New Podding the Red Sox episode: Pitching prospect Zach Bryant joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by newest Red Sox right-handed pitching prospect Zach Bryant, who the club acquired from the Chicago Cubs last weekend.

Among the topics Zach and I discussed were how he grew up a Red Sox fan despite being born and raised in Florida, how weightlifting helped turn him into a legitimate prospect, how he works out with Orioles outfielder Austin Hays and Rockies first-round draft pick Zac Veen in the offseason, how Driveline Baseball has helped him improve, how he faced off against Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani while at the Driveline facility, what Red sox fans can expect out of him in 2021, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Zach for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here, and you can follow him on Instagram by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Zach Bryant: Aussiedi Photography)

Red Sox acquire right-handed pitching prospect Zach Bryant from Cubs to complete Josh Osich trade

The Red Sox have acquired right-handed pitching prospect Zach Bryant from the Cubs to complete the trade that sent left-hander Josh Osich to Chicago back in August, the team announced Saturday.

Boston originally dealt Osich to Chicago on August 31 in exchange for a player to be named later. Given six months to complete that deal, the deadline was fast approaching, and we now know Bryant is indeed the PTBNL.

The 22-year-old right-hander was selected by the Cubs in the 15th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Jacksonville University.

In his debut season as a professional, Bryant — listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 lbs. — posted a 1.27 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 12 total relief appearances and 21 1/3 innings of work between the rookie-level, Arizona League Cubs and short-season, Northwest League Eugene Emeralds in 2019.

A native of Port Orange, Fla., Bryant initially attended Daytona State College for two years before transferring to Jacksonville for the 2019 season, where he produced a 3.48 ERA over 28 outings and 31 innings pitched.

He also put up a 44:19 strikeout-to-walk ratio while recording 12 saves en route to being named to the All-ASUN second team.

Now a member of the Red Sox organization, Bryant joins the likes of Christian Koss and Nick Sogard as former 2019 draft picks that Boston has acquired via trade this offseason.

(Picture of Zach Bryant: Zach Bryant’s Twitter/@zbry34)

Former Red Sox closer Brandon Workman signs one-year deal with Cubs, per report

Former Red Sox closer Brandon Workman has reportedly reached agreement on a one-year, major-league contract with the Cubs, according to The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney.

Per Mooney, Workman will earn a base salary of $1 million in 2021 with the chance to earn an additional $2 million in performance bonuses.

The 32-year-old right-hander is a little more than four months removed from what can best be described as a tumultuous 2020 season between the Sox and Phillies.

With Boston to begin the year, Workman got off to a so-so start, allowing three earned runs over seven appearances and 6 2/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen before getting dealt to Philadelphia along with Heath Hembree for right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold.

Upon arriving in Philly, Workman had the chance to re-establish himself as he was about to embark upon free agency, but he instead floundered.

In 14 appearances (13 innings) in a Phillies uniform, the Texas native posted a dismal 6.92 ERA and 1.146 OPS against while blowing three of a possible eight save opportunities to close out the season.

Performing that poorly to end a contract year has to be unsettling to some degree, but Workman still managed to net himself a major-league deal anyway, albeit a short-term one.

It’s likely the Cubs are banking on the former first-round draft pick returning to his 2019 form — in which he produced a 1.88 ERA and struck out 104 hitters in 71 2/3 innings — with a new change of scenery.

Prior to his signing with Chicago, Workman was someone the Red Sox “had at least some interest in a reunion with,” per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

A reunion between the two sides in 2021 may not be possible anymore, but Cotillo adds that Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have “at least some interest in three free-agent righties — Jeremy Jeffress, Chaz Roe and Ben Heller.”

Earlier this week, the @RedSoxStats Twitter account hinted at the idea that Boston is not yet done making bullpen additions ahead of the start of the 2021 season.

(Picture of Brandon Workman: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox should bolster bullpen by signing veteran reliever Alex Colomé

In signing right-hander Garrett Richards and utilityman Enrique Hernandez to major-league contracts this weekend, the Red Sox have done a solid job in addressing some of the team’s areas of needs.

That, however, does not mean that the job is done quite yet as more additions are likely to be made between now and Opening Day.

One area the Sox could look to address would be bolstering the back end of their bullpen. MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo even wrote on Saturday that Boston is “pursuing bullpen upgrades.”

