in 2021 (30.7 feet per second).

Taking his elite speed and the fact that he plays all three outfield positions into consideration, there is an appeal to Locastro’s game. The former 13th-round draft pick out of Ithaca College does not turn 30 until next July, has one minor-league option year remaining, and is also under club control through 2024.

With that being said, Cotillo notes that in their efforts to retain Locastro, the Red Sox could get the New York native to sign a minor-league deal for the 2022 season that would include an invite to major-league spring training.

Boston has, after all, been active in minor-league free agency as of late. On Tuesday, the club reportedly inked outfielders Rob Refsnyder and Christin Stewart to minor-league contracts for the 2022 campaign.

Adding Locastro via another minors pact would only further strengthen the Sox’ outfield depth behind the likes of Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, Hunter Renfroe, and Jarren Duran.

On another note, it is worth mentioning that Locastro was one of 41 players to not be tendered a contract by their respective teams on Tuesday. It’s likely that the Red Sox will be involved in talks with those who have recently been made free agents before the impending work stoppage begins on Wednesday night.

(Picture of Tim Locastro: Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign Ryan Brasier, non-tender Tim Locastro in flurry of roster moves

In a flurry of roster moves made on Tuesday, the Red Sox agreed to a one-year contract with Ryan Brasier for the 2022 season, did not tender a contract for 2022 to Tim Locastro, and tendered contracts to all 27 remaining unsigned players on the major-league roster.

The club made all of these transactions official earlier Tuesday night.

By signing Brasier to a one-year pact for the 2022 season, the Red Sox have avoided salary arbitration with the right-handed reliever.

According to FanSided’s Robert Murray, Brasier will earn $1.4 million next year, which is the exact same amount MLB Trade Rumors projected he would receive in what would have been his second season of arbitration eligibility.

This past season marked Brasier’s fourth in the Red Sox organization since originally inking a minor-league pact with Boston back in March 2018, and it was certainly a hellish one.

After breaking his pinky finger over the winter and straining a calf muscle during spring training, the 34-year-old was struck in the head by a line drive during a simulated game in Fort Myers in early June.

Brasier was left with a concussion, but the veteran righty made his way back to the major-leagues by September and wound up posting a 1.50 ERA with nine strikeouts to four walks over 13 appearances spanning 12 innings pitched out of the Boston bullpen.

Brasier, who does not turn 35 until next August, put up those numbers while making $1.25 million in 2021, so the $1.4 million he is slated to earn in 2022 represents an increase from that amount.

On the flip side of retaining Brasier, the Red Sox non-tendered Locastro, the speedy outfielder they claimed off waivers from the Yankees in early November.

Locastro, 29, tore his ACL last season and is just months removed from the season-ending surgery he underwent in July.

While he is on track for a full recovery, the Sox ultimately decided against tendering Locastro a contract for the 2022 campaign, thus bringing the size of their 40-man roster down to 37 players as he becomes a free agent.

That being said, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that the Red Sox are already trying to re-sign Locastro on a new deal. The New York native was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $700,000 in his first year of arbitration eligibility, but could be brought back to Boston on a minor-league deal.

Besides Brasier and Locastro, the Red Sox tendered contracts to all remaining unsigned players on their major-league roster. That group also includes arbitration-eligible players such as Alex Verdugo, Christian Arroyo, Kevin Plawecki, Rafael Devers, Hunter Renfroe, Nick Pivetta, and Josh Taylor.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Verdugo, Arroyo, Pivetta, and Taylor are all first-year eligible, while Devers and Renfroe are in their second year of eligibility and Plawecki is in his third.

(Picture of Ryan Brasier: Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign outfielder Christin Stewart to minor-league deal for 2022 season, per report

The Red Sox have signed outfielder Christin Stewart to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Stewart, who turns 28 on December 10, was originally selected by the Tigers in the first round of the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Tennessee. He made his big-league debut in September 2018 and spent parts of three major-league seasons with Detroit (2018-2020) before becoming a free agent earlier this month.

Across 157 games with the Tigers, Stewart slashed .225/.300/.376 with 29 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 59 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 49 walks, and 146 strikeouts over 587 cumulative plate appearances.

Leading up to the 2021 season, Stewart was designated for assignment by Detroit in early April and was subsequently outrighted to the club’s alternate training site/Triple-A affiliate shortly thereafter.

With Triple-A Toledo this year, the left-handed hitter batted .254/.339/.538 (127 wRC+) to go along with 13 doubles, five triples, 21 homers, 58 RBIs, 51 runs scored, two stolen bases, 33 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 89 games spanning 343 trips to the plate.

A native of Atlanta, Stewart has only played left field at the major-league level, but he did see a significant amount of his playing time with Toledo come in right field this year.

