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.

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?

Blake Swihart Homers and Sam Travis Blasts Grand Slam as #RedSox Fall to Cubs in Spring Finale

The Red Sox wrapped up their spring on Tuesday afternoon with a 14-7 loss at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, meaning they failed to pick up a win in their brief two-game exhibition series in Mesa, Az. before heading north to Seattle for the real thing.

David Price, who we have not seen much of in the past few weeks, made just his second start of the spring in this one.

Pitching into the fourth inning, the left-hander surrendered five runs on six hits and two walks to go along with a pair of strikeouts on the day.

Retiring seven of the first eight hitters he faced, it looked as though things were going swimmingly for Price up until the bottom half of the third, when four straight Cubs hitters reached base, which in turn resulted in their first two runs crossing the plate.

An inning later, a two out solo home run off the bat of Kyle Schwarber would ultimately spell the end to Price’s day, as he would depart from this one following another run of three straight Cubs hits, capped off by an Addison Russell RBI double.

Facing 18 batters in total, Price’s next and first start of the regular season will come against the Oakland Athletics on Monday, April 1st.

From the middle of the bottom half of the fourth on, Trevor Kelley, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman, Adam Lau, Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, Ryan Weber, and Durbin Feltman combined to give up a whopping 11 runs (10 earned) on nine hits, four walks, two HBPs, and seven punch outs over the final 4.1 frames.

Not great numbers, obviously. Hembree, Workman, and Lau were responsible for eight of those runs in a monster fifth inning for Chicago.

On a more positive note, Weber tossed a scoreless seventh inning, so there’s that.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Cubs right-hander Carl Edwards Jr., who typically pitches in a relief role, to start things off on Tuesday.

After failing to put anything on the board in their first two trips to the plate, Blake Swihart kicked off the scoring for Boston with a one out solo home run in the third inning off Massachusetts native Tim Collins, his first of the spring.

Fast forward all the way to the sixth, and Sam Travis got his impressive day at the plate started by belting a line drive RBI double to left that allowed Eduardo Nunez to score all the way from first.

And later on in the eighth, after the first four Red Sox hitters had reached base to lead the inning off, including a Tate Matheny RBI single, Travis capped off his spring in exciting fashion, mashing a bases-clearing grand slam off Cubs reliever Ian Clarkin.

Granted, it ended up not making that huge a difference in the final score, but what a way for the 25-year-old Travis to head into his first ever big league Opening Day. Hard not to be excited for him.

Anyway, the Red Sox would go on to drop this one by a final score of 14-7 to put the finishing touches on what turned out to be a 12-17-1 spring.

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s Opening Day as well as opening weekend in Seattle. Here are the starting pitchers Alex Cora is going with for the first series of the 2019 season.

Game 1: LHP Chris Sale vs. LHP Marco Gonzales (1-0, 4.50 ERA)
Game 2: RHP Nathan Eovaldi vs. LHP Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 1.93 ERA)
Game 3: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez vs. RHP Mike Leake
Game 4: RHP Rick Porcello vs. LHP Wade LeBlanc

First pitch Opening Day (March 28th) is scheduled for 7:10 PM EDT on ESPN.

It’s almost that time.

Rick Porcello Avoids Major Scare as #RedSox Fall to Cubs in Mesa

After wrapping up the Grapefruit League portion of their spring on Saturday, the Red Sox made the trek out to Arizona to take on the Chicago Cubs in a pair of exhibition games before kicking off the regular season up in Seattle later this week.

Facing the Cubs for the first time since 2017, Rick Porcello got the start for Boston on Monday.

Working the first four innings, the right-hander surrendered two runs on four hits, zero walks, and one HBP to go along with three strikeouts on the evening.

More importantly, Porcello avoided a serious scare in the second, when Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras ripped a comebacker that wound up glancing off the hurler’s head and landing all the way in shallow right field.

Fortunately and maybe even surprisingly, Porcello was all smiles afterwards and remained in the game to finish his outing. According to the Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, “all concussion tests were negative.”

Back to the game, one of the two runs given up by Porcello came on a third inning leadoff home run off the bat of Cubs starter Cole Hamels.

The other came later in the third on an Anthony Rizzo RBI double.

After fanning the final two hitters he faced in the fourth with a pitch count of 53, the New Jersey native headed out to the Red Sox bullpen to get some additional work in and officially cap off his spring.

If I were to guess, I would say we see Porcello make his 2019 regular season debut in Seattle this Saturday.

From the top of the fifth inning on, Eduardo Rodrigez, Hector Velazquez, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier combined to allow one run on two hits, three walks, one HBP, and six strikeouts over the final four in this one.

Rodriguez impressed in a rare relief appearance Monday, punching out the dangerous Cubs trio of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Kyle Schwarber while feauturing a nasty changeup in two scoreless frames.

Barnes and Brasier, meanwhile, together tossed a perfect eighth inning, with each recording one strikeout.

On the other side of things, as I had previously mentioned, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels to start things out.

Kicking off the scoring for Boston was Andrew Benintendi, who carried over the success he had in Florida spring training with a one out solo shot off Hamels in the top half of the third.

That would put the Red Sox on the board and give them an early lead, but they were not able to do much offensively for the rest of night.

One golden scoring opportunity came in the seventh, after Xander Bogaerts had already plated a run on an Eduardo Nunez RBI single to tie things up at two runs a piece.

With the bases full following a one out Jackie Bradley Jr. RBI single, Blake Swihart, fresh off making Boston’s Opening Day roster, came to the plate with the chance to put his team ahead with some clutch hitting.