While a great deal of veteran, free-agent bullpen arms remain unsigned thanks to a relatively slow-moving market for relievers, one name that sticks out in particular here is Alex Colome.

The 32-year-old right-hander has been linked to the Red Sox on several occasions this month, and is coming off a superb 2020 season in which he posted a 0.81 ERA and 2.97 FIP over 21 appearances and 22 1/3 innings pitched for the White Sox.

He put up those numbers while working with a two-pitch arsenal that consists of a cutter and four-seam fastball that averaged 94.4 mph on the radar gun, per Baseball Savant.

On January 2, FanSided’s Robert Murray tweeted that the Sox were among a handful of teams interested in Colome, while MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweeted on January 12 that Boston was “among those in the mix” for the righty’s services.

Bringing on someone of Colome’s caliber would help the Red Sox in at least two ways. First, his addition would surely improve an overworked bullpen that put up the second-worst relievers’ ERA in the American League (5.79) while throwing the most relief innings in baseball (278) last year.

Second, Colome has plenty of experience as a big-league closer, racking up 138 career saves over the course of eight seasons between the White Sox, Mariners, and Rays.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox may already have their closer for the 2021 season in the form of right-hander Matt Barnes, but it would not hurt to add a fallback option there, especially given the fact that Barnes has struggled in that role in the past.

MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith put it best regarding the flame-throwing 30-year-old in the most recent installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast.

“Matt Barnes has struggled throughout his career in that role,” Smith said. “He did take it over last year and he did look pretty good, but he’s a guy that — when you have a full 162-game schedule — often gets tired in the second half [of the season]. He doesn’t produce as much in the second half. You have to be careful with Matt Barnes because he does throw hard, has really good stuff, obviously… But, with him, if he overthrows too much, you got to be careful with him.”

On top of being able to spell Barnes as closer when needed, Colome, having spent more than 11 years in the Rays’ organization from 2007-2018, is likely familiar with Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to some degree from their time together in Tampa Bay.

That particular connection between Bloom and Colome could work towards improving the Red Sox’ relief corps in 2021, as MLB Trade Rumors predicted back in November that the Dominican hurler would net himself a one-year deal worth approximately $6 million this offseason.

(Picture of Alex Colome: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda takes home Venezuelan winter ball Rookie of the Year honors

Red Sox catching prospect Jhonny Pereda took home Rookie of the Year honors in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League Saturday night.

The 24-year-old, playing for Leones del Caracas, slashed an impressive .338/.421/.421 to go along with one home run and 16 RBI over 39 games and 153 plate appearances this season, which ended on January 10.

He also threw out six of a possible 13 runners on the base paths, which translates to a 46% success rate.

Pereda received 37 of 50 possible first-place votes in the league’s MVP race while also finishing with 205 voting points, 105 more than the runner-up.

“This makes me very happy because last year was a strong year because of the virus. There were no minor-leagues and that affected many players, both me and many, because there was no season,” Pereda said (in Spanish) of winning the award. “But I kept working to come to Venezuela. Thank God and Leones, who gave me the opportunity to play here.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Pereda from the Cubs back in March as the player to be named later in a January trade that involved right-hander Travis Lakins.

The club briefly released the Venezuelan from his contract on July 15 only to re-sign him to a two-year minor-league deal on July 17 and promptly add him to their 60-man player pool. He would go on to spend the rest of the summer at the alternate training site in Pawtucket.

After baseball activities ended at the alternate training site in late September, Pereda did not attend the Red Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers, but he did receive an invite to major-league spring training in December.

In addition to his catching abilities that netted him a minor-league Gold Glove Award in 2019, the right-handed hitting backstop can play a little first base as well, as evidenced by what he did this winter.

Going into spring training next month, Pereda should figure to be an intriguing component of the Red Sox’ catching depth equation given the fact Deivy Grullon was lost on a waiver claim by the Cincinnati Reds in December.

As of this writing, the 6-foot-1, 202 lb. catcher is Boston’s top backstop not included on their 40-man roster, according to SoxProspects.com’s depth charts.

Pereda, along with fellow catching prospect Connor Wong, is expected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Pawtucket.

“I know that this season here in Venezuela will help me. It gave me many experiences that I will put into practice in the training field,” said Pereda (in Spanish) of his time in his home country. “I played with a very experienced team. I had teammates who have played in the major-leagues, who have been in pro ball for many years and I always tried to listen to what they talked about baseball, and those little details that can help me.”

