Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Taijuan Walker

Following the fallout of the non-tender deadline Monday night, one of the many notable players released by his club was right-hander Taijuan Walker being let go by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The 27-year-old was a key piece along with Ketel Marte for Arizona in the trade that sent Zac Curtis, Mitch Haniger, and Jean Segura to the Seattle Mariners back in November 2016.

Old friend Mike Hazen, who at the time was just over a month into his new role as Diamondbacks’ general manager, more than likely thought he was getting a key member of his club’s starting rotation in the then-24-year-old Walker. Instead, injuries ravaged the hurler’s time in the desert, and he is now a free agent.

A former first-round pick of the Mariners back in 2010, Walker made just one start for Arizona in 2019, when he pitched one scoreless inning in the team’s final game of the season, after working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, which he underwent in April 2018.

Coming into this winter, the Louisiana native was projected to earn a little more than $5 million in salary arbitration for 2020, but the Diamondbacks must have felt that was too steep a price to pay given the recent health concerns.

When asked about the reason for non-tendering Walker, Hazen emphasized the starting pitching depth his team already has, as in Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

“I think if (Walker) comes into camp and he ends up in the pen, through competition, I don’t know that that was an outcome for us that was an ideal solution – probably for either side,” Hazen said Monday. “We think he’s a starting pitcher.”

You know which team could use some major league-ready starting pitching for next season? The Red Sox.

With a projected rotation of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi, a fifth spot will be needed. Not to mention that the statuses of Sale, Price, and Eovaldi, both in terms of health and trade rumors, are up in the air at the moment.

In Walker, Boston would get someone who owns a career 3.95 ERA and 4.21 FIP over 97 appearances (94 starts) and 528 1/3 innings pitched. Neither of those first two numbers are particularly elite, but an elite pitcher is not what the Red Sox are looking for.

Sure, there are health concerns, but across baseball, it seems like Walker was viewed as a bounce back candidate for 2020. That is someone that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. should be willing to take a risk on.

 

Red Sox Non-Tender Marco Hernandez and Josh Osich

The Red Sox have non-tendered infielder Marco Hernandez and left-handed reliever Josh Osich, making them free agents. The club made the transactions official earlier Monday night.

For many, the move to non-tender Hernandez comes as quite the surprise, as the 27-year-old was projected to earn $700,000 in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2020.

After making his way back from multiple shoulder surgeries in 2019, Hernandez slashed .250/.279/.338 with two home runs and 11 RBI over 61 games with Boston this past season. He also played second base and shortstop.

With Hernandez seemingly out of the picture at this point, options at second base for the Red Sox who are currently on the 40-man roster include C.J Chatham, Michael Chavis, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Dustin Pedroia.

As for Osich, the move to non-tender the 31-year-old comes just over a month after Boston claimed him off waivers from the Chicago White Sox back in late October.

Per MLB Trade Rumors, Osich was set to make $1 million in arbitration in 2020 after spending the first five years of his career between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox.

Going back to the 40-man roster, left-handed options out of the bullpen the Red Sox now have include Yoan Aybar, Kyle Hart, Darwinzon Hernandez, Bobby Poyner, and Josh Taylor.

Following Monday’s moves, the Sox’ 40-man roster now stands at 34 players.

Red Sox’ Trevor Kelley Claimed off Waivers by Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies claimed right-handed reliever Trevor Kelley off waivers from the Red Sox on Monday. Both clubs made the transaction official.

Kelley, 26, made his big league debut for Boston this past season on July 2nd, and went on to post a 8.64 ERA and 6.69 FIP over 10 appearances out of the bullpen spanning 8 1/3 innings of work.

A former 36th-round pick out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2015, the Rhode Island native owns a lifetime 2.37 ERA in the minors over 171 relief outings and 247 innings pitched.

Since Kelley was on Boston’s 40-man roster, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster now stands at 36 players with the non-tender deadline just a few hours away as this is being written.

Red Sox Will Reportedly Tender Contract to Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox WILL tender a contract to outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is projected to earn $11 million in his final year of salary arbitration in 2020 before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

As Speier indicates in the tweet above, there had been a fair amount of speculation surrounding just what the Red Sox would do with Bradley Jr. as they look to cut down on their payroll.

In 147 games this past season, the University of South Carolina product slashed .225/.317/.421 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI while also providing solid defense in center field.

Is that production worth $11 million next season? Well, it’s hard to say. But for now, it appears that Boston will hold on to Bradley Jr. in the hopes that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. can potentially work out a trade and continue to slash payroll.

