Red Sox Designate Sam Travis for Assignment to Make Room on 40-Man Roster for Kevin Plawecki

In a corresponding move to signing catcher Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, major-league deal on Thursday, the Red Sox also announced that first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis had been designated for assignment.

As the above tweet indicates, the addition of Plawecki on a majors deal meant that someone else would need to be removed from the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, and now we know that it is indeed Travis.

Originally drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, the 26-year-old was out of options headed into the spring, meaning he would have had to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

In a career-high 59 games this past season, Travis slashed .215/.274/.382 to go along with six home runs and 16 RBI while playing first base and both corner outfield positions.

There was a stretch during the summer where it looked like the former top prospect was beginning to put it all together (he had an OPS of 1.007 from July 26th to August 20th), but he ultimately fizzled out over the final few weeks of the season.

With this move made, it now appears that Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec are the top two choices to take over first baseman duties for Boston in 2020. A reunion with free agent Mitch Moreland or even bringing in someone like Eric Thames could be in the mix as well.

Like MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo points out, Chaim Bloom and Co. now have seven days to either find a trade partner for Travis, waive him, or release him if nothing comes to fruition. If Travis goes unclaimed, he will be outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket and off the Sox’ 40-man roster.

Red Sox Agree to Major-League Deal With Catcher Kevin Plawecki

In their first move of the new decade and new year, the Red Sox have reportedly agreed to a one-year, major-league deal with free-agent catcher Kevin Plawecki, per Robert Murray and The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Plawecki, who turns 29 in February, slashed .222/.287/.342 with three home runs and 17 RBI over 59 games with the Cleveland Indians this past season.

The former Met was non-tendered by Cleveland on December 2nd, the same day the club acquired catcher Sandy Leon from Boston in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Adenys Bautista.

Because the Red Sox’ 40-man roster was already at full capacity prior to this signing, expect an additional roster move to be made once this deal becomes official.

Since it is a major-league contract that Plawecki signed, it would appear that the 2012 first-round pick out of Purdue University is locked in to become Christian Vazquez’s backup this coming season.

The addition of Plawecki also stays consistent with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. continuing to make low risk, high reward kind of signings, like with Martin Perez and Jose Peraza.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the deal is for one year and is worth $900,000. Plawecki is also eligible for arbitration.

Travis Lakins Would Be Intriguing Option to Open Games for Red Sox in 2020

As things stand headed into the new year, the Red Sox have five viable options to make up their starting rotation next season in Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and the recently-signed Martin Perez.

However, with it looking more and more likely that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will eventually trade Price away to a club like the Los Angeles Dodgers or St. Louis Cardinals, a hole in that rotation may open yet again.

Because of that possibility, it’s not all that ridiculous to think that the Sox could pursue using an opener in 2020 if they do not add another starting pitcher. Remember, Bloom was at the helm in Tampa when the Rays began employing the opener strategy in 2018.

Going off what The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey said in a predictions piece last week, Boston would be more prepared to implement an opener next season than they were this past one, when they had to turn to the strategy out of necessity due to injuries.

With that, right-hander Travis Lakins presents one potential name who could fill that opener role for the Sox come the spring.

In 16 appearances, three of which were starts, in 2019, the 25-year-old rookie posted a 3.86 ERA and 5.22 xFIP over 23 1/3 innings of work spanning five stints with the big-league club.

A 5.22 xFIP in the majors is certainly nothing to write home about, but when you narrow Lakins’ numbers down to when he appeared as an opener for the first time on September 7th against the Yankees, the results improve greatly to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, a 4.45 xFIP, and a .650 OPS against over six outings (three starts) and eight innings pitched.

It’s a small sample size, sure, but if Bloom and Co. are going to be looking for a creative way to fill Price’s spot in the starting rotation once he is eventually dealt, Lakins certainly checks that box.

Red Sox Having Discussions With Blue Jays About Trading David Price, per Report

The Red Sox have reportedly had talks with the Toronto Blue Jays among other clubs about trading left-hander David Price, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

According to Rosenthal, “A deal only will come to fruition if the clubs agree on how much the Red Sox will pay of the $96 million remaining in the final three years of Price’s contract,” and, “Such an agreement is not close at this time.”

The 34-year-old Price spent the final three months of the 2015 season with Toronto as part of their run to the ALCS before signing a then-record-setting seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston that December.

Granted, that trade between the Jays and Detroit Tigers was done with Alex Anthopoulos, the current general manager of the Braves, at the helm for Toronto.

In his brief time north of the border, Price became a fan favorite. Combine that with the fact that the Blue Jays are currently in need of top-of-the-rotation starting pitching, and a reunion between both parties would make sense depending on what the Red Sox got out of it.

