Former Red Sox Top Prospect Yoan Moncada Signs Five-Year, $70 Million Extension With White Sox

Former Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada has reportedly signed a five-year, $70 million contract extension with the Chicago White Sox, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

The extension includes a $20 million club option for a sixth year, meaning the 24-year-old would not reach free agency until after his age-30 season.

Moncada enjoyed a great deal of success in a breakout 2019 campaign, slashing .315/.367/.548 with a career-best 25 home runs and 79 RBI over 132 games in his third season with Chicago.

The news of this extension comes on the same day that the Red Sox revealed that Chris Sale has a flexor tendon strain in his left elbow and will be shut down for at least the next week, which is pretty interesting when you consider that Moncada was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Sale to Boston a little more than three years ago.

We’re also coming up on the five-year anniversary of the Red Sox signing Moncada as an international free agent out of Cuba in March 2015 for a staggering $31.5 million.

Moncada quickly rose to become one of the top prospects in all of baseball while in the Red Sox organization, and after making his major-league debut and having a tough time of things during the final month of the 2016 season, he, along with prospects Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz, was traded for Sale that December.

Since that time, it was no surefire thing that Moncada was going to be a big league success with the White Sox. OPS+’s of 103 and 96 in 2017 and 2018 led many to believe that he was over-hyped, but the Cuban national took the first steps towards proving those doubters wrong in 2019.

We already talked about his improved slash line last year, but it is also worth mentioning how much Moncada cut down on his strikeouts. For instance, in 650 plate appearances in 2018, he struck out a league-leading 217 times, or 33.4% of the time he stepped up to the plate.

A year later, he dropped that strikeout rate by nearly six points, instead whiffing in 27.5% of his 559 plate appearances this past season.

Durability remains somewhat of an issue as well, but as he enters his age-25 season, Moncada could really just be coming into his own as a star in the American League Central, both offensively and defensively speaking.

You also have to give credit to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn and the young core of talented players he has locked down on long-term, pre-arbitration extensions.

In addition to Moncada, outfielders Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert also signed lengthy contract extensions within the last calendar year. The three together are set to earn approximately $163 million over the next five to six years.

Add the lengths of all their contracts, a total of 17 years, and that’s less than $10 million in average annual value, if that makes any sense.

It hasn’t come with much team success to this point, but the White Sox do look like they could be legitimate contenders in the Central very soon.

Bringing this back to the Red Sox, it’s also probably worth mentioning that this Moncada extension could lay the groundwork for Boston to get one done with their own third baseman in Rafael Devers.

Coming into the 2020 season, the two infielders essentially have the same amount of service time, with Moncada having been in the majors 36 more days than Devers has to this point.

The two came through the Sox’ minor league system together and were both going to become arbitration eligible for the first time next year before Moncada signed his extension on Thursday.

I doubt the Red Sox would want to pay Devers more than the ≈ $800,000 he is owed this coming season, but if chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. could find a way to work something out long-term and buy out any number of the 23-year-old’s potential free agent years after 2023, that would be quite promising.

Anyway, I would just like to close by saying that I have always been a big Yoan Moncada guy. I’m not going to get into who won or lost the 2016 trade between the Red Sox and White Sox, but I have enjoyed watching Moncada come into his own at the big-league level. Hoping for more improvement from him this season.

Red Sox Fail to Muster Any Offense in 5-0 Loss to Astros

After falling to the Tigers on Wednesday, the Red Sox saw their losing streak grow to three games on Thursday following a 5-0 defeat at the hands of the Houston Astros at JetBlue Park. They are now 4-8-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Making his first start and third overall appearance for Boston was Kyle Hart, coming off two scoreless innings of relief in his last time out against the Twins this past Friday.

Working the first three innings in this one, the left-hander surrendered two runs, both of which were earned, on three hits and two walks to go along with three strikeouts on the afternoon.

Both of those Astros runs came on one swing of the bat in the top half of the third, when after retiring six of the first nine hitters he faced, Hart yielded a one-out walk to Myles Straw and followed that up by serving up a two-run home run to Kyle Tucker.

That mistake gave Houston the only lead they would need, but Hart was able to rebound by getting the final two outs of the frame in order to end his outing on a more positive note.

As one of several candidates still vying for a spot in the Sox’ rotation, Hart, 27, will probably appear in another game sometime early next week.

In relief of Hart, Brandon Workman tossed a scoreless fourth inning and yielded one run on three hits and a sacrifice fly in the fifth before minor-leaguer Tom Windle came on and finished the inning for him.