The non-tender deadline is at 8 PM ET Monday.

Red Sox Trade Sandy Leon to Cleveland Indians

The Red Sox have made their first of what will most likely be many trades under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as the club announced on Monday that catcher Sandy Leon had been dealt to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for minor-league right-hander Adenys Bautista.

Leon, who turns 31 in March, was projected to earn $2.8 million in his final season of arbitration in 2020, hence the move to trade him away on Monday, hours ahead of the deadline to tender arbitration-eligible players for the coming year.

After being outrighted off the Sox’ 40-man roster in March and brought back in April, Leon slashed .192/.251/.297 to go along with five homers and 19 RBI over 65 games for Boston in 2019.

Originally acquired from the Washington Nationals in exchange for cash considerations in March 2015, the Venezuela native’s best year in the majors came in 2016, when upon being called up on June 5th, Leon went on to post an .845 OPS over 78 games that year.

On the other side of this move, the Red Sox acquired 21-year-old right-handed pitching prospect Adenys Bautista, who signed with Cleveland out of the Dominican Republic in June 2018 and posted an ERA of 7.79 over 14 relief appearances and 17 1/3 innings of work between the Dominican Summer League and Arizona League this past season.

By trading Leon, the Sox have created an additional spot on their 40-man roster, which now stands at 37 players.

Red Sox’ Brian Johnson Outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket After Clearing Waivers

After placing him on outright waivers on Monday, the Red Sox officially outrighted Brian Johnson to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday, meaning the left-hander went unclaimed.

Johnson, who turns 29 next month, is no longer a part of Boston’s 40-man roster after posting an ERA of 6.02 and FIP of 5.32 over 21 total appearances (seven starts) and 40 1/3 innings of work in an injury-filled 2019.

A former first round pick out of the University of Florida in 2012 and a Florida native himself, Johnson can still provide the Sox with pitching depth, and he’ll still probably get an invite to major-league camp in the spring, but he is no longer one of the top two or three choices to make a spot start for Boston when needed. That much was made evident when 27-year-old left-hander Kyle Hart was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last week.

Speaking of 40-man rosters, the Red Sox currently have 38 players on theirs.

Red Sox Outright Brian Johnson off 40-Man Roster

The Red Sox have reportedly outrighted left-hander Brian Johnson, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Johnson, who turns 29 in December, can now be claimed by any other club, meaning the Sox now have 38 players on their 40-man roster.

As noted in the above tweet from Rosenthal, teams have until next Monday, December 2nd, to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players who would free agents otherwise.

Johnson still has one year of team control remaining before becoming eligible for salary arbitration, but these kinds of decisions are going to be made all across baseball in the next week.

Appearing in 21 games (seven starts) for Boston in an injury-riddled 2019, the University of Florida product posted an ERA of 6.02 and FIP of 5.32 over 40 1/3 innings of work. This coming the year after Johnson proved to be a valuable member of the Sox’ pitching staff as both a starter and reliever in 2018.

With new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the helm, the Red Sox are clearly in need of some help at the back end of the starting rotation, and maybe even more so depending on the statuses of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale, headed into next spring.

That said, the first move to address this potential issue came last week, when 27-year-old left-hander Kyle Hart was added to Boston’s 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 deadline this past Wednesday.

Johnson being outrighted does not necessarily mean his Red Sox career is over, but his time on the club’s major-league roster is, or at least for the time being.

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez Says He Wants to Stay in Boston

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez wants to stay in Boston. He said that much to MLB.com’s Nathalie Alonso at the 12th annual David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic in Miami on Sunday.

“I would love to stay with Boston,” said Rodríguez, in Spanish. “If they offer me an extension, and we come to an agreement, I would love that.”

Rodriguez, who turns 27 in April, still has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, hence the talks of a possible extension. He is projected to earn $9.5 million in 2020.

Coming off a 2019 campaign in which he finished sixth in American League Cy Young Award Voting thanks to posting a career-best 3.81 ERA and 213 strikeouts over 34 starts and 203 1/3 innings of work, Rodriguez has found himself in an intriguing spot this winter.

“It was a very important step for me, because for the first time I was able to pitch an entire season,” the Venezuela native said of his 2019 season Sunday. “That was my goal when the season started, 30 starts and throw more than 200 innings, and I was able to do it. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Rodriguez, then a 21-year-old prospect, from the Baltimore Orioles in July 2014 in exchange for left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who went on to sign a four-year, $36 million deal with the New York Yankees that offseason.

