Red Sox add top pitching prospect Bryan Mata, 6 others to 40-man roster ahead of Rule 5 Draft

The Red Sox added seven minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster on Friday in order to protect them from being eligible for this December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Right-handers Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold, and Eduard Bazardo, left-hander Jay Groome, catcher Connor Wong, infielder Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario were all added to Boston’s 40-man roster.

Going into Friday, the Sox’ 40-man roster was at 36 players, meaning three players had to be removed in order to make room for the seven names mentioned above.

The three players removed from Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday were left-handers Kyle Hart and Matt Hall, and right-hander Ryan Weber. Hart has been outrighted to Triple-A Worcester, while Hall and Weber were designated for assignment.

Both Hart and Hall made their Red Sox debuts in 2020, and both struggled mightily in limited action.

In what was his first taste of the big-leagues, the soon-to-be 27-year-old Hart allowed 15 runs (13 earned) on 17 hits and 10 walks over just nine innings pitched through his first three starts after getting called up in mid-August.

A demotion to the bullpen did not do any wonders for the former 19th-round draft pick either, as he surrendered six earned runs over two innings of relief against the Braves on September 1 before his season came to an end a day later due to a left hip impingement.

Hall, meanwhile, was acquired by Boston in a trade that sent minor-league catcher Jhon Nunez to the Tigers back in January.

The 27-year-old looked impressive at summer camp, but that did not translate well to his first season with the Sox.

Making just four appearances (one start), the southpaw posted a dismal 18.69 ERA and 7.92 FIP in 8 2/3 innings of work.

As for Weber, this comes as somewhat of a surprise considering the notion that the Red Sox have always seemingly been high on him as well as the fact that he held opponents to a .656 OPS against over his last 14 outings (two starts) of the year.

Still, the 30-year-old hurler’s 2020 season had plenty of down moments as well, and it appears that Boston no longer deems him worthy of a 40-man roster spot.

Because they were designated for assignment, Hall and Weber will have to clear waivers if they are return to the Red Sox in a lesser capacity unless they opt for free agency instead.

So, the removals of Hart, Hall, and Weber decreased the Sox’ 40-man roster size to 33, thus opening the gateway for all seven of Bazardo, Groome, Mata, Potts, Rosario, Seabold, and Wong to be added Friday evening.

Groome, Mata, Potts, Rosario, Seabold, and Wong were all expected to be protected from this winter’s Rule 5 Draft, leaving Bazardo as the most interesting addition listed here.

The 25-year-old was actually eligible for last year’s Rule 5 Draft, too, but he did not get selected.

Despite not being added to the Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point in time this past season, Bazardo impressed enough at fall instructs to earn himself a spot on the 40-man.

The Venezuela native originally signed with Boston for just $8,000 as an international free agent in 2014.

Most recently, he posted a 2.21 ERA and .206 batting average against in 38 total relief appearances and 73 1/3 innings pitched between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2019.

Listed at 6-foot and 155 lbs., Bazardo could very well make his major-league debut out of the Red Sox bullpen at some point next season. He certainly will be one of the more fascinating hurlers to monitor during spring training once camp breaks in February.

With Friday’s round of transactions complete, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is now at full capacity at 40 players. That does not mean that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. will continue to make moves, though, as this could make for an eventful winter depending on how the free agent and trade market plays out.

Long story short, Bloom and the Red Sox are not close to done in terms of 2021 roster construction. There will be plenty more to come.

Red Sox believe top pitching prospects Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold will be big-league ready by next July

By this time Friday night, the Red Sox will have added six or seven minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect said minor-leaguers from this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December.

Among the handful of eligible prospects who will presumably be added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday are right-handers Bryan Mata and Connor Seabold.

Mata, 21, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the top pitching prospect and No. 4 overall prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Venezuela native spent the 2020 season at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket, and he really impressed there, according to Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott.

“I can’t say enough on this kid,” Abbott said of Mata back in October. “He’s as exciting, I think, as anybody in baseball. Top-shelf fastball, top-shelf slider. Curveball is above average. The changeup, too. It’s hard to squeeze all those pitches in when the first two are so dynamic. Young kid, got a little taste of Double-A last year and in the Fall League he did well, but this, for him… he got a ton of value out of this situation. His command wasn’t consistent enough. But a small little tweak in a low-stress environment like we were in allowed him to make some adjustments.”

Following his summer in Pawtucket, Mata was one of 62 players who took part in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league down in Fort Myers, though he did not see any in-game action, per SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall.

Seabold, meanwhile, also spent part of his summer working out at McCoy Stadium, but only after being acquired from the Phillies along with Nick Pivetta back in August.

The 24-year-old was originally selected by Philadelphia in the third round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton.

Boston dealt veteran relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree in order to obtain both Seabold and Pivetta’s services, but that trade already looks like a win for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom considering the fact that the pair of former Red Sox righties are currently free agents.

