Red Sox Option Left-Hander Josh Osich to Triple-A Pawtucket

In their first roster move since Major League Baseball suspended spring training, the Red Sox have optioned left-hander Josh Osich to Triple-A Pawtucket. The club made the transaction official earlier Thursday.

Osich, 31, was originally claimed off waivers from the White Sox last October in what was Chaim Bloom’s first move as Boston’s chief baseball officer.

Coming off a year in which he posted a 4.66 ERA and .242 batting average against over 57 appearances and 67 2/3 innings of work for Chicago, Osich has had quite the busy offseason, as he was claimed by Boston in late October, then non-tendered in early December before coming back on a split contract two days later.

The Idaho native had surrendered just one earned run on three hits, four walks, and six strikeouts through his first four outings and 4 2/3 innings of the spring, but he will not make the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster, whenever Opening Day may be.

With this move, the Sox technically now have 46 players at major league camp.

Predicting the Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster

One month from Wednesday, the Red Sox will open their 2020 season with the first of four against the Toronto Blue Jays north of border. As things stand right now, a solid portion of the club’s 26-man Opening Day roster is set, but with questions surrounding injuries and depth aplenty, there could still be a handful of spots up for grabs.

With that, I thought it would be a good time to take a crack at what the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster could look like this time next month. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Starting Rotation:

Eduardo Rodriguez
Nathan Eovaldi
Martin Perez
Ryan Weber
Kyle Hart

According to interim manager Ron Roenicke, left-hander Chris Sale might need to throw two live batting practice sessions before throwing in an actual game, leaving the 30-year-old’s status for Opening Day up in the air since he wouldn’t have a ton of time to ramp up his workload.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Sale, that leaves two spots in Boston’s rotation up for grabs. Right-hander Ryan Weber seems like a likely candidate, and I went with left-hander Kyle Hart over pitching prospect Tanner Houck for the fifth spot.

Hart, 27, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November, while Houck, who is not on the 40-man roster, could use more time to develop as a starter in Triple-A.

Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson have prior experience starting for the Red Sox, although Johnson would need to be added back to the 40-man roster after being outrighted in November.

The Bullpen:

Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Brandon Workman
Darwinzon Hernandez
Josh Taylor
Heath Hembree
Marcus Walden
Austin Brice

As far as I am concerned, Barnes, Workman, Hernandez, Taylor, Hembree, and Walden are all locks to make the Opening Day roster.

Brasier struggled at times last year and has minor-league options remaining, while Brice, who was acquired from the Marlins last month, is out of options.

Outside candidates on the 40-man roster include Yoan Aybar, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Mike Shawaryn, Jeffrey Springs, and Phillips Valdez.

The Catchers:

Christian Vazquez
Jonathan Lucroy

Although Kevin Plawecki is on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, it is only for $900,000, so it would not be a huge financial loss if the Sox went with Lucroy instead.

The two-time All-Star signed a minor-league deal with Boston earlier in February and has a far more impressive offensive track record than Plawecki does. He also appears to have a solid relationship with Roenicke from when the two were with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Infielders:

Mitch Moreland
Michael Chavis
Jose Peraza
Xander Bogaerts
Rafael Devers
Jonathan Arauz
Tzu-Wei Lin

Lin is out of options, and as a Rule 5 selection, Arauz would have to be offered back to the Astros if he does not stick on Boston’s 26-man roster, so I believe those two will make it, especially with the defensive versatility Lin offers.

Bogaerts has been dealing with a sore left ankle since workouts began nearly two weeks ago, but it looks like that is a non-issue as far as his status for Opening Day is concerned.

Top prospect Bobby Dalbec is not listed here, but I would personally love to see him make it if he were to get adequate playing time at the big-league level. With Devers manning third and Moreland and Chavis handling first base duties though, that does not seem likely at this point.

Also, Dustin Pedroia will begin the year on the 60-day injured list.

The Outfielders:

Andrew Benintendi
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Kevin Pillar
J.D. Martinez

With Alex Verdugo likely to start the season on the injured list due to a lower back stress fracture, Kevin Pillar is likely to slide in as an everyday outfielder, which he is more than capable of doing.

