Red Sox one of three teams who have Yasiel Puig ‘on their radar,’ per report

The Red Sox are one of three teams that have free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig “on their radar,” according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Per Feinsand, the Astros and Orioles are the other two clubs interested in signing Puig, “though others could also be in the mix.”

Puig, who turns 30 next month, did not play Major League Baseball at all in 2020. He initially agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves in July, but that pact fell through just three days later on account of his testing positive for COVID-19.

Since that time, the Cuban born outfielder has remained relatively quiet, most recently signing with agent Rachel Luba of Luba Sports earlier this week.

In his most recent big-league action, Puig posted a .267/.327/.458 slash line to go along with 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 149 games played between the Reds and Indians in 2019.

That decent showing made it seem as though Puig would be an enticing free agent for clubs last winter, but that turned out to not be the case.

Now, after a challenging 2020 in which he could not play Major League Baseball at all, Puig is ready to get after it once more.

“2021, Puig will be ready,” he said Tuesday via Twitter. “I am willing to put in the work and I am going after the total win!”

This is far from the first time the Sox have been linked to Puig. Back in early July, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that Boston had been mentioned as a possibility to sign the All-Star before he wound up agreeing to that short-lived deal with Atlanta.

Before that, going back to the 2017 offseason, the Red Sox reportedly turned down a trade proposal from the Dodgers that would have sent Jackie Bradley Jr. to Los Angeles and Puig to Boston.

With Bradley Jr. currently out of the picture on account of him being a free agent, the Sox find themselves in need of outfield help in some capacity.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has hinted that the club’s preference would be to add an outfielder who is capable of playing center, something Puig has not done since 2016.

Still, as Bloom said earlier this month, the Red Sox “can’t be too rigid and miss good opportunities” while exploring the trade and free agency markets.

Would bringing in a motivated Puig on a one-year, major-league deal laden with incentives be one of those “good opportunities” Bloom described? Perhaps.

Why the Red Sox should not be counted out of a potential Carlos Correa trade

Late Monday night, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros have been “floating” All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa in trade talks with other clubs due to the notion that it “is unlikely they will sign him befre he reaches free agency at the end of the season.”

Rosenthal has since updated his story though, and now reports that Houston “is not engaged in any active conversations on Correa.”

Whether someone within the Astros organization reached out to Rosenthal to provide an update or he simply corrected himself has yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain: Correa, as of now, will be a free agent this time next year.

The 26-year-old is coming off a rather underwhelming 2020 campaign in which he slashed .264/.326/.383 with five home runs and 25 RBI over 58 games played.

As uninspiring as those numbers may be, Correa made up for it in October by posting a 1.221 OPS and driving in a team-leading 17 runs en route to Houston coming up one game short of a second consecutive World Series appearance.

Given how well he performed this most recent postseason, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year could entice a great many a club looking to upgrade their infield and make a deep run into the playoffs next year.

The Red Sox, having missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year in 2020, will certainly be one of those teams attempting to bolster their roster in many areas this offseason.

On the surface, dealing for Correa does not make all that much sense for Boston given the fact that Xander Bogaerts is the club’s everyday shortstop and is one of the best in the American League at what he does. The 28-year-old can opt out of his contract after the 2022 season, though.

Even with that in mind, a potential positional logjam has not stopped Chaim Bloom from at least exploring trades for high-caliber players thus far in his brief tenure as Boston’s chief baseball officer.

Just this week, it was reported by The Chicago Tribune that the Sox and Cubs talked about a potential Kris Bryant trade over the summer. Before that, it appeared as though the Red Sox had/have at least some interest in Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who like Correa is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility.

That leads us to this next point: the connection Correa and Lindor share with Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

All three of Cora, Correa, Lindor hail from Puerto Rico and Cora, by all accounts, is very close with both infielders.

In Correa’s case, Cora served as his bench coach in Houston during the Astros’ march to a controversial World Series victory over the Dodgers in 2017. Cora was also Correa and Lindor’s general manager for Team Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Cora’s relationship with players such as Correa and Lindor could provide the Red Sox with the inside track on acquiring their services, as Rosenthal noted last March.

At the end of the day, the chances of the Sox acquiring Correa or Lindor before next July’s trade deadline are likely slim to none, but as was the case before his first tenure as manager ended, Cora can prove to be a selling point for players who are contemplating getting traded to or signing with Boston for years to come.

Also, for what it’s worth, Correa is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $10.2 million in his final season of arbitration eligibility in 2021.

Red Sox make Will Venable hiring official, announce other coaching staff changes for 2021

Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s coaching staff for the upcoming 2021 season is now set.

While pitching coach Dave Bush, hitting coach Tim Hyers, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, first base coach Tom Goodwin, and third base coach Carlos Febles will retain the same roles they held this past season, changes have been made in other areas.

For starters, Will Venable has officially been named Red Sox bench coach after it was reported on Tuesday that he was going to get the job.

