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.

Red Sox re-sign Josh Ockimey, 8 others to minor-league contracts

The Red Sox made their first (minor) splash of the offseason on Tuesday, as the club re-signed nine minor-league free agent to minor-league contracts for the 2021 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and SoxProspects’ Chris Hatfield.

Those nine minor-leaguers, as indicated in the above tweet from Hatfield, are right-handers Seth Blair, Raynel Espinal, and Caleb Simpson, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, catchers Jhonny Pereda and Roldani Baldwin, first baseman Josh Ockimey, first baseman/outfielder Joey Meneses, and outfielder Johan Mieses.

Five of these nine players were at one point or another part of the Sox’ 60-man player pool this past season, and therefore spent some time at the alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Ockimey and Baldwin, meanwhile, are the only two listed here who have been with the Red Sox since before the 2019 Rule 5 Draft last December.

Speaking of Ockimey, the recently-turned 25-year-old slugger may just be the most notable name here, at least among Red Sox fans, despite having yet to make his major-league debut.

The former fifth-round draft selection out of Philadelphia has been with Boston since 2014. Most recently, he clubbed 25 home runs and collected 57 RBI over 122 games (468 plate appearances) for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019.

Power has never been the problem for Ockimey, as he has crushed 14 or more homers in each of the last four seasons, excluding 2020, of course. Despite being such a threat at the plate, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing first baseman has yet to get a shot at the next level.

The Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, clearly like Ockimey enough to keep him around as depth at a fairly important position, but do they value him enough to eventually purchase his contract and see what he can do in the majors?

All signs point to no on that front thus far, but it should be somewhat interesting to watch Ockimey next spring considering the light tower power he is capable of providing at any given moment.

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez will not be opting out of final two years of contract

As had been expected, Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez will not opt out of his contract with the Red Sox this offseason, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Martinez, who just completed his third season with Boston, will instead opt in to the remaining two years and $38.75 million remaining on the five-year, $110 million deal he signed with the Red Sox prior to the start of the 2018 campaign.

Of course, the 33-year-old also has the option to test the free agency waters again if he so chooses next winter, otherwise he would earn $19.375 million in the fifth and final year of his current contract.

Like so many across the game, Martinez endured great struggles at the plate this past season, posting a dismal, overly-uncharacteristic .213/.291/.389 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 27 RBI over 54 games.

One reason the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner had such a tough time of things in 2020 was due to a lack of in-game video and video room access that came as a result of the Astros’ and Red Sox’ sign-stealing scandals as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Guys are struggling and trying to work. It’s tough when you don’t know what to work on or what to do so everyone is feeling for stuff and it’s a tough situation,” he said of the video-related restrictions back in August. “We’re only allowed to be here five hours before game time, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for guys to go in the cage and grind it out and figure it out with the hitting coach. It’s tough. I mean it’s a tough hand. We’ve got to find a way to make it work though. I told my guys anytime they know they have anything they know they can come up to me and ask me questions and stuff like that. It’s just different. I don’t have that time to go in and break down guys’ swings and look at guys’ stuff and really dive into it.”

As underwhelming as Martinez may have been this year, the South Florida native, a lifetime .290/.354/.530 hitter, is certainly a prime candidate to bounce back in 2021 as he prepares to embark on his 11th big-league season while inching closer to accruing 10 years of major-league service time.

The latest on the Red Sox’ managerial search

With the White Sox and Tigers both landing their new managers in the forms of Tony La Russa and A.J. Hinch this week, the Red Sox currently stand as the only club in baseball with a vacancy at manager as the month of October comes to a close.

From what has been reported, the Sox have interviewed seven candidates — Will Venable, Don Kelly, Luis Urueta, Skip Schumaker, James Rowson, Mike Bell, Carlos Mendoza — to fill that opening, though former manager Alex Cora has been viewed as the favorite to return to his old post.

As it turns out, Boston has indeed been in contact with Cora since his one-year suspension ended on Tuesday following the conclusion of the World Series, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

On top of that, assistant general manager Eddie Romero told Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia Friday that the Red Sox do plan to speak to Cora about the position, while MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the club will interview the 45-year-old within the “coming days.”

