Lack of News Surrounding Red Sox’ Managerial Search Suggests Alex Cora Is Favorite To Return To Boston

With the World Series between the Dodgers and Rays set to begin Tuesday night, we now know the 2020 Major League Baseball season will end within the next 5-9 days. And by the time this year’s Fall Classic comes to a close, former Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s one-year suspension will be over.

Cora, who turned 45 on Sunday, was handed down a one-year ban by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred back in April for the role he played in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal while serving as the club’s bench coach under A.J. Hinch. That punishment did not have to do with his actions as Red Sox manager in 2018.

That being said, Cora could be the top candidate to return to his old post by the end of this month or the beginning of November.

Think about it like this: The Red Sox announced on September 27 that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager for the 2021 season. Since that time, there have been no real legitimate rumors; no real legitimate leaks to go off of in the club’s search for a new manager.

Plenty of candidates have been thrown out there, some who even interviewed for the job earlier this year like Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay or Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta, but none have been closely linked to the opening.

When Boston parted ways with Roenicke last month, the club released a statement that read in part: “A search for a new manager will begin immediately.”

It’s been just over four weeks since the Sox’ search for a new manager began, and we have yet to really hear how said search is going. This could potentially mean one of two things. First, it could mean the Red Sox are putting forth their best effort to prevent any leaks and keep everything in-house, which would be commendable if it were the case. Second, it could mean that they are waiting until the World Series ends, when they can officially speak with Cora.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and Christopher Smith touched upon this in the most recent installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast earlier this month, and among the bevy of quality points that were made, one that stuck out pertained to the lack of leaks.

“It’s been nothing. There’s not even a ‘The Red Sox are assembling a list,'” Cotillo said. “In contrast, you look up at Detroit and Al Avila, their GM, said ‘Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch are on my list’, which means they aren’t going to make their hires until they can talk to these guys.

“If the Red Sox managerial search was heating up at this point, it would point to Alex Cora not being the guy,” Cotillo added. “There’s zero indication through 10 days that they’ve really done any groundwork. Every day that passes with little news, you can give [chief baseball officer] Chaim [Bloom] and his crew, as Ron Roenicke liked to say, a lot of credit for keeping it close to the vest. And maybe they’re making progress, but to me, it says they’re not going to really dive into this thing until they can talk to Cora.”

This was also mentioned on the podcast, which I highly suggest listening to, but it carries a lot of weight in that Cora is the perfect candidate for this job for one simple reason: He’s already done it.

“There are plenty of guys who aren’t even being talked about that could be similar to Alex Cora’s personality,” Smith said.

“But, if you’re going to bring in someone similar, why not bring in the guy that everybody knows and everybody wants, is familiar with and knows how to win in this market, and knows how to deal with the media and all the scrutiny?,” asked Cotillo in response to that.

It’s true. Because of what he has already accomplished as the manager of the Red Sox, Cora should be the favorite to return to Boston just months after his dismissal.

The decision to bring Cora back might not be the most popular around the sport given his past actions, but considering how he seemingly gets the most out of his players, like Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez, while also having established a solid relationship with Bloom already, it might just be the best one to make from the Red Sox’ point of view.

Whether Bloom and the rest of the Sox brass agree with that notion will presumably depend on how things unfold in the days following the Rays’ or Dodgers’ World Series victory.

What Red Sox Do at Catcher This Offseason Should Be Fascinating

Using FanGraphs’ WAR metric, the Red Sox had one of the best catching groups in the American League in 2020 (1.7 fWAR), trailing only the White Sox (3.0 fWAR) and Royals (2.7 fWAR) for the league lead in that category.

The two backstops who saw just about all the playing time behind the plate for Boston this past season — Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki — both put together solid campaigns in their own right.

Vazquez, 30, clubbed seven home runs in 47 games in addition to posting a wRC+ of 115 and leading all major-league catchers in FanGraphs’ Defense metric (8.3).

Plawecki, meanwhile, emerged as quite the serviceable backup with his new club as the 29-year-old slashed .341/.393/.463 with one homer and 17 RBI over 24 games and 89 plate appearances.

