What Red Sox Do at Catcher This Offseason Should Be Fascinating

Using FanGraphs’ WAR metric, the Red Sox had one of the best catching groups in the American League in 2020 (1.7 fWAR), trailing only the White Sox (3.0 fWAR) and Royals (2.7 fWAR) for the league lead in that category.

The two backstops who saw just about all the playing time behind the plate for Boston this past season — Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki — both put together solid campaigns in their own right.

Vazquez, 30, clubbed seven home runs in 47 games in addition to posting a wRC+ of 115 and leading all major-league catchers in FanGraphs’ Defense metric (8.3).

Plawecki, meanwhile, emerged as quite the serviceable backup with his new club as the 29-year-old slashed .341/.393/.463 with one homer and 17 RBI over 24 games and 89 plate appearances.

Excluding Jonathan Lucroy, who was released in September, the only other true catcher to see playing time for the Sox in 2020 was Deivy Grullon.

The 24-year-old out of the Dominican Republic was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Phillies on September 3 and only managed to appear in one game as the Red Sox’ 29th man in a doubleheader against Philadelphia on September 8.

Grullon went 1-for-3 with a walk and run driven in during the nightcap of that twin bill against his former team before he was optioned back down to the alternate training site in Pawtucket. SoxProspects currently lists Grullon as the Red Sox’ 30th-ranked prospect.

All three of Vazquez, Plawecki, and Grullon are already on Boston’s 40-man roster, but another backstop is expected to be added to said roster in the coming weeks. His name? Connor Wong.

One of the three players acquired from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade from this past February, the 24-year-old Wong is eligible for this winter’s Rule 5 Draft, which means he would have to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster before November 20 in order to be protected from that.

Wong being added to the 40-man seems just about imminent at this point. Not only does the former third-round pick offer some versatility at different infield positions, according to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, he also is “considered by [Jason] Varitek and their organization as a rising elite pitcher-first catcher.” On top of that, as noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, “the Sox didn’t acquire [Wong] just to risk losing him.”

So here we have four appealing catchers, all of whom are already within the organization, which means we have not even touched upon catchers from outside the organization who could join the Red Sox in 2021.

One name in particular that comes to mind here would be none other than J.T. Realmuto, who is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career this winter.

Often regarded as the best catcher in baseball (BCIB), Realmuto would be quite the get for Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. The 29-year-old is coming off a 2020 campaign with the Phillies in which he posted a .266/.349/.491 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 32 RBI over 47 games played.

In addition to his superb offensive efforts, Realmuto is quite the defensive backstop as well, especially when it comes to pitch framing and throwing out runners. Just last year, the Oklahoma native threw out 47% of the runners who tried to steal against him, which was the best caught-stealing rate in baseball.

Even if the Phillies prioritize getting Realmuto to sign a new contract to keep him in Philadelphia, there may only be a handful of clubs who would be able to spend big on someone of Realmuto’s caliber coming off this pandemic-induced, 60-game season. The Red Sox would obviously be one of those clubs.

Of course, the Sox adding Realmuto only makes sense if Vazquez is not in Bloom’s future plans. The Puerto Rico native, who is signed through 2021 and has a team option attached for 2022, was linked to the Rays in the days leading up to the 2020 trade deadline back in August, but nothing ever came out of those rumored talks. Still, as again noted by Cotillo, Boston dealing Vazquez this winter “could definitely happen.”

As currently constructed, Vazquez and Plawecki stand as the Red Sox’ top two catchers at the major-league level, while the likes of Grullon and Wong could both begin the 2021 season at Triple-A Worcester.

Realmuto landing with Boston seems more of a long shot than anything right now, but things could obviously change as the offseason progresses.

Red Sox Top Pitching Prospect Jay Groome Faces Live Hitters at McCoy Stadium

For the first time since being added to the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool last month, Jay Groome, the club’s top left-handed pitching prospect, faced live hitters at McCoy Stadium earlier Tuesday morning.

Getting some work in during a live batting practice session, Groome threw 25-30 pitches and faced the likes of other top prospects in the organization such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong, as well as Jhonny Pereda, and reached 94 mph with his fastball while also mixing in his curveball and changeup.