While working with Mata and the other pitchers present at the alternate training site for the latter half of the 2020 campaign, Seabold, too, drew attention from the likes of Abbott.

“His stuff across the board is probably middle of the road, or slightly above average,” Abbott said of the California native. “His changeup is not; his changeup is a top-of-the-food-chain type pitch. His fastball grades out, carries better and looks better than the velo. He’s got a little deception to him. He’s a grinder out there in the short time I saw him. Competes really well. We started developing a curveball with him, something a little slower and a little deeper than the slider. Another kid that needs to season a little bit, face some better hitters. He hasn’t been above Double-A. But I like his makeup and I like his pitchability. He’s a guy who can eat up some innings and give you some quality starts down the road.”

With Mata and Seabold both putting in quality efforts over the summer, the Red Sox obviously have high hopes for the pair of young hurlers. Combine that optimism with the notion that the two pitchers will be added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday, and they could very well be ready to make their major-league debuts sooner rather than later.

As a matter of fact, The Athletic’s Peter Gammons wrote Wednesday that, “the Red Sox believe that Byan Mata — who is 21 and was up to 99 [mph] in Pawtucket — will be up by July, as will Connor Seabold.”

What transpires in the spring — as well as how the Red Sox perform from a pitching perspective out of the gate next season — will likely serve as better indicators for what Mata and Seabold’s estimated time of arrival to the majors will look like.

Still, with all the uncertainties surrounding the Sox’ pitching staff moving forward, the emergences of Mata and Seabold will definitely provide some encouragement, and maybe even reassurance, for Bloom and Co. going into 2021.

Former Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree outrighted by Phillies, making August trade look like even bigger steal for Chaim Bloom

Former Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree is on the verge of joining this years free-agency class, as the Phillies outrighted the 31-year-old from their 40-man roster earlier Thursday morning.

Because he has accrued enough major-league service time, Hembree, who was entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021, can reject an assignment to the minors in favor of becoming a free agent a year earlier than initially anticipated.

The South Carolina native opened the 2020 campaign as one of Boston’s primary bullpen fixtures and got off to a fantastic start, posting a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against over his first 10 relief appearances and 9 2/3 innings of work.

A four-run implosion in which he failed to record an out against the Phillies, of all teams, on August 18 resulted in Hembree’s ERA skyrocketing up to 5.59. That would wind up being the righty’s last outing with the Red Sox, as Philadelphia acquired his services, as well as free agent-to-be Brandon Workman, in exchange for right-handed pitchers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold on August 21.

Things did not improve for Hembree, nor Workman, when they arrived in Philly. Together, the two hurlers combined to yield 24 runs (23 earned) on 40 hits, 14 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 25 total outings spanning 22 1/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 9.27.

According to FanGraphs, Hembree’s fWAR of -0.8 and Workman’s fWAR of -0.5 from August 21 until the end of the regular season were the worst and second-worst marks among 262 National League relievers. For what it’s worth, Hembree’s year came to a close on September 21, when he was placed on the injured list due to a right elbow strain.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw signs of promise in Pivetta, who gave up just two runs over his first two starts and 10 innings pitched with Boston in late September, and got an interesting prospect in Seabold who will presumably be added to the club’s 40-man roster within the next few weeks.

With Workman and Hembree no longer members of the Phillies organization, this trade has the makings to be an absolute steal for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox.

Medfield Native Matt Klentak Steps Down as Phillies General Manager

Matt Klentak has stepped down as general manager of the Phillies, the club announced earlier Saturday.

Klentak, a native of Medfield, Mass., had been on the job in Philadelphia since October 2015.

In his tenure as the youngest general manager in franchise history, Klentak saw the Phillies post a .460 winning percentage (326-382) while failing to reach the postseason in any of his five seasons at the helm in spite of facing increasingly lofty expectations.

A graduate of Xaverian Brothers High School in Braintree, Klentak attended and played baseball at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire before earning a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Despite losing the GM title with the Phils, Klentak will remain in the organization and serve a different role within the club’s front office.

“While I am disappointed that we failed to reach our ultimate goal, I am nevertheless very proud of the progress that this organization made over the last five years and of the people who worked so hard to make it happen,” the 40-year-old Klentak said in a statement. “I am grateful for all of the support that I received along the way from Phillies ownership, friends and colleagues, and our loyal Phillies fans.”

As it now turns out, one of the final major moves Klentak made as Phillies general manager was dealing right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold to the Red Sox in exchange for righty relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree back in late August.

That four-player swap proved to be very costly for Philadelphia’s postseason chances, as Workman posted a 6.92 ERA and 1.146 OPS against over 14 appearances and 13 innings pitched out of the Phillies bullpen. Hembree, meanwhile, yielded 13 earned runs in just 9 1/3 innings pitched (12.54 ERA) before hitting the injured list with a right elbow strain.

