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.

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Red Sox Claim Josh Osich off Waivers From White Sox

The Red Sox have made their first roster move under new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as the club claimed left-handed reliever Josh Osich off waivers from the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

Osich, 31, posted an ERA of 4.66 and batting average against of .242 over 57 appearances and 67 2/3 total innings pitched this past season with Chicago, his first in the Windy City after coming up and spending four years with the San Francisco Giants.

Per MLB Trade Rumors, Osich is projected to earn approximately $1 million in his first year of salary arbitration.

The Idaho native has a solid track record against left-handed bats over the course of his career, limiting them to a lifetime .659 OPS over the span of 380 plate appearances.

Beginning in 2020, relievers will be required to face a minimum of three hitters or end the inning they have entered, so it appears that the days of the LOOGY (Left-Handed One Out Guy) in baseball are over.

That new rule did not stop the Sox from picking up a left-handed option out of the bullpen though, especially when they did not have to give anything up to acquire him.

Based off of his Statcast page, Osich relied heavily on his cutter in 2019, turning to the pitch nearly 67% of the time he was on the mound. His pitch arsenal also includes a slider, sinker, changeup, and a mid-90’s fastball.

The offseason is just getting started, and the Red Sox are already on the board in terms of transactions made. It’s hard to imagine that they are anywhere close to being finished.

Theo Epstein Shoots Down Red Sox Rumors Amid Speculation Surrounding Potential Reunion

In the last few weeks following the firing of now ex-president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, rumors had been swirling that the Red Sox were interested in a potential reunion with former general manager and current Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Epstein himself shut down those reports on Wednesday, telling reporters before the Cubs took on the Pittsburgh Pirates that, “I’m here. We have a lot we need to work on to get back to the level we’re accustomed to. I’m invested in that. That’s what I’m focused on.”

The Brookline, Ma. native’s current contract with Chicago runs through the end of the 2021 season. He initially joined the Cubs back on October 21st, 2011, the same day he resigned from the post as GM of the Red Sox for a second time.

At just 45-years of age, Epstein has already established himself as one of the more accomplished baseball executives of the 21st century, snapping an 86-year World Series drought with the Sox in 2004, winning another in 2007, and snapping a 106-year drought with the Cubs in 2016.

As you may have already guessed, the Red Sox are going to need someone to lead their baseball operations department ahead of what looks to be a crucial winter for the club with plenty of important decisions to be made.

And with that bit of knowledge, Epstein also confirmed Wednesday that, “neither he, GM Jed Hoyer or executive Jason McLeod were linked to the Red Sox position,” per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Gordon Wittenmyer.

“I have really good relationships with a lot of people there,” Epstein said. “And I certainly wish them the best, but there’s nothing to that story.”

So, unless something dramatic happens relatively soon, it seems as though the Red Sox will have to look elsewhere for a new head of baseball operations. Perhaps Eddie Romero, an internal option, is a viable choice?

Red Sox Reportedly ‘Monitoring’ White Sox’ Jose Abreu’s Availability as Trade Deadline Looms

The Red Sox are reportedly among a handful of clubs monitoring the availability of Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu as the trade deadline nears, per Forbes’ Phil Rogers.

Abreu, 32, is set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2019 season and is slashing .273/.309/.500 with 21 home runs and 66 RBI through 92 games this year.

As things stand right now, the White Sox are about halfway through a five-year rebuild, and with a record of 42-51, currently sit 11 games back of the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League central.

Abreu and the Red Sox have been linked since the Cuba native defected from his country back in 2013.

Boston did make a lucrative offer to the then-26-year-old infielder, but ultimately came up short of the six-year, $68 million proposal from Chicago.

Now, the White Sox are in a position to deal Abreu for prospects and perhaps re-sign him in the winter.

Against left-handed pitching this season, Abreu owns an OPS of .947 to go along with four homers and 15 RBI. His OPS falls by nearly 200 points when facing off against right-handed pitching, but the power numbers go up as well.

With those splits in mind, would it necassarily make sense for the Red Sox to pursue a right-handed first baseman? Probably not, because Michael Chavis is already holding things down and Steve Pearce should be able to make his return from the injured list at some point this season.

Sure, going after a vaunted slugger like Abreu, who owns a career 1.063 at Fenway Park, would be nice, but given how financially pressed president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowsk and the Red Sox seem to be, the main objective heading into July 31st should be to acquire bullpen help.

