#RedSox Catcher Christian Vazquez Considered ‘Someone Teams Could Make a Run at’ in Trade Talks

In his weekly column for The Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo pointed out that teams looking for a backstop may have interest in the Red Sox’ Christian Vazquez now that JT Realmuto is off the board and a Philadelphia Phillie.

Teams Cafardo listed as potential Vazquez suitors were also teams that missed out on Realmuto,  including the Braves, Dodgers, Padres, and Reds.

Now, Vazquez and Realmuto aren’t exactly on the same level in terms of what they bring to the table both at and behind the plate, but Vazquez’s defensive prowess is no joke.

It’s been made pretty much abundantly clear that the Red Sox aren’t planning on carrying three catchers on their 25-man roster in 2019, and with Vazquez due to make $2.85 million, the most of any Boston catcher, this coming season, moving on makes sense, especially when you consider what Leon and Swihart can still provide.

Fresh off signing a three-year contract extension last spring training, the 28-year-old struggled immensely at the plate, slashing a career-worst .207/.257/.283 with three home runs and 16 RBI in just 80 games played in 2018. He also missed a significant amount of time with a fifth finger fracture in his right hand.

To add to the conversation, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Saturday that he feels comfortable with the minor league depth the club has at catcher with this inevitable trade coming, which starts with ex-Rangers backstop Juan Centeno, who Boston signed to a minor league deal last November.

“We’re good,” Cora said. “I had Juan in Houston in 2017. He was part of the playoff roster. So I’m comfortable.”

All three of Centeno, Cora, and Vazquez are natives of Puerto Rico for what it’s worth.

Although Vazquez’s future with the Red Sox is cloudy at this point in time, the same can certainly be said for Blake Swihart and Sandy Leon. The competition between the three of them should really be something to watch these next few weeks.

As for what Dave Dombrowski would want in return for one of the three backstops available via trade, I would venture to say it’s either going to be a middle innings reliever or back-end starter. The possibility that the Red Sox acquire prospects to improve their farm system, like Cafardo says above, is there as well.

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#RedSox Reportedly Seeking Rotation Depth in Catcher Trade Talks as Spring Training Begins.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam reported that the Boston Red Sox are in search of some starting rotation depth. In order to do this, McAdam reports, the club is making any three of their big league catchers available via trade.

Now, this should not come as that large of a surprise, especially since president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowksi said in January that Boston would like to carry only two catchers on their Opening Day roster this season.

What may be surprising here is that Dombrowksi may be looking to shore up the back-end of the Red Sox starting rotation while the bullpen remains the biggest question mark for this club.

As things stand currently, the Red Sox’ starting five will more than likely consist of Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez in 2019. That’s already one of the better rotations in the American League if everyone stays healthy.

Even without the addition of a trade piece, hurlers such as Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, and Steven Wright, when healthy, are more than capable of both pitching out of the bullpen and filling in for a spot start when needed.

So, these rumors are certainly not coming out of nowhere, but when the time comes and one of Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, or Sandy Leon is dealt, I, for one, would be surprised if the Red Sox receive a back-end starting pitcher instead of a reliever in return for one of their backstops.

One Burning Question for Each #RedSox Position Group Headed into Spring Training.

The Red Sox are set to kick off their spring workouts this coming week beginning with pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Fenway South in Fort Myers on Tuesday.

The blueprint for attempting to repeat as World Series champions will be created over the next month and a half before the club hits the road for an 11-game west coast road trip to kick off their 2019 campaign.

There are obviously many components involved in this process, so I went ahead and composed a handful of questions pertaining to each Red Sox position group.

Starting pitchers – Will Chris Sale be able to stay healthy for a full season?

Chris Sale dealt with numerous throwing shoulder issues in 2018, limiting him to 27 starts in the regular season and just 15.1 innings pitched in the postseason. Still, the left-hander posted a 2.11 ERA, averaged 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and finished top five in American League Cy Young voting for the sixth consecutive year. Not to mention he recorded the final out of the World Series as well.