There were no umpires and very few fielders around him, but as WEEI’s Rob Bradford puts it, “Tuesday represented a big step forward” for Groome.

Turning 22 years old later this month, the New Jersey native was originally taken by Boston with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft out of Barnegat High School and later signed for $3.65 million.

Since that time, though, Groome has only made 20 professional starts across three minor-league levels as he has been hampered with different arm ailments, most recently undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2018.

Upon recovering from TJS, the 6-foot-6 southpaw was able to make three starts with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and short-season Lowell Spinners last year, and now, he’s inching closer to appearing in a simulated game in Pawtucket.

Of course, under normal circumstances, Groome would likely be pushing for a promotion to Double-A Portland right about now, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the hurler’s development path has certainly been disrupted.

PawSox pitching coach Paul Abbott said as much about Groome when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“Obviously he needs to log innings,” stated Abbott. “He’s missed some valuable development periods for him to get on the mound and learn how to pitch as you go every step of the way.  Here’s a way how everything is looking, how everything is working so we have a good, solid idea going into spring training next year.”

With that in mind, the plan over the next six weeks is to see how Groome handles facing different levels of hitters so that the Red Sox have a good idea on where he will be at going into spring training next year.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Says Club’s Long-Term Goals Outweigh ‘Any One Player, Any One Decision’

It has been nearly two weeks since Mookie Betts signed a 12-year, $365 million contract extension with Dodgers, and for Red Sox fans, it hurts knowing the 27-year-old will likely finish his Hall of Fame career in Los Angeles.

Even after getting dealt to the Dodgers along with David Price back in February, some still held out hope that Betts would re-sign with Boston this winter seeing how locked in he appeared to be on becoming a free agent while still with the Red Sox.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, though, Betts’ outlook likely changed when considering the possibility that clubs could be strapped for cash or unwilling to spend on big-money free agents this offseason, so he took the best deal that was in front of him. That being a record-setting $365 million deal that included a $65 million signing bonus up front.

The man who traded Betts, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, had been on the job for less than four months when the blockbuster five-player swap with Los Angeles was at last finalized on February 10.

As you may recall, the Sox got back outfielder Alex Verdugo as well as infield prospect Jeter Downs and catching prospect Connor Wong in exchange for Betts and Price. That may be a nice enough return, but losing a player of Betts’ caliber still hurts, even for someone like Bloom who did not even know him that well.

When speaking with ESPN’s Joon Lee recently, Bloom said as much, stating that, “I didn’t get to know him obviously that well in my time in the organization, but certainly know how great a player he is. And even in just the short time I got to know him, I got to see why everybody thinks so highly of him.”

On top of that, Bloom also congratulated Betts on his extension with the Dodgers.

“He is a wonderful person, great teammate, great player and I’m very, very happy for him,” he added.

As happy as Bloom may be for Betts, the former Rays executive had an interesting response when asked by Lee if he is ‘philosophically opposed to mega-contracts like those given to Betts.’

“I do think this is a tough question to answer in the abstract,” he said. “Every move you consider you need to consider the merits of that particular move and you need to make sure you have a good process for looking at that and assessing how it fits into where you are as an organization and your larger goals. I think it’s a difficult thing to talk about in the abstract because of that.”

By trading Betts, it seems the Red Sox are trying to kick-start a new kind of rebuild where they can remain consistently competitive over a long period of time. In order to accomplish this, Bloom says, it’s important to not get too emotionally attached to any one player or decision, such was the case with trading Betts.

“It’s very painful when you’re attached to a player, especially a great player, to see him in another uniform,” said the Sox’ CBO in regards to trading away Betts. “I know that’s not something that really my words or anybody’s words are going to make less painful. As I said, I think our job as a front office is to set ourselves up to win as much as we can over the long haul and 2020. That’s a picture that’s much bigger than any one player, any one decision.”

