Red Sox sign outfielder Christin Stewart to minor-league deal for 2022 season, per report

The Red Sox have signed outfielder Christin Stewart to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Stewart, who turns 28 on December 10, was originally selected by the Tigers in the first round of the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Tennessee. He made his big-league debut in September 2018 and spent parts of three major-league seasons with Detroit (2018-2020) before becoming a free agent earlier this month.

Across 157 games with the Tigers, Stewart slashed .225/.300/.376 with 29 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 59 RBIs, 45 runs scored, 49 walks, and 146 strikeouts over 587 cumulative plate appearances.

Leading up to the 2021 season, Stewart was designated for assignment by Detroit in early April and was subsequently outrighted to the club’s alternate training site/Triple-A affiliate shortly thereafter.

With Triple-A Toledo this year, the left-handed hitter batted .254/.339/.538 (127 wRC+) to go along with 13 doubles, five triples, 21 homers, 58 RBIs, 51 runs scored, two stolen bases, 33 walks, and 100 strikeouts over 89 games spanning 343 trips to the plate.

A native of Atlanta, Stewart has only played left field at the major-league level, but he did see a significant amount of his playing time with Toledo come in right field this year.

Listed at 6-foot and 220 pounds, Stewart is represented by the Boras Corporation. He has three minor-league options remaining and could remain under club control through the end of the 2025 campaign.

By inking Stewart to a minor-league pact for the 2022 season, the Red Sox have continued to add to their upper-minors outfield depth at Triple-A Worcester after signing fellow outfielder Rob Refsnyder on Tuesday as well.

(Picture of Christin Stewart: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign outfielder Rob Refsnyder to minor-league deal for 2022 season, per report

The Red Sox have signed free-agent outfielder Rob Refsnyder to a minor-league contract for the 2022 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Refsnyder, 30, spent the 2021 season with the Twins after signing a minor-league pact with Minnesota last November. In 51 games, he slashed .245/.325/.338 with seven doubles, two home runs, 12 RBIs, 21 runs scored, one stolen base, 17 walks, and 40 strikeouts over 157 trips to the plate while making appearances at all three outfield positions.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Refsnyder was originally selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2012 amateur draft out of the University of Arizona. The right-handed hitter was regarded as one of the top prospects in New York’s farm system before making his big-league debut against the Red Sox in July 2015.

Since that time, Refsnyder has bounced around a bit, as he was traded by the Yankees to the Blue Jays in July 2017 and was claimed off waivers by the Guardians that November.

The Rays purchased Refsnyder’s contract from Cleveland ahead of Opening Day in 2018, so it’s safe to assume there is some there is at least some history between him and Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

After appearing in 40 games in Tampa Bay throughout the 2018 campaign, Refsnyder inked a minor-league pact with the Diamondbacks that November before being dealt to the Reds the following spring.

While Refsnyder did not appear in a game for Cincinnati in 2019, he did make his way back to the majors with the Rangers during the compressed 2020 season.

All in all, Refsnyder has appeared in 232 total big-league contests between the Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Rangers, and Twins dating back to 2015. And he has done so while seeing playing time at every defensive position besides catcher and shortstop.

Listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds, Refsnyder — who turns 31 in March — is represented by PSI Sports Management. He is out of minor-league options, but is technically under club control through 2024.

In adding Refsnyder via a minor-league contract, the Red Sox add a somewhat versatile player who will mainly provide outfield depth while also having a chance to make an impact at Triple-A Worcester next year.

Per Cotillo, Refsnyder is the fourth known minor-league signing Boston has made since the start of the off-season. Right-handers Caleb Simpson, Zack Kelly and Michael Gettys all re-signed with the club earlier this fall.

(Picture of Rob Refsnyder: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox reliever Zack Kelly joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox minor-league reliever Zack Kelly.

Kelly, 26, spent the 2021 season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester. The right-hander posted a 2.18 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 69:18 over 36 relief appearances (45 1/3 innings pitched) across both levels. He re-signed with Boston on another minor-league contract for 2022 in October and has received an invite to major-league spring training.