Listed at 6-foot and 220 pounds, Stewart is represented by the Boras Corporation. He has three minor-league options remaining and could remain under club control through the end of the 2025 campaign.

By inking Stewart to a minor-league pact for the 2022 season, the Red Sox have continued to add to their upper-minors outfield depth at Triple-A Worcester after signing fellow outfielder Rob Refsnyder on Tuesday as well.

(Picture of Christin Stewart: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign outfielder Rob Refsnyder to minor-league deal for 2022 season, per report

The Red Sox have signed free-agent outfielder Rob Refsnyder to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Refsnyder, 30, spent the 2021 season with the Twins after signing a minor-league pact with Minnesota last November. In 51 games, he slashed .245/.325/.338 with seven doubles, two home runs, 12 RBIs, 21 runs scored, one stolen base, 17 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 157 trips to the plate while making appearances at all three outfield positions.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Refsnyder was originally selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2012 amateur draft out of the University of Arizona. The right-handed hitter was regarded as one of the top prospects in New York’s farm system before making his big-league debut against the Red Sox in July 2015.

Since that time, Refsnyder has bounced around a bit, as he was traded by the Yankees to the Blue Jays in July 2017 and was claimed off waivers by the Guardians that November.

The Rays purchased Refsnyder’s contract from Cleveland ahead of Opening Day in 2018, so it’s safe to assume there is some there is at least some history between him and Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

After appearing in 40 games in Tampa Bay throughout the 2018 campaign, Refsnyder inked a minor-league pact with the Diamondbacks that November before being dealt to the Reds the following spring.

While Refsnyder did not appear in a game for Cincinnati in 2019, he did make his way back to the majors with the Rangers during the compressed 2020 season.

All in all, Refsnyder has appeared in 232 total big-league contests between the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Rangers, and Twins dating back to 2015. And he has done so while seeing playing time at every defensive position besides catcher and shortstop.

Listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds, Refsnyder — who turns 31 in March — is represented by PSI Sports Management. He is out of minor-league options, but is technically under club control through 2024.

In adding Refsnyder via a minor-league contract, the Red Sox add a somewhat versatile player who will mainly provide outfield depth while also having a chance to make an impact at Triple-A Worcester next year.

Per Cotillo, Refsnyder is the fourth known minor-league signing Boston has made since the start of the off-season. Right-handers Caleb Simpson, Zack Kelly and Michael Gettys all re-signed with the club earlier this fall.

(Picture of Rob Refsnyder: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox reliever Zack Kelly joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox minor-league reliever Zack Kelly.

Kelly, 26, spent the 2021 season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester. The right-hander posted a 2.18 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 69:18 over 36 relief appearances (45 1/3 innings pitched) across both levels. He re-signed with Boston on another minor-league contract for 2022 in October and has received an invite to major-league spring training.

Among the topics Zack and I discussed in this week’s episode are how he initially drew interest from the Red Sox last year, the differences between pitching at Double-A and Triple-A, the congruency within the Red Sox organization, how he made made his way as an undrafted free agent who signed with the Athletics out of a Division II school for $500, undergoing and recovering from elbow surgery, getting cut loose by the Angels during the pandemic, getting interviewed by the New York Times, his upcoming Rule 5 candidacy, his expectations for the 2022 season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thank you to Zack for taking some time out of his offseason schedule to have a conversation with yours truly. You can follow Zack on Twitter (@Zack_Kelly) by clicking here and on Instagram (@Zack_Kelly19) by clicking here.

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

(Picture of Zack Kelly: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Red Sox officially sign Michael Wacha to one-year deal; veteran right-hander will earn $7 million in 2022

The Red Sox have officially signed free agent right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year contract for the 2022 season, the club announced earlier Saturday morning.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported on Friday that the two sides were finalizing a contract that was pending a physical, which Wacha has since passed.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the one-year deal is worth $7 million in value and does not include any options or incentives. The $7 million Wacha will earn in 2022 represents a significant raise from the $3 million he received with the Mets in 2020 and Rays in 2021.

This past season with Tampa Bay, the 30-year-old posted an unspectacular 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

While Wacha may have struggled at times this year, he did put up a respectable 3.91 xFIP and career-best chase rate of 32.6%, which ranked in the 92nd percentile among major-league pitchers according to Baseball Savant.

From August 28 through the end of the regular season, Wacha appeared in seven games and made a total of six starts for the Rays. In that stretch, he pitched to the tune of a 2.88 ERA and 3.29 FIP while limiting opponents to a .167/.217/.300 slash line against and striking out 27.9% of the batters he faced.

For most of the 2021 campaign, Wacha had relied on his cutter as one of his most frequently-used pitches. But it got hit hard, so he ditched it later on the year in favor of throwing more four-seam fastballs (his primary pitch) and changeups as well as slightly more curveballs and sinkers.

