Who is Eduard Bazardo? Newest addition to Red Sox’ 40-man roster could prove to be important bullpen piece in 2021

At this time last year, it appeared as though Eduard Bazardo had a legitimate shot to be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.

The right-handed pitching prospect was Rule 5 eligible for the first time, and he needed to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to be protected from the 2019 Rule 5 Draft.

Among the five players who were added last November, Bazardo was not one of them as left-handers Kyle Hart and Yoan Aybar were the only two pitchers to make the cut.

The decision by the Red Sox to leave Bazardo off the 40-man roster meant the Venezuelan could be snatched up by another club during the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Fortunately for Boston, that did not happen, as Bazardo went undrafted and remained with the organization he began his professional career with back in 2014 after signing for just $8,000 as an international free agent.

Even while staying with the Sox, Bazardo did not get too much exposure in 2020 on account of there being no minor-league season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He was able to appear in four Grapefruit League games back in March before the shutdown, but that was some of the only in-game action he saw up until October.

That being the case because after not being added to the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point during the season, Bazardo was invited to participate in the club’s fall instructional league down in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, the 6-foot, 155 lb. righty caused quite the stir thanks to what he did on the mound.

“Right-handed reliever Eduard Bazardo was the most impressive arm at Instructs, showing off increased velocity that puts him squarely in the mix to either be added to the 40-man roster on Friday or selected in the Rule 5 draft,” Cundall wrote earlier this week. “At Instructs, all of Bazardo’s stuff was improved, as he sat 93-97 mph and often pitched at 95-96 with, as one scout called it, a ‘silly’ curveball. His curveball elicited some horrible swings, and its spin rate topped  3000 rpm, which is elite. His fastball is now a plus-to-better pitch, and his curveball is solidly a plus pitch as well.”

The way Bazardo pitched at fall instructs obviously caught the attention of Red Sox higher-ups, such as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, and he was able to leverage his performance to a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster earlier Friday evening.

As indicated above, Bazardo’s pitch mix includes a fastball and curveball, as well as a split-finger fastball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. 

With consistent control and improved command, Bazardo was able to fool hitters at a decent rate at fall instructs, and he’ll presumably have the chance to do that again come February.

Cundall predicts that Bazardo will make his major-league debut in 2021 as a reliever, and given the current state of the Red Sox bullpen, it’s not hard to see why that may be a legitimate possibility.

Opinion: Mookie Betts Saying He Thought He Was ‘Going To Be a Red Sox for Life’ Does Not Exactly Add up When Looking Back at His Time in Boston

Before winning his second World Series title in three years and his first as a member of the Dodgers Tuesday night, former Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts sat down with former teammate-turned-FOX Sports personality David Ortiz this past weekend.

Among the topics discussed in this virtual interview were Betts’ thoughts on playing in Los Angeles, his approach on and off the field, what he likes the most about his game, and of course, the trade that sent him to the Dodgers in the first place.

“Man, I got to tell you, Mook,” Ortiz said. “It’s hard for me to see you in that Dodgers uniform, but you look good in a Dodgers uniform. Did you ever think you were going to spend the next 12 years wearing that Dodgers uniform?”

Betts, in response, admitted he never thought that was going to happen.

“No,” he said. “I had initially thought that I was going to be a Red Sox for life. But, God always has a plan for things so I was following what he tells me to do.”

Here is the problem with that statement: Betts very well could have remained with the Red Sox for the remainder of his major-league career if he so chose.

Before dealing him to Los Angeles, the Sox made multiple attempts to keep the four-time All-Star in Boston for the foreseeable future.

In 2017, they offered him a five-year, $100 million extension. He rejected it. In 2018, they offered him an eight-year, $200 million extension. He rejected it. In the spring of 2019, they offered him an extension upwards of $300 million over 10 years. He did not reject it, and instead countered with $420 million over 12 years, according to WEEI’s Lou Merloni.