So, heading into the final year of his contract before hitting free agency, the spotlight will be on Sale to see if he can sustain his typical success over the course of a full season’s workload. Without a doubt, it’s going to be an important season for the Florida native. How he holds up may just dictate who comes out on top in a competitive American League East.

Relief pitchers – Who will serve as the Red Sox’ closer in 2019?

Speaking of pitching, it seems as though Dave Dombrowski is comfortable with the idea of either Matt Barnes or Ryan Brasier serving as the Red Sox’ closer to at least begin the 2019 season.

That in mind, the best relief pitcher on the market who just so happens to have spent the last three seasons in a Red Sox uniform is still available.

Given how this winter’s free agency has panned out, I’ve grown more and more content with the thought of the Red Sox offering Craig Kimbrel a one-year deal for the 2019 season with a value similar to that of the qualifying offer the flame-throwing closer declined in November.

I have a feeling the soon to be 31-year-old Kimbrel would prefer a multi-year deal, but whether it be Barnes, Brasier, or Kimbrel manning the ninth inning for Boston in 2019, the bullpen is surely far from perfect and will more than likely be the club’s weakest link.

Catchers – Which Red Sox catcher, if any, will get traded before Opening Day?

It’s been reported this winter that the Red Sox would prefer not to carry three catchers on their 25-man roster like they did for parts of the 2018 season heading into the 2019 campaign.

Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez, and Sandy Leon may all be available via trade as Opening Day looms, but who has the best case to be moved?

Swihart, for starters, is the most appealing option in this scenario.

Turning 27 in April, the former top prospect’s big league career has not exactly panned out the way many envisioned it would when he made his debut with Boston in 2015.

This past season, Swihart was limited to just 207 plate appearances in an extremely limted role with the club, slashing .229/.285/.328 with three home runs and 18 RBI over that span.

Still, the Texas native is viewed by many as Boston’s most appealing backstop. Red Sox manager Alex Cora even said, “I want to see Blake catching more. I’ll give him a chance to,” back at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December.

With Leon and Vazquez in the mix as well, the Red Sox’ catching competition will definitely be something worth paying attention to over the course of the spring.

Infielders – Is Rafael Devers poised for a breakout in 2019?

The second year third baseman blew everyone away with his consistently clutch play this past October as he collected nine RBI in all three postseason series combined, with three of those coming on a game-sealing three-run home run off of Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALCS.

But in his first full regular season with Boston, the 22-year-old posted a below average 94 OPS+, committed 24 errors manning the hot corner, and even struggled to find playing time at different points throughout the year.

So, heading into the 2019 season, what should be expected of Devers? The pressure will certainly be on with Eduardo Nunez proving to be a capable third baseman when healthy, and the Red Sox have prospects such as Michael Chavis Bobby Dalbec looming in the minor leagues as well.

If this picture is evident of anything…

…then I fully expect the Dominican Republic native to get to somewhere close to 30-35 home runs this year to go along with a slugging percentage north of .490. One of the more interesting breakout candidates to watch for on this club.

Outfielders – Can Jackie Bradley Jr. put together a consistently solid season at the plate?

Finally, Red Sox fans all know Jackie Bradley Jr. is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the American League, that much has proven thanks to his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2018.

What people want to see are consistent at bats from the 28-year-old outfielder.

In the second half of last season, Bradley Jr. slashed .269/.340/.487 with seven home runs and 27 runs driven in. Pretty solid numbers over a span of 58 games.

If the South Carolina native could put those type of numbers together for the length of a full season in 2019, then I think it’s safe to say that the Red Sox will have the best outfield in baseball.

All pictures courtesy of Billie Weiss.

The Final Three Outs of the 2018 World Series Taking You into the New Year.

As 2018 comes to a close, I figured it was a good time to reflect on what was one of, if not the greatest year in Boston Red Sox franchise history.

