Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Pedro Strop

MLB Trade Rumors on Tuesday released their annual predictions for where this year’s crop of top 50 free agents will land this winter.

As it is already known, the Red Sox find themselves needing help out of the bullpen. That much is evident by how team chairman Tom Werner said that, ” we’re going to hopefully supplement our relief pitching,” back in September.

Whether adding new arms to the mix comes via trade or free agency has yet to be determined, but that should not stop new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from exploring his options.

Last month, I brought up the idea of the club reaching out to right-handed reliever and Massachusetts native Steve Cishek. Now, I am going to throw out another name who also spent the 2019 season with the Chicago Cubs in right-hander Pedro Strop.

MLBTR has the 34-year-old inking a one-year, $5 million deal with the Sox this winter.

Strop is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he posted a 4.97 ERA and 4.53 FIP over 50 relief appearances and 41 2/3 innings of work. Those numbers may not seem great on the surface, but it is worth mentioning that Strop did spend time on the injured list twice this year due to a left hamstring strain in May and left neck tightness in late July/early August.

Before that though, the Dominican Republic native had established himself as one of the better relievers in the National League since joining the Cubs from the Baltimore Orioles as part of the Jake Arrieta trade in July 2013.

Strop’s pitch arsenal includes a slider, four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, and split-finger fastball. He certainly appears to be someone who could very well bounce back in 2020.

Although Strop was the only free agent directly linked to the Sox by MLBTR, other named that Boston could be interested in include Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Will Smith, Cole Hamels, Jose Abreu, Daniel Hudson, Brock Holt, and Rich Hill.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Steve Cishek

Even without a head of baseball operations as things stand right now, the Red Sox are going to be in the market for relief pitching this winter.

Over the course of a disappointing 84-78 campaign in 2019, the Sox bullpen ranked sixth in all of baseball in innings pitched (665.0), 17th in ERA (4.40), eighth in FIP (4.14), 10th in xFIP (4.43), and fifth in fWAR (5.5) while names such as Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman emerged as a legitimate core to build around.

In the past few days, both The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey and MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith have pinpointed a handful of relievers that Boston could target once free agency begins, and one name that stuck out to me was right-hander Steve Cishek.

I should probably preface this by first saying that I am a big Steve Cishek guy, and I’ll explain why now.

Cishek, 33, posted a 2.95 ERA and .210 batting average against over 70 appearances and 64 total innings pitched this past season with the Chicago Cubs, the second of a two-year, $13 million deal he signed back in December of 2017.

A native of Falmouth, Ma., Cishek has experience closing games, as he has racked up 132 career saves between the Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, and Miami Marlins.

Per FanGraphs, Cishek has been worth $9.2 million over the last two seasons, so it is hard to imagine his asking price being all that high.

One thing to be wary of is that the sidearm reliever has dealt with his fair share of issues with his left hip, most recently spending 10 days on the injured list due to left hip inflammation in August.

With a pitch arsenal that heavily relies on a sinker and a slider, as well as a four-seam fastball and changeup, Cishek could provide the Boston bullpen with a unique look from a unique arm slot.

As a noted former Red Sox fan himself, it would be interesting to see how intrigued Cishek would be with a potential homecoming.

Red Sox’ Brandon Workman Named American League Reliever of the Month for September

Red Sox right-hander Brandon Workman was named American League Reliever of the Month for the month of September on Monday afternoon.

The 31-year-old wrapped up a stellar season by posting a 0.00 ERA and .326 OPS against over his final 12 appearances and 11 1/3 innings pitched of the year.

On the 2019 campaign as a whole, Workman really did break out in a tremendous way, posting an ERA of 1.88, xFIP of 3.33, batting average against of .123, and fWAR of 2.1 over a career-high 73 outings and 71 2/3 total innings of relief.

From not even being on the World Series roster less than 12 full months ago to becoming one of, if not the most reliable reliever out of the Sox’ bullpen. 2019 was quite the year for Brandon Workman, and he will likely be rewarded with a sizable raise in his final season of arbitration because of it.

Red Sox’ Darwinzon Hernandez Will Remain a Reliever in 2020, per Alex Cora

Red Sox left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez will retain his role a reliever next season, his manager Alex Cora announced earlier Friday.

Hernandez, who turns 23 in December, entered 2019 as Boston’s top left-handed pitching prospect and was viewed as a potential rotation option after making his his big league debut as the 26th man in a day-night doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers back on April 23rd.

In his first and only major league start, which came against the Texas Rangers on June 11th, the Venezuela native surrendered four runs on three hits, five walks, and seven strikeouts over three innings pitched.

He was optioned back down to Double-A Portland following that start before being promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on June 15th.