 

Former Red Sox Star Mookie Betts on Verge of Signing Massive Contract Extension With Dodgers, per Report

Any hopes of the Red Sox reuniting with Mookie Betts this winter appear to be dead, as the Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly closing in on a massive contract extension with the 27-year-old outfielder, according to WEEI’s Lou Merloni.

Per Merloni, the extension the Dodgers and Betts are on the verge of agreeing to is worth anywhere between $350 to $400 million for 10-plus seasons.

Based off this follow-up from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it would appear that these rumors are in fact legitimate and Betts will indeed ink a long-term extension with the Dodgers relatively soon.

After both sides were reportedly off by $120 million in extension talks over the winter, the Sox, with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the helm, dealt Betts and left-hander David Price to Los Angeles in February in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

At the time, that transaction got Boston under the vaunted $208 million luxury tax threshold, but as it turns out, the 2020 Major League Baseball season will have to played until at least the start of September for that to carry out into this offseason. In other words, if the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic halts the season at any point prior to the August 31st trading deadline, the Sox’ luxury tax penalties will not reset and they will essentially be in the same position they were prior to dealing Betts and Price.

At least on the surface, one of the motivating factors in the Red Sox trading away Betts was the notion that the four-time All-Star was locked in on becoming a free agent for the very first time in his career this winter. It might not be a great look in the eyes of Red Sox fans if he goes back on that now, but, given the uncertainties surrounding how much teams will be willing to spend in free agency because of the pandemic, it’s certainly understandable why Betts may be more open to forgoing free agency when taking financial security into account in the midst of a nationwide pandemic.

Of course, one of the hopes in the Sox trading Betts to get under the luxury tax was the idea that the club was going to lure the 2018 American League MVP back in free agency with a lucrative contract this winter. That now appears unlikely to happen barring any significant changes on Betts’ or the Dodgers’ front.

Red Sox Add 47 Players to Initial Training Camp Roster Pool

The Red Sox have added 47 players to their initial player pool for summer training camp, the club announced Sunday.

Teams had until 4 PM eastern time Sunday to submit their initial training camp pools to Major League Baseball and could include up to 60 players.

Seemingly taking the conservative route here, the Red Sox have left 13 open slots in their initial club pool, although they have the ability to add more players later on.

Prior to Sunday, many assumed that Boston would include a bevy of top prospects in their pool, as has been the case thus far with other clubs, but that was not part of the Sox’ course of action, apparently.

Instead, corner infielder Bobby Dalbec was the only premier Red Sox prospect to make the cut. Other touted youngsters in Boston’s minor-league pipleine, such as Jeter Downs, Triston Casas, Jarren Duran, Tanner Houck, or Bryan Mata, did not. At least for the time being, that is.

It’s also worth mentioning that 10 non-roster invitees — Brian Johnson, Yairo Munoz, Domingo Tapia, Cesar Puello, Marco Hernandez Juan Centeno, Jett Bandy, Robinson Leyer, John Andreoli, and catching prospect Connor Wong — made the initial pool.

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy, who signed a minor-league deal with Boston in February, did not make the initial pool, but according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the reason for that is a procedural one.

Among the players who make up the Sox’ 40-man roster, left-hander Yoan Aybar and outfielder Marcus Wilson were the only ones not to receive an initial invite to training camp.

As previously mentioned though, there is still plenty of time for other players and prospects to be added at a later date. We’ll have to see what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have in store once players begin reporting to training camp this week.

 

 

Red Sox Make Second Round of Spring Roster Cuts

Four days after making their first round of spring roster cuts, the Red Sox cut 15 more players before taking on the Minnesota Twins earlier Sunday.

Out of those 15 players, eight were reassigned to minor-league camp, five were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket, one was optioned to Double-A Portland, and one was optioned to High-A Salem.

The players who were reassigned to minor-league camp were cathcer Roldani Baldwin, catcher/infielder Connor Wong, infielder Jeter Downs, first baseman Josh Ockimey, right-handed pitchers R.J. Alvarez, Trevor Hildenberger, and Tanner Houck, and left-handed pitcher Mike Kickham.

The players optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket were infielders Bobby Dalbec and C.J. Chatham, right-handers Mike Shawaryn and Phillips Valdez, and left-hander Kyle Hart.