Among the topics Zack and I discussed in this week’s episode are how he initially drew interest from the Red Sox last year, the differences between pitching at Double-A and Triple-A, the congruency within the Red Sox organization, how he made made his way as an undrafted free agent who signed with the Athletics out of a Division II school for $500, undergoing and recovering from elbow surgery, getting cut loose by the Angels during the pandemic, getting interviewed by the New York Times, his upcoming Rule 5 candidacy, his expectations for the 2022 season, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thank you to Zack for taking some time out of his offseason schedule to have a conversation with yours truly. You can follow Zack on Twitter (@Zack_Kelly) by clicking here and on Instagram (@Zack_Kelly19) by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Zack Kelly: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Red Sox officially sign Michael Wacha to one-year deal; veteran right-hander will earn $7 million in 2022

The Red Sox have officially signed free agent right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year contract for the 2022 season, the club announced earlier Saturday morning.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported on Friday that the two sides were finalizing a contract that was pending a physical, which Wacha has since passed.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the one-year deal is worth $7 million in value and does not include any options or incentives. The $7 million Wacha will earn in 2022 represents a significant raise from the $3 million he received with the Mets in 2020 and Rays in 2021.

This past season with Tampa Bay, the 30-year-old posted an unspectacular 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

While Wacha may have struggled at times this year, he did put up a respectable 3.91 xFIP and career-best chase rate of 32.6%, which ranked in the 92nd percentile among major-league pitchers according to Baseball Savant.

From August 28 through the end of the regular season, Wacha appeared in seven games and made a total of six starts for the Rays. In that stretch, he pitched to the tune of a 2.88 ERA and 3.29 FIP while limiting opponents to a .167/.217/.300 slash line against and striking out 27.9% of the batters he faced.

For most of the 2021 campaign, Wacha had relied on his cutter as one of his most frequently-used pitches. But it got hit hard, so he ditched it later on the year in favor of throwing more four-seam fastballs (his primary pitch) and changeups as well as slightly more curveballs and sinkers.

Via Baseball Savant

A former first-round draft selection of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha spent the first seven years of his big-league career in St. Louis. The 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty was named MVP of the National League Championship Series in 2013 and earned his first and only All-Star selection to date in 2015.

After making more than 150 starts in a Cardinals uniform, Wacha inked a one-year pact with the Mets and spent the compressed 2020 season in Queens before joining the Rays on another one-year deal.

With the Red Sox, Wacha, who turns 31 next July, is now on his third team in three seasons. As of now, the veteran hurler is slated to join a starting rotation in Boston that includes the likes of Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Sale, and Nick Pivetta with Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock in the mix as well.

That being said, Speier reports that when the offseason began, the Red Sox “intended to add starting pitching depth, and will continue to explore ways of doing so by both trade and free agency.”

Wacha does, however, have experience working out of the bullpen, and so the Sox could elect to have him undertake a multi-inning reliever role if they feel that is where he would best be used to start things out in 2022.

On another note, Wacha — who is represented by CAA Sports — will wear the No. 52 with the Red Sox.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Red Sox sign right-hander Michael Wacha to one-year deal

UPDATE: It’s a straight one-year, $7 million deal with no incentives, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The deal is also now official.

The Red Sox are in the process of finalizing a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Michael Wacha, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal is still pending a physical.

Wacha, 30, spent the 2021 season with the Rays, posting a 5.05 ERA and 4.47 FIP to go along with 121 strikeouts to 31 walks over 29 appearances (23 starts) spanning 124 2/3 innings of work.

Boston was known to be in the market for starting pitching help after Eduardo Rodriguez left to sign a five-year deal with the Tigers earlier this month. And Wacha, as Passan points out, is expected to provide the Sox with experienced rotation depth.

While his ERA this year was north of five, Wacha did put up a much more respectable 3.91 xFIP and 4.00 SIERA during his time with Tampa Bay, and he did so while producing a career-best chase rate of 32.6%.