Workman, 32, is now a free agent, while Hembree, who turns 32 in January, has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before reaching free agency at the end of the 2021 season.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Drove To Pawtucket To Meet With Nick Pivetta This Week; Right-Hander Still Needs To Get Stretched Out Before Getting Called up

With right-hander Nathan Eovaldi hitting the injured list due to a mild calf strain on Saturday, the Red Sox find themselves down another starting pitcher. Granted, Eovaldi should only be out for the next week since his IL stint is retroactive to August 26, but Boston will need someone to fill in for the righty in the meantime.

Nick Pivetta, who was one of two pitchers acquired from the Phillies in the Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree trade, could have been viewed as a potential rotation option during Eovaldi’s absence, but Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke snuffed out any chance of that happening when speaking with reporters on Saturday.

“Chaim [Bloom] actually drove out to Pawtucket a couple days ago to talk to him and to feel out where we should be with him and when we should have him come up and pitch for us if he’s going to pitch for us,” Roenicke said of Pivetta via Zoom. “We need to stretch him back out again. He hasn’t pitched for a while. So, right now, we’re going to stretch him out and just see where that allows us to bring him up where we feel really confident that he’s ready and he’s extended out and has built up enough strength to pitch the innings that we’re going to have him go.”

Pivetta, 27, was traded to Boston on August 21 and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket that same day.

The 6-foot-5, 214 lb. right-hander appeared in three games for the Phillies this season prior to the trade, allowing 10 earned runs in just 5 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. Per Statcast, he operates with a four-seam fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a slider.

“He’s a big, physical, power pitcher,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Pivetta the night the trade went down. “He’s got a really good fastball. Good breaking ball. He also has a changeup. A guy that’s shown the ability to carry a starter’s workload. And a lot of the underlying traits there have shown the potential for a lot more success than he’s enjoyed in terms of his results. Again, power pitcher that we think should be capable of holding down a rotation spot. Really feel like he’s a good fit going forward and that we’ve got a chance to help him reach a level he has not yet in his career despite his big stuff.”

As Bloom’s words indicate, Pivetta, a former fourth-round pick of the Nationals in the 2013 draft, has not exactly lived up to his former top prospect status in his time with Philadelphia, but the Red Sox are hoping to unlock something within him.

Along with fellow righty Connor Seabold, Pivetta arrived at McCoy Stadium this past Wednesday. Considering the fact that he is already on Boston’s 40-man roster, the British Columbia native could make his Red Sox debut sometime next month depending on how the organization views him in the short and long-term. The Providence Journal’s Bill Koch made this point as well.

Red Sox Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. ‘Should Be on Move’ Before Trade Deadline Passes, per Report

The Red Sox could trade Jackie Bradley Jr. before next week’s trading deadline, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

Per Nightengale, the Sox “have let everyone know that there are no untouchables, meaning that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. should be on the move, but unlikely shortstop Xander Bogaerts.”

Bradley Jr., 30, is one of two Red Sox outfielders who will become free agents at the end of the season, with the other being Kevin Pillar.

After a hot start to 2020, Bradley Jr. has come back to earth and is currently slashing .235/.300/.358 to go along with two home runs and eight RBI through his first 25 games of the year. Both of those homers came in Baltimore this past weekend.

In terms of where he stands defensively, the 2018 Gold Glover ranks 10th in UZR/150 (-15) and 10th in Defense among qualified American League center fielders so far this season, per FanGraphs.

On a one-year deal that was originally worth $11 million but was brought down $4.074 million due to the shortened season, Bradley Jr. would only cost approximately $1.63 million for the month of September.

That being said, Bradley Jr. could prove to be a valuable addition for a contending club looking to shore up it’s outfield defense, especially if the former Gamecock were to get hot at the plate once more to close out the 2020 campaign.

Even if Bradley Jr. were to be productive for his new organization in this scenario, he likely would not fetch too hefty of a return considering the fact he would only be under team control for less than a full month not counting the postseason.

Over the weekend, the Red Sox were presumably able to get more in their trade with the Phillies by dealing Brandon Workman, who will become a free agent this winter, AND Heath Hembree, who is under club control through 2021, as well as cash considerations, in exchange for right-hander Nick Pivetta and right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold.

If chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom were to attempt to move Bradley Jr. and/or Pillar within the next week, would it be out of the realm of possibilities for the Sox to attach a controllable player or a considerable dollar amount to sweeten the deal and garner a more significant return?

In other words, could the Red Sox use an expiring contract to essentially buy a well-regarded prospect? There was a chance of that happening over the winter, and it looks like it could happen for real before the end of the month. We’ll have to wait and see.

