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.

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 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’ Xander Bogaerts Reflects on Emotional Final Day of 2020 Regular Season

The Red Sox wrapped up their 2020 regular season with a 9-1 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon to finish the year with a record of 24-36.

Before Sunday’s series finale against Atlanta had even started, though, the club announced that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager in 2021, which was the catalyst for an emotional day all around among Red Sox players and staff alike.

For one, Xander Bogaerts, who by all accounts is one of this team’s emotional leaders, did not find out about the news of Roenicke’s dismissal until he arrived at Truist Park.

“It was tough. Coming to the ballpark, no one really expected that, but that’s the way stuff goes in life sometimes,” Bogaerts said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He was a huge influence for me personally, in my life and also my baseball career. And I know for sure he’s meant a lot to the other guys… I feel like he was just the perfect guy for the situation with this tough year. It was tough coming to the ballpark, especially losing a lot, and he just found a good way to communicate with us and try to make you feel good and important.

“He’s definitely someone that we will miss,” Bogaerts continued. “It was a tough year, and I remember before the game I was like ‘If I hit a homer today, I’m going to go up to him and give him a big hug before I go into the dugout, before I go to all the other guys.'”

Bogaerts did crush his 11th homer of the season in the top half of the fifth Sunday to put his side up 3-1, but he incidentally forget to give Roenicke that hug as he made his way back towards the Boston dugout after touching home plate.

“Everything just happened so quick and I kind of just forgot,” the 27-year-old recounted. “But I told myself that I would try to hit one for him and try to win this game for him. Obviously, it’s been a tough year, and it was some rough news for sure.”

On top of playing his final game with Roenicke as his manager, Bogaerts may have also played his final game with Jackie Bradley Jr. as his teammate.

Bradley Jr., who went 3-for-6 with a solo shot out of the leadoff spot and dazzled in the outfield on Sunday, is set to become a free agent for the first time in his big-league career this winter. A reunion between the 30-year-old Gold Glover and the Sox does not seem imminent at this point in time.

“He’s been through a lot here,” Bogaerts said of his teammate for parts of the last seven seasons. “We all know how good he is with the glove, we don’t need to speak about that anymore because he is obviously one of the best in the game to do that.”

While providing his typical, superb defensive prowess, which as mentioned was on full display Sunday, Bradley Jr. also enjoyed great success at the plate in 2020, as he finished the 60-game campaign boasting a .283/.364/.540 slash line, much to the delight of his teammates.

“For [Bradley Jr.] to be consistent with the bat this year, I think that was really nice,” said Bogaerts. “I know that’s something he’ll be very proud of going back and looking at the season that he had. He finished on a real strong note and I hope that he can stay here. I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family, because he’s also one of those guys who is a truly great person. He’s a good baseball player, but he’s an even better person and those guys deserve a lot. As I said, he’s been through some rough stretches here, but in the end I think with the season that he had, it was a nice season for him.”

Here’s to hoping that Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. will once again share the same field together in 2021.

Ron Roenicke Will Not Return To Manage Red Sox in 2021, Club Announces

Ron Roenicke will not return to the manage the Red Sox in 2021, the club announced Sunday.

Roenicke, 64, was named Boston’s manager back in February in place of Alex Cora and will have led the club to either a 23-37 or 24-36 record in 2020 depending on how Sunday’s season finale against the Braves goes.

In his lone season as the Sox’ 48th manager in franchise history, Roenicke was put in a number of difficult spots regarding both on and off-the-field issues he really had no control of, such as Mookie Betts and David Price getting traded to the Dodgers, Chris Sale missing the year due to Tommy John surgery, Eduardo Rodriguez missing the year due to myocarditis, and of course, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, in a statement released by the Red Sox, had the following to say about Roenicke:

“Throughout this difficult season, Ron’s consistency and professionalism kept the environment in our clubhouse productive and gave all of our players room to grow and develop,” said Bloom. “While we believe that, moving forward, we will benefit from new leadership and new energy, that does not diminish how strongly we feel about Ron. He is a man of the highest character who cares about our players and the Red Sox organization. As bench coach, he helped this team win a world championship. As manager, he showed poise and leadership in navigating an extremely challenging year. We are grateful for all of his contributions in our uniform.”

With the dismissal of Roenicke, Bloom and Co. will begin the search for a new manager immediately. As you have likely already heard, expect Cora, who led the Sox to a World Series title in 2018, to be the most popular name linked to the opening before an official announcement is made.

Red Sox Rookie Bobby Dalbec Has Call of Duty To Thank for Tight Relationship With J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez is leaning towards not opting out of his current contract and remaining with the Red Sox for the 2021 season. The 33-year-old slugger made that much clear when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday.

While alluding to the notion that he will remain with the Sox next year, Martinez also had some kind words for a teammate who could emerge as a legitimate major-league slugger himself. That teammate’s name? Bobby Dalbec.

“He’s definitely got some tools,” Martinez said of the 25-year-old rookie. “He’s a really good kid, always asking questions, very humble, very quiet. He’s got a lot of power. I could see him being an impact [bat] in this lineup for the future, definitely sticking around.”

After making his big-league debut at the end of August, Dalbec came into Saturday with a .274/.361/.603 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 14 RBI through 21 games and 83 plate appearances thus far.