A record-setting 108 regular season wins followed by an impressive 11-3 run in the postseason en route to the club’s ninth World Series title following a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Five.

Mookie Betts was named 2018 American League MVP, the first time a Red Sox player has received that honor since Dustin Pedroia in 2008.

After waiting until February to finally sign a five-year, $110 million contract, JD Martinez went ahead and led the junior circuit in RBI (130) and total bases (358) to go along with 43 home runs in hs first season with Boston.

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s defensive prowess was finally recognized with his first ever Gold Glove Award. The 28-year-old outfielder also came through with multiple clutch at bats in the ALCS against the Houston Astros on his way to being named the series’ Most Valuable Player.

Steve Pearce was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in June to provide a platoon with Mitch Moreland at first base and hit his way to becoming the MVP of the World Series after slashing .333/.500/1.167 with three homers and eight RBI in five games.

David Price put his postseason demons behind him to the tune of a 2.59 combined ERA in the ALCS and World Series, including seven-plus innings of one run ball against the Dodgers in that faithful Game Five.

And finally, Chris Sale, after dealing with left shoulder issues for the majority of the second half of the season, came in to close things out in the ninth inning of Game Five and win his team their fourth World Series title in the last 15 years.

So, without further or due, here are the final three outs of the 2018 World Series. Enjoy and Happy New Year.

 

RECAP: David Price Hurls Seven-Plus Masterful Innings and Steve Pearce Homers Twice as #RedSox Clinch 2018 World Series Title.

The Boston Red Sox are once again on top of the baseball world following a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday to clinch their fourth World Series title since 2004.

David Price got the start for this series-clinching Game Five on just one day of rest, and he was superb.

Making his third appearance of this 2018 Fall Classic, the left-hander limited the Dodgers to one lone run on three hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts over seven-plus quality innings of work.

That one run came right away in the bottom of the first, where before Price could even settle into his outing, David Freese led things off for Los Angeles by ripping a 402 home run on the very first pitch he saw.

Other than that little blip, the Dodgers threatened again in the third when JD Martinez could not locate a fly ball off the bat of Freese that resulted in a one out triple.

From that point, Price buckled down, ended the third without allowing the runner to score from third, and proceeded to retire the next 12 hitters he faced going into the eighth inning.

The Tennessee native would come back on for the eighth, but his superb night would ultimately come to an end after walking Chris Taylor on six pitches.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (58 strikes) in his final start of 2018, Price, who was caught by Christian Vazquez, relied on his four-seam fastball 37% of the time he was on the mound Sunday. He also topped out at 95.3 MPH with his two-seamer in the second inning.

In relief of Price, Joe Kelly came in with a runner on and three outs to get in the eight, and he capped off his terrific October by striking out all three Dodger hitters he faced.

And finally, in a game he was originally slated to start, Chris Sale came on to close this thing out in the ninth, and he did just that by also fanning all three hitters he faced, including a four pitch strikeout of Manny Machado to seal this World Series run in historic fashion.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, whose back was against the wall in this one.

Fresh off collecting four RBI in Game Four of Saturday, Steve Pearce immediately made his presence felt in the first inning on Sunday by blasting a one out, two-run home run to give his team an early two-run advantage.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and Mookie Betts broke out of an 0-for-13 slump by mashing his first and only homer of this World Series on a 2-2 89 MPH slider from Kershaw. 3-1.

An inning later, JD Martinez also came through with his first big fly of this series that put the Red Sox ahead by three runs.

And in the eighth, Steve Pearce, who would later be named the MVP of this World Series, mashed his second home run of the night to all but guarantee a Game Five and series win for Boston’s team.

Some notes from this World Series-clinching win:

From @MLBStatoftheDay: Steve Pearce joins Babe Ruth and Ted Kluszewski as the only players 35 or older to have a multi-homer World Series game.

