Red Sox in ‘serious trade talks’ with other teams regarding Andrew Benintendi, per report

The Red Sox have reportedly been engaged in serious trade talks regarding outfielder Andrew Benintendi, per The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Per Bowden, the Sox are in serious talks with multiple teams and are looking for a prospect-centered return focused on young pitchers and outfielders. It is worth noting that nothing is imminent as of this moment.

Benintendi, 26, is coming off his worst season in the majors in 2020.

Over just 14 games played, the former first-round pick posted an abysmal .103/.314/.128 slash line to go along with just one extra-base hit and one RBI.

That lone extra-base hit, a double, came against the Rays on August 11, the same night Benintendi suffered a right rib cage strain on the base paths, which would place him on the injured list and wind up costing him the rest of the year.

Benintendi’s struggles in 2020 added on to an underwhelming 2019 campaign in which he yielded a wRC+ of 100 (league average), adding on to the notion that the Cincinnati native has been trending in the wrong direction recently.

Even with that concerning trend in mind, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom spoke quite highly of Benintendi during his end-of-the season presser back in September.

“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s performance in 2020. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.

“This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations,” added Bloom. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”

Benintendi’s manager for the time being, Alex Cora, also appeared confident that the young outfielder could return to form in 2021 when speaking with reporters last month.

“The Andrew that we saw in October 2018, that’s the Andrew we want,” Cora said. “The swings-and-misses — we talked about it in ’19, we saw it in ’20 — we need to find a balance between driving the ball and not swinging and missing. I’ll take Andrew Benintendi, the complete player. I don’t want Andrew to hit 35-40 home runs. I want him to get on base, be fast in the base paths, steal bases, play better defense — the way he played in October [2018] — and if we get that guy back, we’re in a good position.”

Seeing how Benintendi has not lived up to his promising potential over the past few seasons, it would seem like if the Red Sox were to trade the former top prospect now, they would be selling relatively low on him.

There is still plenty of optimism that Benintendi can bounce back in 2021, which would lead to the belief that 2020 was a fluke.

With that in mind, “the Sox wouldn’t want to sell [Benintendi] at a low-value point. Given his potential upside and the likely modest return [he] would bring, the risk of dealing him likely exceeds the payoff,” as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier noted back in November.

Benintendi, who does not turn 27 until July, is under team control for two more seasons. He is set to earn $6.6 million in 2021, which will mark his sixth season in the major-leagues.

UPDATE: WEEI’s Rob Bradford adds that “at least one interested team is more interested in what happened [for Benintendi] in ’19 rather than small sample ’20.”

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Right-hander Aldo Ramirez ‘most underrated’ prospect in Red Sox farm system, according to MLB front offices

In his most recent work for The Athletic, former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden writes that he reached out to all 30 major-league front offices “to  uncover the most underrated and undervalued prospects” in baseball for 2021.

By doing this, Bowden identified 30 under-the-radar prospects across the minor-leagues.

Who from the Red Sox’ minor-league pipeline made this exclusive list? None other than rising right-hander Aldo Ramirez.

“Ramirez performed well in the New York/Penn League in 2019 as an 18-year-old, as shown by his 63 strikeouts and 16 walks in 61.2 innings,” writes Bowden. “However, he was noticeably stronger this year in instructional league, with his fastball up to 96 mph with riding life. He’s a physical, athletic pitcher with a repeatable delivery and a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball, curveball and changeup. He profiles as a future mid-rotation-type starter.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 10 prospect (No. 5 among pitchers), Ramirez was one of the stars of the club’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

The 19-year-old hurler, originally signed out of the Mexican League for $550,000 in 2018, “was the consensus top pitcher at Red Sox Fall Instructs,” according to SoxProspects‘ director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“Ramirez sat 92-95 mph [with his fastball], with a potential plus changeup at 85-89 mph and average curveball at 77-81 mph,” Cundall wrote of the young righty last month. “His changeup is a potential weapon and could develop into a plus-to-better pitch given he already shows advanced feel for it and has a lot of confidence in it.”

Bowden gave the following scouting grades (20-80 scale) for each of Ramirez’s three pitches as well as his control and command:

Fastball: 60
Curveball: 55
Changeup: 50
Control: 50
Command: 45

After missing out on a minor-league season to further continue his development in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ramirez — who is listed at 6-foot, 180 lbs. — is projected to begin the 2021 campaign with Low-A Salem as a member of their starting rotation.