In those 83 plate appearances, the University of Arizona product has struck out 43.4% of the time, which according to FanGraphs is the highest rate among American League rookies who have accrued at least 80 trips to the plate. Getting that strikeout rate down is something Dalbec will need to improve upon as he prepares for his first full major-league season, and Martinez knows that.

“He’s going to have to make adjustments,” Martinez added. “I know he is, just because that’s the league. Once this league makes adjustments on you, that’s the biggest test, if the hitter can make the adjustment back. That’s when you find out, to me personally, if guys can stick around in the big leagues or not.”

Despite punching out at a rather high clip, Dalbec still manages to get on base frequently, as his walk rate (10.8%) and on-base percentage (.361) ranks fifth among AL rookies with 80 or more PAs this season.

“Talent-wise, I don’t see any reason why [Dalbec] can’t be an impact bat,” said Martinez. “You see what he’s been able to do in a short period of time.”

In his brief stint with Boston since his promotion on August 30, Dalbec has made sure to absorb as much useful information from veterans like Martinez, which is something he started doing while at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019.

“We always talk,” Martinez said in regards to his relationship with Dalbec. “We got close because we used to play Call of Duty together. We used to play Zombies on Call of Duty all the time… and he’d always ask me questions while we played video games. Once he came up here, or even when he was in Triple-A, he would text me about stuff he was struggling with, certain pitchers, certain pitch types, he would talk to me. Up here, it’s been kind of the same thing. He comes to me about pitchers all the time and what I think about certain moves, what I think about certain ideas.”

If Martinez does indeed remain with the Red Sox going into the 2021 campaign, how he interacts with and/or mentors Dalbec certainly could be something to keep an eye on as soon as spring training begins in February.

Myocarditis Shuts Down Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez for Remainder of 2020 Season

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will not pitch this season, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Saturday.

The announcement comes as Rodriguez has been dealing with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, while recovering from COVID-19, which the 27-year-old tested positive for while at home in Miami early last month.

Although mild, the myocarditis Rodriguez is dealing with is still present, resulting in him being shut down for the remainder of 2020. As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the prognosis hasn’t changed but the timetable has.”

Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters Saturday, stating that, “While we remain very optimistic he will make a full recovery, due to the fact that it is persistent, and the amount of care we need to take with this, he’s not going to be able to come back and pitch this year.”

Again, the Sox fully expect Rodriguez to recover from this seeing how the myocarditis has not damaged the Venezuela native’s heart “and is not expected to impact him over the long-term,” That being said, “The recovery should be complete. It’s just a question of time.”

Heading into the season, Rodriguez was slated to be Boston’s No. 1 starter with Chris Sale going down for the year due to Tommy John surgery and David Price getting dealt to the Dodgers.

Even when the idea of Rodriguez starting on Opening Day against the Orioles last month was thrown out the window due to his bout with COVID-19, it still appeared likely that the southpaw would be a welcome addition to the Sox’ rotation sometime later in the season.

Now, the Red Sox will have to endure as they have for the first week of the 2020 campaign. That being without their best left-handed starter.

“It certainly makes the mountain a little bit higher,” Bloom said in regards to being without Rodriguez for the remainder of the season. He also mentioned the fact that the Sox are ‘monitoring the market and also working with pitchers in Pawtucket.’

While the Red Sox scour the market for more pitching, here’s to wishing Eduardo Rodriguez the best and hoping he undergoes a full recovery so that he is all systems go in 2021.

Red Sox Release Schedule for 2021 Season

Less than three full days after releasing its 2020 schedule, Major League Baseball released 2021 schedules for all 30 major-league clubs on Thursday.

For the Red Sox, if all goes according to plan, they will open the season up against the Orioles for the second straight year at Fenway Park on April 1st, the first of three games over a four-day stretch. In other words, Opening Day next year is set for April 1st, and according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, all teams will begin their 2021 season on the same day for the first time since 1968.

Boston’s first road trip of the year will feature match-ups against the Orioles and Twins, while the club’s first interleague bout will take place later in April against the Mets in Queens.

Speaking of the Mets, the Red Sox’ interleague opponents will be the teams that comprise the National League East for the second consecutive year.

They play the Mets in New York in late April, the Phillies in Philadelphia and the Braves and Marlins at Fenway in late May, the Braves in Atlanta in June, the Phillies at Fenway right before the All-Star break in July, and the Nationals in the nation’s capital to close out the campaign in early October.

Other notable schedule highlights include:

A Patriots’ Day matchup against the White Sox on April 19th to close out a four-game set at home.

A four-game series against the Rangers at brand-new Globe Life Field in Arlington in late April/early May.

10 straight games against the Astros and Yankees beginning on May 31st (Memorial Day) and ending the evening of June 10th.

Yankees’ first trip to Fenway Park comes in late June.

An Independence Day match-up against the Athletics in Oakland, part of a six-game west coast road trip against the A’s and Angels.

18 straight games without a day off against divisional opponents coming out of the All-Star break and going into August.

Last two home series of the season come against New York teams, followed by a six-game Beltway road trip with stops in Baltimore and D.C. to close out the season, as previously mentioned.

All in all, the Sox will be aiming to play 162 games in 186 days beginning next April. Of course, there’s still a 2020 season to worry about first. You can read about that schedule here.