In that same tweet from Heyman, we also learn that Mendoza, currently the Yankees’ bench coach, and Kelly, who serves the same role for the Pirates, have gotten second interviews for the job, which have actually happened in-person.

While Heyman notes that other candidates may have been interviewed a second time as well, it is worth noting that all three of Urueta (Diamondbacks bench coach), Venable (Cubs third base coach), and Bell (Twins bench coach) are now out of the running for Boston’s managerial opening, per Speier and MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

With that in mind, the list of managerial candidates chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have composed to take over for the ousted Ron Roenicke can, at the moment, be narrowed down to Cora, Mendoza, Kelly, Schumaker (Padres associate manager), and Rowson (Marlins bench coach).

Of course, as Cotillo notes, these are just the names that have been leaked out. There still could be other candidates, such as Dodgers first base coach George Lombard and former major-league outfielder-turned-Phillies executive Sam Fuld, who the Sox have in mind and would like to speak to.

That being said, how Boston proceeds with their managerial search could very well make for an exciting weekend depending on how things play out from here. My guess is Cora is named manager by next Friday. We will have to wait and see on that, though.

Red Sox 40-Man Roster Crunch: Jose Peraza, Cesar Puello, and Dylan Covey All Outrighted Wednesday

With the offseason now officially underway following Tuesday’s conclusion of the World Series, the Red Sox are moving full steam ahead in terms of trimming down their 40-man roster.

On Monday, the club announced that five players, including Tzu-Wei Lin and Zack Godley, had been outrighted off the 40-man. On Wednesday, the club announced another three players have been outrighted. Those three players? Right-handed pitcher Dylan Covey, outfielder Cesar Puello, and infielder Jose Peraza.

Covey has been outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, or Worcester, while Puello and Peraza have elected free agency.

All three players outrighted Wednesday had joined the Red Sox in some capacity within the past 12 months, with Peraza signing on as a major-league free agent last December, Puello signing on as a minor-league free agent in February, and Covey coming over in a trade with the Rays in July.

Between the three of them, Peraza saw the most time at the major-league level in 2020, though the 26-year-old’s season essentially came to a premature close when he was optioned to the alternate training site on September 9. That demotion came after he had slashed a dismal .225/.275/.342 with one home run and eight RBI through his first 34 games with Boston.

Puello, meanwhile, had his contract selected by the Sox on September 19 and was subsequently added to the 40-man roster. In just five games with his new club, the former Marlins outfielder went 3-for-8 at the plate while seeing time at both corner outfield positions.

As for the only pitcher involved in this set of moves, Covey actually had somewhat of an interesting season with the Sox.

On the surface, the 29-year-old’s ERA of 7.07 and OPS against of .799 over eight appearances and 14 innings pitched does not exactly jump out at you, but upon closer inspection, Covey posted a 3.91 FIP and 3.84 xFIP. That would suggest that the California native ran into some tough luck over the course of his inaugural season in Boston.

With that being said, the Red Sox could very well be glad they were able to retain Covey’s services going into next year depending on what their outlook on him consists of.

Following Wednesday’s transactions, as well as Jackie Bradley Jr. expectedly becoming a free agent, the Sox’ 40-man roster currently stands at 31 players. That number could drop down to 30 in the next few days if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. decide not to pick up left-hander’s Martin Perez’s $6.5 million team option for 2021. We will have to wait and see on that.

Tzu-Wei Lin, Zack Godley Among Five Players Outrighted From Red Sox’ 40-Man Roster

The Red Sox are full steam ahead in terms of trimming down their 40-man roster. After losing righty Domingo Tapia on waivers over the weekend, the club announced Monday that five players have been outrighted.

Both utilityman Tzu-Wei Lin and right-hander Robinson Leyer were outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, or Worcester, while right-handers Zack Godley and Andrew Triggs, and left-hander Mike Kickham were outrighted and elected free agency.

Among these five players who have now been dropped from Boston’s 40-man roster, Lin was the longest tenured Red Sox.

The 26-year-old originally signed as an international free agent out of Taiwan in 2012 and made his major-league debut with the Sox five years later.

Lin got his big-league career off to a hot start thanks to a solid rookie campaign in 2017, but he has since cooled down considerably. Most recently, he collected just eight hits in 57 plate appearances (.154) this past season while only playing in 26 of a possible 60 games.