Excluding Jonathan Lucroy, who was released in September, the only other true catcher to see playing time for the Sox in 2020 was Deivy Grullon.

The 24-year-old out of the Dominican Republic was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Phillies on September 3 and only managed to appear in one game as the Red Sox’ 29th man in a doubleheader against Philadelphia on September 8.

Grullon went 1-for-3 with a walk and run driven in during the nightcap of that twin bill against his former team before he was optioned back down to the alternate training site in Pawtucket. SoxProspects currently lists Grullon as the Red Sox’ 30th-ranked prospect.

All three of Vazquez, Plawecki, and Grullon are already on Boston’s 40-man roster, but another backstop is expected to be added to said roster in the coming weeks. His name? Connor Wong.

One of the three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade from this past February, the 24-year-old Wong is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft, which means he would have to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster before November 20 in order to be protected from that.

Wong being added to the 40-man seems just about imminent at this point. Not only does the former third-round pick offer some versatility at different infield positions, according to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, he also is “considered by [Jason] Varitek and their organization as a rising elite pitcher-first catcher.” On top of that, as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “the Sox didn’t acquire [Wong] just to risk losing him.”

So here we have four appealing catchers, all of whom are already within the organization, which means we have not even touched upon catchers from outside the organization who could join the Red Sox in 2021.

One name in particular that comes to mind here would be none other than J.T. Realmuto, who is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career this winter.

Often regarded as the best catcher in baseball (BCIB), Realmuto would be quite the get for Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. The 29-year-old is coming off a 2020 campaign with the Phillies in which he posted a .266/.349/.491 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 32 RBI over 47 games played.

In addition to his superb offensive efforts, Realmuto is quite the defensive backstop as well, especially when it comes to pitch framing and throwing out runners. Just last year, the Oklahoma native threw out 47% of the runners who tried to steal against him, which was the best caught-stealing rate in baseball.

Even if the Phillies prioritize getting Realmuto to sign a new contract to keep him in Philadelphia, there may only be a handful of clubs who would be able to spend big on someone of Realmuto’s caliber coming off this pandemic-induced, 60-game season. The Red Sox would obviously be one of those clubs.

Of course, the Sox adding Realmuto only makes sense if Vazquez is not in Bloom’s future plans. The Puerto Rico native, who is signed through 2021 and has a team option attached for 2022, was linked to the Rays in the days leading up to the 2020 trade deadline back in August, but nothing ever came out of those rumored talks. Still, as again noted by Cotillo, Boston dealing Vazquez this winter “could definitely happen.”

As currently constructed, Vazquez and Plawecki stand as the Red Sox’ top two catchers at the major-league level, while the likes of Grullon and Wong could both begin the 2021 season at Triple-A Worcester.

Realmuto landing with Boston seems more of a long shot than anything right now, but things could obviously change as the offseason progresses.

Diving Into 2021 Arbitration Salary Projections for Nine Eligible Red Sox Players

MLB Trade Rumors released their annual arbitration salary projections for the 2021 season earlier Thursday.

Unlike past years, projecting arbitration salaries for 2021 has become even more confounding than usual due to the financial circumstances the pandemic-induced, 60-game 2020 Major League Baseball season created for its clubs.

With that in mind, MLBTR’s Matt Swartz has put together three different projection models for this exercise in salary arbitration. The first of these three models directly uses statistics from the 2020 season, while the second model “extrapolates all counting stats to would-be 162-game totals,” and the third, which only applies to non-first-time arbitration eligible players, gives players 37% of the raise they would have received if the 2020 season was 162 games long. That being the case because 60 divided by 162 is equal to 37%.

It is somewhat confusing, but here is how those projections would apply to the nine members of the Red Sox who are currently eligible for salary arbitration this winter, again courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.

PlayerModel 1Model 2Model 3
Matt Barnes$3.7MM$5.7MM$4.1MM
Ryan Brasier$1.00MM$1.6MM$1.0MM
Austin Brice$700K$900K$700K
Rafael Devers$3.4MM$6.3MM$3.4MM
Zack Godley$800K$1.1MM$800K
Jose Peraza$2.9MM$3.2MM$3.0MM
Kevin Plawecki$1.6MM$2.0MM$1.3MM
Eduardo Rodriguez$8.3MM$8.3MM$8.3MM
Ryan Weber$900K$1.5M$900K

Among these nine players, Matt Barnes and Eduardo Rodriguez are both entering their final seasons of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency for the first time next November.