The Boston Red Sox have won four World Series titles in the last 15 years.

Alex Cora is the first Puerto Rican manager to win a World Series.

From @SoxNotes: David Price’s last 3 starts:
ALCS Game 5 at HOU – 6.0 IP, 0 R, 3-for-21
WS Game 2 vs. LAD – 6.0 IP, 2 R, 3-for-20
WS Game 5 at LAD – 7.0 IP, 1 R, 3-for-23
Totals: 1.42 ERA, .141 opponent AVG

From @BusterOlney: ELIAS: If the Red Sox win, David Price will have clinched two consecutive series against Cy Young winners – Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw – in the same postseason. That’s never been done before.

What a year, and what a way to cap it off.

The 2018 Boston Red Sox are one of the greatest baseball teams of all time. There is no doubt about that.

World. Series. Champions.

Steve Pearce is your MVP of the series.

RECAP: #RedSox Advance to ALCS Following Dramatic 4-3 Win over Yankees in New York.

For the first time since 2013, the Boston Red Sox are headed back to the American League Championship series following a tightly contested 4-3 win over the New York Yankees Tuesday night.

Making his first start of the postseason in this series-clinching Game Four of the ALDS was Rick Porcello, who previously appeared as a reliever in the eighth inning of Game One last Friday.

Tossing five full innings in this one, the right-hander limited New York to just one lone run on four hits and no walks to go along with one punch out on the evening.

The second straight quality outing from a Red Sox starting pitcher, Porcello retired 12 of the first 14 hitters he faced before running into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the fifth.

There, he gave up the only Yankee run of the night on a Brett Gardner sacrfice fly to score Gary Sanchez from third, after both Sanchez and Gleyber Torres reached base on back-to-back one out hits off the New Jersey native.

Other than that though, Porcello managed to escape the fifth with just the one run allowed, and that is how is night would come to a positive close.

Finishing with an efficient final pitch count of 65 (48 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler, who was caught by Christian Vazquez, mixed up his pitch selection by throwing 25 four-seam fastballs, 16 sliders, 12 two-seam fastballs, eight curveballs, and four changeups, which resulted in eight total swings and misses.

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He also topped out at 93.6 MPH with that four-seam fastball en route to the first postseason winning decision of his career.

In relief of Porcello, the Red Sox bullpen was responsible for the final three innings of this one with a three run lead to protect.

Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier both did their jobs by tossing a scoreless frame each in the sixth and seventh, which surprisingly set up Chris Sale to make a rare appearance out of the bullpen in the eighth inning.

Pitching out of the bullpen for the first time since last year’s ALDS and only pitching on three days rest since his Game One start on Friday, the Red Sox ace clearly didn’t miss a beat, as he needed just 13 pitches to retire the side in 1-2-3 fashion.

And finally, in the ninth, Craig Kimbrel came on for his second save opportunity of the series, and he nearly blew it.

With no real command of his fastball, the flame throwing closer allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach base before striking out Giancarlo Stanton for the first out of the inning.

After walking another man on four straight balls, Neil Walker came to the plate with the bases loaded for New York, and he cut Boston’s three run lead down to two by taking an 87 MPH knuckle curveball off his foot to drive in Aaron Judge from third and reload the bases.

A sacrifice fly off the bat of Gary Sanchez a few moments later plated Didi Gregorius from third, and just like that, it was a one run game with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Down to their final out, rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres came up with the chance to send this series back to Fenway Park, but Kimbrel prevailed by getting him to ground out to third for the third and final out of the contest.

Ridiculous efforts from Eduardo Nunez and Steve Pearce there, and that is how the Red Sox clinched their way to a spot in the ALCS for the first time in five years. Disaster avoided.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, who hadn’t pitched against Boston in a postseason game since 2007 when he was a member of the Cleveland Indians.

Starting the scoring in their half of the third, Andrew Benintendi would end up being the catalyst for a three-run inning after leading things off with a HBP.