A las, the 26-year-old backstop got on top of one from Cubs reliever Randy Rosario and grounded into an inning-ending 5-3 double play, thus killing the rally.

After the Cubs re-took the lead with a run of their own in the seventh, the Red Sox would go on to drop this one by a final score of 3-2 in Arizona.

One note from this loss:

Unrelated to the game, but it was just announced that first baseman Steve Pearce will be opening up the 2019 season on the injured list, presumably due to issues with his left calf. More on that Tuesday.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll face the Cubs once again in the last game before they all start to matter on March 28th.

Left-hander David Price will be getting the ball for Boston, while right-hander Kyle Hendricks will be doing the same for Chicago.

First pitch at Sloan Park is scheduled for 3:05 PM EDT Tuesday.

RECAP: #RedSox use eighth inning to take series from Cubs; win 6-2.

On Sunday night, in primetime, Eduardo Rodriguez and the Red Sox were looking to take two out of three from the reigning World Series champions Chicago Cubs. They did just that.

ERod had himself a solid performance on Sunday, pitching six innings, allowing five hits, striking out nine (every batter), all while only surrendering two walks and one earned run. The one mistake Rodriguez made that cost him was a home run in the fifth inning that came off the bat of Kris Bryant. It’s clear that if the Red Sox want to seriously contend this season, they need Rodriguez to perform the way he did on Sunday night. The Cubs are a team that likes to work the count, and unfortunately for Rodriguez, that shortened his start. With around 100 pitches after pitching six innings, Rodriguez’s day was over. The Red Sox bullpen got off to a rocky start on Sunday, with Joe Kelly walking two out of the first three pitchers he faced. A wild pitch would allow Jon Jay to score from third, and Robby Scott would come in with two outs in the seventh and was able to get out of it. Matt Barnes returned from his suspension, assuming set-up responsibilities and pitching a scoreless eighth. Craig Kimbrel would come in to close things out, even after the Red Sox scored four times in the eighth, but that did not affect him. Nine pitch saves are always good to see, it looks like Kimbrel is really pitching his best right now.

The Red Sox offense got things started right away in the bottom of the first, with Hanley Ramirez mashing another home run over the Monster, his third of the season, which also scored Andrew Benintendi. Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks would settle down after the first, pitching five shutout innings. Like I said, the Red Sox scored four runs in the eighth, and I don’t think the ball left the infield once. Old friend Koji Uehara took the mound to start the inning, and he loaded the bases while failing to record an out. After Mookie Betts struck out, Marco Hernandez managed to score on a wild pitch. Xander Bogaerts would then score on a Mitch Moreland groundout, which led to Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez scoring on a Dustin Pedroia groundout that resulted in a fielding error from Addison Russell.

Based on the way the Red Sox scored those runs to take the lead, you can’t say it was pretty but I’d take it any day against the defending Champs. Cubs skipper Joe Maddon said he’d like to see the season end with seven games at Fenway and Wrigley, we’ll see.

13 down, 81 to go. 

Follow @brendan_camp on Twitter

RECAP: #RedSox blow it as Cubs comeback to win 7-4.

 adam sandler billy madison you blew it GIF

Yup, the Red Sox had a two run lead going into the sixth, a one run lead going into the seventh, and they lost. Poor managing, poor defense, and a lack of runs after the fifth all hurt the Red Sox in this one. Steven Wright was the starter today and he faced off against former Red Sox pitcher John Lackey. Wright got off to a great start, only allowing one hit through the first three innings. However, things would go downhill from there, as Wright gave up five earned runs over the next 3.1 innings. Wright finished the day with a line of 6.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, and 4 K’s. The long ball got to Wright on Saturday, as the knuckleballer surrendered two of them, one to Anthony Rizzo in the fourth, and one to Miguel Montero in the seventh. Wright would be taken out with one out in the seventh, relieved by Robby Scott, who would fail to record an out while giving up an unearned run. Rookie Ben Taylor would come in, still with only one out in the seventh, and he was able to get through the seventh and eighth inning without surrendering a run. After getting the first out of the ninth, Taylor would be replaced by Fernando Abad, who gave up a solo home run to Ben Zobrist before ending the ninth. Certainly not the best performance from the pitching department on Saturday. The defensive performance didn’t help either. Four errors from Wright, Bogaerts, Moreland, and Hernandez was disappointing to see.

At one point, it was actually looking like the Red Sox might win this game. Things started in the second when Jackie Bradley Jr. drove in Mitch Moreland on an RBI single. In the third, Xander Bogaerts scored on a sacrifice fly from Andrew Benintendi and Hanley Ramirez mashed his second home run of the season 469 feet over the monster, on to Lansdowne Street. The scoring would conclude for the Red Sox in the fifth with Andrew Benintendi hitting his third home run of the season. Although he did not drive in any runs, it was great to see Dustin Pedroia go 3 for 4 hitting out of the sixth spot on Saturday.

Earlier, I mentioned how the managing of this game may have cost the Red Sox this game. I’m not calling for John Farrell’s head here, but I never think this team will reach its fullest potential with Farrell as manager. Consistently leaving pitchers in the game too long has been frustrating to watch. Take today as an example, Steven Wright’s day should have been done after pitching six innings. Instead, he starts the seventh, and whadda ya know, he didn’t finish the inning. I doubt he’ll get fired, but John Farrell should be on the hot seat for the duration of the first half of this season.

Follow @brendan_camp on Twitter