Red Sox’ Chaim Bloom values Bobby Dalbec’s versatility, is still confident in Rafael Devers’ defensive abilities at third base

Since making his major-league debut in 2017, Rafael Devers has tried to prove that he is capable of being a competent third baseman defensively, but has struggled thus far in doing so.

This past season alone, the 24-year-old logged 475 innings at the hot corner and was worth -6 defensive runs saved (DRS), the worst mark among qualified American League third baseman, according to FanGraphs.

Devers’ defensive difficulties have led to speculation that the Dominican-born slugger could eventually move over to first base, especially now with the emergence of Bobby Dalbec.

Dalbec, who was called up for the first time in late August and saw the majority of his playing time come at first, is capable of playing both corner infield positions adequately, and the Red Sox certainly value his versatility moving forward.

That being said, don’t expect Devers and Dalbec to swap primary positions anytime soon, as Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom still has faith in the former’s abilities with the glove.

“We know Raffy is capable of a lot more than he showed in 2020,” Bloom said when speaking to reporters via Zoom Wednesday. “I think he knows that. Everybody who has seen him knows that. You guys know the bond Alex [Cora] has with him, and that is already something we’ve discussed in making sure that we’re doing everything we can to help him be in position to play a really good third base, as he has done in the past.

“I think the early indications, from the offseason, are that Raffy is preparing himself to do that,” added Bloom. “It was obviously a tough summer. The way the season started back up, he never really got going — he was never really in-sync defensively. He knows that, and now with an offseason ahead of us, we’re really optimistic that he’s going to come into the spring looking very different.”

Despite the hardships Devers endured at third base this past season, he still enjoyed moderate success at the plate as highlighted by his .845 OPS for the month of September.

With Cora back in the fold as Red Sox manager, Devers could in theory return to his 2019 form in which he led the American League in doubles (54) and total bases (359) while finishing 12th in MVP voting.

As for Dalbec, here’s what Bloom had to say about the 25-year-old former top prospect who looks primed to make his first career Opening Day roster next spring:

“With Bobby, we want to be able to maintain his ability to play both [corner infield] positions. I think the versatility is going to be great for him. That could be important on day one or it could be important in a year or two years. The fact that he is capable [of playing third] is huge. You never want somebody who has the ability to play other positions to be pigeonholed at first base.”

Per FanGraphs, Dalbec accrued 175 2/3 innings at first base and 15 innings at third base over the course of his rookie season. The former fourth-round draft pick made three errors, all of which came at first. He also hit eight home runs in 23 games, which equates to 56 homers over 162 contests.

Despite Alex Cora connection, Red Sox not prioritizing Francisco Lindor trade this offseason

The Cleveland Indians find themselves in a similar position as last year’s Boston Red Sox. That being, they are open to trading an extremely talented player who his entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

That soon-to-be free agent would be none other than superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, who turns 27 on Saturday and is in the running to be the most sought after free agent next winter.

Does the Indians’ situation sound familiar yet? It should. The Red Sox, faced with the dilemma last offseason of either trading Mookie Betts, who like Lindor was on the verge of free agency, or risk losing their homegrown star for nothing if they held on to him going into the following season.

Boston, much to the disdain of its fanbase and the general public, wound up dealing Betts and his one year of team control as well as left-hander David Price to the Dodgers in February in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

Now, roughly nine months after that blockbuster went down, the cash-strapped Indians could very well trade away their franchise cornerstone this winter so they don’t lose him for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick in 2021.

With that being said, a number of suitors have likely begun contacting Cleveland about trading for Lindor. The Red Sox, having just re-hired Alex Cora, who like Lindor hails from Puerto Rico and served as Team Puerto Rico’s general manager during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, were, at least on the outside, seen as a club who could be interested in acquiring the shortstop’s services.

However, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Sox will not prioritize a trade for Lindor this winter despite the Cora connection and will instead focus on pitching.