A former first-round pick of the Cardinals out of Texas A&M University in 2012, Wacha established himself as one of the better starters in the National League in his tenure with St. Louis, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors in 2013 and an All-Star nod in 2015.

Since leaving the Cardinals at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign, the 6-foot-6, 215 pound righty will now be joining his third team in three years after spending 2020 with the Mets and 2021 with the Rays.

Per Baseball Savant, Wacha operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, curveball, and sinker. His changeup may just be his best pitch, as opponents only batted .207 off it this season.

A client of CAA Sports, Wacha does not turn 31 until next July and figures to compete for a spot in Boston’s starting rotation by the time the Red Sox report to spring training in February.

That said, Wacha does have some experience as a reliever as well, so it would not be a surprise if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. view the veteran hurler as someone who could start and pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen when needed.

(Picture of Michael Wacha: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Are Red Sox open to reunion with Rich Hill?

The Red Sox appear open to a reunion with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

In a recent conversation with Speier, Hill “suggested that he’s been in touch with members of the Red Sox this offseason, just as he was as a free agent last offseason.”

While noting that these conversations have mainly been social exchanges, Hill did hint that the Sox do seem interested in his services.

“There is an interest, without a doubt,” Hill said. “There’s a need on the other end. [But] the need for starting pitching is very apparent throughout the league — not just in Boston. It’s also many other clubs that need it.”

Hill, 41, became a free agent earlier this month after splitting the 2021 season with the Rays and Mets. He posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP with 150 strikeouts and 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) and 158 2/3 innings pitched between both clubs.

As noted by Speier, this marked Hill’s healthiest season since he was a member of the Cubs in 2007, which had been the last time he eclipsed the 150-inning plateau prior to this year.

A native of Milton, Mass., Hill has spent parts of four big-league seasons with the Red Sox, with his most-recent stint with the team coming in 2015. To date, he has signed with Boston as a free agent on six separate occasions (June 2010, December 2010, December 2011, February 2014, March 2014, August 2015).

By Opening Day next spring, Hill will have turned 42 years old. Still, the veteran lefty expects to pitch in the majors in 2022 and wants to do so for a contender.

But Hill, who still lives in Milton, also expressed interest in living closer to home, making it seem as though the Red Sox would be at the top of his destination wish list for that very reason.

“The Red Sox do things right,” said Hill. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

Along those same lines, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting rotation help this winter after Eduardo Rodriguez left in free agency to ink a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers.

Hill, who is preparing to embark upon his 18th major-league season, would not command the sort of pay day other free agent starters — such as Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, or Kevin Gausman — are seeking.

Last winter, the Sox were in talks to bring Hill back for the 2021 campaign, though those conversations dissipated once chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. brought in Martin Perez and Garrett Richards by early February.

Shortly thereafter, the University of Michigan product signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays, thus closing the door on any shot of a reunion with his hometown team.

This time around, however, a reunion could take place if the Red Sox believe Hill can contribute as a starter in 2022 and Hill, in turn, feels like the Red Sox give him the best chance to win a World Series ring.

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Red Sox among several teams interested in free agent right-hander Marcus Stroman, per report

The Red Sox are one of several teams interested in free agent right-hander Marcus Stroman, according to MLB Trade Rumors’ Tim Dierkes.

Per Dierkes, the Sox join the Angels, Cubs, Giants, and Mets as clubs who have expressed interest in Stroman. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi adds that the Mariners are viewed as a potential suitor as well.

Stroman, 30, is one of the top arms remaining on an open market that has seen several intriguing starters — such as Justin Verlander, Anthony DeSclafani, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Steven Matz — come off the board in recent weeks.

After getting traded from the Blue Jays to the Mets in July 2019 and opting out of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stroman enjoyed a great deal of success in his first full campaign in his home state of New York in 2021.

In 33 starts for the Mets, the Duke University product posted a 3.02 ERA and 3.49 FIP to go along with 158 strikeouts to 44 walks over 179 innings of work.