Red Sox Blow 16th Save of Season, Fail to Sweep White Sox in Demoralizing 8-7 Loss

After coming from behind in a 6-3 win over the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, the Red Sox opened the official second half of the 2019 season by nearly completing the three-game sweep over the South Siders, but instead blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning on Wednesday and fell by a final score of 8-7 in their final contest before heading to London for the weekend.

Making his 17th start of the season for Boston, Chris Sale was not his usual self to begin things in the series finale, but he settled in towards the end.

Tossing six full innings in this one, the left-hander surrendered five runs, all earned, on six hits, two HBPs, and one walk to go along with exactly 10 strikeouts on the afternoon.

All five of those Chicago runs came within Sale’s first three frames of work, with the first four batters of the ballgame all reaching base safely while plating their side’s first two runs.

In the third, a leadoff home run off the bat of backstop James McCann, as well as a two-out RBI infield single from Ryan Cordell to score Jon Jay, who was hit by a pitch, from third made it a 5-2 game. The thing is, that fifth run never would have crossed the plate had Michael Chavis turned his attention towards home instead of focusing on the first base umpire after Cordell beat out that infield single. But, a rookie made a rookie mistake, and Jay took full advantage.

Following that whole sequence, Sale locked in and proceeded to retire the next 10 hitters he faced in order leading into the middle of the sixth inning, the point in which his outing came to a close on a much more positive note than it seemed destined to earlier.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 102 (71 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler relied on his four-seam fastball more than 43% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing 10 swings and misses and topping out at 97.4 MPH with the pitch while Sandy Leon was behind the plate.

Hit with another no-decision, Sale’s streak of regular season starts without a win at Fenway Park now stands at 12, with the last one coming on July 11th, 2018 against the Texas Rangers. He’ll look for better overall results and to lower his 3.82 ERA in his next time out, which should come against the Toronto Blue Jays next weekend.

In relief of Sale, Marcus Walden came into the seventh with his side in a two-run hole, and he added on to that deficit by giving up one run on a Jose Abreu one-out RBI single in his lone inning of work.

Steven Wright, making his 2019 season debut after being activated from the restricted list on Tuesday, maneuvered around a one-out, runners on the corners in a two-run game situation by getting the pinch-hitting Yonder Alonso to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.

And in the ninth, after the Red Sox had climbed their way back and taken a 7-6 lead in the bottom half of the previous inning, Matt Barnes gave it all away, blowing his sixth save and his team’s 16th by serving up a go-ahead, two-run homer to the slugging Abreu on a 2-2, 97 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.

That put the White Sox up 8-7, which would go on to be Wednesday’s final score.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Chicago right-hander Reynaldo Lopez, who just so happened to be opposite Sale the last time these two clubs met up in May.

Trailing by three runs before they even had the chance to take their first at-bats, JD Martinez got the scoring started for Boston by pulling them back to within one run on his 17th big fly of the season, a 400-foot two-run shot in the first inning to plate both Rafael Devers and himself.

Fast forward to the third, and it was Devers getting himself involved yet again, this time leading the inning off with an opposite field double and coming in to score four batters later on a wild pitch from Lopez with Michael Chavis at the dish. 5-3.

In the seventh, Martinez struck once more with a two-out RBI double to right-center off left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer, this one driving in Devers all the way from first to pull Boston back to within two runs at 6-4.

Finally, in the eighth, with new reliever Evan Marshall in for Chicago, Eduardo Nunez reached base safely on a line-drive single up the middle.

Two batters later, after Brock Holt pinch-hit for Sandy Leon and advanced Nunez up to third on a tough, pop fly ground-rule double and was replaced by Brian Johnson, yes, Brian Johnson, as a pinch-runner, Mookie Betts made things interesting against White Sox closer Alex Colome with a single grounder to third.

Going on any sort of contact, Nunez hustled in from third and managed to evade the tag attempt from McCann to score his team’s fifth run and make it a one-run contest.

A soft grounder from Devers moved up both Betts and Johnson into scoring position at second and third for Xander Bogaerts with two outs in the frame.

On the fifth pitch he saw from Colome, the soon to be 2019 All-Star drilled a clutch single right back up the middle, giving Johnson and Betts plenty of time to come in and put the Red Sox up 7-6.