Because he was outrighted to Triple-A, it is safe to assume that Lin went unclaimed on waivers, which is understandable seeing how he is out of minor-league options. That being said, the Red Sox should find themselves fortunate to retain Lin’s services, as he could provide quality depth at multiple positions and be an interesting name to monitor come the spring.

As for the pitchers involved here, all four made their Red Sox debuts in 2020, while Leyer also made his major-league debut on August 31. Both he and Kickham had been with the Sox since 2019, though Kickham signed a minor-league pact with the club in December.

Godley and Triggs, meanwhile, were in-season acquisitions, as the former inked a minor-league deal with the Sox in July and the latter was claimed off waivers from the Giants in August.

The two veteran hurlers combined to allow 30 earned runs over 12 outings (nine starts) and 36 2/3 innings pitched with Boston this year. That’s good for an ERA of 7.36.

With these moves made, the Red Sox currently have 35 players on their 40-man roster. More roster shuffling will have to be done by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. in order to protect the likes of prospects Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, Hudson Potts, Jeisson Rosario, Connor Seabold, and Connor Wong from the Rule 5 Draft in December.

Additionally, as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. electing free agency the day after the World Series ends will free up another roster spot, though Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, Colten Brewer, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Kyle Hart — who are all on the 60-man injured list — will have to be returned to the Sox’ 40-man roster within the next seven days.

Red Sox Managerial Search: Yankees Bench Coach Carlos Mendoza Interviewed for Opening, per Report

The Red Sox have reportedly interviewed Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza for their managerial opening, according to The New York Post’s George A. King III.

Per King, Mendoza has talked with the Tigers in regards to their vacancy at manager as well.

Mendoza, who turns 41 next month, has spent the last 12 seasons with the Yankees, most recently serving as manager Aaron Boone’s bench coach for the first time this year.

Prior to being named bench coach, the native of Venezuela worked two seasons as New York’s first-ever quality control and infield coach in 2018 and 2019. He also has experience as a coach and manager in the minor-leagues, as well as stints as manager for the Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions in 2012 and 2016.

A veteran of 13 minor-league and independent seasons as a professional, the former utility infielder is now the seventh confirmed managerial candidate the Sox have interviewed in recent weeks. The other six include Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta, Padres associate manager Skip Schumaker, Twins bench coach Mike Bell, and Marlins bench coach James Rowson.

Of course, as soon as this year’s World Series comes to a close, which will happen on either Tuesday or Wednesday, former Sox skipper Alex Cora will have finished serving his one-year suspension for the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

Cora, who was at the helm in Boston for two years, is thought to be the favorite to return to his old post in place of the ousted Ron Roenicke, but given the qualities of the other candidates listed above, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. could be looking to go in a new direction in terms of on-field team leadership. We will have to wait and see on that.

Red Sox Managerial Search: Padres Associate Manager Skip Schumaker, Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell, and Marlins Bench Coach James Rowson Have All Interviewed for Opening, per Report

The Red Sox have reportedly interviewed three more candidates for their managerial opening. Those three candidates? Padres associate manager Skip Schumaker, Twins bench coach Mike Bell, and Marlins bench coach James Rowson, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee and The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Per Acee, Schumaker has already ‘interviewed for multiple managerial vacancies’ thus far, with the Red Sox being the latest.

The former big-league outfielder, who turns 41 in February, has spent the last five seasons with the Padres organization in both a front office and coaching capacity. His past roles with San Diego include assistant to baseball operations and player development under A.J. Preller, third base coach under Andy Green, and associate manager under Jayce Tingler.

Before embarking on his coaching career, Schumaker enjoyed an 11-year major-league career in which he racked up 905 hits in 1,149 games between the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Reds.

Bell, meanwhile, served as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s bench coach this past season in Minnesota. Prior to that, the soon-to-be 46-year-old had spent the previous 13 years with the Diamondbacks organization as a minor-league manager, minor-league field coordinator, director of player development, and vice president of player development.

Given all the time he spent in Arizona, Bell likely formed some sort of relationship with current Diamondbacks and former Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen, who was hired away from Boston back in October 2016.