So here we have at least three instances where the Red Sox tried to retain Betts’ services for 2020 and beyond, and by the time we arrive at that third instance, the two sides are an apparent $120 million apart in negotiations.

By making the decision to not commit $400-plus million to one player, the Red Sox found themselves in a position where they essentially had to trade Betts or else they would risk losing him the following winter for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick.

Trading Betts is the choice the Red Sox ultimately made in February, but it is difficult to not think that the 28-year-old could have done more to prevent that from happening.

If at one point in time Betts saw himself a member of the Red Sox for his entire professional career, why not make more of a push to remain with the only organization he had ever known?

If Betts is calling up Jim Rice before the trade and telling him ‘This is my home. I don’t want to go anyplace else,’ why not make more of an effort to see that through?

If Betts never wanted to leave Boston in the first place, why, when discussing the legacies of franchise legends like Ortiz and Carl Yastrzemski last September, say ‘You can be remembered in that same fashion even if you put on a couple different jerseys’ and all but tease the idea of playing for another team relatively soon?

One thing that became apparent in Betts’ final season with the Sox is that he appeared to be all in on becoming a free agent at the end of the 2020 campaign. Had the COVID-19 pandemic not hit, he likely would have done that. However, due to the financial concerns the pandemic has created across the country, not just in baseball, it’s possible that Betts’ outlook on things changed after he was traded.

On the surface, the 12-year, $365 million extension he inked with the Dodgers seems like one the Red Sox should have been able to afford earlier in the year.

That much may be true, but it’s worth mentioning that Betts signed said extension in late July. That was roughly four months after Major League Baseball had pushed back the start of the season and the owners and players’ association were seemingly at each other’s throats every day in between.

Seeing that turmoil arise between the owners and MLBPA may have forced Betts to settle a little bit. At the end of the day, he still got a lucrative extension that offers long-term security with uncertain times ahead, though it may not be the $400 million-plus deal he was initially hoping for.

Basically, the point here is that if Betts really wanted to be ‘a Red Sox for life,’ he could have made it happen.

It may have taken some sacrifice to do so, and Betts has every right to not do that and instead seek out the biggest payday possible, but when you see guys like Dustin Pedroia and Xander Bogaerts sign extensions with the Red Sox for somewhat less than they would have gotten if they were free agents, that says something.

It’s as Barstool Sports‘ Jared Carrabis wrote back in February: “You can’t make it abundantly clear that you will not sign for a cent less than market value, and then say that Boston is your home and that you don’t want to play anywhere else. That’s just not how this works.”

Betts had the chance to stay with the Red Sox in the long-term if he wanted to. He decided that if he was going to remain in Boston, he was going to do so for nothing less than top dollar. That’s fine, but if you are still holding on to the notion that the Red Sox were in the wrong for trading you after making multiple attempts to try to get you to stay, it may be time to move on from the past.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Appears Confident Andrew Benintendi Can Bounce Back in 2021

On the night of August 11, it appeared as though Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was on the verge of potentially turning his 2020 season around.

Entering the day with just two hits through his first 36 plate appearances of the year, the 26-year-old managed to double his hit total within the first three innings against the Rays that Tuesday with a pair of leadoff singles.

Fast forward to the eighth, and Benintendi again reached base after getting plunked by an Aaron Loup sinker.

An Alex Verdugo single to shallow left field moments later allowed Benintendi to advance to second base, but as the University of Arkansas product rounded the bag to take off for third, he subsequently slipped while on the run and wound up getting caught in a rundown.

As he made one last effort to reach third base, Benintendi slid head first before getting tagged out, but appeared to get up rather slowly after said out was recorded.

On August 12, the Cincinnati native was placed on the injured list after getting diagnosed with a right rib cage strain, which would wind up costing him the rest of the season.

“It’s frustrating,” Benintendi said at the time he was placed on the IL. “I got a few hits. I was feeling good. Felt like I was about to get hot, so, I mean, I’m frustrated.”