It seemed crucial at the time, but as already mentioned, the White Sox responded with two runs of their own in their half of the ninth, while the Boston bats went down quietly in theirs despite Jackie Bradley Jr. drawing a leadoff walk in what would turn out to be a crushing 8-7 defeat.

Some notes from this loss:

From MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith:

From The Eagle-Tribune’s Chris Mason:

The Red Sox went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position Wednesday and left 10 men on base.

Rafael Devers’ last seven games: .538/.556/.846 with one home run, five doubles, and four runs driven in.

So, the Red Sox seem to be making blowing late leads a recurring theme. There was that loss against the Blue Jays this past Saturday, that 17-inning against the Twins on June 18th, and that loss against the Rangers on June 10th, to name a few.

The Red Sox also lead the American League with 16 blown saves on the year. That is far from ideal.

I’ve already written about how president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski needs to go out and acquire a closer, because clearly the current crop of Red Sox relievers are going to burn out pretty soon, if they have not already, a la Matt Barnes.

Wednesday was the last time the Red Sox will play a game at Fenway Park until after the All-Star break on July 12th.

Now, it’s on to London, where Boston will be hosting the New York Yankees in a historic two-game weekend set across the pond, which will mark the first time Major League Baseball has ever been played in Europe.

Right-hander Rick Porcello and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the starting nods for the Red Sox, while New York has only announced one starter, right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, for Saturday’s contest.

Currently sitting nine games back of the Yankees for first in the American League East, this weekend presents a huge opportunity for the Red Sox to jump start the second half of their 2019 season.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:10 PM EDT on FOX. Red Sox looking to make some history in England.

 

 

 

Xander Bogaerts Goes Yard and Rafael Devers Collects Four Hits as Red Sox Take Series from White Sox with 6-3 Rain-Filled Win

After taking the first of their three-game series against the Chicago White Sox in walk-off fashion Monday, the Red Sox wrapped up the official first half of the 2019 season with a rain-filled 6-3 win over the South Siders on Tuesday to improve to 44-37 on the year.

Making his 14th start of the season for Boston in the middle game was David Price, fresh off a five-inning, 73-pitch performance in his last time out against the Minnesota Twins.

This time around, taking on another American League Central foe, the left-hander put together a solid outing, yielding three runs, two of which were earned, on eight hits and zero walks to go along with nine strikeouts over six quality innings of work.

The first of those three Chicago runs came around to score off of Price in the second, and it was the result of a throwing error from Xander Bogaerts at that, with James McCann leading off the frame by reaching second on said error, and advancing to third on a wild pitch with Jon Jay at the plate.

Jay would make the Red Sox pay for those mistakes by driving in McCann on a one-out, broken-bat RBI single to center, his first hit of the year.

In the third, it was more of the same, with a pair of doubles from Tim Anderson and James McCann plating another White Sox run, while an Eloy Jiminez single that snuck under Bogaerts’ glove made it a 3-1 game.

Other than that particular rough stretch though, Price rallied by retiring 10 of the last 12 Chicago hitters he faced going into the middle of the sixth, where his outing came to an end, but not before punching out the side in the fourth and receiving some assistance from Jackie Bradley Jr. and his arm in the fifth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 97 (72 strikes), the 33-year-old hurler relied on his changeup more than 34% of the time he was on the mound Tuesday, inducing eight swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 94.2 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 24 times while Christian Vazquez was behind the plate.

Improving to 5-2 while lowering his ERA on the season down to 3.36, Price will look to carry over his success from the first half of the year into the second half in his next time out, which will come against the Toronto Blue Jays sometime next week after the team returns from London.

In relief of Price, Matt Barnes entered the seventh with a three-run lead to protect, and he worked his way around a leadoff walk in an otherwise clean frame of work.

Ryan Brasier gave up a two-out double in the eighth, but did not allow that runner to score.

And in the ninth, Brandon Workman stranded another runner at second en route to picking up his third save of the season and securing the 6-3 win for his team.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was first matched up against an opener for the White Sox in right-hander Carson Fulmer, who, like David Price, is an alumnus of Vanderbilt University.

Rafael Devers, batting out of the two-hole for the third time this season, got Boston on the board almost immediately in the first inning, driving in Mookie Betts from second on a pop fly opposite field RBI double that probably should have been caught.

Fast forward to the third, with reliever Juan Minaya in for Chicago, the bases loaded, and two outs in the inning with the Sox down by two, and Christian Vazquez came through in an early, but still important spot, as he drilled a 2-2 slider through the left side of the infield to plate both Devers and Xander Bogaerts to tie this contest back up at three runs a piece.