A starting role is one the fiery right-hander could maintain for the foreseeable future, too.

“[Ramirez] has a very good chance to remain a starter and has already shown solid strike-throwing ability,” Cundall added. “[He] was on the younger side of the arms in camp but is remarkably polished for his age and gives the Red Sox someone to dream on as a back-end starter with a chance for more given his youth and constantly improving stuff.” 

(Photo of Aldo Ramirez: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Longtime Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signs minor-league deal with Mariners

Lost in the madness that saw Francisco Lindor get traded to the Mets and Tomoyuki Sugano return to Japan, former Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signed a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.

Witte, who turned 31 on Monday, was originally selected by Boston in the 24th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University.

Before the 2020 minor-league season was lost due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the infielder had put together a solid 2019 campaign between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Over 118 total games with both clubs, Witte posted a .271/.333/.390 slash line to go along with nine home runs and 51 RBI on the year while seeing time at first base, second base, third base, left field, and even an inning of mop-up duty on the mound.

Perhaps even more important than his play on the field, though, is the fact that the Dallas-area native had proven to be a vital veteran presence for some of the organization’s younger minor-leaguers. And he did so while seemingly being on the cusp of getting called up to the majors.

The Athletic’s Chad Jennings highlighted this trait of Witte’s in a fascinating story back in March, in the middle of the first version of spring training.

“He’s a freaking really good player,” Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec said of Witte, his spring training roommate, when speaking to Jennings. “And he’s a glue guy for a clubhouse. So, those guys are special … He’s a really good balance of care-free, but still getting his shit done when he needs to get his shit done. Never says a mean thing.”

In addition to Dalbec, Sox minor-leaguers such as Josh Ockimey, C.J. Chatham, and Chad De La Guerra, all of whom have shared the infield with Witte at one point in their professional careers, had positive things to say about their teammate as well.

Ockimey: “(Coaches) always talk about how to be a professional. But it’s different when you have a guy like him to show you how to be a professional.”

Chatham: “He’s the guy you go to when you’re not sure if something is right or wrong. There’s little things in baseball that can annoy people that (you don’t know) when you’re young. You just ask him, and he always has the right answer.”

De La Guerra: “I think he’s probably the biggest clubhouse guy, the most important one, for Pawtucket. He’s super popular. I think everybody sees him the same way. He’s just one of those guys. He’s probably even seen the same as the coaching staff. There’s no difference.”

Before becoming a minor-league free agent in November, Witte was one of the last members of the Red Sox’ 2013 draft class who was still with the organization, as noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Witte originally signed with Boston for significantly less than $100,000 as a fifth-year senior out of TCU. He appeared in 661 games across six minor-league levels spanning seven seasons as a member of the Red Sox.

All the best to Witte as he embarks on this new chapter of his career with the Mariners. It would appear that he will have the opportunity to remain in the game even after his playing days come to an end.

(Photo of Jantzen Witte: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Introducing Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast

Blogging the Red Sox is proud to introduce its first podcast, Podding the Red Sox.

The podcast opened with a short, trailer-like episode on Thursday night in which I, Brendan Campbell, gave a brief overview of how I expect the show to go.

For now, the plan is to record either once a week or once every other week, with each new episode dropping on a Friday if possible.

As of this moment, I have yet to line up any special guests for the podcast, but I am optimistic that will come into fruition within the coming weeks.

With that, Podding the Red Sox is currently available on iTunes, Spotify, and several other platforms as well.

Make sure to check out the trailer and to check back in for the next episode soon. Thanks for listening!

Red Sox ‘uninterested’ in exploring four-year deals for free-agent pitchers this winter, prefer ‘shorter-term deals of up to to two or three years in length’

Before coveted Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano returned to the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization on Thursday, it appeared as though the Red Sox had at least some interest in signing the 31-year-old hurler before his posting period ended.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the Sox had some interest in Sugano – who possesses excellent command of a four-pitch mix anchored by a low-90s fastball along with a slider and splitter – but his asking price exceeded the team’s level of interest.”

This is mainly the case because Sugano was reportedly seeking out a contract of four years or more from interested clubs, which apparently goes against Boston’s philosophy when it comes to signing free-agent pitchers this offseason.

In other words, the Red Sox “have been uninterested in exploring deals of that length for pitchers” and “have been focused on shorter-term deals of up to two or three years in length this winter,” per Speier.

Free-agent righty Jake Odorizzi would seemingly fit that mold after The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that the 30-year-old “expects to land a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range” at some point this winter.