With his 2020 season prematurely coming to a close, Benintendi has now seen his on-field performance continue to decline going back to the start of the 2019 campaign.

In his first full two seasons with Boston, the 2015 first-round draft pick got on base 36% of the time while posting an OPS+ of 113 over a 299-game span that saw him nearly win American League Rookie of the Year and become a first-time All-Star.

Since then, though, as previously mentioned, Benintendi has been rather underwhelming, as he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 138 games played last year before running into the buzz saw that was 2020.

Still, even as he trends ever so slightly in the wrong direction two years out from free agency, Benintendi is still viewed as a plus-player in the eyes of the Red Sox front office. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s prospects. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.

“I thought he looked great coming in both in spring training and Summer Camp,” Bloom continued. “This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”

As he continues to recover from that rib cage strain, Benintendi is expected to undergo a typical offseason where he will not be limited in his activities.

“He’s not full-go at this moment if we were still playing,” said Bloom. “That shouldn’t be a surprise. But, substantively, his offseason should be pretty normal.”

From there, depending on what Bloom and Co. do between now and February, Benintendi should be in line to be a prime bounce-back candidate in 2021, especially with the potential he still brings to the table.

Red Sox’ Kevin Pillar Pulling for Former Teammate Mike Yastrzemski To Win National League MVP With Giants

For much of the 2019 season, Kevin Pillar and Mike Yastrzemski shared the same outfield for the Giants.

Together, the pair shared the team lead for home runs with 21 apiece while Yastrzemski led San Francisco in slugging percentage (.518) and Pillar finished second right behind him in that category (.448).

In short, the two outfielders put together really solid seasons at the plate last year and they were able to forge a friendship out of it.

Just recently, Pillar reached out to Yastrzemski, who turned 30 on Sunday, to not only wish him a happy birthday via text, but to support the Andover native’s MVP case as well.

In case you have not been paying too much attention to the National League West this year, Yastrzemski entered Wednesday with a robust .293/.410/.612 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 23 RBI through the first 31 games of what is his first full big-league season.

With those numbers in mind combined with the fact that the 2020 campaign has already reached its halfway point, Yastrzemski looks like a legitimate NL MVP candidate, and as previously mentioned, Pillar let his former teammate know that the other day.

“I’ve talked to him as recently as two days ago. It was his birthday, I wished him a happy birthday,” Pillar said Wednesday in regards to his conversation with Yastrzemski. “We talked a little bit back and forth and I told him to go win the MVP and he answered very simply with ‘I’m going for it.’ And that’s the mindset he has and he believes in himself. He knows he’s a really good baseball player and he’s going out there showing the world everyday that he has the confidence and swagger to back it up. He truly believes he can be an MVP this season and I wish him nothing the best.”

In their brief time as teammates, Pillar may have seen a little bit of himself in Yastrzemski considering both were late-round draft picks out of college and both were traded away by their original organizations right around the same time last spring.

“He’s a perfect example of a guy that persevered through so much in the minor-leagues and maybe a lack of respect from some organizations or from numbers,” Pillar continued. “Whatever the reason was he wasn’t getting an opportunity in the big-leagues, he finally got it. It’s a perfect example of someone given an opportunity and running with it.”

Because he only made his major-league debut with San Francisco last year, Yastrzemski will not reach free agency until after the 2015 season, at which point the Vanderbilt product would already be 35 years old. That being said, Pillar is hopeful Yastrzemski can get paid soon.

“Hopefully, the Giants see what everyone else is seeing and hopefully, I know he’s a little bit older and younger in service time, hopefully he gets the opportunity to go out there and make some money for his family because he definitely deserves it. He’s shown he’s one of the best players in baseball right now and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

The grandson of Red Sox legend and Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Yaz homered at Fenway Park in his first trip to Boston as a major-leaguer last September.