The former big-league outfielder had spent the previous three seasons as a first and third base coach with the Cubs, and he was one of several candidates who interviewed for Boston’s managerial opening last month.

That vacancy was ultimately filled by Cora, but the 38-year-old Venable now has the chance to strengthen his resume as a bench coach for the first time in his coaching career.

“Will is a bright, young mind that will add a lot to what is already a strong collection of coaches,” Cora said of Venable in a statement released by the team earlier Friday.

With Venable succeeding Jerry Narron, who succeeded Ron Roenicke, as bench coach, the Red Sox also named Jason Varitek as the club’s new game-planning coordinator.

For the past eight years, Varitek had been working for the Red Sox in a special assistant/catching coach capacity. He, like new quality control coach/interpreter Ramon Vazquez, will now step into more significant roles within the organization moving forward.

“I am also pleased that both Jason and Ramón will step forward and play larger roles for us,” Cora added.

Finally, Kevin Walker, who was named assistant pitching coach under Bush last October, has been named the Sox’ new bullpen coach. That position opened up when Craig Bjornson was let go by the club last month.

With his promotion, it would appear that the Red Sox could be in need of a new assistant pitching coach to take over for Walker unless they otherwise choose not to carry one next year.

That being said, Cora seems pleased with his new-look coaching staff as he prepares to embark on his second stint as Red Sox skipper.

“I am thrilled to have so many great baseball minds on our staff,” he said, “and I look forward to their contributions as we set out to achieve our goals.”

Red Sox expected to name Will Venable as next bench coach, per report

The Red Sox are expected to name Will Venable as their next bench coach, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, “the team has not confirmed the move but it is expected to be finalized in the coming days.”

Venable, who recently turned 38, has spent the last three seasons with the Cubs as both a first and third base coach. He was one of several candidates who interviewed for Boston’s managerial opening last month, but that position was ultimately retained by Alex Cora.

At the time of Cora’s rehiring, it appeared as though the Sox skipper would elevate someone from his coaching staff, such as Carlos Febles or Ramon Vazquez, to bench coach, but that now appears extremely unlikely given Tuesday’s news.

In Venable, the Red Sox do not get a bench coach with prior big-league managerial experience, as was the case with Cora’s first bench coach in Ron Roenicke. They do however get someone who, like Cora and Roenicke, has experience playing in the majors.

That being the case because over the course of a nine-year big-league career, Venable racked up 707 hits while playing for three different teams in the Padres, Rangers, and Dodgers from 2008 until 2016.

A native of California, Venable was taken by San Diego in the seventh round of the 2005 amateur draft after excelling as a two-sport athlete in both basketball and baseball at Princeton University.

Given the fact that he has been considered for other managerial openings in the past, one would have to assume Venable will use this opportunity with the Red Sox to further strengthen his resume moving forward.

On another note, it should be fascinating to see how Cora interacts with and uses Venable now that he has a bench coach younger than he is.

Dustin Pedroia’s Red Sox career could be nearing its conclusion

Dustin Pedroia’s time on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster could be coming to an end relatively soon.

The 37-year-old second baseman was activated from the 60-day injured list along with five others late last month, which brought Boston’s 40-man roster up to 37 players.

Clubs have until this coming Friday, November 20, to protect Rule 5-eiligible minor-leaguers from this year’s Rule 5 Draft, or in other words, add them to their 40-man roster.

As currently constructed, the Sox have three open slots on their 40-man with upwards of 50 prospects in need of Rule-5 protection. Obviously, the math does not check out here, and the majority of those 50-plus minor-leaguers will be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft come December.

There are however a select handful of Red Sox prospects who will need to be protected, as they are regarded as some of the more promising young players in the club’s minor-league pipeline.

Left-hander Jay Groome, right-hander Bryan Mata, infielder Hudson Potts, outfielder Jeisson Rosario, right-hander Connor Seabold, and catcher Connor Wong are the six key prospects in this scenario.

Groome and Mata, both of whom signed with the Red Sox in 2016, are regarded by MLB Pipeline as the top two active pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system.

The other four — Potts, Rosario, Seabold, and Wong — have all been acquired by the Sox via trade(s) within the last 12 months, so it’s highly unlikely the club would want to risk losing any of them.

There could be other, lesser-known minor-leaguers the Sox consider worthy of a 40-man roster spot, as was the case with lefty Kyle Hart last year. But, for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that the Red Sox have six players they would like to add to the 40-man with only three vacancies to work with.

This means that, in some capacity, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will presumably look to reshuffle his team’s 40-man roster between now and Friday.

Players who are currently on the 40-man could either get traded, designated, or outrighted within the next five days, but those same players could also help another team if they wind up in the right situation.

There is plenty of risk involved in this process, but there is one route Bloom and Co. could take that could help mitigate that risk just a little bit. That being, take Pedroia, among others off the 40-man roster.

The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham reported last month that Pedroia and the Red Sox “are prepared to talk soon about a mutual understanding that would end his playing career.”