Aside from Odorizzi, who is familiar with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from their time together in Tampa Bay, Speier notes that while top free-agent pitcher Trevor Bauer likely won’t garner interest from the Red Sox on account of his hefty price tag, the club is still very much in need of starting pitching help following a dismal 2020 campaign from its shorthanded rotation.

With that in mind, Boston may look into signing other veterans still on the market such as Corey Kluber or Rich Hill, both of whom reside in Massachusetts during the offseason.

Kluber, a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, is expected to hold a workout — one in which the Red Sox will attend — for interested teams in Florida on January 13.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Jaxx Groshans evaluates some of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox farm system

He’s caught them. He’s hit against them. When it comes to some of the more intriguing pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization, there aren’t many better people to ask about them than catching prospect Jaxx Groshans.

When speaking with BloggingtheRedSox.com earlier this week, the 22-year-old backstop shared his thoughts on the likes of Jay Groome, Noah Song, and Ryan Zeferjahn, all of whom are regarded by SoxProspects.com as top-15 pitching prospects within Boston’s farm system.

Here are those thoughts put into writing.

LHP Jay Groome (SoxProspects’ No. 7 pitching prospect)

“I’ve faced off against Groomy multiple times and I got to catch him when I was in Lowell and at fall instructs both years (2019 and 2020). His stuff has grown a long way, man. He’s got big-league caliber shit, and I think that’s going to carry him for a while.”

RHP Noah Song (SoxProspects’ No. 6 pitching prospect)

“I caught Noah in his debut in Aberdeen… As far as Songy is concerned, that’s some of the best pure stuff I think I’ve ever seen. I applaud him for going back and serving [in the Navy] like he was supposed to, but that’s a damn shame because that kid probably could have been in the big-leagues this coming year. He probably could have made an appearance in the league out of the ‘pen last year to be honest with you, because his stuff is that good.”

RHP Ryan Zeferjahn (SoxProspects’ No. 11 pitching prospect)

“Zef’s a good dude, man. He’s got some electric stuff, too. I’m very, very excited to see how his career pans out because I think he can be a successful big-leaguer for a long time, especially if he figures out control of all his pitches and finetunes them. We’ll just have to wait and see from here. Like I said, he’s got a lot of special stuff and he’s very blessed with the arm he has.”

Groshans and Zeferjahn both played college baseball together at the University of Kansas. They were both selected by the Red Sox within hours of each other during Day 2 of the 2019 MLB first-year player draft.

“Before we got drafted, we were in Bricktown (Oklahoma City) playing Kansas State in the Big-12 tournament,” Groshans recalled. “Me and Zef were sitting on the bench, and Zef was like ‘Man, how cool would it be if the both of us got drafted by the same team? It would be sick because I’d get to throw to you and we’d be teammates again.’

“And I was like ‘Yeah, dude. That would be sick. That would be awesome,'” continued Groshans. “Then I saw Zef got picked by the Sox in the third [round], and I was like ‘Damn, okay. What’s going to happen? How’s this going to go?’ Then my agent texted me and he was like ‘Red Sox.’ So, I kind of kept it in for a second and as soon as my name got called, Zef was one of the first people to text me. He was like ‘Let’s freaking go! That’s awesome, man!’ I was like ‘Yeah, meet me in Florida and let’s have some fun.'”

BONUS: Former University of Oklahoma outfielder and Oakland Athletics first-round draft pick Kyler Murray, who is currently the starting quarterback for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals

“I know Kyler. I grew up around the same area — before I moved to Houston — that he was from. So I was from Plano, he was from Allen (Texas). I met him off and on the field, too. He’s a freak athlete, man.

“I saw something the other day where they were putting out on SportsCenter: Who of these NFL athletes would be successful in the minor-leagues if they played?’ It’s Kyler 100% hands down,” Groshans said. “He’s said it before. I don’t believe his time in baseball is done yet. I think if at any point he decides to come back, he could definitely do it. 100%.”

(Picture of Jaxx Groshans: Kelly O’Connor/ sittingstill.smugmug.com)

After missing out on Tommy Kahnle, could Red Sox pursue former Blue Jays closer Ken Giles in free agency?

Before signing a two-year deal with the Dodgers late last month, right-handed reliever Tommy Kahnle nearly agreed to a contract with the Red Sox. So much so that “the Red Sox were considered the runner-up” for the 31-year-old’s services, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Kahnle, who officially signed a two-year, $4.75 million pact with Los Angeles on December 29, will likely miss the entirety of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. So, the Dodgers will essentially be paying the veteran hurler to rehab his elbow in his first year with the club in hopes that he will be a quality contributor out of the their bullpen in 2022.