(Picture of Jhonny Pereda: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox one of several teams interested in free-agent reliever Alex Colomé, per report

The Red Sox are among the teams reportedly interested in free-agent reliever Alex Colome, per FanSided’s Robert Murray.

Colome, who recently turned 32, is coming off a 2020 campaign with the White Sox in which he posted a superb 0.81 ERA and .460 OPS against over 21 appearances and 22 1/3 innings of work while converting 12 out of a possible 13 save opportunities.

The veteran right-hander is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to net himself a one-year deal worth somewhere around $6 million this offseason, though MLBTR does have him returning to the South Side.

That being said, Colome does have connections to the Red Sox, as the above tweet mentions, thanks to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

Both Bloom and Colome spent plenty of time together with the Rays following the latter’s big-league debut in 2013, which came more than six years after he signed with Tampa Bay out of the Dominican Republic in March 2007.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 225 lbs., Colome works with just two pitches: a cut and four-seam fastball, per Baseball Savant. He posted a 15.3% whiff rate with those pitches last season.

The Red Sox, coming off a 2020 campaign in which they ranked 27th in baseball in bullpen ERA (5.79), are in need of upgrades to their relief corps.

Colome, despite owning a lifetime 5.31 ERA at Fenway Park, certainly fits that mold and could even emerge as the club’s closer if he is indeed signed.

For the time being, though, that remains just a possibility since it is not yet known how aggressively the Red Sox are pursuing the experienced hurler.

Former Red Sox right-hander Robert Stock claimed off waivers by Cubs

A week after he was designated for assignment, former Red Sox right-hander Robert Stock was claimed off waivers by the Cubs earlier Wednesday afternoon.

Stock, 31, was originally claimed off waivers by Boston from the Phillies back in late July.

In his debut season with the Sox, the flame-throwing righty allowed nine runs (seven earned) on 16 hits and 10 walks over 10 relief appearances and 13 1/3 total innings of work spanning three major-league stints. That’s good for a 4.73 ERA, but a 101 ERA+ and 3.34 FIP as well.

Noted for his fastball velocity since being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the 2009 amateur draft, Stock averaged 96.8 mph with his heater this past season while topping out at 99 mph with the pitch.

Now a member of the Cubs’ 40-man roster, the University of Southern California product will presumably have the opportunity to compete for a spot in Chicago’s Opening Day bullpen.

With the loss of Stock, the Red Sox have now in one way or the other removed 11 pitchers — Stock, Domingo Tapia, Matt Hall, Ryan Weber, Robinson Leyer, Andrew Triggs, Mike Kickham, Kyle Hart, Zack Godley, Dylan Covey, and Martin Perez (player option declined) — from their own 40-man roster since the start of the offseason.

Red Sox Option Ryan Weber to Pawtucket, Call up Dylan Covey

Before taking on the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, the Red Sox swapped one right-handed pitcher for another, as the club recalled Dylan Covey from their alternate training site in Pawtucket and in a corresponding move, optioned Ryan Weber.

Covey, who turns 29 next week, will be making his second stint with the Sox after allowing two runs over two innings of relief in a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles on July 25. The California native was sent down to Pawtucket shortly after his team debut with the goal of getting him stretched out in mind, manager Ron Roenicke said at the time.

Originally acquired by Boston from the Tampa Bay Rays on July 21, Covey came into the 2020 season with a career 6.54 ERA and 5.56 FIP over 63 outings (45 starts) and 250 1/3 innings pitched with the Chicago White Sox from 2017 through 2019.

Weber, meanwhile, entered the 2020 campaign as the Sox’ No. 3 starter but struggled in that role, most recently surrendering two runs in just three innings of work against the Blue Jays on Friday night.

Through three starts at the big-league level thus far in 2020, the soon-to-be-30-year-old hurler has posted an ERA of 9.90 and OPS against of 1.220 over 10 total innings pitched.

With Weber off the major-league roster for the time being, it will be fascinating to see how the Red Sox approach the vacancy in their starting rotation. Roenicke will likely have more to say about that later Saturday.

Red Sox Acquire Right-Hander Dylan Covey in Trade With Rays

The Red Sox have acquired right-hander Dylan Covey from the Tampa Bay Rays, the club officially announced Tuesday.