Lindor, a four-time All-Star, is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .258/.335/.415 to go along with eight home runs and 27 RBI over 60 games played.

From 2016 through 2019, the former first-round draft pick was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award, and finished in the top-15 in American League MVP voting all four years, again proving he is one of, if not the best shortstop in baseball.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox have a quality shortstop themselves in the form of Xander Bogaerts, but there is a caveat in the 28-year-old’s contract and that is he can opt out and become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

That might not mean much at the moment since Lindor is only under team control for one more year, but as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal notes, “the team that gets [Lindor] would gain the inside track on signing him, the way the Dodgers did with Betts.”

Lindor has the edge over Bogaerts in that he is both younger and a better defender, but the latter has proven to be the better offensive player. That much is made evident when comparing Bogaerts’ 136 wRC+ to Lindor’s 119 wRC+ since 2018.

Even with a slight difference in their skillsets, Bogaerts has emerged as the Red Sox’ clubhouse leader in the wake of the Betts trade, and bringing in someone of Lindor’s caliber, who plays the same position, could send the wrong message.

Of course, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom could always opt to purse Lindor in free agency next winter if he does indeed hit the open market.

If another team, whether it be the Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Dodgers, or Giants, does acquire Lindor, though, one would have to assume that club would prefer to lock up their new star to a long-term extension right away.

As previously mentioned, the Dodgers did that with Betts in July, and the Cardinals did it upon acquiring Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks in December 2018.

For now, Bloom and Co. seem more interested in acquiring pitching help as opposed to offensive help, which is understandable when you consider how dismal Red Sox pitching was in 2020 (5.58 ERA, second-worst in the American League).

Red Sox manager Alex Cora says Alex Verdugo was team’s MVP in 2020

Even while serving his one-year suspension this past season, Red Sox manager Alex Cora still took the time to watch baseball, and the Red Sox, as a fan.

Though Cora acknowledged that watching the 24-36 Sox struggle from afar was tough, he also pointed out that he liked what he saw from some players in particular.

Tanner Houck, Nick Pivetta, and Alex Verdugo, all of whom made their Red Sox debuts in 2020, drew praise from the Sox skipper, with Verdugo getting the nod as the team’s most valuable player.

“Alex is a good player,” Cora said of the young outfielder when speaking with MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo Tuesday. “I saw him with the Dodgers, the previous year, a guy that brings a lot of energy to the equation on a daily basis. He can hit lefties, he can hit righties. I think he settled in the lineup. Defensively, he did an outstanding job for the team. For everything that is going on as far as like no fans and the protocols and how quote-on-quote uncomfortable it was for a team that didn’t play well, I do believe he was the best player on the team, the MVP.”

After coming over from Los Angeles as the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade back in February, Verdugo enjoyed great success at the plate with his new club. In 53 games, the 24-year-old posted a robust .308/.367/.478 slash line to go along with six home runs and 15 RBI.

On top of providing quality production at the top of the Boston lineup, Verdugo also dazzled defensively from both corner outfield positions. That much was evident by how he finished the year with seven outfield assists, tied for the most in baseball.

As Cora mentioned in the above quote, Verdugo got his first taste of playing at Fenway Park last July, when the Dodgers visited the Sox for a three-game series right after the All-Star break. In said series, the former second-round pick impressed with a pair of multi-hit games in the two games he started.

Those performances drew the attention of the likes of Cora, and although the Sox manager had already left the team by the time Boston acquired Verdugo from Los Angeles in February, he is very much looking forward to getting to know the exuberant 24-year-old better now that he is back.

“I actually spoke to him a few days ago,” Cora said. “What I saw is what I heard on the phone. Looking forward to working with him and making him a better player.”

How Cora develops relationships with Verdugo and other young players who were not on the team prior to his suspension should be something worth monitoring once spring training begins.