Among qualified starters this year, Stroman ranked ninth in ERA, 17th in FIP, 13th in xFIP (3.57), and 23rd in fWAR (3.4), per FanGraphs. His pitch arsenal consists of a sinker, slider, splitter, cutter, four-seam fastball and curveball and he is known for his ability to induce ground balls.

At the conclusion of the 2020 season, Stroman was extended a one-year qualifying offer by the Mets and he accepted it, thus prolonging his free agency to this offseason.

Since he was already extended a qualifying offer once, Stroman does not have any sort of draft pick compensation attached to him this winter, meaning any interested club could sign the righty without having to forfeit a draft selection.

Combine this with the kind of year he is coming off of, and it’s easy to see why someone such as Stroman is an appealing target to teams in need of starting pitching like the Red Sox are.

After watching Rodriguez leave to sign a five-year deal with the Tigers and Matz choose to sign a four-year pact with the Cardinals within the last two weeks, Boston remains locked in on upgrading its starting rotation going into 2022.

“We don’t have anything teed up that I would say is close but we’re very active in conversations with a few different guys,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said on Monday. “We’ve touched base with a wide variety of players. Just about everybody who is on the market and it’s gotten more serious and more involved with some of them.

“I don’t know right now if that’s going to lead to anything or when,” he added. “I think by the time the offseason is over, we will have added pitching of various sorts, including starting pitching. I think that’s something that’s a clear goal of ours. But who that’s going to be or when, I don’t know yet.”

Stroman, who turns 31 next May, would likely not come cheap. MLB Trade Rumors projects that the 5-foot-7, 180 pound hurler will land a five-year, $110 million contract in free agency.

Also of note here is that Stroman does have some history with Red Sox manager Alex Cora. Going back to the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Cora — Team Puerto Rico’s general manager — attempted to recruit Stroman (whose mother is of Puerto Rican descent) to join his team. Stroman instead chose to play for Team USA and was later named the tournament’s most valuable player.

(Picture of Marcus Stroman: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford tosses 3 strong innings in final Dominican Winter League start

Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford’s contract with Estrellas Orientales of the Dominican Winter League has expired, the club announced Wednesday morning.

Crawford, 25, made five starts for Estrellas, with his final outing coming against Tigres del Licey at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo on Tuesday night.

Over three innings of work, the right-hander yielded just one unearned run on three hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts on the night. He retired nine of the 15 batters he faced, worked around a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second, and finished with a final pitch count of 65 — 37 of which went for strikes.

Estrellas topped Tigres by a final score of 3-2 to improve to 13-8 on the season.

In his five Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana starts, Crawford wound up posting a 0.42 ERA and 1.08 WHIP while recording 23 strikeouts and eight walks across 21 1/3 innings pitched.

As for why Crawford’s contract expired when the LIDOM regular season runs through December, SoxProspects.com’s executive editor Chris Hatfield suggests that the righty hit an innings limit set by the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The Red Sox added Crawford — as well as three other players — to their 40-man roster last Friday in order to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019 and missing all of 2020 as a result, Crawford opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland and earned a promotion to Triple-A Worcester in late July.

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak in early September, the Red Sox selected Crawford’s contract from Worcester so that he could start in place of Nick Pivetta against the Guardians at Fenway Park on Sept. 5.

While he got shelled for five runs over two innings in his major-league debut, the Red Sox were still encouraged with what they saw from Crawford, who displayed a five-pitch mix that consisted of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

Because he was added to Boston’s big-league roster for COVID-19-related purposes, the Sox were able to remove Crawford from the 40-man without exposing him to waivers, thus allowing him to close out the year in Worcester.

Now that he is back in the fold, Crawford, who turns 26 in April, figures to make his return to the majors at some point in 2022. Whether the former 2017 16th-round draft pick out of Florida Gulf Coast University makes his impact felt as a starter or reliever has yet to be determined.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Estrellas Orientales/Twitter)

Red Sox ‘made competitive offer’ to Steven Matz before lefty reached agreement with Cardinals, per report

The Red Sox have lost out on Steven Matz, as the free agent left-hander has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with the Cardinals that includes an additional $4 million in potential incentives, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

While Boston may have come up short in the bidding war for Matz, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that the Sox were “involved in the sweepstakes for the lefty until the bitter end” and “made a competitive offer” before he ultimately chose the Cardinals.

