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.

Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Released by Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher and top prospect Blake Swihart has been released by the Rangers, the club announced Tuesday.

Swihart, 28, originally signed a minor-league pact with Texas back in December after spending the first eight-plus years of his professional career with Boston.

Last April, the Red Sox designated Swihart, a former 2011 first-round draft pick, and dealt him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for outfield prospect Marcus Wilson.

The New Mexico native appeared in 30 games for Arizona from April 22 until May 31, going a measly 9-for-64 at the plate (.141) with three home runs and nine RBI before getting placed on the injured list with an oblique strain.

From there, Swihart was eventually activated from the IL on August 7, got into one game on August 11 against the Dodgers where he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts off the bench, and was subsequently DFA’d a day later.

After clearing waivers and getting outrighted, the one-time University of Texas commit played 16 games and posted a .143/.234/.304 slash line for the DBacks’ Triple-A affiliate in Reno from the middle of August until the beginning of September. At that point, Swihart opted to become a free agent, leading to his joining the Rangers on a minor-league contract, as previously mentioned.

In his brief stint with Texas, Swihart had a decent spring training, going 5-for-16 at the plate with one home run and four RBI prior to the COVID-19-induced shutdown.

Assigned to the Rangers’ alternate training site last month, Swihart had been one of four non-roster backstops in Texas’ 60-man player pool.

Now a free agent for the second time in 11 months, Swihart will have the opportunity to sign wherever he so chooses depending on how much interest he garners on the open market.

Red Sox Take Prep Infielder Nick Yorke With 17th Pick in 2020 MLB Draft

In a surprising turn of events, the Red Sox have selected prep infielder Nick Yorke with their top pick in the 2020 MLB first-year player draft at No. 17 overall.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 139 draft-eligible prospect in this year’s class, Yorke is committed to play college baseball at the University of Arizona.

An 18-year-old out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif., Yorke is listed at 6’0″ and 200 lbs. His Baseball America scouting report from May goes as follows:

Yorke dealt with a shoulder injury prior to his junior year and is still recovering from that, which leads some scouts to believe he’ll be a better fit as an offensive second baseman. Still, other scouts have said his arm has looked good, with a better arm stroke recently and above-average arm strength.

Per his MaxPreps page, Yorke, who hits from the right side of the plate, slashed .457/.552/.709 with 11 home runs, 35 doubles, and 77 RBI over 94 games played spanning four seasons at Mitty High.

Regarded by one Red Sox evaluator as a potentially “special offensive player,” the club does expect to sign Yorke, according to the same evaluator.

Earlier Wednesday, it was thrown out there that the Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and amateur scouting director Paul Toboni, could target an underslot prospect with the club’s top pick in order to allocate more money later in the draft. That being the case because Boston was stripped of their second-round pick in April as part of their punishment for stealing signs in 2018.

The assigned slot value for the 17th overall pick in this year’s draft is approximately $3,609,700, and the Red Sox have  $5,129,900 to work with in total pool space.

The first draft pick of the Chaim Bloom Era, Yorke represents Boston’s lone Day 1 pick. When the draft picks up again on Thursday evening, the Sox will be on the clock with the 89th, 118th, and 148th overall selections.

While Yorke weighs between going pro or honoring his commitment to the Arizona Wildcats, the Red Sox will have until August 1st to sign him.

UPDATE: According to Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, “the Red Sox apparently have an underslot deal done with [Yorke] that will save them ‘quite a bit of money’ according to one source.”

In other words, that would allow them to spend more on their Day 2 picks.

Red Sox’ Dustin Pedroia Suffers ‘Significant Setback’ With Left Knee

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has reportedly suffered a ‘signigficant setback’ with his left knee, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

This news comes at a disappointing time, as it appeared that Pedroia was aiming to be ready for the start of the 2020 season as recently as this past November, when he was set to meet with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran at his home in Arizona while the two were in town for the yearly GM meetings.

Fast forward a little more than three months later, and it seems as if the 36-year-old is now facing a life-altering decision based off Abraham’s reporting above. Usually, when family, agents, and the team are involved, I would have to assume retirement is a potential option here.

It sucks. It really does. What happened in Baltimore on April 21st, 2017 forever altered the course of what looked to be a Hall of Fame career for Pedroia. Since the end of that 2017 season, the California native has played in just nine total games while undergoing three different procedures on his left knee.

Pedroia still has two years and approximately $25 million remaining on the eight-year, $110 million extension he signed with Boston back in July 2013, a deal that was worth well below his market value at the time.