Chaim Bloom felt Alex Cora was ‘right choice’ for manager in order to move Red Sox forward

Upon his hiring last October, Red Sox chief baseball officer got the chance to become familiar with Alex Cora, who he likely presumed would be his manager for the foreseeable future.

Instead, as a result of his involvement in the 2017 Astros’ illegal stealing of signs, Cora and the Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways in January.

That left Bloom with a rather sizable hole to fill at the managerial position in a relatively short period of time.

Ron Roenicke, Cora’s bench coach the previous two seasons, eventually landed the job in February, but he served as more of a stopgap as anything upon his dismissal from the club in September.

Again, Bloom was tasked with finding the Red Sox’ next manager, this time with a little more time do so and a greater number of candidates to consider.

One of those candidates, Cora, could not be interviewed until after this year’s World Series ended, so that left Bloom with about a month to contemplate who else may be qualified for the job.

“When we started the process after the season, we spent a lot of time coming up with a really good list of candidates,” Bloom said at Cora’s re-introductory press conference Tuesday. “We vetted them very thoroughly, we talked to a number of people.”

Still, even when interviewing external candidates such as Sam Fuld or James Rowson, Bloom knew he wanted to talk to Cora before arriving at any final decision.

“I knew at that time that I wanted to have some kind of conversation with Alex when it was okay to do so, which wouldn’t be until after the World Series,” he continued. “I really didn’t know then if he was, in my mind, in real consideration for the job. I just thought it would be good for me, good for him, good for the organization since we really hadn’t spoken since everything happened in January.”

So, Bloom, general manager Brian O’Halloran, and Cora talked. That dialogue, by all accounts, was initiated by Bloom, and it led to a group of Red Sox officials flying down to Puerto Rico to speak with Cora in-person at his home.

“When the time came time to speak with him, we had a lot of different things to work through,” said Bloom. “We were able to have some really intense conversations. Obviously, everything was happening quickly within the week-plus after the World Series, but we got to work through a lot of things. It was really just a question of trying to get as much information as I could to see Alex in full; everything that he had done, good and bad, and everything that he might do.”

Of course, Cora was viewed as one of, if not the favorite to return to Boston even before his suspension had ended. That was mainly due to how highly Red Sox ownership thinks of Cora, which led to speculation that the likes of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy would overrule Bloom on this matter if the latter was not in on Cora.

Speculation aside, Bloom assured the masses on Tuesday that he had full backing from ownership regardless of the decision he made on this matter.

“First and foremost, it was important that they play a role,” Bloom said of Henry and Co. “They’re responsible for the entire organization. I respect that there’s a lot of different opinions out there on Alex on what he did and what that should mean for any organization that might think about employing him. And it’s obviously important, since [ownership] is responsible for the organization, for me to know how they felt. To understand that if it was something baseball operations saw fit to do, that it was something they would support.

“Obviously, if that weren’t the case, it would have obviously been a different process,” he added. “So, not only do I think that that was appropriate, I actually think it was necessary to know how they felt. They also made sure I knew that if I or baseball ops. felt differently, then that was okay, too… They were emphatic that it’s very important that this be a baseball operations decision and they would fully back whatever decision we came to.”

At the end of the day, or last Thursday to be more specific, Bloom and his team ultimately decided that Cora’s strengths, such as his ability to effectively communicate information to players, outweigh any red flags that come with the hire, such as history with the Astros.

“I felt he was the right choice to move us forward,” Bloom said of Cora. “The goal in this process for me was to find the right person to lead the Boston Red Sox.”

Cora has already shown that he can move the Red Sox in the right direction before, as evidenced by leading the club to a World Series title in 2018. The 45-year-old will now get another shot to lead a team that looks quite different from the one he initially left nine months ago.

How Cora and Bloom’s relationship continues to develop over the course of the offseason and into spring training should be interesting to monitor as well.

Red Sox among teams who have expressed ‘initial interest’ in free-agent right-hander Matt Shoemaker, per report

The Red Sox are one of several teams to express ‘initial interest’ in free-agent right-hander Matt Shoemaker, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported late Sunday night.