That being said, the Red Sox presumably had this same plan in mind in their pursuit of Kahnle as well. And as noted by Cotillo, their pursuit of the righty “suggests that the club is looking at a wide variety of options to improve its pitching depth, including arms that won’t help in 2021.”

One of those arms available that won’t be immediately ready to help in 2021 would be former Phillies, Astros, and Blue Jays closer Ken Giles.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Giles “figures to sign the type of two-year deal that teams frequently award pitchers recovering from an elbow reconstruction.” And he “might appeal to clubs that plan to be more competitive and/or financially flexible in ’22, as well as those that might lose their closer to free agency.” 

The 30-year-old right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery on September 30 after making just four appearances out of the Toronto bullpen in 2020.

The year before, his first full season with the Jays, Giles put together a solid 2019 campaign, posting a 1.87 ERA and .574 OPS against over 53 appearances and 53 innings of work while converting 23 of a possible 24 save opportunities.

Right elbow inflammation did cost Giles a decent chunk of time in July, which ultimately prevented the Blue Jays from trading the former seventh-round pick ahead of the 2019 trade deadline.

Around that same time, the Red Sox were reportedly one of several teams in the mix for potentially acquiring Giles.

Nothing may have happened then, and Boston’s baseball operations department may be under new leadership now, but there certainly is a potential match to be made here.

For starters, fellow righty Matt Barnes, who at the moment is slated to be the Sox’ closer this coming season, is set to become a free agent for the first time next winter.

Though Barnes has publicly stated that he is interested in signing an extension with Boston, bringing in Giles on a two-year deal could prove to be an effective contingency plan for 2022.

On top of that, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said in an interview with WEEI last week that “there’s a lot of players” on his list of potential offseason additions.

“Part of that is a function of where we are, where there’s a lot of ways we can improve. Part of that is how we’re looking to improve,” explained Bloom. “In the short-term, we have touched base with so many different players who we think could help us and fit us. Pitching, obviously, but also on the position player side. I think there’s different ways we can improve and different players we can bring in to help us. We also don’t want to take our eye off of the ball that, at the end of the day, we’re not just looking to put a little plaster in here and patch some holes. We’re looking to take this organization back to where we can compete for championships consistently year in and year out. That means we have to be open to different moves, different acquisitions that might not be just about 2021. I think we have enough talent here that we should be able to compete and win along the way there. But there are some things we’ve explored and some things we’ve kicked around that might be able to impact us even more in future years than they might be in 2021.”

Bringing in Giles would appear to fit the description of a move “that might not just be about 2021” for the Red Sox since, as mentioned before, he will miss all of this year while recovering and rehabbing from Tommy John.

Again, this is just a mere suggestion. I am not implying that the Red Sox will sign or even have any serious interest in signing Giles at some point this winter. We will have to wait and see what happens on that front.

Also, for what it’s worth, the Padres have reportedly traded speedy outfielder Greg Allen to the Yankees, so he will remain on another club’s 40-man roster for the time being.

(Photo of Ken Giles: Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Potential Red Sox target Jake Odorizzi seeking anywhere from $36 million to $42 million in free agency, per report

On Tuesday, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that the Red Sox have ‘serious interest’ in signing free-agent right-hander Jake Odorizzi.

On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported in his latest notes column that the 30-year-old’s price range has come into focus now that interest may be heating up.

“One club in contact with free-agent right-hander Jake Odorizzi says the pitcher expects to land a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range,” Rosenthal wrote. “Such a deal might not be out of reach: Starting pitchers are faring well on the open market, and the Blue Jays offered fellow righty Kevin Gausman three years in the $40 million range before he accepted the Giants’ one-year $18.6 million qualifying offer.”

Odorizzi, a veteran of nine major-league seasons between the Royals, Rays, and most recently the Twins, is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he was limited to just four starts and 13 2/3 innings of work due to multiple stints on the injured list.

The former first-round draft pick was once acquired by Tampa Bay from Kansas City at a time when Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom played an integral role within the Rays’ front office in 2012, so there certainly is a connection there.

In addition to said connection, Odorizzi does not come with a qualifying offer attached to him, as was the case with Gausman before he returned to the Giants like Rosenthal pointed out.