Outfielder Marcus Wilson was the lone player optioned to Double-A Portland, while right-hander Yoan Aybar was the lone player optioned to High-A Salem.

In total, seven players — Aybar, Chatham, Dalbec, Hart, Shawaryn, Valdez, Wilson — on Boston’s 40-man roster were cut from big-league camp on Sunday.

Out of the 14 non-roster invites still in major-league camp, the most notable are Brian Johnson, Jonathan Lucroy, Marco Hernandez, and Jarren Duran. Take away Duran and the other three are certainly vying for positions on Boston’s 26-man roster to open the season.

Some thoughts:

Seeing the two prospects the Red Sox acquired in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade get cut is not much of a surprise, but it is a bit surprising seeing names like Kyle Hart, Tanner Houck, and Mike Shawaryn be cut at this point in time.

At least in my mind, I thought Hart and Houck were candidates to fill the two vacant spots in the Sox’ starting rotation, while Shawaryn was competing for a bullpen role. Instead of beginning the year in the majors though, it looks like the trio of hurlers will start with the PawSox.

Guys like Chatham and Dalbec probably had an outside chance of making Boston’s Opening Day roster before Sunday, but if we do see them in the majors this season, it will have to come at a later date.

On a final note, I’m looking forward to seeing what Marcus Wilson does in his first full year in the Red Sox organization.

 

 

Bobby Dalbec, Marcus Wilson, and Connor Wong All Homer as Red Sox Tie With Tigers

After putting an end to a three-game losing streak on Sunday, the Red Sox drew with the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland on Monday to fall to 4-5-2 in Grapefruit League action.

Making his second start of the spring for Boston was Ryan Weber, coming off two scoreless innings in his last time out against the Orioles last Tuesday.

Working the first three innings this time around, the right-hander impressed yet again, as he yielded just one unearned run on three hits and zero walks to go along with six strikeouts on the afternoon. In other words, he struck out half of the 12 hitters he faced.

That lone Tigers tally came right away with two outs in the first, when a fielding error committed by Jose Peraza off a C.J. Cron single to left allowed Jonathan Schoop to score all the way from first. Hence the run not being charged to Weber.

Other than that though, the 29-year-old settled down and retired seven of the final eight Detroit hitters he faced. At this point, it certainly looks like Weber deserves a shot in the starting rotation to at least begin the season. His next outing should come on Sunday against the Twins.

In relief of Weber, right-hander Matt Barnes made his first appearance of the spring, and he struck out one over a perfect bottom half of the fourth inning.

Colten Brewer followed suit by fanning a pair in a 1-2-3 fifth, but things from a pitching perspective got ugly from there. That being the case due to the fact that Denyi Reyes surrendered four runs on two separate two-run home runs in the sixth and seventh innings, and newcomer Phillips Valdez tossing a clean eighth before running into more trouble in the ninth.

There, in what was still an 11-5 game in favor Boston, Valdez allowed five of the first seven Tigers he faced in the inning to reach base, resulting in three Detroit runs coming in to score to make it an 11-8 game.

That led to a pitching change that saw Adam Lau take over for Valdez with inherited runners on first and second, and he served up a three-run shot to the first man he faced in Travis Demeritte, who was also responsible for the homer in the sixth, to tie this thing up at 11 runs apiece.

Lau did manage to record the final out of the ninth though, and 11-11 would go on to be Monday’s final score.

The guys who are likely to open the 2020 season with the Red Sox — Weber, Barnes, Brewer — were fine. The guys who are likely to start the season in either Double-A Portland or Triple-A Pawtucket — Reyes, Valdez, and to a lesser extent Lau — did not.

On the other side of things, a Red Sox starting lineup that featured Kevin Pillar, Jackie Bradley Jr., Michael Chavis, Kevin Plawecki, Jonathan Lucroy (DH), Peraza, Bobby Dalbec, Josh Ockimey, and Marcus Wilson was matched up against a fairly familar opponent in Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris to begin things on Monday.