From there, Marcus Walden sat down the only three hitters he faced in order in the sixth, left-hander Brian Johnson appeared to be on top of things in the seventh and eighth, but ended up being charged with two runs on three hits and a walk in the ninth before Konner Wade relieved him, allowed an inherited runner to score, and finished up the inning by getting Grae Kessinger to fly out to left.

All in all, Red Sox pitching combined to allow five earned runs on 12 hits, three walks, and 10 strikeouts over nine total innings pitched.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured plenty of regulars in Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez, Michael Chavis, Christian Vazquez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, and Jose Peraza was matched up against Astros right-hander Josh James to begin things on Thursday.

Despite having all those regulars in the lineup though, the Boston bats could not muster much against James, or any other Houston pitcher they faced for that matter.

Five hits, only one of which went for extra base hits, one walk drawn, and one HBP. That’s it.

That lone extra base hit belonged to Michael Chavis, who doubled off James with one out in the second and was subsequently picked off by Garrett Stubbs at third on a failed stolen base attempt.

Other than that, the Sox sent three batters to hit in five of their nine trips to the plate on Thursday. Not much to write home about in what wound up being a 5-0 shutout loss.

Some observations from this defeat:

This game was not televised, so I really do not have much to add here, but I will say that the Red Sox went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position on Thursday.

Xander Bogaerts in his first start at shortstop this spring: 0-for-2 with another pair of strikeouts.

Out of the 31 players the Astros sent from West Palm Beach for this contest, none were on the team in 2017, so from what I heard on the radio, there didn’t appear to be too many boos from the crowd at JetBlue Park.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll head to North Port to take on the Atlanta Braves at their new spring training facility on Friday afternoon.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez is set to get the start for Boston, while Atlanta has yet to name a starter.

Rodriguez impressed in his spring debut against the Yankees last Saturday, fanning six over three scoreless innings at Fort Myers.

Matt Barnes, Colten Brewer, and R.J. Alvarez are among the Sox pitchers who will follow Rodriguez.

First pitch Friday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST on ESPN.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale Has Flexor Strain

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale has a flexor tendon strain in his left elbow, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

This news comes one day after Sale received a third opinion from Dr. Neil ElAttrache, after already getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, in regard to the MRI of his sore left elbow.

Since his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) was “unchanged”, Sale has at least avoided surgery for the time being, as it was not recommended by either doctor. Instead, he has been prescribed rest and will not throw again for another week or so.

After that period of rest, Sale will begin throwing again and will need to be pain free while doing so. If he does still feel the same pain in his left elbow he experienced last year, then it might be time to assume the worst-case scenario.

“It sucks,” Sale said Thursday. “I know what I’m worth to this team and I don’t want to do anything stupid.”

The soon-to-be 31-year-old was already set to miss about the first two weeks of the 2020 season due to an earlier bout with pneumonia, but this setback will surely push his return date back even further depending on how things go at the end of next week.

This all comes as Sale enters the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with Boston last March. He will earn $25.6 million in 2020.

 

Red Sox Make First Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Before they took on the Detroit Tigers in some Grapefruit League action earlier Wednesday, the Red Sox made their first round of spring roster cuts and reassigned five players to minor-league camp.

Those five players were first baseman Tommy Joseph, left-handed pitchers Daniel McGrath and Bobby Poyner, and right-handed pitchers Bryan Mata and Denyi Reyes.

Joseph has gotten off to a far from ideal start this spring, slashing .133//235/.133 with two RBI through his first seven games played and 17 plate appearances.

The 28-year-old, who has major-league experience with the Phillies, signed a minor-league deal with Boston last August after coming back over to the states from the Korean Baseball Organization. Depending on how the rest of the team’s depth at first base shakes out, he’ll likely start the 2020 season in either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket.

As for the left-handed pitchers, McGrath has made two relief appearances for Boston so far this spring, allowing two earned runs on four hits, one walk, and one strikeout over four total innings of work.

Signed out of Australia as an 18-year-old back in January 2013, McGrath, now 25, will likely serve as starting pitching depth with the PawSox this season. He was brought back on a minor-league deal last October.

Poyner, meanwhile, was taken off the Sox’ 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket in January after clearing waivers. The 27-year-old does own an ERA of 18.00 through two relief appearances this spring, but it would not shock me if he does make his way back to the majors with the Red Sox at some point this season. Even if it is just a short stint.