As Rosenthal notes, “the Sox are looking at a sliding scale – the more money they include, the better the package they will receive,” in deals for Price or even right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who is owed $51 million over the next three years.

All this comes as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. continue to work towards the goal set by Sox ownership of getting under the $208 million luxury tax threshold with the idea of trading Mookie Betts serving as a last resort. They seemed to make that much clear at the Winter Meetings earlier this month.

With durability issues surrounding Price headed into his age-34 season, the Red Sox may have to pay up to $36 million of the remaining $96 million remaining on the Tennessee native’s deal, which would essentially turn it into a three-year, $60 million contract.

Two weeks ago, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that the Angels, Cardinals, Padres, Reds, and White Sox were among the clubs that have been in contact with Boston regarding Price.

At this point in time, the Red Sox trading away Price seems more likely to happen than not. The return Boston gets in any potential deal will be interesting to see.

Former Red Sox Second Baseman Ian Kinsler Retires From Baseball

In case you missed it, former Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler retired from baseball on Friday night after spending the 2019 season with the San Diego Padres. He will however remain with the Padres in a front office capacity, per the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Kinsler, 37, finishes a 14-year big-league career between the Rangers, Tigers, Angels, Red Sox, and Padres with 1,999 career hits, 257 career home runs, 909 career RBI, four career All-Star nods, two career Gold Glove Awards, and one career World Series championship, which he won with Boston in 2018.

The Sox acquired Kinsler from the Angels in exchange for pitching prospects Ty Buttrey and Williams Jerez the day before the trade deadline in 2018.

Brought in to stabilize Boston’s infield defense at second base, the Arizona native slashed .242/.294/.311 with one homer and 16 RBI over 37 games while ranking 11th among American League second baseman in FanGraphs’ Defense metric (0.8) in that span.

Appearing in 11 of the Sox’ 14 postseason contests that October, Kinsler went 7-for-34 (.206) with three runs driven in.

“Obviously, Detroit was a great experience for me,” Kinsler told The Athletic. “Dave Dombrowski traded for me twice. He traded for me in Detroit, then for that magical run in Boston. I was able to be a part of a world-championship team. Those are the two things that really stand out in my head.”

Kinsler also added that, “The run in Boston, being just a small part of that was incredible.”

After winning his first World Series title with the Red Sox, Kinsler inked a two-year, $8 million deal with San Diego prior to the start of the 2019 campaign, but a herniated cervical disk held him out from August 12th on and was the ultimate deciding factor in his deciison to step away from playing baseball.

Kinsler may have only been with the Red Sox for a brief three months, but he definitely made his time in Boston worth it.

Red Sox Catching Prospect Elih Marrero Suspended 50 Games

Red Sox catching prospect Elih Marrero has been handed down a 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball for violating the Minor League Drug Treatment and Prevention Program. Per a press release, the 22-year-old tested positive for the banned stimulant Amphetamine.

Selected by Boston in the eighth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Fla, Marrero slashed .205/.267/.311/ with one home run and 18 RBI over 35 games between Low-A Lowell and High-A Salem this past season.

Per SoxProspects.com, Marrero is ranked as the No. 6 catching prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

With Salem placing Marrero on the restricted list Friday, the switch hitting backstop is set to miss the first 50 games of their season, meaning he would not be eligibe to return until late May.

Originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of Coral Gables High School back in 2015, Marrero is the son of longtime major-league catcher Eli Marrero, who spent parts of 10 big-league seasons between the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Colorado Rockies and New York Mets.

Red Sox Claim Chris Mazza off Waivers From Mets

Earlier Friday, the Red Sox claimed right-handed reliever Chris Mazza off waivers from the New York Mets.

Mazza, who was designated by New York last week, posted an ERA of 5.51 and xFIP of 5.47 over nine relief appearances and 16 1/3 innings of work this past season, his first in the majors.

The 30-year-old hurler was originally drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of the 2011 amateur draft out of Walnut Creek, Ca. and had to work his way through independent league ball in 2018 in order to make it back as a Rule 5 pick of the Mets that year.

While with the Mets’ Double- A and Triple-A clubs this season, Mazza allowed a total of 43 runs (40 earned) on 91 hits and 26 walks over 18 appearances, 17 of which were starts. That’s good for an ERA of 3.61 and batting average against of .247.

Per Statcast, Mazza relies on five pitches: a changeup, a cutter, a four-seam fastball, a sinker, and a slider. He averaged 90.6 MPH with his four-seamer in 2019.

