Red Sox Trade Sam Travis to Rangers for Reliever Jeffrey Springs, Designate Bobby Poyner for Assignment

On a busy Wednesday at Fenway Park, the Red Sox made their first series of roster moves of the post-Alex Cora era, acquiring left-hander Jeffrey Springs from the Texas Rangers in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis.

In order to make room for Springs on Boston’s 40-man roster, fellow left-hander Bobby Poyner was designated for assignment. The club made the transactions official earlier Wednesday.

The move to trade Travis comes nearly two weeks after the 26-year-old was designated for assignment in order to make room for then-newly-signed catcher Kevin Plawecki on the Sox’ 40-man roster. Travis was then subsequently outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket last week after going unclaimed on waivers.

The former 2014 second-round pick posted a .215/.274/.382 slash line to go along with six home runs and 16 RBI over a career-high 59 games played in 2019. He’ll look to catch on with the Rangers in the spring, although he is without any more minor-league options.

As for the hurler the Red Sox acquired in this deal, the 27-year-old Springs posted an ERA of 6.40 and FIP of 4.98 over 25 relief appearances and 32 1/3 innings of work. He was designated by Texas on the same day he was traded.

Per Statcast, Springs, a former 30th-round pick out of Appalachian State University in 2015, threw his slider 58% of the time he was on the mound in 2019. His pitch arsenal also includes a changeup and slider.

Springs now joins an interesting group of major-league relievers that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has acquired this offseason in Austin Brice, Chris Mazza, and Josh Osich.

Poyner, meanwhile, was a 40-man casualty even though he still has one minor-league option remaining. Like Travis earlier in the month, the 27-year-old lefty will either be released, traded, or waived by this time next week.

Red Sox Part Ways With Alex Cora

The Red Sox and manager Alex Cora have mutually agreed to part ways, per a team release.

This news comes in the wake of the Houston Astros firing general manager Jeff Lunhow and manager AJ Hinch on Monday after both were handed down one-year suspensions by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for the roles they played in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal during the 2017 season.

Cora, who served as Hinch’s bench coach in 2017, played a key role in, “developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit sign,” according to Manfred.

Because of this, the Astros were stripped of their 2020 and 2021 first and second-round picks and fined $5 million.

Although Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Red Sox’ use of illegally decoding signs through the club’s video replay room during the 2018 season is still ongoing, it is believed that Cora is facing ‘harsh’ discipline, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

In his two seasons at the helm with Boston, Cora led the Sox to a historic 119-win season capped off by the club clinching their ninth World Series title in 2018 and followed that with a sub-par 84-win campaign last year.

“I want to thank John, Tom, Sam, the players, our coaching staff and the entire Red Sox organization,” Cora said in a statement Tuesday. “I especially want to thank my family for their love and support.

“I do not want to be a distraction to the Red Sox as they move forward,” added Cora. My two years as manager were the best years of my life. It was an honor to manage these teams and help bring a World Series Championship back to Boston. I will forever be indebted to the organization and the fans who supported me as a player, a manager and in my efforts to help Puerto Rico.

“This is a special place. There is nothing like it in all of baseball, and I will miss it dearly,” he concluded.

Now just about a month out from when pitchers and catchers are due to report in at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Sox ownership and chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom have found themselves in quite the predicament with no manager currently in place.

Ron Roenicke, who served as Cora’s bench coach the last two seasons and has managerial experience with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011 until 2015, is an obvious candidate. He is scheduled to attend Red Sox Winter Weekend at MGM Springfield.

In a span of four months, the Red Sox have parted ways with both the architect and leader of their 2018 World Series-winning team in Dave Dombrowski and Cora.

Now, as the 2020 season looms, turbulent times may be on the horizon with plenty of decisions still to make.

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.

 

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With 5 of 7 Eligible Players

The Red Sox have agreed to one-year deals with five players for the 2020 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration. Those five players are outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and relievers Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Brandon Workman.

On the other hand, two players, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and outfielder Andrew Benintendi, were unable to reach one-year agreements with the Sox, meaning they are both more than likely headed to arbitration hearings come early February.

Starting with the five players who did reach agreements on Friday, here are the figures that were settled upon by both sides.

Matt Barnes – $3.1 million

Coming off an up-and-down 2019 campaign, the 29-year-old Barnes was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $3 million in penultimate year of arbitration eligibility. Instead, the UCONN product received a bit more than that projected figure and even saw a 94% increase in his salary from last year.

Mookie Betts – $27 million

As has already been discussed on here, Betts’ $27 million payday for 2020 marks the highest ever for a player in their final year of arbitration eligibility, surpassing Colorado’s Nolan Arenado’s record of $26 million from last February. The 27-year-old was projected to earn slightly more ($27.7 million) than that historic figure.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – $11 million

This time, MLB Trade Rumors got it right in the dot, as Bradley Jr. and the Sox settled on $11 million nearly three months after the site released that projection. Like his outfield counterpart in Betts, Bradley Jr. too is set to become a free agent for the first time at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Heath Hembree – $1.6125 million

A potential non-tender candidate back in late November and early December, Hembree has struck around for the time being, earning a $300,000 raise from his 2019 salary.