Turning to the right-handed pitchers now, I’m going to start with Denyi Reyes because I want to discuss Bryan Mata in more depth later.

Like Poyner, Reyes was designated for assignment and eventually outrighted to Triple-A to make room for another player on the Sox’ 40-man roster. In Poyner’s case, that player was left-hander Jeffrey Springs. In Reyes’ case, it was the re-signing of Mitch Moreland.

The 23-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has surrendered four runs over four innings spanning two relief appearances so far this spring. He has experience as both a starter and reliever since signing with the Sox as an international free agent in 2016, so I would not be against the idea of him starting the 2020 season in the PawSox’ bullpen.

Finally, we’ll end with arguably the most talented player on this list in Bryan Mata, who is the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Given the current state of the Sox’ starting rotation with Chris Sale’s season currently in limbo, Mata could be one of the names Boston is evaluating to take the left-hander’s spot to begin the year.

Per The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, the 20-year-old was among a group of hurlers that included Chris Mazza and Matt Hall, all of whom tossed three innings each in an intrasquad game at JetBlue Park on Tuesday, the same day it was revealed that Sale had been dealing with soreness in his left elbow.

Granted, Mata has yet to pitch above the Double-A level in his young career, but the potential is certainly there for him to be a middle of the rotation starting pitcher in the majors in the near future. That much is for sure.

Following Wednesday’s slew of transactions, the Red Sox now have 62 players at major-league camp. That number will eventually have to be trimmed down to 26 before March 26th. More moves are likely to come this weekend, I would guess.

Red Sox Waiting for Another Opinion on Chris Sale’s Sore Left Elbow

One day after it was revealed that left-hander Chris Sale was dealing with soreness in his left elbow and an MRI had been sent to elbow specialist Dr. James Andrews, the Red Sox are now seeking a third opinion from another specialist in Dr. Neil ElAttrache, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Sale reported the elbow soreness to the team’s medical staff on Monday, one day after throwing 15 pitches while facing live hitters for the first time since last August.

At that time, he was diagnosed with inflammation in his left elbow and received a platelet-rich plasma injection from Dr. Andrews that same month before eventually being shut down for the remainder of the 2019 campaign.

The Florida native was cleared to begin throwing again in late November, though, and outside of a bout with pneumonia, he seemed completely healthy otherwise headed into the spring. But now, it appears that his 2020 season could be in jeopardy.

Roenicke did say to not assume the worst-case scenario with Sale until the Red Sox have gathered all the necessary information, and he emphasized how they “want to get this right.”

Still, as The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham notes, “teams usually don’t get a third opinion to confirm good news. Getting opinions from Andrews and ElAttrache certainly suggests there’s a significant injury.”

According to Roenicke, the Red Sox should have word from Dr. ElAttrache within “the next day or so.

Until then, stay tuned for more updates.

Red Sox’ Tzu-Wei Lin Pulled From Tuesday’s Game Against Yankees Due to Left Hamstring Tightness

Red Sox utilityman Tzu-Wei Lin was pulled after the first inning of Tuesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the New York Yankees due to left hamstring tightness, the team announced.

Lin started in center field for Boston in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, played the entirety of the bottom half of the first inning, which was rather lengthy, and was subsequently replaced by Cole Sturgeon in the top half of the second.

The cause of Lin’s tight hamstring is not yet known, but the 26-year-old had gotten his spring off to an impressive start, slashing .412/.474/.471 with one double, one RBI, and one stolen base through his first 19 plate appearances entering Tuesday.

Entering his seventh full season with the Red Sox organization after signing as an international free agent out of Taiwan back in June 2012, Lin finds himself without any minor-league options remaining on his current contract, meaning he has to make the big-league club out of spring training if he does not want to be exposed to waivers.

With rosters expanding to 26 players this year, Lin has plenty of factors, like his versatility, working in his favor, so hopefully this hamstring injury does not sideline him for too long. I’m sure interim manager Ron Roenicke will provide an update at the conclusion of Tuesday’s contest.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale Dealing With Left Elbow Soreness

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale is dealing with soreness in his left elbow, according to interim manager Ron Roenicke.

Per Roenicke, Sale first experienced the soreness on Monday, one day after facing live hitters for the first time since last August. He has since been sent for an MRI and the Red Sox are awaiting the results from Dr. James Andrews.