Kicking off the scoring in the top half of the second, back-to-back one-out singles from Lucroy and Peraza, in addition to a two-out RBI single off the bat of Ockimey, pulled the Sox back even with the Tigers at 1-1.

That stalemate would be short-lived, however, as Marcus Wilson followed Ockimey’s run-scoring hit with a towering three-run blast to left center field off the third pitch he saw from Norris. 4-1.

An inning later, it was another prospect making some noise, this time with Bobby Dalbec crushing a three-run homer of his own with two outs off of Zack Godley to give his side a commanding 7-1 advantage. His first homer of the spring.

Detroit cut into that six-run deficit by plating two runs of their own in both the sixth and seventh innings, but that did not stop the Boston bats from responding in their half of the eighth.

A leadoff walk drawn by Tzu-Wei Lin off of Anthony Castro resulted in another run when Jantzen Witte ripped and RBI double down the left field line. 8-5.

Witte scored himself on a one-out Marco Hernandez RBI single, and even though Hernandez got himself out on the bases, outfield prospect Jarren Duran kept the inning going by drawing another base on balls to bring catching prospect Connor Wong to the plate.

After flying out to center in his first plate appearance of the afternoon the inning prior, Wong did not mess around in his second time to the plate, as the 23-year-old backstop deposited a two-run big fly deep to left center field to make it an 11-5 game. His second home run of the spring.

As already mentioned though, the Tigers’ offense could not be silenced, and they battled back to knot things up at 11 runs each before this one came to a close.

Some observations from this tie:

Kevin Plawecki on Monday: 1-for-2 with a walk and run scored.

Jonathan Lucroy on Monday: 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored.

Marcus Wilson, Bobby Dalbec, and Connor Wong on Monday: 3-for-7 with three home runs, four runs scored, and eight RBI.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Tampa Bay to take on the New York Yankees on Tuesday afternoon.

Left-hander Martin Perez will get the start for Boston, while veteran right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will do the same for New York.

Perez scattered one hit and one walk over two scoreless innings in his spring debut last Wednesday against the Pirates.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EST. This game will be televised on ESPN and YES Network.

Connor Wong Crushes Grand Slam as Red Sox Blow out Orioles

In a game that was not televised, the Red Sox improved to 2-2-1 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday afternoon with a 12-4 win over a split Baltimore Orioles squad at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, one of the many names vying for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation with just over a month to go until Opening Day.

Tossing two innings on Tuesday, the right-hander kept the O’s off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Baltimore hits came consecutively with two outs in the top of the first, but Weber was able to settle down and get Pat Valaika to fly out to center before retiring the side in order in the second.

In relief of Weber, left-hander Mike Kickham had a tough showing, as he surrendered one run in the third and three more, one of which was unearned, in the fourth due to a wild pitch and passed ball that got through Connor Wong behind the plate.

Hunter Haworth had to come on to try and clean Kickham’s mess up with two outs in the fourth, and he did just that by getting Anthony Santander to ground out to third.

From there, lefty Brian Johnson worked his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean fifth to eventually earn his first win of the spring, while Domingo Tapia and Denyi Reyes combined for four scoreless frames of work to close this thing out with a final score of 12-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured a healthy number of regulars like Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, J.D. Martinez, and Mitch Moreland was matched up against Orioles right-hander Tom Eshelman to start things out on Tuesday.

Eshelman may not have given up any runs over the course of his brief two-inning start, but he gave up plenty of hard contact, including a line-drive one-out single off the bat of Vazquez in the first.

Two innings later, it was Vazquez coming through again, as he drove in Benintendi all the way from first on a hard-hit double to left off Orioles reliever Zac Lowther for his side’s first run of the day. 1-1.

In the fourth, the Boston bats once again responded to Baltimore, as they countered three more O’s tallies with three of their own on a two-run home run off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. and RBI single off the bat of Tommy Joseph to plate Bobby Dalbec from second.

Both of those knocks came off Lowther, and they pulled the Sox back even with the Orioles at four runs a piece.

Fortunately, that stalemate did not last long at all, with the first five hitters who came to the plate in the fifth all reaching off Hunter Cervenka on two singles, two walks, and one HBP to make it a 6-4 contest.