Brandon Workman – $3.5 million

Another free agent at the end of the 2020 season, Workman enjoyed great success last year and earned a well-deserved 204.3% raise because of it. He was projected to earn $3.4 million by MLB Trade Rumors.

Going back to Benintendi and Rodriguez, the player and team could still theoretically split the difference in their price and reach an agreement, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

With that scenario unlikely to happen, it appears as if the two will take part in individual arbitration hearings by the first week of February. Winter Weekend just a got a bit more interesting.

 

Red Sox Acquire Reliever Austin Brice From Marlins, Designate Marco Hernandez for Assignment

The Red Sox have acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice for the Miami Marlins in exchange for shortstop prospect Angeudis Santos. In a corresponding move, utility infielder Marco Hernandez was designated for assignment to make room for Brice on Boston’s 40-man roster. The club made the transactions official earlier Friday.

Brice, 27, was designated for assignment by the Marlins this past Tuesday after posting a 3.43 ERA and 4.79 xFIP over 36 relief appearances and 44 2/3 innings of work in 2019 in his second stint with Miami.

The former 2010 ninth-round pick was originally drafted by the Marlins and was part of the trade that sent Luis Castillo the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Dan Straily back in January 2017.

From that point, Brice spent a short amount of time with the Angels and Orioles before being claimed off waivers by Miami prior to the start of the 2019 campaign.

Per Statcast, Brice, who was the first player born in Hong Kong to appear in the majors, relies on a four-pitch arsenal that includes a curveball, four-seam fastball, sinker, and changeup. He averaged 93.1 MPH with his heater last year.

Since he is out of minor-league options, Brice will have to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster if he does not want to be exposed to waivers.

Brice now joins left-hander Josh Osich and right-hander Chris Mazza as bullpen additions chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have made either through trades or the waiver wire this offseason.

As for the minor-league shortstop the Red Sox parted ways with, Angeudis Santos is an 18-year-old out of the Dominican Republic who Boston signed for $110,000 in September 2018. He slashed just .184/.384/.218 with four extra-base hits and 13 RBI over 56 games with one of the Sox’ Dominican Summer League teams last year.

Turning to Hernandez now, it has probably been a frustrating offseason for the 27-year-old. Back on December 2nd, he was non-tendered by Boston, Two days later, the club brought him back on a split contract to save approximately $50,000.

Now that Hernandez has been designated for assignment, I am sure the Red Sox would like to bring him back as depth if he sneaks through waivers. We’ll have to wait and see on that though since he could be traded or claimed by another team in the next seven days.

Red Sox and Mookie Betts Avoid Arbitration With Record-Breaking $27 Million Deal for 2020

The Red Sox and outfielder Mookie Betts have reportedly agreed to a one-year, $27 million deal for the 2020 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/1215694968137883648?s=20

Headed into his final year of salary arbitration before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter, the 27-year-old Betts was projected to earn around $27.7 million by MLB Trade Rumors and now comes away with a record-breaking $27 million.

Last year, the Colorado Rockies and All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado settled on a then-record-breaking $26 million for Arenado’s final year of arbitration eligibility before the two sides ultimately reached agreement on an eight-year, $260 million extension that February.

The news of Betts and the Sox coming to an agreement Friday comes on the same day that all 30 clubs and their eligible players had until 12 PM eastern time to exchange arbitration figures.

Just because Betts is now under contract for the 2020 season does not mean that the groundwork has been laid for a potential contract extension. But, it now gives opposing teams such as the Braves, Cardinals, or Dodgers, a more specific idea of what one year of the All-Star outfielder would cost in any trade conversations.

As we all know, Betts still appears locked in on hitting the open market come this November. If no extension between him and Boston is agreed upon by that time, the Tennessee native will have earned approximately $59.5 million in six full seasons with the Sox before reaching free agency.

Steve Cishek Signs One-Year Deal With White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have reportedly agreed to a one-year, $6 million deal with right-handed reliever Steve Cishek, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The contract includes a $6 million option for a second year as well.

Cishek, 33, is coming off a two-year, $13 million deal with the Cubs, where most recently he posted a 2.95 ERA and 4.95 xFIP over 70 relief appearances and 64 innings of work in 2019 for the North Siders.

The Falmouth, Ma. native was viewed as a potential fit for the Red Sox in 2020, as he could help supplement an already solid bullpen and he had a previous connection to Boston’s chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom when the two were in Tampa Bay.

Per MLB Network’s Peter Gammons, Cishek even had interest in signing with his hometown team as recently as last week, but because he earned $7.1 million with the Cubs in 209, he was believed to be out of the Red Sox’ pay range.