Shoemaker, who turned 34 in September, is coming off a 2020 season in which he posted a 4.71 ERA and 5.95 FIP over six starts and 28 2/3 innings pitched for the Blue Jays.

The Michigan native was limited to just six outings this year on account of hitting the injured list in late August due to right shoulder inflammation, but he was able to return to the mound a month later. He even got the nod for Toronto in Game 1 of the Wild Card series against the Rays in which he scattered two hits over three scoreless frames.

A former undrafted free agent who signed with the Angels in 2008, Shoemaker has proven to be a solid middle to back-end of the rotation caliber starting pitcher when healthy. That’s the thing, though. He has struggled to stay on the field these past few years.

Prior to the 2020 season, the veteran righty got off to a roaring start with the Jays in 2019, allowing just seven runs (five earned) through his first four outings and 25 2/3 innings of the year (1.75 ERA).

In what was his fifth start of the year against the Athletics on April 20, Shoemaker got caught in a rundown and wound up spraining his left knee. Nine days later, he underwent ACL reconstruction as well as medial meniscus repair, and his season was over just like that.

Again, when he is healthy, Shoemaker, who works with a split-finger fastball, sinker, four-seam fastball, slider, and curveball, has proven to be effective at the major-league level.

The Red Sox are a club in desperate need of starting pitching help, so taking a flier, if you want to call it that, on someone of Shoemaker’s caliber certainly makes sense. Even more so when you consider the fact that the Jays recently locked up left-hander Robbie Ray on a one-year, $8 million deal earlier this week.

MLB free agency: Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. have talked about outfielder returning to Boston, per report

The Red Sox have reportedly approached Jackie Bradley Jr. about bringing the free-agent outfielder back for the 2021 season “and beyond,” according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Per Bradford, the Red Sox “are far from the only suitors for Bradley Jr., with the Astros showing strong interest and one American League Central team putting the 30-year-old at the top of its free agent wish-list.”

Bradley Jr., who does not turn 31 until next April, is coming off one of his better all-around seasons in the majors in 2020. Primarily serving as Boston’s centerfielder, the former first-round draft pick slashed a robust .283/.364/.450 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games played.

Those impressive numbers, as well as still proving to be one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, will certainly help Bradley Jr.’s case as he embarks on free agency for the first time in his career.

Based off industry speculation, which can best be highlighted by MLB Trade Rumors’ free agency predictions, the Boras Corp. client is projected to land a two-year deal worth somewhere around $16 million this winter after not receiving a qualifying offer from Boston earlier this month.

MLBTR, in correspondence with the aforementioned report from Bradford, have Bradley Jr. joining the Astros on that two-year pact, but it would appear that the Red Sox can not be ruled out as favorites to retain the South Carolina product’s services.

“We love Jackie,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters back in August. “That shouldn’t be news. He’s been here for a long time. He means an enormous amount to this organization. For me personally, not having known him as long, I’ve still come to regard him so highly and see what an incredible person he is. We know he’s a good player. We’d love to have him for a long time. But that was the case months ago. It’s the case yesterday. It’s the case today. It’s the case tomorrow.”

Besides Bradley Jr., this year’s free agency class is not exactly filled to the brim with starting-caliber centerfielders save for three-time All-Star George Springer, who has a qualifying offer attached to him. The likes of Jarrod Dyson, Brett Gardner, Jake Marisnick, and Kevin Pillar represent some of the other possibilities on that front.

Internally, the Sox could move either one of Andrew Benintendi or Alex Verdugo to center, both of whom have logged a combined 147 games at the position at the major-league level. Neither would likely provide the level of defensive prowess Bradley Jr. would, though, and another vacancy at either corner outfield spot would open up as a result.

Looking at the prospect pipeline, outfielder Jarren Duran, Boston’s No. 8 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is without a doubt one of the Sox’ most exciting young talents.