A Steve Pearce single would advance Benintendi  all the way from third with JD Martinez due up next.

Capitalizing on yet another scoring opportunity, the regular season league leader in RBI collected his sixth RBI of the series on a sac fly to center field to plate Benintendi from third and put his team on the board first.

Two batters later, Ian Kinsler doubled his team’s lead by driving in Pearce, who advanced on a Sabathia wild pitch, from third on an RBI double to left.

Eduardo Nunez, who entered Game Four without a hit in this series, was up next, and he drilled the first pitch he saw from Sabathia to reach first on an RBI single and plate Kinsler from second. 3-0.

In the fourth, with Sabathia out and Zach Britton now in for New York, Christian Vazquez essentially put this game on ice by blasting his first career postseason home run to lead off the inning.

That solo shot was only hit 338 feet, but it was all the Red Sox would need to eventually pick up a series-clinching win in enemy territory.

Some notes from this 4-3 win:

This season at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox clinched both the American League East and a spot in the American League Championship Series.

Dating back to the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox have won their last four postseason games at Yankee Stadium.

By all means, the Yankees had the advantage in this series going back to Saturday night. They stole homefield advantage with a Game Two win, they went back to Yankee Stadium with the chance to finish the series there, and they had a rowdy crowd behind them.

Instead, the Red Sox entered a very hostile environment, took the home crowd out of both ballgames early by jumping on top first, and did not have look back. Damage done.

So now it’s on to the American League Championship Series. The defending World Series champion Houston Astros already clinched their spot after sweeping the Cleveland Indians on Monday and went 4-3 against Boston this season.

I would expect a Justin Verlander v. Chris Sale pitching matchup for Game One on Saturday night, but nothing has been announced on either side yet.

First pitch of the first game of the ALCS at Fenway Park is scheduled for 8:09 PM ET on TBS.

RECAP: Brock Holt Hits for First Postseason Cycle in MLB History as #RedSox Go off for 16 Runs in Blowout Game Three Win over Yankees.

After momentarily losing home field advantage in a disappointing 6-2 loss at the hands of the Yankees at Fenway Park on Saturday night, the Red Sox headed down to the Bronx and looked to get back on track in the first of two at Yankee Stadium.

Making his postseason debut for Boston  last night was Nathan Eovaldi, who was originally slated to be the starter for Game Four. But, given the rate of success the hurler has had against a former club of his since he joined the Red Sox in July, Alex Cora made the first of many right decisions by moving Eovaldi up to pitch on Monday.

Tossing seven full innings this one, the right-hander surrendered just one earned run on five hits, all singles, and no walks to go along with five strikeouts on the mist-filled night.

That lone run for New York came in their half of the fourth inning, when with no outs and runners on the corners, Didi Gregorius grounded into an RBI force out at second base that plated Luke Voit from third.

Other than that though, Eovaldi get the job done by consistently hitting 100 MPH with his fastball and limiting the quantity of traffic base paths.

Retiring nine of the final 10 hitters he faced, the Texas native’s night would come to a positive end after he got Gleyber Torres to ground into a 4-3 putout to retire the side in the seventh.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 97 (72 strikes) with Christian Vazquez behind the plate, Eovaldi threw 46 four-seam fastballs, 30 cutters, 14 sliders, five splitters, and two curveballs, which induced 17 total swings and misses from Yankee hitters. He also topped out at 101 MPH with that four-seamer in the second inning while reaching 100 MPH seven times.

Not too shabby for a postseason debut if you ask me. As for whether Eovaldi will pitch again in this division series, I believe that is dependent on how long it continues. He obviously would not be available for Tuesday’s game, but I could see him coming out of the bullpen if needed for a potential Game Five on Thursday.

Speaking of the Red Sox bullpen, Alex Cora needed to turn to just two pitchers in relief of Eovaldi on Monday night with the game already well out of reach for the Yankees.