Eventually working out of the bullpen while with the PawSox, Hernandez earned another call up to Boston on July 16th and really has not looked back since, posting a 4.32 ERA, 3.34 xFIP, .215 batting average against, and 39.3 K% over his last 27 appearances and 25 innings pitched.

Come next February, Hernandez figures to compete for a high-leverage, late-inning role in the Red Sox bullpen.

 

Red Sox Activate Heath Hembree From Injured List

Before taking on the Tampa Bay Rays for the final time this season, the Red Sox announced that right-hander Heath Hembree has been activated from the 10-day injured list. The club made the move official earlier Monday.

Hembree had been sidelined since August 2nd, missing nearly eight weeks of action due to right elbow lateral inflammation and even receiving a plasma-rich-platelet injection for that inflammation last month.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had been discussing over the past few days about how Hembree wanted to pitch again before seasons end, and after throwing a simulated game at Tropicana Field last week, the 30-year-old hurler is good to go for one more appearance, which could come as Boston’s opener in their series finale against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, per MassLive.com‘s Chris Cotillo.

Through 43 relief appearances this season, Hembree has posted a 4.06 ERA and .233 batting average over 37 2/3 total innings pitched. Those numbers inflated a bit when the South Carolina native returned from his first stint on the IL due to an extensor strain in his right elbow on July 4th, as he surrendered nine runs over 12 appearances and nine innings of work before hitting the injured list once again in early August.

Hembree has two more years of arbitration remaining before becoming a free agent for the first time at the conclusion of the 2021 season. He figures to be in the Sox’ bullpen plans for next year.

Josh Taylor to Make First Career Start for Red Sox in Second Game Against Angels

Red Sox left-hander Josh Taylor will be making the first start of his major league career on Saturday night, as he gets the ball for Boston in the second of three against the Los Angeles Angels.

Named the starter earlier Saturday, Taylor will serve as the “opener” in what will be a bullpen day for the Sox as they go for the series win over the Halos.

Through 40 relief appearances this season, the 26-year-old rookie has posted a 3.15 ERA and .235 batting average against over exactly 40 innings pitched since making his big league debut against the Cleveland Indians on May 29th.

Taylor did allow two runs in the fifth inning of Friday’s 7-6 15-inning win over Los Angeles to snap a stretch of 12 straight scoreless outings.

Over the course of that impressive run, Taylor did do something somewhat similar to starting a game, when in the continuation of that August 7th contest against the Kansas City Royals on the 22nd, the Arizona native picked up where he left off and tossed a 1-2-3 top half of the 10th to earn the first winning decision of his young career.

Here is how the rest of the Red Sox will lineup behind Taylor on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 9:07 PM EDT on NESN.

Red Sox Place Chris Sale on Injured List Due to Left Elbow Inflammation

In case you missed it, the Red Sox announced that left-hander Chris Sale had been placed on the 10-day injured list due to left elbow inflammation prior to Saturday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles.

In a corresponding move, right-hander Ryan Brasier was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. The club made the transaction official earlier on Saturday.

Sale allowed five runs, three of which were earned, on five hits, two walks, and 12 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings in his last time out against the Cleveland Indians this past Tuesday.

According to Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the 30-year-old felt stiffness in his left elbow in the two days following his last start and informed the team’s training staff of it on Friday, which ultimately led to an MRI on Saturday.

“We’re not taking any chances and putting him on the injured list,” Dombrowski said when speaking with reporters Saturday. “There’s going to be further evaluation. Our doctors looked at the MRI. We’ll have other doctors look at the MRI. We’re in a situation where I don’t really know where it’s going to take us at this point. People will further read the MRIs, and then they’ll make their diagnosis.”

One of those other opinions will come from Dr. James Andrews, who will more than likely meet with Sale as well.

Sale himself was not made available to the media on Saturday. As Dombrowski put it, “Chris, I think, needs a couple of days to himself at this point.”

Obviously, there’s no timetable for when Sale could possibly make any kind of return. In fact, when asked about whether or not the Florida native will pitch again in 2019, all Dombrowski could say was, “I don’t know one way or another at this point.”

Sale was scheduled to start against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday. A replacement has yet to be named by Sox manager Alex Cora, who said that, “Somebody has to step up. That’s how it works in this business,” following Saturday’s win over the Orioles.

On the other side of this move, Ryan Brasier was recalled from Pawtucket one month after a somewhat-surprising demotion.

In that time with the PawSox, the 31-year-old posted a 0.96 ERA and .182 batting average against over 10 relief appearances and 9 1/3 innings pitched.

On the 2019 campaign as a whole, Brasier owns an ERA of 4.46 and batting average against of .242 in 44 appearances and 40 1/3 innings of work with Boston. He did not pitch Saturday.

Stay tuned for something on here if Sale speaks with the media in the next few days.