As it turns out, Cishek wound up taking just south of $7.1 million to remain in the same city he had spent the previous two years in.

I don’t have any inside information, but I would have to imagine this is how things went down before Cishek agreed to that deal with Chicago on Tuesday:

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn made his offer of one-year, $6 million to Cishek that included that aforementioned option for 2021. Cishek’s camp at Jet Sports Management makes one last call to Bloom and Co. to ask if they can go higher than that. Bloom responds by saying they can’t, and that’s that.

The fact that the Red Sox were unable to land a quality late-inning reliever, albeit one who does have injury concerns, for a mere $6 million just goes to show how handcuffed they are by the goal of getting below the $208 million luxury tax threshold ahead of the 2020 season.

Red Sox No. 7 Prospect Gilberto Jimenez Identified as Potential Breakout Prospect for 2020 by MLB Pipeline

Red Sox outfield prospect Gilberto Jimenez has been named a potential breakout candidate for the 2020 season, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum:

Red Sox: Gilberto Jimenez, OF (No. 7) — A $10,000 steal from the Dominican Republic in 2017, Jimenez skipped a level last season and led the short-season New York-Penn League in batting (.359) in his U.S. debut. The best center-field defender and one of the fastest runners in Boston’s system, he’ll make the jump to full-season ball in 2020.”

As the above excerpt from this article mentions, Jimenez enjoyed great success in his first professional season stateside, slashing .359/.393/.470 with three home runs, 19 RBI, and 16 RBI over 59 games with Short-Season Lowell in 2019.

In a span of less than two years, the 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic has  worked his way up from unranked to the seventh-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Using the 20-80 scouting sale, Jimenez’s hit tool is graded as slightly above average, while his power tool is graded as slightly below average, his run tool is graded as well above average, and his fielding tool is graded as slightly below average. All in all, the young outfielder is graded as an average prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

Projected by SoxProspects.com to begin the 2020 minor-league season with Low-A Greenville, it will be interesting to see how Jimenez’s game translates to the next level in the South Atlantic League.

Among Red Sox minor-league center fielders, Jimenez currently sits fifth behind Marcus Wilson, Duran, Keith Curcio, and Cole Brannen on SoxProspects.com‘s depth charts.

Last year, MLB Pipeline predicted that left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, then Boston’s seventh-ranked prospect, would be a breakout prospect in 2019. The 23-year-old only made his big league debut on April 23rd, made his impact felt as a reliever later in the season, and now looks poised to play a key role in the Sox’ bullpen in 2020.

Red Sox Designate Sam Travis for Assignment to Make Room on 40-Man Roster for Kevin Plawecki

In a corresponding move to signing catcher Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, major-league deal on Thursday, the Red Sox also announced that first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis had been designated for assignment.

As the above tweet indicates, the addition of Plawecki on a majors deal meant that someone else would need to be removed from the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, and now we know that it is indeed Travis.

Originally drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, the 26-year-old was out of options headed into the spring, meaning he would have had to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

In a career-high 59 games this past season, Travis slashed .215/.274/.382 to go along with six home runs and 16 RBI while playing first base and both corner outfield positions.

There was a stretch during the summer where it looked like the former top prospect was beginning to put it all together (he had an OPS of 1.007 from July 26th to August 20th), but he ultimately fizzled out over the final few weeks of the season.

With this move made, it now appears that Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec are the top two choices to take over first baseman duties for Boston in 2020. A reunion with free agent Mitch Moreland or even bringing in someone like Eric Thames could be in the mix as well.

Like MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo points out, Chaim Bloom and Co. now have seven days to either find a trade partner for Travis, waive him, or release him if nothing comes to fruition. If Travis goes unclaimed, he will be outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket and off the Sox’ 40-man roster.

Red Sox Agree to Major-League Deal With Catcher Kevin Plawecki

In their first move of the new decade and new year, the Red Sox have reportedly agreed to a one-year, major-league deal with free-agent catcher Kevin Plawecki, per Robert Murray and The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Plawecki, who turns 29 in February, slashed .222/.287/.342 with three home runs and 17 RBI over 59 games with the Cleveland Indians this past season.

The former Met was non-tendered by Cleveland on December 2nd, the same day the club acquired catcher Sandy Leon from Boston in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Adenys Bautista.

Because the Red Sox’ 40-man roster was already at full capacity prior to this signing, expect an additional roster move to be made once this deal becomes official.

Since it is a major-league contract that Plawecki signed, it would appear that the 2012 first-round pick out of Purdue University is locked in to become Christian Vazquez’s backup this coming season.

The addition of Plawecki also stays consistent with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. continuing to make low risk, high reward kind of signings, like with Martin Perez and Jose Peraza.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the deal is for one year and is worth $900,000. Plawecki is also eligible for arbitration.