Both Heath Hembree and Eduardo Rodriguez worked a scoreless frame each in the eighth and ninth to wrap this blowout win up.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Yankees ace right-hander Luis Severino, and they had some fresh faces in their who made their presence felt.

Brock Holt, Christian Vazquez, Rafael Devers, and Steve Pearce, all of whom had four total at bats between them prior to Monday, all made their presence felt in this one.

Starting the scoring right away in the second, a Rafael Devers leadoff single would later result in Boston’s first of many runs on the night on a two out infield RBI single off the bat of Christian Vazquez.

An inning later, back-to-back singled from Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi led to JD Martinez notching his fourth RBI of this postseason on a sac fly to left field.

Two batters and one Xander Bogaerts single later, Rafael Devers gave his team a three-run advantage by driving in Benintendi from third on an RBI ground out to second.

In the fourth, the Red Sox would chase Severino from this game without recording an out by loading the bases on a pair of singles from Brock Holt and Christian Vazquez followed by a four pitch walk of Jackie Bradley Jr.

With Lance Lynn taking over in place of Severino and the Red Sox lineup turning over, Mookie Betts took advantage of the opportunity in front of him and finally drove in his first postseason RBI by taking another four pitch, run-scoring walk. 4-0.

A few moments after that, Andrew Benintendi essentially put this game on ice early by unloading the bases on a hard hit, three RBI double down the right field line to put his club up 7-0.

The Red Sox would not stop there though, as the Yankees swapped pitchers once again and both Steve Pearce and Brock Holt plated three more runs on consecutive RBI base knocks off of Chad Green before the top half of the frame finally came to an end.

In total, Boston sent 11 batters to the plate in the fourth inning and came away with SEVEN runs. All while the Yankees burned through their bullpen.

Fast forward all the way to seventh now, with Jonathan Holder on the mound for New York, and JD Martinez struck once again with his second RBI of the night on a line drive single up the middle that scored Jackie Bradley Jr. from second and made it an 11-1 contest.

Another inning later, Brock Holt and Mookie Betts made their presence felt with two more run-scoring hits, Holt’s an RBI double and Betts’ an RBI single, while Ian Kinsler also came around to score from third on a wild pitch from Yanks reliever Stephen Tarpley. 14-1.

Finally, in the ninth, after Ian Kinsler drew a two out walk with Austin Romine, a CATCHER, taking over pitching duties for New York, Brock Holt came to the plate for the sixth time with a chance to make history.

Never before has a major leaguer hit for the natural cycle in a postseason game, and having already collected a single, double, and triple prior to his final AB, Holt certainly made the most of a historic opportunity.

On the very first pitch he saw from Romine, a 79 MPH slider towards the bottom of the strike zone, the Red Sox super utility man swung away and sent that ball 355 feet down the right field line. History made and mission accomplished.

Some notes from this 16-1 win:

From @SoxNotes: This is the 7th game in Red Sox postseason history in which every member of Boston’s starting lineup recorded at least 1 hit. Three of those games have been at Yankee Stadium (also 2003 ALCS Game 6 and 2004 ALCS Game 7).

This is the most runs the Red Sox have ever scored in a postseason game on the road. The previous record was 12 (1999 ALDS Game 5 at Cleveland).

From @MLBStatoftheDay: Boston’s 16-1 win is the largest margin of victory in any Red Sox-Yankees postseason game ever.

With this series now at 2-1 in favor of Boston, the Red Sox will look to end things later tonight with Rick Porcello on the bump.

Originally slated to start Game Three, Porcello recorded two outs in his only other appearance in this series on Friday.

Opposite Porcello will be veteran left-hander CC Sabathia for the Yankees, who owns a 3.29 ERA over 18 postseason games (17 games started) since he joined New York prior the 2009 season.

First pitch of Game Four is scheduled for 8:07 PM ET Tuesday on TBS.