After a down 2020 season with the Mets, Matz was dealt to the Blue Jays in January and flourished in his first year with Toronto. In 29 starts for the Jays, the 30-year-old southpaw posted a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP to go along with 144 strikeouts to 43 walks over 150 2/3 innings pitched in 2021.

Because of the strong season he had, as well as the fact that he was not extended a qualifying offer, Matz drew plenty of interest on the open market. Per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, Giants, Mets, and Tigers — in addition to the Cardinals and Red Sox — all made offers to Matz.

With Matz ultimately landing in St. Louis, though, Boston will have to look elsewhere when it comes to filling the void in their starting rotation left behind by Eduardo Rodriguez, who signed a five-year, $77 million deal with Detroit last week.

When speaking with reporters (including Cotillo) earlier this week, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom discussed just how involved the club has been in free agency as notable starters such as Max Scherzer, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Gausman, and Robbie Ray remain unsigned.

“We don’t have anything teed up that I would say is close but we’re very active in conversations with a few different guys,” Bloom said. “We’ve touched base with a wide variety of players. Just about everybody who is on the market and it’s gotten more serious and more involved with some of them.

“I don’t know right now if that’s going to lead to anything or when,” he added. “I think by the time the offseason is over, we will have added pitching of various sorts, including starting pitching. I think that’s something that’s a clear goal of ours. But who that’s going to be or when, I don’t know yet.”

It is also worth mentioning that the Sox may be more aggressive when it comes to pursuing free agents or potential trade targets in the coming days since the collective bargaining agreement expires next Wednesday and will likely trigger a work stoppage.

(Picture of Steven Matz: Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Rafael Devers named to All-MLB Second Team

Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers was named to the 2021 All-MLB Second Team on Tuesday night, as revealed on MLB Network.

Devers was originally one of six Red Sox players selected as a finalist for the third annual All-MLB team earlier this month, joining teammates Xander Bogaerts, Kyle Schwarber, Enrique Hernandez, J.D. Martinez, and Garrett Whitlock.

While the other five were unable to land on one of the two All-MLB squads, Devers was recognized as the second team’s starting third baseman after Braves third baseman Austin Riley received first-team honors.

For Devers, this marks the first time in which he has been selected to an All-MLB team since the concept was introduced in 2019 to “give a more comprehensive honor that covered the full breadth of a big league season, complementing the All-Star Game selections that are awarded just past the season’s halfway point.” Voting was conducted by both fans and a panel of experts.

Being named to the 2021 All-MLB Second Team is not all Devers has accomplished this off-season, as he also took home his first career Silver Slugger Award and finished 11th in American League Most Valuable Player voting.

A first-time All-Star in 2021, the 25-year-old slashed .279/.352/.538 to go along with 37 doubles, one triple, a career-high 38 home runs, 113 RBIs, 101 runs scored, five stolen bases, 62 walks, and 143 strikeouts over 156 games spanning 664 plate appearances.

Among qualified big-league third basemen this year, the left-handed hitting Devers ranked first in home runs, first in RBIs, second in runs scored, second in isolated power (.259), second in batting average, seventh in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, second in wOBA (.373), third in wRC+ (134), and second in fWAR (4.7), per FanGraphs.

Heading into the winter, Devers is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility and is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $11.1 million in 2022, which is a significant raise from the $4.575 he made this season.

With Devers under club control for the next two years, it is worth mentioning that his fellow infield partner in Bogaerts can opt out of the final three years of his contract at the conclusion of the 2022 campaign.

Taking those two situations into consideration, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was asked on Monday about where things stand in regards to extension talks with Bogaerts and Devers.

“As always with any type of contract talks with players in-house, we wouldn’t comment unless and until there’s something to announce,” Bloom said. “But you know where we stand on both guys. They are critical, critical parts of our organization. Huge parts of past success here and hopefully parts of future success for a long time.”

(Picture of Rafael Devers: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)