This is the case because the one-time All-Star has already had the qualifying offer extended to him by the Twins last offseason, and players can only be offered a qualifying offer just once in their careers.

Having said that, it was somewhat surprising to read that Odorizzi is in pursuit of a multi-year deal considering how little he pitched in 2020. Then again, this winter’s class of free-agent starting pitchers is rather weak outside of Trevor Bauer and Tomoyuki Sugano.

While it’s not exactly known if the Red Sox are interested in acquiring the services of Bauer, they are definitely interested in the 31-year-old Sugano, who has until Thursday — the final day of his posting period — to sign with a major-league club.

(Photo of Jake Odorizzi: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Latest 2021 mock draft has Red Sox taking Eastlake High School shortstop Marcelo Mayer with top pick

Come this July, the Red Sox will be picking within the top five in the MLB first-year player draft for the first time since 1967, when the club took high school right-hander Mike Garman with its top pick at No. 3 overall.

Coming off a 2020 season in which they finished with the fourth-worst record in baseball, it goes without saying that the Red Sox selecting fourth in the 2021 draft will be a key moment for the franchise as they move forward under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

The draft still may be many a month away, but more and more mock drafts are starting to get released in recent weeks.

Last month, MLB.com’s Jim Callis had the Sox taking University of Florida outfielder Jud Fabian with their top selection. And just this week, Baseball America released their ‘2021 MLB Mock Draft Version 1.0.

At No. 4, BA’s Carlos Collazo has the Red Sox taking Eastlake High School (Calif.) shortstop Marcelo Mayer.

“Many clubs believe Southern California shortstop Marcelo Mayer is the best pure hitter in the prep class, and it’s rare for that profile to last long in the draft,” Collazo writes. “In recent years, the perceived best pure high school hitters have all been selected among the top 10 picks: OF Jarred Kelenic went No. 6 to the Mets in 2018, OF Riley Greene went No. 5 to the Tigers in 2019 and OF Robert Hassell went No. 8 to the Padres in 2020. Mayer has the superior defensive profile to all those hitters, which should create a lofty realistic range for him.”

Mayer, 18, is set to graduate from Eastlake High in Chula Vista this spring. He is currently committed to play college baseball at the University of Southern California.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 180 lbs., Mayer hits from the left side of the plate while throwing with his right hand.

He didn’t get too much of an opportunity to showcase himself in 2020 on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but he did participate in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in Oklahoma City back in September.

There, according to the folks over at Prospects Live, Mayer “had a good night with a firm base hit up the middle and some impressive actions on the dirt.”

FanGraphs‘ scouting report for Mayer goes as follows:

Mayer is a graceful infield defender with a very projectable frame. His swing currently prioritizes contact. He has terrific vertical plate coverage and generates all-fields spray, but he’s also shown an ability to turn on and punish pitches inside with power. His frame is nearly identical to Izaac Pachecho’s, but Mayer has a better chance to stay at short and has more room to fill out, so he’s slightly ahead of Pacheco here.

Because the draft is still so far away, the Red Sox taking Mayer with their top selection is no sure thing, as eligible prospects are likely to see their stock rise and fall between now and July, especially with high school and college baseball still to be played in some capacity this spring.

Having said that, Mayer is someone the Red Sox are presumably quite familiar with already given the hype that has been surrounding him. It would be interesting to ask J.J. Altobelli, the team’s Southern California amateur area scout, about that.

And for what it’s worth, in Bloom’s first draft as chief baseball officer, Boston took another high school infielder in Nick Yorke, who also hails from California and was committed to play college ball at a Pac-12 school (Arizona).

(Top picture of Mayer: Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Red Sox re-sign infielder Jeremy Rivera to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have re-signed minor-league infielder Jeremy Rivera to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, per MLB.com’s transaction wire.

Rivera, who turns 26 later this month, was originally selected by Boston in the 17th round (524th overall pick) out of El Paso Community College.

Signed by the club in early July that year, the switch-hitting Puerto Rican has since played all over the infield across five different minor-league levels, most recently spending the 2018 and 2019 seasons in Double-A Portland.

SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote last May that Rivera “can really pick it at shortstop, but his bat lags behind, capping his ceiling and leading to his stalling out in Portland for the past couple seasons.”

This winter, Rivera has been playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League for a seventh consecutive offseason.

Through 14 games with Indios de Mayaguez, the infielder is slashing .238/.353/.310 with six RBI and seven runs scored over 52 plate appearances.

So far this offseason, the Red Sox have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett

(Top picture of Rivera: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)