For now, we’ll have to monitor if either of Pedroia or the Red Sox make a statement regarding this matter. While we wait and see on that, I just want to make one thing clear: Dustin Pedroia should do what is best for Dustin Pedroia. Whether that be to step away or keep trying to play, he has earned the right to make the decision he feels is best for him and his family. I wish him nothing but the best going forward.

 

Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Signs Minor-League Deal With Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart has signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, per the club’s executive vice president of communications John Blake. The contract also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Swihart opened the 2019 season with Boston, where he was the team’s second catcher behind Christian Vazquez up until April 16th.

At that point in time, the Sox sported a record of 6-11 and owned the third-worst team ERA in the American League at 5.93.

Offensively speaking, Swihart was not lighting the world on fire, as he was slashing .231/.310/.385 with one home run and four RBI through his first 12 games.

Given the struggles all the way around, as well as the fact that Sandy Leon was stashed away in Triple-A Pawtucket, Dave Dombrowski and Co. made the decision to go with Leon over Swihart from that point forward, ultimately designating the latter for assignment on the 16th and trading him to the Arizona Diamondbacks three days later.

Out of that deal, Boston also parted ways with international amateur signing bonus pool space, but they also gained outfield prospect Marcus Wilson, who has worked his way up to become the 18th-ranked prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Arizona, meanwhile, did not get much production out of Swihart following the completed trade, as the 27-year-old went on to slash .136/.186/.273 with three home runs and nine RBI over just 31 games due to two right oblique strain-related stints on the injured list.

Eventually designated again by old friend Mike Hazen on August 12th and spending the rest of the year at the Triple-A level, Swihart opted for free agency in late September.

It is not known if the Red Sox had any interest in a potential reunion with Swihart. Given how Vazquez is currently the only backstop on Boston’s 40-man roster, bringing back Swihart might not have been the worst idea.

Once committed to the University of Texas at Austin, Swihart will have the chance to compete for a role with a resurgent Rangers club come the spring. If he makes the team’s Opening Day roster, he’ll also have the chance to play in the same division as his longtime friend and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, both of whom grew up in New Mexico.

This news comes a day after Swihart and his wife Shelby announced that they are expecting their first child together, so congratulations to them on that.

Red Sox ‘Actively’ Trying to Trade Jackie Bradley Jr., per Report

The Red Sox are actively trying to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

Abraham also notes that before last week, the Sox were engaged with the Mets regarding a potential deal before New York opted to trade for Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick instead.

Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2020, Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is projected to earn $11 million next season.

That price may be too high for a Chaim Bloom-led Red Sox team looking to trim down payroll to under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, especially when you consider that the majority of Bradley Jr.’s value comes from what he does with his glove compared to his bat.

The Virginia native slashed .225/.317/.421 to go along with 21 home runs and 62 RBI over 147 games played in 2019. He also finished just short of notching his second straight Gold Glove Award for American League center fielders this past season, finishing as the runner up behind Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier.

This is certainly not the first time Bradley Jr. has been on the trade block, and with teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks being linked to him, the former first-round pick out of the University of South Carolina’s days with the Sox may be numbered.

All of this information has come from a busy first full day of the Baseball Winter Meetings out in San Diego, so there is definitely going to be more to come in the next few days as well.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Taijuan Walker

Following the fallout of the non-tender deadline Monday night, one of the many notable players released by his club was right-hander Taijuan Walker being let go by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The 27-year-old was a key piece along with Ketel Marte for Arizona in the trade that sent Zac Curtis, Mitch Haniger, and Jean Segura to the Seattle Mariners back in November 2016.

Old friend Mike Hazen, who at the time was just over a month into his new role as Diamondbacks’ general manager, more than likely thought he was getting a key member of his club’s starting rotation in the then-24-year-old Walker. Instead, injuries ravaged the hurler’s time in the desert, and he is now a free agent.

A former first-round pick of the Mariners back in 2010, Walker made just one start for Arizona in 2019, when he pitched one scoreless inning in the team’s final game of the season, after working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, which he underwent in April 2018.

Coming into this winter, the Louisiana native was projected to earn a little more than $5 million in salary arbitration for 2020, but the Diamondbacks must have felt that was too steep a price to pay given the recent health concerns.

When asked about the reason for non-tendering Walker, Hazen emphasized the starting pitching depth his team already has, as in Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

“I think if (Walker) comes into camp and he ends up in the pen, through competition, I don’t know that that was an outcome for us that was an ideal solution – probably for either side,” Hazen said Monday. “We think he’s a starting pitcher.”