Sale, who turns 31 later this month, was already expected to begin the 2020 season on the injured list due to an earlier bout with pneumonia that would have delayed his spring preparations, but this recent news adds another layer of concern.

In that live batting practice session on a Fenway South backfield on Sunday, Sale threw 15 pitches while utilizing his entire pitch mix, and did not feel any pain in his arm upon the session’s completion.

Heading into what is now the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with Boston last March, Sale’s left elbow has received plenty of attention over the past 12 months.

The Florida native was shut down by the Sox due to inflammation in that same elbow last August, and he received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection from Dr. Andrews later that same month.

He was eventually cleared to resume throwing right around Thanksgiving, though, and up until Tuesday morning, any developments related to his left arm seemed to be positive and encouraging.

With the results of the MRI yet to be revealed, it’s unclear on where things will go from here. Worst-case scenario is most likely season-ending surgery, but we really don’t know anything yet.

What we do know is that a Red Sox starting rotation that already faced plenty of skepticism will face even more if Sale is indeed sidelined for an even longer period of time than initially anticipated.

 

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Collin McHugh

It’s pretty late to do being one of these with spring training well underway and less than a month ago until Opening Day, but with the news that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting pitching help.

With the news of Sale starting the year on the shelf, in addition to trading David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the month, the Sox’ starting rotation only has three established starting pitchers at the moment in Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

Guys like Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez could fill in in either the No. 4 or No. 5 spots, and it also appears likely that an opener or two could be used, but that shouldn’t stop chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from looking at external options as well.

Obviously, with it being the last day of February and all, the free-agent market has essentially been thinned out, but there is still one intriguing name out there in former Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the 32-year-old has “recently been given the go-ahead to begin throwing after a [non-surgical] tenex procedure alleviated an elbow concern” and “nearly every team has checked in” on him thanks to his versatility.

Appearing in 35 games, eight of which were starts, for Houston last year, McHugh posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 74 2/3 total innings of work while dealing with ongoing right elbow discomfort.

His days of pitching anywhere between 150 to 200 innings in a season are probably behind him and he likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2020 season if he were to sign soon, but there are still plenty of things working in McHugh’s favor.

First off, there’s the versatility piece I mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s just me, but I could see McHugh starting, serving as an opener, or working in relief once he gets up to speed with whatever club he signs with this year.

Second, he probably won’t be demanding much as a free agent. A one-year deal for cheap or even a minor-league deal could get it done. That way, if things didn’t work out, it would not be all that costly to cut ties.

Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox now have a little more than $13 million in payroll flexibility to work with before reaching that $208 million luxury tax threshold they got under by dealing Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles.

McHugh would surely not command more than 25% of that $13 million as a free agent, so the rewards in this case would far outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

Outside of McHugh, free agent starting pitchers who remain unsigned include old friends Clay Buccholz and Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Clayton Richard, and Marco Estrada.

Red Sox’ Chris Sale to Start 2020 Season on Injured List

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, interim manager Ron Roenicke announced Thursday.

Sale had been recovering from a bout with pneumonia as camp broke earlier in the month, which set him back about two weeks in his preparations for the 2020 season. Because of that setback, it had already been determined that the 30-year-old would be unable to get the six spring starts the Red Sox wanted him to make before Opening Day.

Roenicke did say that the reason for Sale’s soon-to-be IL stint is completely pneumonia-related, and has nothing to do with the build-up of his arm, which is going “great.”

According to The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey, Sale has “been throwing bullpens and has progressed to simulated games with a chance of appearing in his first game next week.”

Entering his fourth season with Boston, Sale is coming off an injury-shortened 2019 campaign where he made just 25 starts and threw 147 1/3 innings, the lowest totals of his career since he became a starter in 2012.

The Red Sox shut the lefty down in August due to inflammation in his left elbow, and he received a PRP injection from Dr. James Andrews that same month.

Another visit with Dr. Andrews in November resulted in Sale being cleared to throw with an eye towards spring training, so in terms of where he is at with his arm, everything appears fine.

Sale is set to earn $30 million in the first year of the five-year, $145 million extension he signed with the Sox last march.

As MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, “IL stints for pitchers will increase from 10 days to 15 days this season.” Meaning that Sale will likely remain sidelined for the first two weeks of the 2020 campaign.

Sale’s absence to begin things means the Red Sox now have three viable starters — Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez — in their rotation.

Right-hander Ryan Weber looks like an early favorite to take David Price’s spot, but who the Sox turn to to fill in for Sale will be interesting to see.

 

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