Other names listed above, such as Zack Godley and Jose Peraza, could very well be non-tendered by Boston by December 2, which would make them free agents.

Even if a record number of non-tenders are expected between now and early December, this projection model is certainly still helpful. And if we take the projected salaries of the players listed above and use the third and most-likeliest model to be used in this scenario, the total amount of arbitration salaries would add up to approximately $23.5 million.

Take that total and add it to the salaries of players who are under contract or have options for 2021, which would be approximately $155 million, and you arrive at the Sox’ projected payroll for next season, $178.5 million as noted by @RedSoxPayroll.

Of course, this does not take into consideration any players the Red Sox could add over the course of what is sure to be another busy winter for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co, so that projected payroll number is likely to change relatively soon.

I hope this piece was insightful as Major League Baseball prepares to embark on an offseason unlike any before in recent memory. Should be intriguing to monitor to say the least.

Top Red Sox Outfield Prospect Jarren Duran Set To Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Top Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran will be competing in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico this winter for Los Criollos de Caguas, the club announced earlier Tuesday.

Duran, who turned 24 last month, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 8 overall prospect and top outfield prospect.

The 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of Long Beach State was added to the Sox’ player pool back in July and put on quite a show at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in what would have been his second full minor-league season.

In joining Caguas, Duran will be managed by Red Sox coach Ramon Vazquez, while Alex Cora’s brother-in-law Jesus Feliciano serves as the team’s general manager.

“Jarren Duran has a great chance to play in the big leagues next year. A player who has hit for average, has strength and has stolen 70 bases in his two seasons as a professional,” Feliciano said (in Spanish) of the speedy outfielder. “He is a versatile player who we are going to like a lot because of the strong way he plays and he will help us with the experienced outfielders we have on our team.”

According to FanGraphs, Duran, who has swiped 70 bags in 199 career minor-league games, has the second-best speed tool (70) in the Sox’ farm system behind only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (80).

With that speed, as well as the uptick in power he put on display at McCoy Stadium, the California native may have a legitimate shot to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster come next spring.

Many around the organization seem impressed with what they have seen out of Duran in the relatively short period of time he has been a professional. Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon is no exception.

“He had an unbelievable offensive camp. Stole a lot of bases, hit a lot of home runs. Impacted the baseball hard day in and day out,” McMillon said of Duran earlier this month. “I think he continues to get better in the outfield and as that continues to get better, I think that’s going to help clear the path for him. He’s okay, he’s solid, but you can see there’s some room for improvement there. We did some things working on footwork and routes to balls and he kind of cleaned that up a little bit. For me, the question is, can he do that consistently? If he hits a lull with his offense, is he going to stay as positive as we was all camp? I never saw him down during the camp. He hit really well for the entirety of the camp. He’s a very intriguing, very interesting guy.”

Because of what he did in Pawtucket this summer, the Red Sox likely felt that Duran did not need to attend fall instructs, which are currently underway in Fort Myers. Instead, the young speed merchant will take the field for Los Criollos de Caguas down in Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.

Barring any COVID-19-related setbacks, the 2020-2021 Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente season should begin sometime in mid-November.

It’s Official: Red Sox Will Pick Fourth Overall in 2021 MLB Draft

After finishing with the fourth-worst record in Major League Baseball in 2020 (24-36), the Red Sox will be making their first selection in the 2021 amateur draft with the fourth overall pick, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

The Sox picking fourth next July has been assumed since the conclusion of the regular season last month, but thanks to MLB’s decision to determine the draft order based off clubs’ 2020 records rather than clubs’ 2020 and 2019 records, it is now official.

Picking behind the Pirates, Rangers, and Tigers and ahead of the Orioles this coming July, Boston will pick in the top-five of a first-year player draft for the first time since 1967, when right-hander Mike Garman was picked third overall.