Via Baseball Savant

A former first-round draft selection of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha spent the first seven years of his big-league career in St. Louis. The 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty was named MVP of the National League Championship Series in 2013 and earned his first and only All-Star selection to date in 2015.

After making more than 150 starts in a Cardinals uniform, Wacha inked a one-year pact with the Mets and spent the compressed 2020 season in Queens before joining the Rays on another one-year deal.

With the Red Sox, Wacha, who turns 31 next July, is now on his third team in three seasons. As of now, the veteran hurler is slated to join a starting rotation in Boston that includes the likes of Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and Nick Pivetta with Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock in the mix as well.

That being said, Speier reports that when the offseason began, the Red Sox “intended to add starting pitching depth, and will continue to explore ways of doing so by both trade and free agency.”

Wacha does, however, have experience working out of the bullpen, and so the Sox could elect to have him undertake a multi-inning reliever role if they feel that is where he would best be used to start things out in 2022.

On another note, Wacha — who is represented by CAA Sports — will wear the No. 52 with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign right-hander Michael Wacha to one-year deal

UPDATE: It’s a straight one-year, $7 million deal with no incentives, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The deal is also now official.

The Red Sox are in the process of finalizing a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Michael Wacha, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal is still pending a physical.

Wacha, 30, spent the 2021 season with the Rays, posting a 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

Boston was known to be in the market for starting pitching help after Eduardo Rodriguez left to sign a five-year deal with the Tigers earlier this month. And Wacha, as Passan points out, is expected to provide the Sox with experienced rotation depth.

While his ERA this year was north of five, Wacha did put up a much more respectable 3.91 xFIP and 4.00 SIERA during his time with Tampa Bay, and he did so while producing a career-best chase rate of 32.6%.

A former first-round pick of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha established himself as one of the better starters in the National League in his tenure with St. Louis, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors in 2013 and an All-Star nod in 2015.

Since leaving the Cardinals at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign, the 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty will now be joining his third team in three years after spending 2020 with the Mets and 2021 with the Rays.

Per Baseball Savant, Wacha operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball, and sinker. His changeup may just be his best pitch, as opponents only batted .207 off it this season.

A client of CAA Sports, Wacha does not turn 31 until next July and figures to compete for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation by the time the Red Sox report to spring training in February.

That said, Wacha does have some experience as a reliever as well, so it would not be a surprise if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. view the veteran hurler as someone who could start and pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Are Red Sox open to reunion with Rich Hill?

The Red Sox appear open to a reunion with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

In a recent conversation with Speier, Hill “suggested that he’s been in touch with members of the Red Sox this offseason, just as he was as a free agent last offseason.”

While noting that these conversations have mainly been social exchanges, Hill did hint that the Sox do seem interested in his services.

“There is an interest, without a doubt,” Hill said. “There’s a need on the other end. [But] the need for starting pitching is very apparent throughout the league — not just in Boston. It’s also many other clubs that need it.”

Hill, 41, became a free agent earlier this month after splitting the 2021 season with the Rays and Mets. He posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP with 150 strikeouts and 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) and 158 2/3 innings pitched between both clubs.

As noted by Speier, this marked Hill’s healthiest season since he was a member of the Cubs in 2007, which had been the last time he eclipsed the 150-inning plateau prior to this year.

A native of Milton, Mass., Hill has spent parts of four big-league seasons with the Red Sox, with his most-recent stint with the team coming in 2015. To date, he has signed with Boston as a free agent on six separate occasions (June 2010, December 2010, December 2011, February 2014, March 2014, August 2015).

By Opening Day next spring, Hill will have turned 42 years old. Still, the veteran lefty expects to pitch in the majors in 2022 and wants to do so for a contender.

But Hill, who still lives in Milton, also expressed interest in living closer to home, making it seem as though the Red Sox would be at the top of his destination wish list for that very reason.

“The Red Sox do things right,” said Hill. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

Along those same lines, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting rotation help this winter after Eduardo Rodriguez left in free agency to ink a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers.

Hill, who is preparing to embark upon his 18th major-league season, would not command the sort of pay day other free agent starters — such as Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, or Kevin Gausman — are seeking.

Last winter, the Sox were in talks to bring Hill back for the 2021 campaign, though those conversations dissipated once chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. brought in Martin Perez and Garrett Richards by early February.

Shortly thereafter, the University of Michigan product signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays, thus closing the door on any shot of a reunion with his hometown team.

This time around, however, a reunion could take place if the Red Sox believe Hill can contribute as a starter in 2022 and Hill, in turn, feels like the Red Sox give him the best chance to win a World Series ring.

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)