Though WEEI’s Rob Bradford later added on to that report by stating that “nothing” had yet to have been discussed between the two sides, a mutual agreement of some sorts here certainly makes sense from the Red Sox’ point of view.

Pedroia, a former MVP, has played in just nine total games over the last three seasons on account of issues with his left knee. He’s undergone three knee surgeries since 2017.

As he enters the final year of the eight-year, $110 million contract extension he signed with Boston back in 2013, it appears that the former second-round draft pick will be unable to play in 2021, or again, on account of how inactive he has been recently.

With that in mind, the Sox may look to reach some sort of settlement with Pedroia so that they can get out from some of the $12 million they owe him next year while also freeing up a 40-man roster spot for someone who can consistently contribute.

This is not exactly a fun scenario to consider, as Pedroia has proven to be one of the Red Sox’ undisputed leaders and all-time greats in his 15 or so years with the club, but it may be time to move on and have the four-time Gold Glover transition to a front office or coaching role within the organization, if possible.

Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran addressed this very issue in September, and he emphasized the notion that Pedroia will have a say in what the future holds for him as a Red Sox.

“I don’t think that any one particular roster spot is something I would focus on as a problem and certainly not when it’s Dustin Pedroia,” O’Halloran said. “We’re going to talk to Dustin and he’s obviously going to have the most say in where things go from here. No. 1 is making sure he’s as healthy as he can be for the rest of his life, really. And certainly we want to talk to him and see how he’s feeling and see where he wants to go from here.”

In short, Friday’s Rule 5 deadline will serve as a key indicator for where the Red Sox currently stand with Pedroia and the four-time All-Star’s status moving forward.

Other players are likely to get moved around, too, but Pedroia is without a doubt the most significant figure whose spot on Boston’s 40-man roster could be in jeopardy. We will have to wait and see what Bloom and Co. have in store.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora hoping Xander Bogaerts can become ‘elite defender’ at shortstop

Xander Bogaerts has proven to be one of the best shortstops in all of baseball in recent years, but that’s not stopping Red Sox manager Alex Cora from wanting more out of the 28-year-old moving forward.

Bogaerts just wrapped up a 2020 campaign in which he finished 17th in American League MVP voting thanks to putting up a .300/.364/.502 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 28 RBI over 56 games played.

Impressive offensive production, per usual. However, the Aruban-born infielder put up rather unimpressive defensive numbers, as has been the trend since he made his first career Opening Day roster back in 2014.

Among 20 qualified major-league shortstops this past season, Bogaerts ranked 19th in Defensive Runs Saved (-5), which essentially means he cost the Red Sox five runs, and 13th in Ultimate Zone Rating (0.3).

Going back to 2014, the two-time All-Star has posted negative DRS totals in each of his last seven seasons with Boston, per FanGraphs.

The Red Sox, with Cora back at the helm, would like to see Bogaerts put it all together and become just as adequate with the glove as he is with the bat in his hands.

“Xander, for instance, when you talk about about the shortstops around the league and now you add [Corey] Seager to that equation, he’s up there with them,” Cora said of Bogaerts when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron earlier this week. “Maybe the next step for us is to push Xander to be a better defender — and he’s not a bad defender — but to become an elite defender.”

This isn’t the first time Cora has brought up Bogaerts’ need to improve defensively, either. The Sox skipper said something along these same lines at least year’s winter meetings in San Diego.

Now that he is back, perhaps Cora will get on his shortstop in a similar fashion to the way he got on Rafael Devers in 2019. Of course, Devers has his own defensive kinks to work out, and Cora spoke about that process with Caron, too.

“With Raffy, we know what we have to work with,” he said. Expect both Bogaerts and Devers to be a focal point at the start of spring training in February.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts finish 12th and 17th in American League MVP voting

Red Sox teammates Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts received one vote each in this year’s installment of American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, as announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Thursday night.

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu took home AL MVP honors.

Verdugo, 24, finished in 12th place thanks to one fifth-place vote, while Bogaerts, 28, finished in 17th place thanks to one 10th-place vote. Both votes came courtesy of The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams, who was the only BBWAA member to include a Red Sox player on his ballot.

This marks the first time Verdugo has received an MVP vote in his four-year career. Bogaerts, meanwhile, was coming off a 2019 campaign in which he finished fifth in AL MVP voting, which followed up a 2018 campaign in which he finished 13th.

Offensively speaking, Bogaerts and Verdugo were the Red Sox’ best players throughout the course of the 2020 season. The former led the way by posting a wRC+ of 130 over 56 games, and the latter was right behind him with a 126 wRC+ over 53 contests.

Earlier this week, Sox manager Alex Cora tabbed Verdugo as Boston’s MVP this year, which is commendable when considering it was his first season with the club after coming over from the Dodgers in February.

Speaking of the Dodgers, former Red Sox star outfielder Mookie Betts, who was involved in the same trade as Verdugo last winter, finished second in National League MVP voting behind Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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