In terms of who the Red Sox could take with the No. 4 pick next summer, it’s still very early, but Florida’s Jud Fabian, LSU’s Jaden Hill, Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter, and UCLA’s Matt McLain are some preliminary prospects to monitor going into the 2021 college baseball season.

Red Sox Announce Bench Coach Jerry Narron, Bullpen Coach Craig Bjornson Will Not Return in 2021

The Red Sox will not be bringing back bench coach Jerry Narron or bullpen coach Craig Bjornson for the 2021 season, the club announced Monday morning.

Narron, 64, was named the Sox’ bench coach under Ron Roenicke back in February, which was the same role he served under Grady Little during the 2003 season.

Bjornson, meanwhile, had served as Boston’s bullpen coach for the past three seasons. The 51-year-old initially came over from the Astros shortly after Alex Cora was hired in November 2017.

In the same announcement, Boston also invited eight members of this year’s coaching staff back for the 2021 campaign.

Those coaches include hitting coach Tim Hyers, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, pitching coach Dave Bush, assistant pitching coach Kevin Walker, first base coach Tom Goodwin, third base coach Carlos Febles, coach Ramon Vazquez, and special assistant/catching coach Jason Varitek.

Outside of Fatse, all other Red Sox coaches who could return next season have been with the organization in some capacity for more than one year.

With that in mind, on top of the fact that there have been next to no rumors pertaining to the club’s ongoing managerial search, it would appear that old friend Alex Cora is a favorite to return to his old post and retain his title as the Sox’ 47th manager in franchise history.

The soon-to-be 45-year-old led the Red Sox to a World Series title in 2018 and was subsequently handed down a one-year ban from Major League Baseball this past April for the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

That suspension for Cora runs through the end of this year’s World Series, so he will not be able to formally talk with any clubs about their managerial openings until the end of October.

Whether it be Cora or someone else, whoever Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom brings in as his club’s next manager will have more coaching staff decisions to make. The current openings at bullpen coach and bench coach are one thing, but more vacancies could be created if one of the names listed above leaves Boston for another organization this winter.

Christian Arroyo’s Performance With Red Sox This Year Left Chaim Bloom ‘Hungry for More’ in 2021

Going into the 2020 season, Christian Arroyo likely wasn’t on the Red Sox’ radar.

The 25-year-old infielder opened the year with the Indians and managed to appear in just one game as a defensive replacement before getting designated for assignment on August 6.

A week later, Arroyo was claimed off waivers by Boston. All the while, the club’s brass was watching another former top prospect struggle at the major-league level in the form of Jose Peraza.

Peraza, who inked a one-year deal with the Sox last December after getting non-tendered by the Reds coming off a disappointing 2019 campaign, was viewed as a potential solution to Boston’s lingering second base problem.

The 26-year-old Venezuelan got off to a hot start with his new club by racking up seven hits in his first five games of the year, but eventually cooled off to the point where he was eventually optioned to the alternate training site for the remainder of the season on September 9.

Peraza’s demotion came a day after the Red Sox selected Arroyo’s contract from Pawtucket, thus promoting him to the major-league roster for the first time on September 8.

With more at-bats to be had now that his fellow second baseman had been sent down, Arroyo showed glimpses of his potential and reminded everyone why the Giants took him with the 25th overall pick in the 2013 amateur draft.

In 14 games with the Red Sox, the Tampa native slashed .240/.296/.440 with three home runs and eight RBI over 54 plate appearances, which came with him primarily playing second and batting out of the nine-hole.

Those numbers certainly are not off the charts, and Arroyo would probably be one of the first people to tell you that. But again, the ex-Rays infielder had his moments, and those moments left Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom very impressed with someone he was already familiar with.

“I knew he was a fundamentally sound player,” Bloom said of Arroyo’s potential when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams earlier this week. “I knew he had versatility and ability. At the plate, I saw him drive pitches that I’ve never seen him drive before. That was impressive to see. He had a very confident approach at the plate.”

With all the uncertainties surrounding what the Red Sox will do at second base this offseason, Arroyo could emerge as a favorite to land the starting gig next spring. That possibility comes given the notion that Peraza will presumably get non-tendered, Dustin Pedroia will lose his 40-man roster spot, and top prospect Jeter Downs will begin the year in Triple-A.