As I mentioned, Lin, and even prospect C.J. Chatham, are capable of playing a little outfield if necessary. And the Red Sox may need a temporary fourth outfielder during Verdugo’s absence if they do not want Martinez to spend too much time in the outfield.

So there you have it. 26 roster spots. 26 predictions with a whole lot of other possibilities as well. I’ll leave you with my guess for what the Opening Day starting lineup could look like:

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Christian Vazquez, C
  7. Michael Chavis, 2B
  8. Kevin Pillar, RF
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
    Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

 

Red Sox Claim Right-Hander Phillips Valdez off Waivers From Mariners, Place Dustin Pedroia on 60-Day Injured List

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Phillips Valdez off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, the club announced Sunday. In order to make room for Valdez on Boston’s 40-man roster, second baseman Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 60-day injured list.

Valdez, 28, was claimed off waivers by Seattle back in November and designated for assignment on Friday.

The Dominican Republic native spent the 2019 campaign with the Texas Rangers organization, where he made his major-league debut in June and posted an ERA of 3.94 and xFIP of 4.64 over 11 relief appearances and 16 innings of work.

While in the minors in 2019, Valdez worked as both a starter and reliever, and owned an ERA of 4.92 over 26 outings (14 starts) for the Rangers’ Triple-A club in Nashville.

An original international signee of the Indians back in 2009, Valdez’s pitch mix includes a sinker, changeup, slider, and four-seam fastball, per Statcast.

The Red Sox will be Valdez’s sixth organization, as the righty rounds out Boston’s 40-man roster for the time being.

As for Pedroia, the 36-year-old veteran suffered a setback with his surgically-repaired left knee last month and has yet to report to big-league camp.

The move to put him on the 60-day injured list is probably more of a formality than anything at this point, but it is still not great nonetheless.

As things stand right now, the Red Sox should have 67 players at major-league camp once Valdez and outfielder Cesar Puello arrive. That clubhouse is going to be crowded.

 

Red Sox Agree to Minor-League Deal With Reliever Trevor Hildenberger

The Red Sox have reportedly signed right-handed reliever Trevor Hildenberger to a minor-league contract, according to KSTOR North’s Darren Wolfson. The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Hildenberger, 29, appeared in 22 games for the Minnesota Twins last season, posting a 10.47 ERA and 5.28 xFIP over 16 1/3 innings of relief while bouncing around between the majors and Triple-A Rochester.

Once touted as one of the more impressive relief pitching prospects in the Twins’ system, the former 2014 22nd round pick got his big league career off to a roaring start, allowing a total of 15 runs over his first 37 outings and 42 frames pitched upon his first call up in June 2017.

Things have not worked out in Hildenberger’s favor since then though, which ultimately led to Minnesota non-tendering the California native last month at a point where he was not yet eligible for salary arbitration.

Per Statcast, Hildenberger relies mostly on a changeup and sinker while having a slider and four-seam fastball to turn to as well.

Come the beginning of spring training, Hildenberger should have a chance to compete for a spot in Boston’s bullpen where he would earn $700,000. And if he does not make it to the majors by August 15th, he can opt out of his deal, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

 

Potential Red Sox Target Sergio Romo Goes Back to Twins on One-Year Deal

The Minnesota Twins have reportedly brought back right-handed reliever Sergio Romo on a one-year deal, $5 million deal that includes a club option for 2021, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Romo was seen as someone the Red Sox had interest in as recently as last week, but the 36-year-old ultimately winds up back with the club that acquired him from the Miami Marlins this past July.

In 65 relief appearances between Miami and Minnesota in 2019, Romo posted a 3.43 ERA and 3.68 FIP over 60 1/3 innings pitched.

Before that, the California native spent the latter half of the 2017 season and all off 2018 with the Rays, where he became the team’s first “opener” and started five games in ’18.

That’s where the Red Sox-related speculation comes in. Because at the time Romo was traded from the Dodgers to Tampa Bay in July 2017, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom was serving as the Rays’ senior vice president of baseball operations.

In addition to that connection, Bloom’s right-hand man and Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran said during last week’s Winter Meetings that an opener is something Boston would be “open-minded” about.

Obviously, Romo is out of the question now, but that should not stop Bloom and Co. from pursuing other bullpen options that could also open for the Red Sox when needed.

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.