Former Red Sox Closer Brandon Workman Suffers Blown Save, Loss in Phillies Debut

Former Red Sox closer Brandon Workman had a tough night in his debut for the Phillies on Saturday.

One day after getting dealt from Boston to Philadelphia along with Heath Hembree, cash considerations and a player to be named later or cash considerations in exchange for right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold, the 32-year-old was dispatched by Phils manager Joe Girardi in the eighth inning of a 4-3 game against the Braves in Atlanta.

With his new team up a run with two outs to record in the eighth, Workman was put on the spot right away, and he immediately served up a two-run double to Matt Adams on his very first pitch, an 80 mph curveball on the outer half of the plate, in a Phillies uniform.

Atlanta went up 5-4 on Adams’ two-run two-base hit, but Workman was at least able to escape the inning without giving up any further damage on a fielder’s choice and four-pitch strikeout of Johan Camargo.

Despite that small bit of success, the Texas native’s fortunes took a turn for the worst in the bottom half of the ninth even after the Phillies offense had knotted things back up at five runs each.

That being the case because after Workman allowed three of the first five Braves he faced in the frame to reach, the bases were full with two outs and nowhere to put Adam Duvall.

Entering Saturday, Workman had never faced the Braves outfielder before in his career, and he initially fell behind in the count at 2-1.

On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, the right-hander could not sneak a 77 mph curveball past Duvall, and the ex-Red laced it to center field for the walk-off single.

As a result of that game-winning base hit, Workman was simultaneously charged with the loss and blown save in his first appearance as a Phillie.

“It’s not the first impression I’m trying to make, obviously,” Workman said during his postgame media availability. “That’s not what I do on the mound. I need to execute pitches better than I did tonight. There’s no excuse for that, I just need to do a better job of getting my job done.”

It just so happens that Workman’s old bullpen mate, Red Sox right-hander Matt Barnes, also took home the loss and blown save in Boston’s 5-4, extra-innings loss to the Orioles on Saturday. I’m sure those two will have a somewhat comical, self-depreciating exchange between one another before night’s end.

Red Sox Trade Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Cash To Phillies in Exchange for Right-Handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold

The Red Sox have traded right-handed relievers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman, as well as cash considerations and a player to be named later or cash considerations, to the Phillies for right-hander Nick Pivetta and right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold, the club announced Friday night.

With this trade made, the first domino has fell for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. leading up to the August 31 trading deadline.

Workman was set to become a free agent this winter, while Hembree is under team control through the end of the 2021 season.

The Phillies, who came into the weekend with the worst bullpen ERA in baseball (8.07), are clearly trying to upgrade their pen as they look to vie for a playoff spot despite a 9-12 start to the season.

By acquiring Hembree and Workman from Boston, Philadelphia has accomplished this in at least some capacity.

Hembree, 31, carried a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against through his first 10 appearances and 9 2/3 innings of the year before getting lit up for four runs against the Phils on Tuesday.

Workman, meanwhile, turned 32 last week and had yielded three runs on eight hits, four walks, and eight strikeouts through his first seven outings and 6 2/3 innings of 2020. That’s good for a 4.05 ERA and 2.57 FIP.

The two now-former Sox hurlers will likely become two of the top late-inning relief options out of the Phillies bullpen from now until the end of the season.

As for what the Red Sox got back in this deal, let’s start with Nick Pivetta.

A 27-year-old right-hander out of British Columbia, Pivetta appeared in three games for the Phillies prior to being optioned to the club’s alternate training site on August 11.

In those three outings, the former fourth-round pick surrendered 10 earned runs over just 5 2/3 innings of work.

Prior to 2020, Pivetta owned a 5.34 ERA and 4.56 FIP through his first 89 appearances (71 starts) and 390 2/3 innings with the Phillies dating back to 2017.

Per Statcast, Pivetta, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 214 lbs., is a four-pitch pitcher who primarily relies on his four-seam fastball and has a curveball, changeup, and slider in his arsenal as well.

Turning to Connor Seabold now, the 24-year-old was the Phillies’ third-round pick in the 2017 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton.

Regarded by MLB Pipeine as Philadelphia’s No. 23 prospect, Seabold, listed at 6-foor-2 and 190 lbs., posted a 2.24 ERA and .224 batting average against in 12 total appearances (11 starts) and 56 1/3 innings pitched between three minor-league levels in 2019.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Seabold “will always be a command and control pitcher, one who has to rely on changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance. His swing-and-miss rate went up in the Arizona Fall League and if that’s for real, he could fit into the back end of a big league rotation soon.”

Because the Red Sox traded Hembree and Workman, they opened up two spots on their 60-man player pool, which will now presumably be filled by Pivetta and Seabold. The former was on Philly’s 40-man roster, while the latter was not.

Update: For clarity, Pivetta was optioned to the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket following the move.