The 24-year-old had a terrific spring and consistently put on a show at the alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer, but he still may be at the point where he needs just a little more time to develop before getting the call.

Marcus Wilson, who is currently on Boston’s 40-man roster, and Jeisson Rosario, who will presumably be on Boston’s 40-man roster within the next 12 days, are also intriguing options, but like Duran, neither have played above the Double-A level yet.

At the end of the day, who Bloom and Co. decide to roll with at center field moving forward will be no simple decision. Perhaps the Sox will take advantage of what looks to be a slow-moving market this winter, but if a savvy team like the Astros are that interested in acquiring Bradley Jr.’s services, they will surely be aggressive in doing so.

On another note, it should be fascinating to see how Bradley Jr., who described free agency as “cool” because “you get to weigh out your options,” goes about fielding offers this winter. Will he allow the Red Sox to counter any offer he may get? Or, will he just take the best deal possible due to the current economic climate? We will have to wait and see on that.

Red Sox free agency: right-hander Keone Kela comments that he would ‘love’ to play in Boston

Former Pirates reliever and current free-agent right-hander Keone Kela recently expressed an interest to play with the Red Sox through social media.

Early Friday night, Major League Baseball’s official Instagram account posted an update pertaining to the Red Sox’ rehiring of Alex Cora to be their next manager.

Within minutes of the post going live, Kela took to the comment section, tagged the Sox’ official Instagram handle (@redsox) and simply expressed his thoughts through the use of the ‘100’ emoji (💯).

According to Dictionary.com, the ‘100’ emoji is “used in digital communication to express or emphasize achievement, support, approval, and motivation. It also generally means ‘absolutely’ or ‘keep it 100’ (keep it real), so it would appear that Kela approves of the move by the Red Sox to bring Cora back.

On top of that, when urged by a fellow commenter to ‘come on down [to Boston], Kela replied, “I’d love to” followed by a heart emoji. The full exchange can be seen in this accompanying screenshot, courtesy of Reddit user u/williamsw21.

Kela, 27, has spent the last 2 1/2 seasons with the Pirates after beginning his big-league career with the Rangers in 2015.

In his time with Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles native posted a 2.49 ERA and 3.54 FIP over 51 total appearances and 47 innings pitched going back to July 2018.

Most recently, in what was already a truncated 2020 campaign, Kela managed to appear in just three games for the Pirates on account of testing positive for COVID-19 in July and going down with right forearm tightness in late August.

Seeing how he is still relatively young as he enters free agency for the first time, Kela could look to take a short-term deal this offseason in order to better establish his value next winter if he can stay healthy.

According to Statcast, the righty has in his arsenal a curveball that hovers around 82-83 mph, a four-seam fastball that hovers around 96 mph and can top out at 98 mph, and a changeup that hovers around 90-91 mph.

Taking that into consideration, the Red Sox could perhaps benefit from adding someone of Kela’s caliber to the mix in their bullpen. The club is coming off a 2020 season in which it owned the second-worst bullpen ERA (5.72) in the American League.

There are certainly other free-agent relievers the Red Sox could target here, such as Liam Hendriks, Trevor May, or Blake Treinen, but seeing how Kela, or whoever runs his Instagram account, has expressed an interest in signing with Boston, this may very well be an avenue worth exploring for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co.

On another note, Cora’s return makes it seem as though the Red Sox could become a more popular destination for free-agents since the Sox skipper is so well regarded by players. That should be something worth paying attention to as the offseason progresses.

Red Sox Officially Re-Introduce Alex Cora as Manager

The Red Sox officially re-hired Alex Cora as their next manager, the club announced earlier Friday evening.