Because of the fact he started his professional career in the Orioles organization, I was quite surprised when I read that Rodriguez said that Boston is where he began his career and that he, “would love to finish it there.”

Perhaps Rodriguez is speaking in regard to just his major-league career, but an interesting, and perhaps heartfelt, comment nonetheless.

As we all know, the Red Sox want to cut payroll while still remaining competitive in 2020, so it might be in new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s best interest to try and buy out Rodriguez’s last two years of arbitration while also locking down the lefty for a number of years at a decent rate after that.

A similar situation took place in Chicago last March, when the Cubs and right-hander Kyle Hendricks agreed to terms on a four-year, $55 million extension that does not take effect until 2020 and has a team option for 2023 attached to it.

Granted, Hendricks had one, not two years of arbitration remaining, but an extension for Rodriguez with an average annual value in the range of $13-$15 million does not seem too far-fetched.

With the Winter Meetings set to take place in San Diego next month, that may be a good time to see whether talks between the Red Sox and Rodriguez’s camp ramp up at all. If not then, perhaps spring training in February or March.

Red Sox Want to Host All-Star Game in Near Future, per Team President Sam Kennedy

The Red Sox want to host another All-Star Game, according to team president and CEO Sam Kennedy, who revealed Friday that he has, “talked to some of the folks at MLB last week about the possibility.”

If the Sox were to host baseball’s Midsummer Classic within the next three to five years, it would be their fourth time doing it at Fenway Park, with the first occasion coming back in 1946, the second coming in 1971, and the third, more notable occasion coming in 1999, when Pedro Martinez was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

The American League is 2-0-1 when the game is played at Fenway Park.

In terms of future locations for the All-Star Game, the Los Angeles Dodgers will serve as hosts at Dodgers Stadium in 2020, the Atlanta Braves will do the same at SunTrust Park in 2021, and a little later down the line, the Philadelphia Phillies will host the event at Citizens Life Bank in 2026 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

“We need more space for it to take over the whole city. We’ve told MLB we would like to host,” said Kennedy Friday. “We don’t have any specific plans or a specific year.”

Assuming the Red Sox host their fourth All-Star Game in the 2022-2025 range as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, it’s not crazy to think that either of Xander Bogaerts and/or Rafael Devers could serve as the team’s ambassadors for that special week in July.

Rival Executives Remain ‘Skeptical’ Red Sox Will Receive Acceptable Trade Offer for Mookie Betts, per Ken Rosenthal

In his latest notes column for The Athletic, MLB insider Ken Rosenthal pointed out that rival executives across baseball believe that if the Red Sox were to trade Mookie Betts this offseason, they would fail to get a significant package of prospects or major-league ready players in return due to the fact that the star outfielder only has one year of team control left.

Betts, who turned 27 last month, is projected to earn around $28 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent for the first time in 2020.

This fact has led many to believe that the Sox, under the leadership of new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, will deal Betts if the two sides are unable to agree to a long-term contract extension, which seems next to impossible at this point since Betts seems locked in on testing the open market next winter.

As Rosenthal opines, “teams still should be tempted to give up top prospects for Betts, even if only for one year.” However, if opposing clubs are not willing to part ways with their valuable assets, the Red Sox may be better off waiting until the trade deadline to decide on trading Betts or not.

That way, Betts will still be a part of the Sox’ roster going into next season, which ultimately gives them the best chance to remain competitive. And if it turns out that Boston struggles out of the gate in 2020 and finds themselves in a place where they won’t be competing for a postseason spot come July, they can deal him then, when teams in desperate need of an outfielder and impact bat don’t have the option of turning to free agency to find a viable option.

“Under such a scenario, the Sox could continue their efforts to sign Betts,” says Rosenthal. “Possibly clearing money for 2020 and beyond by trading one of their high-priced starting pitchers.”

In addition to Betts being on the trade block, the likes of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale may be made available as well, as the trio or set to earn a combined $73.5 million in 2020.

At the end of the day, this comes down to what Betts wants, and regardless of whether or not you believe he likes playing in Boston or not, the Tennessee native’s top priority does appear to be testing free agency waters.

“Even if they concluded that Betts simply prefers to become a free agent,” Rosenthal said. “The return at the deadline might not be much less than what it would be this offseason.”

If this were to be the route taken, the Red Sox would be able to keep Best, the best corner outfielder in baseball, to at least begin the 2020 campaign as they look to get back to being competitive.