By acquiring Covey and adding him to their player pool while removing left-hander Bobby Poyner, the Sox now have 59 players in said pool.

Covey, who turns 29 in August, was originally a fourth-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in the 2013 amateur draft.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 220 lbs., the University of San Diego product made his major-league debut with the White Sox in April 2017 after being taken by Chicago in the previous year’s Rule 5 draft.

Since that time, Covey has not had a simple time of things in the big-leagues, as he owns a career ERA of 6.54 and career FIP 5.56 through 63 outings, 45 of which were starts, and 250 1/3 innings pitched.

While he was consistently shuttled between the majors and Triple-A the past two seasons, Covey was ultimately designated for assignment by the ChiSox in January before he inked a minor-league pact with the Rays the very next month.

For what it’s worth, Covey was having a decent spring for Tampa Bay before things were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Through his first four Grapefruit League appearances of the spring, he had yielded just four runs (three earned) over 7 2/3 innings of work out of the Rays’ bullpen.

Per his Statcast page, Covey’s 2019 pitch mix included six pitches: a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a sinker, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. He punched out 14.6% of the batters he faced last season.

With Covey, as well former Diamondbacks hurler Zack Godley, the Red Sox have added two intriguing rotation and/or bullpen options to their ranks in the past week.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the acquisition of Covey from the Rays marks the first time chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has made a deal with his former employer in St. Petersburg.

Former Red Sox Ace Jon Lester Open to Reunion With Organization He Began Career With

Former Red Sox ace and current Cubs left-hander Jon Lester is open to a potential reunion with Boston this winter, he said in a radio interview with WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Lester, who turns 37 in January, is entering the final year of the six-year, $155 million deal he signed with Chicago back in December 14. That contract includes a $25 million vesting option for 2021 if Lester were to pitch 200 innings this year or 400 innings between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Even if those numbers wind up getting prorated due to the coronavirus-induced shutdown, it seems unlikely that he would reach that mark, thus making him a free agent later in the year.

“We’ve got a lot of what-if’s going on right now,” Lester told Bradford. “For me, I don’t know what is going to happen next year. I know I have the team option, the player option, that sort of thing. We’ll figure that out one way or the other. I will either be here or be a free agent. Obviously everything is open. I’m open-minded to anything.”

Drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft out of Bellarmine High School in Tacoma, Wa., Lester won two World Series titles and made two All-Star teams in his first go-around with the Red Sox.

As you may recall, Sox brass famously low-balled Lester in the spring of 2014 as he was nearing free agency and coming off a 2013 campaign in which he was an All-Star, helped Boston win another World Series, and finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting.

At that time, principal owner John Henry and Co. offered the lefty a four-year, $70 million extension, good for an average annual value of $15 million.

Even after publicly expressing that he’d be willing to take a discount to keep the Red Sox as competitive as possible, that offer was still downright disrespectful, to be blunt. Especially when Lester had just seen the Yankees sign international free agent Masahiro Tanaka, then 25, to a seven-year, $155 million contract that January.

So after botching those extension talks, the Red Sox wound up dealing Lester to the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2014 trade deadline, and the Washington native went on to sign that aforementioned six-year deal with the Cubs a few months later.

As productive as Lester has been since joining the North Siders, his 2019 campaign was not the most memorable.

Starting 31 games, Lester posted a 4.46 ERA and 4.35 xFIP over 171 2/3 innings of work. Not terrible numbers by any means, but it certainly would appear that the southpaw is on the decline at this stage in his career.

Preferably, Lester would like to prove that last year was just a blip and not the way things are trending for him, but his chances to do that are growing slimmer and slimmer as each day passes with no plan for a 2020 season in place.

“On a personal level, this hurts me,” he said of the shutdown. “I’m not getting any younger and coming off a year like I had last year, this isn’t going to help me.”

Because of that uncertainty, I’m sure Lester has had more time to think about different things while waiting this pandemic out from his Georgia home, and it certainly seems like returning to Boston has crossed his mind more than once.

“Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started,” he said. “But, I’ve got a little time before I really have to sit down and weigh that decision, even if it’s something where they want me back. Hopefully, I’m still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people. We’ll see.”

We will have to wait and see. I mean, who knows what the market for a veteran 37-year-old left-hander with 2,500+ innings under his belt will look like come free agency? How much would Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom be willing to dish out for someone like that if he feels like Lester fits a team need? Both are unknowns at this point in time.