You know which team could use some major league-ready starting pitching for next season? The Red Sox.

With a projected rotation of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi, a fifth spot will be needed. Not to mention that the statuses of Sale, Price, and Eovaldi, both in terms of health and trade rumors, are up in the air at the moment.

In Walker, Boston would get someone who owns a career 3.95 ERA and 4.21 FIP over 97 appearances (94 starts) and 528 1/3 innings pitched. Neither of those first two numbers are particularly elite, but an elite pitcher is not what the Red Sox are looking for.

Sure, there are health concerns, but across baseball, it seems like Walker was viewed as a bounce back candidate for 2020. That is someone that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. should be willing to take a risk on.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks Extend Contract of General Manager and Potential Red Sox Target Mike Hazen

The Arizona Diamondbacks have reportedly reached agreement on a contract extension with general manager Mike Hazen, per the Athletic’s Zach Buchanan. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hazen, 43, was viewed as a viable to candidate to take over for Dave Dombrowski as the head of baseball operations for the Red Sox.

The Abington, Ma. native spent 11 years in the Sox’ organization, serving under Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, and Dombrowski in various scouting and executive roles before accepting the job of executive vice president and GM of the DBacks back in October of 2016.

In Hazen’s tenure with Arizona, the Diamondbacks secured the top National League Wild Card spot with a 93-69 record before being swept and eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS in 2017, missed the postseason altogether with an 82-80 record in 2018, and are currently four full games off the pace for the second NL Wild Card spot with a 75-72 record to this point in 2019.

When speaking with reporters on Friday, Hazen noted that extension talks between him and the DBacks began before the Red Sox and Dombrowski parted ways, so it would not appear as though the club reached out to their former executive beforehand.

With Hazen off the list of potential names to head Boston’s baseball operations department moving forward, it will be worth monitoring who else the Sox may be interested in.

For me personally, getting Theo Epstein back would be incredible, but that seems to be more of a pipe dream at this point.

Eddie Romero, one of the three assistant GMs tasked with leading the Sox’ baseball operations department in Dombrowski’s place, seems to be the leading option internally.

 

 

 

Red Sox Sign Former Royals and Diamondbacks Utility Man Chris Owings to Minor-League Deal

Per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, the Red Sox signed veteran utility man Chris Owings to a minor-league contract Monday.

Owings, 27, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Kansas City Royals last December and slashed .133/.193/.222 with two home runs and nine RBI over 40 games played before being designated for assignment and eventually released on June 4th.

Initially selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft, Owings spent six big league seasons in the desert, posting a .250/.291/.378 slash line to go along with 31 homers and 196 runs driven in.

A native of South Carolina, Owings is capable of playing all around the field with experience at second base, shortstop, third base, and all three outfield positions.

Despite the poor numbers he has amassed with Kansas City this year, Owings can still provide the Red Sox with solid minor league depth at Triple-A Pawtucket once he gets there from Fort Myers.

#RedSox Acquire Minor League Outfielder Marcus Wilson from Arizona Diamondbacks in Exchange for Blake Swihart

Three days after designating him for assignment, the Red Sox have traded catcher/utility man Blake Swihart as well as international amateur signing bonus pool space to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league outfielder Marcus Wilson. Both clubs made the deal official Friday.

Swihart, 27, had been with the Red Sox organization since he was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft.

With Arizona, Swihart will now join a team with some familiar faces in Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo, who were both with the Red Sox last.

Entering the 2019 season as Boston’s second catcher behind Christian Vazquez, the New Mexico native slashed .231/.310/.385 with one home run and four RBI over 29 plate appearances before being DFA’d this past week.

Since he could really never latch on to an everyday role while with the Red Sox, it would be nice to see if Swihart could become a more established player in the desert, where he’ll be closer to home.

On the other side of this deal, Marcus Wilson was a second round selection (69th overall pick) of the Dbacks out of Juniperra Serra High School in Gardena, Ca. back in 2014.

Listed at 6’3″ and 175 lbs. and ranked as Arizona’s 20th best prospect on MLB.com, the 22-year-outfielder slashed .235/.350/.529 to go along with two home runs and seven runs driven in 12 games this season with the Southern League’s Jackson Generals, the Double-A affiliate of the Diamondbacks.

Now assigned to the Portland Sea Dogs, Wilson will join a crowded outfield consisting of names like Keith Curcio, Tate Matheny, Joseph Monge, Aneury Tavarez, and Luke Tendler up in Maine.