Cora, who turned 45 last month, signed a two-year contract with the Sox that includes club options for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

The native of Puerto Rico was originally named the 47th manager in Boston’s franchise history back in October 2017. His first stint with the Red Sox, highlighted by a World Series-winning campaign in 2018, came to an end in January when the two sides agreed to mutually part ways in the midst of Major League Baseball’s investigation regarding Cora’s role in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

Now, nearly 10 months after he left the club, Cora is back and excited to manage once again.

“I  am grateful for the opportunity to manage once again and return to the game I have loved my entire life,” said Cora in a statement released by the Red Sox. “This past year, I have had time to reflect and evaluate many things, and I recognize how fortunate I am to lead this team once again. Not being a part of the game of baseball, and the pain of bringing negative attention to my family and this organization was extremely difficult. I am sorry for the harm my past actions have caused and will work hard to make this organization and its fans proud. I owe John Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon, Sam Kennedy, Chaim Bloom and Brian O’Halloran my gratitude for giving me another chance. I am eager to get back to work with our front office, coaches, and especially our players. Boston is where I have always wanted to be and I could not be more excited to help the Red Sox achieve our ultimate goal of winning in October.”

The process of re-hiring Cora did not last all that long for the Sox, as they were free to interview him for the opening as soon as this year’s World Series camt to a close late last month.

Still, in a separate statement released by the team, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom acknowledged that conversations with Cora about a potential reunion were “lengthy, intense, and emotional.”

“Alex Cora is an outstanding manager, and the right person to lead our club into 2021 and beyond,” said Bloom. “The way he leads, inspires, and connects with everyone around him is almost unmatched, and he has incredible baseball acumen and feel for the game. We considered a very impressive slate of candidates – the brightest managerial prospects in the game today. Because of all that had happened, I knew that I wanted to speak with Alex once his suspension ended, but I didn’t yet know if it made sense to consider him for the job as well. Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional. Alex knows that what he did was wrong, and he regrets it. My belief is that every candidate should be considered in full: strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures. That is what I did with Alex in making this choice. He loves the Red Sox and the game of baseball, and because of that we believe he will make good on this second chance. I join our whole organization in welcoming Alex back to Boston and Fenway Park.”

Cora and Bloom were able to get acquainted a little bit prior to the former’s departure from the Sox in January, but they will now have the opportunity to get to know one another even better.

As for when Cora will be re-introduced to the media via a press/Zoom conference, it looks like that will not take place until next week.

It should be interesting to see what kind of questions Cora and whoever else is on the dais with him will have to field from reporters once that presser does take place.

Red Sox make bold decision in bringing back Alex Cora as manager

Regardless of who the Red Sox tabbed as their next manager, it was going to be a bold decision.

On one hand, there’s Alex Cora, who managed the Sox for two years before he and the team mutually agreed to part ways in January due to the role he played in the Houston Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing fiasco. Cora was ultimately handed down a one-year suspension by Major League Baseball in April. That season-long ban came to an end late last month, which allowed the 45-year-old to interview for any managerial opening.

On the other hand, there’s Sam Fuld, who has no experience managing in the majors, let alone the minor-leagues. The 38-year-old, like Cora, is a former major-league veteran. Rather than follow the same kind of path Cora embarked upon in his post-playing days, though, Fuld began the second leg of his baseball career in the Phillies’ front office.

Philadelphia initially hired the New Hampshire native in November 2017 to serve as player information coordinator before promoting him to director integrative baseball performance back in January.

In his time with the Phillies, Fuld has served as a conduit who worked to foster communication between players, coaches, and front office staff while also “[integrating] advanced metrics into game planning.”

As intriguing as his resume may appear, Fuld did not have the same luxury as Cora in that he was already familiar with most of the Red Sox’ higher-ups. Yes, he may have a “tight” relationship with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on account of the time they spent together with the Rays, but that likely does not amount to much when comparing it to Cora’s relationship with the likes of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy.