Mazza joins left-hander Josh Osich as additions chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have made through waivers so far this offseason. As the above tweet mentions, the righty is the 40th player on the Red Sox’ current 40-man roster, which is subject to change.

The 10 Best Red Sox Single-Season Performances of the 2010s

With the 2010s quickly coming to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the decade that was for the Red Sox. In this first installment, we’ll start with the best single-season performances for Red Sox position players and pitchers alike from 2010 up until 2019. Let’s get to it.

10. Chris Sale’s 2018 season (6.2 fWAR)

It may have been shortened due to left shoulder inflammation, but Sale’s second season with the Red Sox was something to behold. In 27 starts for the eventual World Series champs, the left-hander posted a dazzling 2.11 ERA and 2.31 xFIP over 158 innings of work, all while punching out more than 38% of the hitters he faced in 2018.

Sale also recorded the final three outs of the World Series against the Dodgers that year. Not a bad way to wrap up what could have been a Cy Young Award-winning campaign had he stayed healthy all the way through.

9. Adrian Gonzalez’s 2011 season (6.2 fWAR)

Gonzalez might not have spent much time with Boston, but the first baseman made his only full season with the Red Sox count, slashing .338/.410/.548 with 27 home runs and 177 RBI while leading the American League in hits (217) in an All-Star year.

Acquired from the Padres in exchange for a package headlined by Anthony Rizzo, Gonzalez and the Sox agreed to a seven-year, $154 million contract extension that April, but eventually shipped him off to the Dodgers in a blockbuster trade more than a year later.

8. Adrian Beltre’s 2010 season (6.4 fWAR)

Next month will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Red Sox and Beltre agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal for the 2010 season, and what a season it was for the veteran third baseman looking to reset his value.

In 154 games that year, Beltre slashed .321/.365/.553 with 28 homers and 102 RBI to go along with a league-leading 49 doubles.

Ultimately finishing ninth in American League MVP voting, the Dominican Republic native went on to sign a five-year, $80 million deal with the Rangers, leaving many to wonder what could have been had Beltre remained in Boston past 2010.

7. Mookie Betts’ 2019 season (6.6 fWAR)

After taking home his first MVP Award the previous year, many would describe Betts’ 2019 as a “down” season. But in reality, the 27-year-old was as impressive as ever, slashing .295/.391/.524 with 29 home runs, 80 RBI, and a league-leading 135 runs scored over 150 games played.

Defensively speaking, Betts notched his fourth consecutive Gold Glove Award for American League right fielders in what might have been his last full season in Boston depending on what happens between now and this coming July.

6. Xander Bogaerts’ 2019 season (6.8 fWAR)

Speaking of this year’s Red Sox team, Bogaerts really took it to another level both on and off the field in 2019 after agreeing to a six-year, $120 million extension back in early April.

Playing in 155 games this season, the All-Star shortstop slashed .309/.384/.555 to go along with a career-best 33 homers and 117 RBI. Those numbers landed the 27-year-old his third career Silver Slugger Award as well as fifth-place finish in AL MVP voting.

5. Chris Sale’s 2017 season (7.6 fWAR)

Turning back to the pitching now, Sale made quite the first impression in his first season in a Red Sox uniform.

After coming over in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago White Sox the previous December, the left-hander posted a 2.90 ERA and league-leading 2.45 FIP over 32 games started and a league-leading 214 1/3 innings of work.

Not to mention he also struck out 308 of the 851 batters he faced in what wind up netting Sale a second-place finish in AL Cy Young voting and ninth-place finish in MVP voting.

4. Dustin Pedroia’s 2011 season (7.9 fWAR)

Due to a historic September collapse, the 2011 season may be one the Red Sox would like to forget about, but it still netted a decent amount of positive individual performances statistically speaking.

Adrian Gonzalez’s season is one we already discussed, and now it’s on to Dustin Pedroia.

In his age-27 season, the second baseman slashed .307/.387/.474 with a career-best 21 home runs, 91 runs driven in, 26 stolen bases, and 86 walks over 159 games played, all of which came at second base.

Offensively and defensively, Pedroia was the best second baseman in all of baseball that season, as he earned his second of four career Gold Glove Awards while finishing ninth in American League MVP voting.

3. Mookie Betts’ 2016 season. (8.3 fWAR)

Oh look, it’s Mookie Betts again. We already talked about what the 2018 AL MVP did this past season, but now it’s time to talk about when the then 23-year-old truly broke out.

Opening the 2016 campaign by making his second straight Opening Day Roster, Betts followed up an impressive first full season by being even better the next.

In 158 games, the first-time All-Star slashed .318/.363/.534 to go along with 31 homers and a career-best 113 RBI, all while leading the American League in total bases with 359 of them on the season.