Marco Hernandez added on to that with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Pillar re-loaded the bases with an infield single off new O’s reliever Zach Muckenhirn, and that brought Connor Wong to the plate with the chance to redeem himself after making a few defensive mistakes the inning prior.

On the third pitch he saw from Muckenhirn, Wong did just that, as the 23-year-old crushed a grand slam over the fence in right-center field for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

That gave the Sox a commanding 11-4 advantage, and after Nick Longhi scored on a fielding error in the same inning, 12-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Because this game was not televised, I really do not have much to add here. Kevin Pillar went 2-for-2 with a double off the bench and Mitch Moreland hit a triple. Both of those things are nice to see.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Bradenton to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this spring.

Left-hander Martin Perez will make his Red Sox debut for Boston, while right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Perez is essentially a lock to be the No. 4 starter this year, so I’m looking forward to see how his first outing goes even if it is just an exhibition game. He is no stranger to the Grapefruit League either.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT at LECOM Park. This game won’t be on NESN, but it will be on the Pirates’ network, so if you have MLB.TV, you are in luck.

 

Red Sox Top Northeastern 3-0 in Spring Training Opener

For the first time since September 29th, 2019, the Boston Red Sox have won a baseball game, as they opened up exhibition play on Friday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over the Northeastern Huskies in a seven-inning contest.

The plan for the Sox was to use one pitcher per inning on Friday, and that’s exactly what they stuck to.

25-year-old Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath got things started by walking the first two hitters he faced, but settled down with the help of his catcher Connor Wong in addition to striking out a pair to keep things scoreless.

From there, recently-acquired right-handed reliever Austin Brice fanned two more hitters and got more help from Wong in a scoreless second, righty Robinson Leyer struck out two and stranded two runners in a scoreless third, Trevor Hildenberger scattered one hit in an otherwise clean fourth frame, Denyi Reyes retired three of the four he faced in a shutout fifth, and Adam Lau maneuvered his way around a leadoff walk thanks to Roldani Baldwin in a scoreless top half of the sixth.

After his side finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, 24-year-old righty Eduardo Bazardo closed things out for Boston by sitting down the only three hitters he faced in order in the seventh to secure the 3-0 victory over the Huskies.

In total, Sox pitching combined for seven scoreless innings while yielding just four hits and three walks to go along with 11 total strikeouts on the afternoon.

On the other side of things, the Northeastern pitching staff held their own for a while against the Boston bats, albeit without any regulars in the lineup.

It wasn’t until the bottom half of the sixth inning when the Red Sox offense finally woke up.

There, with right-hander Rick Burroni on the mound for Northeastern, Sox prospect Marcus Wilson led things off by drawing a walk in his first and only plate appearance.

The 23-year-old then proceeded to steal second base to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs for Josh Ockimey, who fanned for the first out of the frame.

A Jagger Rusconi groundout back to the pitcher meant that the Red Sox were just an out away from coming away with nothing, but Ryan Fitzgerald made sure that did not happen.

Yes, the 2019 Carolina League All-Star lined an RBI single to right-center field deep enough to plate Wilson from second and put his side on the board first.

Two more walks drawn by Baldwin and Tyler Esplin ended the day for Burroni and filled the bases for longtime PawSox mainstay Jantzen Witte.

Facing off against Huskies right-hander Henry Ennen, the 30-year-old veteran laced a two-run single through the middle of the infield to score both Fitzgerald and Baldwin from second and third.

That clutch two-RBI knock gave the Red Sox a 3-0 advantage, which would go on to be Friday’s final score in the spring training opener.

Some notes from this win:

Top prospect Jeter Downs reached base on an infield single in his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He also committed a fielding error in the top half of the third and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the bottom half.

Downs was not originally slated to start for Boston on Friday, but because infielder C.J. Chatham was scratched from the lineup due to right shoulder soreness, the 21-year-old got the call instead.

Marcus Wilson will presumably begin the 2020 campaign in Double-A Portland alongside fellow outfield prospect Jarren Duran, who went 1-for-2 with a third-inning single on Friday.