So, in the end, the Red Sox went with what they were already familiar with: a known commodity in the form of Cora, who led the club to a historic World Series title in 2018 and is well regarded by players, ownership, and fans alike. The red flags with Cora were certainly there due to what he may have done during his time Houston’s bench coach, but the Sox do not seem all too concerned with that. They made it abundantly clear Cora was at the top of their list when team officials flew out to Puerto Rico to meet with him last week while other candidates traveled to Boston to interview for the opening.

It’s unclear at this point if Bloom would have preferred to bring in his own guy in Fuld and was overruled by club ownership on this particular decision. However, it is worth noting that before Cora initially left the Sox earlier this year, he and Bloom seemed to get along swimmingly during the latter’s first few months on the job as chief baseball officer.

Whoever may have made the final, bold decision on this matter, one thing is for certain: Cora is back managing the Red Sox, and he is likely here to stay.

Stay tuned for more in the days ahead.

Red Sox managerial search: Alex Cora, Sam Fuld viewed as finalists to land job

The Red Sox are entering the final stages of their weeks-long search for a new manager, and according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, former Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Phillies director of integrative baseball performan Sam Fuld are currently viewed as the favorites to land the job.

In addition to Heyman’s report, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote earlier Thursday that the Red Sox have begun narrowing the field of potential candidates to five — Cora, Fuld, Marlins bench coach/offensive coordinator James Rowson, Yankes bench coach Carlos Mendoza, and Pirates bench coach Don Kelly — to three, “and by Thursday evening, the search process was believed to be down to no more than two finalists.”

Those two finalists in this case would be none other than Cora and Fuld; one of whom already has a rapport with Red Sox brass while the other does not.

Cora also has two years of major-league managerial experience with the Sox as compared to Fuld’s zero.

The 45-year-old led Boston to a World Series title in 2018 and a third-place finish in 2019 and was seemingly well-regarded by players and ownership alike.

However, as Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Houston Astros’ illegal stealing of signs unfolded over the winter, it was revealed that Cora, who served as A.J. Hinch’s manager in 2017, may have played an integral role in the Astros’ schemes.

As a result of said investigation, Cora and the Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways in January, approximately three months before he was handed down a one-year suspension for his actions in Houston.

By the time Cora’s season-long ban came to an end at the conclusion of this year’s World Series, he was almost immediately labeled as the favorite to retain his old position with the Red Sox.

Most recently, a party of club officials that included the likes of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran flew to Puerto Rico last Friday to speak with Cora in-person about the managerial opening.

The fact this meeting took place may lead one to believe it is Cora’s job to lose at this point, but it would appear that Fuld is also being seriously considered, per Heyman.

Fuld, a native of Durham, N.H., has spent the past three seasons in the Phillies’ front office, first serving as major-league player information coordinator before being promoted to the club’s director of integrative baseball performance in January.

A veteran of eight major-league seasons, the soon-to-be 39-year-old’s playing career included a three-year stint with the Rays from 2011 through 2013.

In Tampa Bay, Fuld built a strong and “tight” relationship with Bloom when the latter served as an executive there, one in which could help his case for the Sox’ managerial opening.

While Cora and Fuld share many of the same qualities, such as their abilities to successfully utilize analytics and foster communication between players and front office staff, Cora may have the upper hand due to experience alone.

Cora has already ingrained himself within the Red Sox organization. Players such as J.D. Martinez and Christian Vazquez gush about him, ownership gushes about him, even Bloom seemed to get along with him in their short time together last offseason.

Fuld, meanwhile, is somewhat of a complete stranger to the organization outside of his connection with Bloom. That would not seem to bode well for him, but if finding Ron Roenicke’s successor is truly Bloom’s ‘call to make,’ Fuld would be an obvious fit if he wants to bring in his own guy.

Whether Bloom has final say in this decision or he will be overruled by the likes of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy has yet to be determined. One thing is for certain, though, and that is the notion that the Red Sox’ search for their next manager is nearly complete.

As MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo alluded to, “Friday [is looking like] a potential decision day.” We will have to wait and see on that. I still say it’s Cora.