2016 was the first step in Betts earning the unofficial title of “the best outfielder in baseball not named Mike Trout,” as the Tennessee native finished right behind the Angels star in MVP voting while also taking home his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards that year.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2011 season (9.5 fWAR)

Ellsbury may have just been cut loose after a mostly disappointing six-year tenure with the Yankees, but let’s not forget that from the time he made his first Opening Day roster in 2008 up until his departure in 2013, the Oregon State University product was a top-five outfielder in the American League in his time with the Red Sox.

Looking at his 2011 season more specifically, Ellsbury posted a .321/.376/.552 slash line to go along with a career-high 32 homers and 105 RBI over 158 games played.

Many wonder if Ellsbury would have won AL MVP in 2011 had it not been for his club’s historic collapse in September. Instead, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander took home the award, while Ellsbury took home his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

1. Mookie Betts’ 2018 season (10.4 fWAR)

Finally, we arrive at the only Red Sox player to win an MVP Award this decade in Betts, who put together a monster 2018 season, which also happens to arguably be the greatest season in Sox history.

Playing in 136 games and batting primarily out of the leadoff spot, Betts slashed .346/.438/.640 with a career-high 32 home runs and 80 RBI while pacing the American League in runs scored with 129 of them on the season.

In terms of MVP voting, it was not particularily close, as the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award-winning outfielder received 28 of 30 first-place votes.

According to FanGraphs, Betts accrued 10.4 fWAR in 2018, the highest total from one single season this decade. In short, the Tennessee native is very good at baseball.

Honorable mentions

Because I used FanGraphs’ fWAR metric to compile this list, David Ortiz’s 2016 season and J.D. Martinez’s 2018 season did not make the cut.

Also, Rick Porcello is the only Sox pitcher this decade to win a Cy Young Award, which he accomplished in 2016, so that deserves a shout out in its own right.

Red Sox Prospect Noah Song’s Waiver to Defer Active Duty Commitment Still Needs to Be Reviewed by Secretary of Navy, Secretary of Defense

Earlier Tuesday, it was reported that Red Sox prospect Noah Song’s petition to defer his active service time was denied by the Naval Academy and the Chief of Naval Operations. That much may be true, but it does not necessarily mean that Song will have to wait two years to pursue a career in professional baseball.

That much is the case because according to Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett, Song’s waiver must still be reviewed by the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense.

“Until we hear something definitive from them,” Crockett said in an email to MassLive.com Tuesday. “Both the Red Sox and Noah will remain hopeful that he gets a chance to play for the Red Sox AND serve.”

This comes in the wake of a November 8th order from the Department of Defense that will allow service academy graduates to pursue a career in professional sports beginning next year.

But, because Song graduated from the Naval Academy this past May, those rules do not apply to him.

The California native is expected to report to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. come late January, where he would train for two years.

With more steps needed to be taken before all is said and done though, the door for Song to resume his baseball career in 2020, compared to 2022, appears to still be open for now.

The Red Sox selected the 22-year-old right-hander in the fourth-round of this year’s amateur draft and assigned him to Low-A Lowell, where he posted a 1.06 ERA and .167 batting average against over seven starts and 17 innings pitched over the summer.

He also represented Team USA in the Premier 12 tournament in the fall, where he put together five scoreless appearances out of the bullpen.

Per MLB.com, Song is ranked as the Sox’ No. 15 prospect headed into the end of the year.

Potential Red Sox Target Sergio Romo Goes Back to Twins on One-Year Deal

The Minnesota Twins have reportedly brought back right-handed reliever Sergio Romo on a one-year deal, $5 million deal that includes a club option for 2021, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Romo was seen as someone the Red Sox had interest in as recently as last week, but the 36-year-old ultimately winds up back with the club that acquired him from the Miami Marlins this past July.

In 65 relief appearances between Miami and Minnesota in 2019, Romo posted a 3.43 ERA and 3.68 FIP over 60 1/3 innings pitched.

Before that, the California native spent the latter half of the 2017 season and all off 2018 with the Rays, where he became the team’s first “opener” and started five games in ’18.

That’s where the Red Sox-related speculation comes in. Because at the time Romo was traded from the Dodgers to Tampa Bay in July 2017, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was serving as the Rays’ senior vice president of baseball operations.

In addition to that connection, Bloom’s right-hand man and Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran said during last week’s Winter Meetings that an opener is something Boston would be “open-minded” about.

Obviously, Romo is out of the question now, but that should not stop Bloom and Co. from pursuing other bullpen options that could also open for the Red Sox when needed.