In the fifth, Devers struck again against new Chicago hurler Jose Ruiz by setting up Bogaerts with no outs and a runner in scoring position on a leadoff double.

Bogaerts capitalized on the run-scoring chance to the fullest, absolutely crushing an 0-1 97 MPH fastball right down the heart of the plate and depositing it 429 feet over the Green Monster. The eventual 2019 All-Star’s 15th big fly of the year put the Red Sox up 5-3.

Finally, an inning later, back-to-back base hits from Michael Chavis and Marco Hernandez led to Boston scoring their sixth run of the night, with Eduardo Nunez bringing in Chavis from third on a sacrifice fly to center field.

That gave Boston the 6-3 advantage, which would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some notes from this win:

Rafael Devers on Tuesday: 4-for-4 with three doubles, two runs scored, and one RBI. His first four-hit game of the season and first three-double game of his career. All while playing on a sore right hamstring.

deversstatcast

David Price’s 2019 strikeout-to-walk-ratio: 82/15 or 5.47/1.

From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:

So, exactly half of the 2019 season is complete. It’s been unusual at times to say the least, but the Red Sox have been playing at a .608 clip since the start of May and are 10-3 in their last 10 games. At 44-37, nothing is out of reach yet despite all the negativity that has surrounded this team to this point in the year.

The Red Sox will go for the three-game sweep over the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon, with left-hander Chris Sale getting the start for Boston and right-hander Reynaldo Lopez doing the same for Chicago.

Yet to win a decision at Fenway Park in 2019, Sale owns an ERA of 1.67 over his last four starts, including an outing in which he gave up four runs (three earned) in five innings against the Toronto Blue Jays in his last time out.

In his career against the club he began his professional career with, the 30-year-old is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA over three starts and 19 total innings of work.

Lopez, meanwhile is averaging more than 10 hits allowed per nine innings through 16 starts with the White Sox this season. He currently leads the American League in earned runs allowed as well with 60.

In two prior starts against Boston, the 25-year-old has surrendered eight runs (seven earned), on 14 hits, 12 strikeouts, and six walks. That’s good for an ERA of 5.56.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN. Last game the Red Sox play stateside until July 5th.

Red Sox Reinstate Steven Wright, Option Josh Smith to Triple-A Pawtucket, and Transfer Nathan Eovaldi to 60-Day Injured List

Before taking on the Chicago White Sox in the second of a three-game series on Tuesday, the Red Sox reinstated right-hander Steven Wright from the restricted list. In order to make room for Wright on Boston’s 40-man roster, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi was transferred to the 60-day injured list. And in order to make room for Wright on the 25-man roster, right-hander Josh Smith was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. The club made the transactions official earlier Tuesday.

Suspended the first 80 games of the 2019 season back in March after testing positive for human growth hormone, Wright would be ineligible for the postseason.

The knuckleballer was sent out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on June 9th, where he allowed two earned runs on six hits and three walks to go along with four strikeouts over five appearances (one start) and 9 2/3 total innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.86 and batting average against of .176.

Although he would not be able to pitch in October, the addition of Wright should still provide a boost to a Red Sox bullpen that appears to need one at the moment.

In 16 outings as a reliever last season before being shelved with inflammation in his left knee, Wright posted a 1.52 ERA and .618 OPS against over 25 2/3 frames of work.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora has already come out and said Wright will be strictly used as a reliever, which makes sense given the knee issues he had last year.

On October 6th, the 34-year-old was placed on the injured list because of that left knee, and that kept him out of Boston’s World Series run. A month later, Wright underwent successful left knee surgery in New York, where he received an arthroscopy and debridement on the joint.

Now, coming off his second suspension in as many seasons, Wright will look to give his team a different kind of look out of the bullpen.

Smith, meanwhile, appeared in two contests against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend in his fourth stint with Boston, allowing one run over four innings of relief.

On the 2019 season as a whole, the 31-year-old hurler owns a 5.40 ERA and .289 batting average against through 10 outings, two of which have been starts. He also picked up his first big league save on June 13th in a 7-6 win over the Texas Rangers.

As for Eovaldi, the move to the 60-day injured list has no effect on when he will be back, since the 29-year-old has already missed more than 60 days after being shelved back in April and undergoing successful surgery on his right elbow that same week.