A native of Cincinnati who was a former first-round draft pick of the Rangers in 1993, Bell comes from quite the baseball family. His grandfather, Gus, was a four-time All-Star over the course of a 15-year major-league career. His father, Buddy, was a five-time All-Star as a player who also managed the Tigers, Rockies, and Royals for a total of nine seasons between 1998 and 2007. And his brother, David, is the current manager of the Reds.

Finally, we arrive at Rowson, who also has one of year of major-league coaching under his belt, which he accrued under Don Mattingly in Miami this year.

Prior to joining Mattingly’s coaching staff, the 44-year-old out of Mount Vernon, NY spent three seasons as hitting coach in Minnesota. In 2019, Rowson, under Baldelli, oversaw a Twins offense that clubbed a major-league record 307 home runs while leading the league in RBI (906) en route to an American League Central crown.

Rowson’s coaching career also includes stints as Yankees’ minor-league hitting coordinator and Cubs’ minor-league hitting coordinator and major-league hitting coach.

In addition to Rowson, Bell, and Schumaker, the Red Sox have also interviewed Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, and Diamondbacks Luis Urueata for their vacancy at manager.

That means at least six candidates have been interviewed, and assuming no one is hired between now and the end of the World Series, former Sox skipper Alex Cora could very well be the seventh, eighth, or ninth individual interviewed for the position. Whoever else Boston interviews is obviously up to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and whoever he may consult in seeking out additional candidates.

Red Sox Managerial Search: Chaim Bloom Can’t Poach Anyone From Rays, Like Bench Coach Matt Quatraro, Until 2021

As the Red Sox continue to interview candidates for their vacant managerial post, one potential candidate who appeared to have a strong case for the job will actually not be able to interview for it at all. That particular candidate would be none other than Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro.

Per the Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who came over from the Rays last October, is prohibited from hiring anyone, front office and uniformed personnel alike, from his previous organization for a period of two years.

Quatraro, who turns 47 next month, has been coaching professionally in some capacity since 2004. His past experience includes stints as minor-league catching instructor, minor-league hitting coach, minor-league manager, minor-league hitting coordinator, major-league assistant hitting coach with the Indians under old friend Terry Francona, and major-league third base coach with the Rays.

Since returning to the Tampa Bay coaching staff in 2017, Quatraro was elevated from third base coach to bench coach in October 2018 under current Rays skipper Kevin Cash. The Albany native’s responsibilities also include working with outfielders on positioning, per the Rays’ media guide.

Before it was revealed that Bloom could not poach any staffer from the Rays for his first two years as Boston’s chief baseball officer, someone like Quatraro seemed like a logical fit to potentially become the Sox’ next manager given where he would come from.

Now that we know the Red Sox cannot lure away any active Rays coach or front office member until 2021, Quatraro can be crossed off the list of names thought to have a chance at becoming the 48th manager in Boston’s franchise history.

Among the names the Red Sox have reportedly interviewed to this point, we have Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, and Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta.

Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora is thought to be the favorite to retain his old position, but he is not allowed to speak with the club about the opening until the conclusion of the World Series on account of the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

Red Sox Interview Diamondbacks Bench Coach Luis Urueta for Managerial Opening for Second Time This Year

For the second time this year, the Red Sox have interviewed Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta for their managerial opening, according to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas.

Per Rojas, Urueta’s interview with Boston was conducted by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom last week. Obviously, the results of the interview are not known yet.

Urueta, who turns 40 in January, was also interviewed for the Sox’ managerial opening this past January after the club dismissed Alex Cora in the wake of the details of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal coming out.

Bloom and Co. ultimately decided to roll with an internal candidate in Ron Roenicke to immediately replace Cora in 2020, but the 64-year-old will not be returning to the club in 2021, thus leaving a vacancy for a highly sought out position.

In terms of coaching experience, Urueta, a native of Colombia, has spent the past four seasons with the Diamondbacks in some capacity at the minor and major-league level, most recently serving as old friend Torey Lovullo’s bench coach this season. He has also managed Leones de Monteria of the Colombian Winter League and Team Colombia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Along with Urueta, the Red Sox have also interviewed Cubs third base coach Will Venable and Pirates bench coach Don Kelly for their vacancy at manager.

Cora, the former Sox skipper, is thought to be the favorite to return to his old post, but he cannot speak to the Red Sox or any other club until the conclusion of the World Series on account of the one-year suspension he received in April.