The only players with big-league experience who played in this contest were Marco Hernandez, Rusney Castillo, John Andreoli, Juan Centeno, Austin Brice, and Trevor Hildenberger.

Next up for the Red Sox, Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday with an afternoon contest against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park.

Left-hander Brian Johnson is scheduled to get the start for Boston, while Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter.

It had to have been a tough offseason for Johnson, as the 29-year-old was essentially demoted off the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November.

Still, Johnson snuck through waivers and remains with Boston in a lesser capacity than he had been the previous three or so seasons. He’ll have a chance to prove himself and perhaps open some eyes on Saturday afternoon.

First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT on NESN.

Red Sox Reach New Agreement With Dodgers to Send Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles

It took five days longer than expected, but the Red Sox and Dodgers have reportedly agreed to a trade that would send outfielder Mookie Betts and left-hander David Price to Los Angeles, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Going back to Tuesday night, the original deal that would have shipped Betts and Price to southern California involved a third team in the Twins. In this three-team swap, Los Angeles would have received Betts, Price, and cash considerations, Minnesota would have received right-hander Kenta Maeda, and Boston would have received outfielder Alex Verdugo and right-handed pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol.

Upon reviewing Graterol’s medical information though, the Sox became worried over how the 21-year-old flamethrower projected to be more of a reliever than a starter, and thus sought out additional compensation from the Twins.

Since parting ways with another top prospect really would not have been to their benefit, Minnesota ultimately decided to back out of the three-team trade on Saturday and now have their own deal in place with the Dodgers that would net them Maeda and cash considerations in exchange for Graterol and the 67th pick in this year’s amateur draft, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

So, with the Twins out of the picture, the Red Sox and Dodgers were able to work things out themselves without needing another third team to step in.

In this now-agreed-upon trade, Boston will be receiving Verdugo as initially anticipated, as well as 21-year-old infield prospect Jeter Downs and 23-year-old catching prospect Connor Wong from the Dodgers.

As already mentioned, Los Angeles will be receiving Betts, Price, and $48 million from the Sox, which were all part of the original agreement.

Betts, 27, is set to earn $27 million this coming season before becoming a free agent for the first time in the winter. Price, meanwhile, has three years and $96 million remaining on the seven-year, $217 million deal he signed with Boston back in December 2015. The Red Sox will be paying half of that remaining amount.

Turning to the return Chaim Bloom got in his first blockbuster trade as Boston’s chief baseball officer, Verdugo is a former top prospect in his own right.

The 23-year-old out of Arizona slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI over 106 games for the Dodgers last year. He did not play a major-league game after August 4th due to a plethora of issues involving his lower back, core, and right oblique.

As for Downs, the 21-year-old was not part of the original deal but he will be heading to the Red Sox this time around.

Ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 5 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Downs, a former Competitive Balance Round A pick out of Miami, played in 119 games between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa last year.

In those contests, the native of Colombia slashed .276/.362/.526 with 24 home runs, 86 RBI, and 24 stolen bases while primarily playing shortstop.

Downs was named after former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and he is the younger brother of current Red Sox minor-league outfielder Jerry Downs.

Finally, Wong was ranked as Los Angeles’ No. 28 prospect by MLB.com and, like Downs, was drafted by the Dodgers in 2017.

Playing in 111 games between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa in 2019, the Houston native posted a .281/.336/.541 slash line to go along with 24 home runs and 82 RBI.

This five-player trade is no longer pending medical reviews but nothing has been made official quite yet. All that is left is approval from Major League Baseball on the transfer of the $48 million going to the Dodgers, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

At the end of the day, it still stinks that the Red Sox are trading a player like Mookie Betts, a homegrown superstar who should spend his entire career wearing one uniform.

I understand that you can’t force Betts to sign a contract extension and you don’t want him to leave for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick in the winter, but still, this stings.

It also stinks, although to a lesser extent, to lose David Price, because without him another hole opens in an already questionable Red Sox starting rotation.

Pitchers and catchers are set to report to Fenway South in Fort Myers on Tuesday. Looking forward to it!