All that being said, Bloom anticipates Arroyo will get more of a chance to show what he’s capable of once position players report to Fenway South this coming February.

“We were able to give him an opportunity down the stretch but if you look at it in the grand scheme it was not a long [opportunity],” Bloom added. “But it’s still a small sample. Certainly, what he did made you hungry for more.”

Arroyo, who turns 26 in May, is under team control with the Red Sox through the end of the 2024 season.

Red Sox Owner John Henry in Talks With Acquisition Firm To Take Fenway Sports Group Public

Want to own a share of the Red Sox? Well, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Cara Lombardo and Miriam Gottfried, that could become a realistic possibility relatively soon.

Per Lombardo and Gottfried, Red Sox principal owner John Henry is in preliminary talks with blank-check firm RedBall Acquisition Corp. to take Fenway Sports Group public.

The plan would be for RedBall to raise $1 billion in funds that would coincide with the $575-plus million the firm raised over the summer. With those funds, RedBall in turn would be able to purchase a stake in FSG which would be worth no more than 25% of the company.

Because talks between the two sides are still ongoing, it is worth mentioning that this deal could fall apart. If talks do not fall through, though, the Red Sox could become one of the few publicly traded American sports franchises. The NFL’s Green Bay Packers are a prime example of one.

Henry, who turned 71 last month, originally purchased the Red Sox for $660 million in February 2002. Since that time, Henry has seen his club end an 86-year championship drought and win four World Series titles.

According to Forbes, the Red Sox are currently worth $3.3 billion, while Fenway Sports Group, which includes the Sox, Liverpool Football Club, Fenway Park, and New England Sports Network, is worth a total of $6.6 billion.

FSG going public with RedBall would reportedly raise its value to approximately $8 billion including debt. For more details on this, I would recommend checking out the above tweet.

Could Red Sox Welcome Soon-To-Be Free Agent Stephen Gonsalves Back in 2021?

Excluding position players, 27 different pitchers took the mound for the Red Sox in 2020. Left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was not one of them.

The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Mets early in the season and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he remained on the Sox’ 40-man roster up until August 19.

At that point, Gonsalves was designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for veteran right-hander Andrew Triggs.

A week went by and Gonsalves went unclaimed, which resulted in his being outrighted to Pawtucket.

As he spent the final few weeks of his 2020 campaign working out at McCoy Stadium, the San Diego native was actually very impressive, which is important when you consider the fact that he will become a minor-league free agent this winter. Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom last week.

“Gonsalves is a guy that can make an impact next year if we bring him back,” Abbott said. “I know he’s a minor-league free agent. His velo went from 89-90 mph — and he already had a highly rated fastball that had some carry — the velo jumped up to 94-96 mph. He got better as we went along and I know he was close to getting an opportunity because they brought him up there.”

A former fourth-round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2013, Gonsalves only has seven major-league outings under his belt. In those seven appearances, four of which were starts, towards the end of the 2018 season, the one-time University of San Diego commit posted a 6.57 ERA and .822 OPS against over 24 2/3 innings pitched.

At the start of the 2019 campaign, Gonsalves suffered an elbow strain in April and a stress reaction to that same elbow in May, which resulted in the former top prospect accruing just 13 innings of work across three minor-league levels last year prior to ultimately getting designated by Minnesota in November.

Since joining the Red Sox organization over the summer, Gonsalves obviously has not had the chance to showcase himself in any real, meaningful games. But, as Abbott mentioned, an uptick in the 6-foot-5 southpaw’s fastball velocity could mesh well with his other three pitches — changeup, slider, curveball — moving forward.

With that being said, in addition to how highly Abbott spoke of him, Gonsalves may be someone the Red Sox look to bring back early on in free agency this offseason.

Assuming he is brought back by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. on a minor-league deal, Gonsalves could prove to be an interesting hurler to monitor during spring training next year given the fact he has experience as both a starter and reliever.

Red Sox Set To Kick off Fall Instructional League This Week With Bevy of Top Prospects in Attendance

The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.

As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.

On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.

Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.

Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.

“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”

Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.