Former Red Sox Catcher Blake Swihart Signs Minor-League Deal With Rangers

Former Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart has signed a minor-league deal with the Texas Rangers, per the club’s executive vice president of communications John Blake. The contract also includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Swihart opened the 2019 season with Boston, where he was the team’s second catcher behind Christian Vazquez up until April 16th.

At that point in time, the Sox sported a record of 6-11 and owned the third-worst team ERA in the American League at 5.93.

Offensively speaking, Swihart was not lighting the world on fire, as he was slashing .231/.310/.385 with one home run and four RBI through his first 12 games.

Given the struggles all the way around, as well as the fact that Sandy Leon was stashed away in Triple-A Pawtucket, Dave Dombrowski and Co. made the decision to go with Leon over Swihart from that point forward, ultimately designating the latter for assignment on the 16th and trading him to the Arizona Diamondbacks three days later.

Out of that deal, Boston also parted ways with international amateur signing bonus pool space, but they also gained outfield prospect Marcus Wilson, who has worked his way up to become the 18th-ranked prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

Arizona, meanwhile, did not get much production out of Swihart following the completed trade, as the 27-year-old went on to slash .136/.186/.273 with three home runs and nine RBI over just 31 games due to two right oblique strain-related stints on the injured list.

Eventually designated again by old friend Mike Hazen on August 12th and spending the rest of the year at the Triple-A level, Swihart opted for free agency in late September.

It is not known if the Red Sox had any interest in a potential reunion with Swihart. Given how Vazquez is currently the only backstop on Boston’s 40-man roster, bringing back Swihart might not have been the worst idea.

Once committed to the University of Texas at Austin, Swihart will have the chance to compete for a role with a resurgent Rangers club come the spring. If he makes the team’s Opening Day roster, he’ll also have the chance to play in the same division as his longtime friend and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, both of whom grew up in New Mexico.

This news comes a day after Swihart and his wife Shelby announced that they are expecting their first child together, so congratulations to them on that.

Red Sox ‘Actively’ Trying to Trade Jackie Bradley Jr., per Report

The Red Sox are actively trying to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

Abraham also notes that before last week, the Sox were engaged with the Mets regarding a potential deal before New York opted to trade for Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick instead.

Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2020, Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is projected to earn $11 million next season.

That price may be too high for a Chaim Bloom-led Red Sox team looking to trim down payroll to under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, especially when you consider that the majority of Bradley Jr.’s value comes from what he does with his glove compared to his bat.

The Virginia native slashed .225/.317/.421 to go along with 21 home runs and 62 RBI over 147 games played in 2019. He also finished just short of notching his second straight Gold Glove Award for American League center fielders this past season, finishing as the runner up behind Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier.

This is certainly not the first time Bradley Jr. has been on the trade block, and with teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks being linked to him, the former first-round pick out of the University of South Carolina’s days with the Sox may be numbered.

All of this information has come from a busy first full day of the Baseball Winter Meetings out in San Diego, so there is definitely going to be more to come in the next few days as well.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Taijuan Walker

Following the fallout of the non-tender deadline Monday night, one of the many notable players released by his club was right-hander Taijuan Walker being let go by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The 27-year-old was a key piece along with Ketel Marte for Arizona in the trade that sent Zac Curtis, Mitch Haniger, and Jean Segura to the Seattle Mariners back in November 2016.

Old friend Mike Hazen, who at the time was just over a month into his new role as Diamondbacks’ general manager, more than likely thought he was getting a key member of his club’s starting rotation in the then-24-year-old Walker. Instead, injuries ravaged the hurler’s time in the desert, and he is now a free agent.

A former first-round pick of the Mariners back in 2010, Walker made just one start for Arizona in 2019, when he pitched one scoreless inning in the team’s final game of the season, after working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, which he underwent in April 2018.

Coming into this winter, the Louisiana native was projected to earn a little more than $5 million in salary arbitration for 2020, but the Diamondbacks must have felt that was too steep a price to pay given the recent health concerns.

When asked about the reason for non-tendering Walker, Hazen emphasized the starting pitching depth his team already has, as in Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

“I think if (Walker) comes into camp and he ends up in the pen, through competition, I don’t know that that was an outcome for us that was an ideal solution – probably for either side,” Hazen said Monday. “We think he’s a starting pitcher.”

You know which team could use some major league-ready starting pitching for next season? The Red Sox.

With a projected rotation of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi, a fifth spot will be needed. Not to mention that the statuses of Sale, Price, and Eovaldi, both in terms of health and trade rumors, are up in the air at the moment.

In Walker, Boston would get someone who owns a career 3.95 ERA and 4.21 FIP over 97 appearances (94 starts) and 528 1/3 innings pitched. Neither of those first two numbers are particularly elite, but an elite pitcher is not what the Red Sox are looking for.

Sure, there are health concerns, but across baseball, it seems like Walker was viewed as a bounce back candidate for 2020. That is someone that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. should be willing to take a risk on.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks Extend Contract of General Manager and Potential Red Sox Target Mike Hazen

The Arizona Diamondbacks have reportedly reached agreement on a contract extension with general manager Mike Hazen, per the Athletic’s Zach Buchanan. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Hazen, 43, was viewed as a viable to candidate to take over for Dave Dombrowski as the head of baseball operations for the Red Sox.

The Abington, Ma. native spent 11 years in the Sox’ organization, serving under Theo Epstein, Ben Cherington, and Dombrowski in various scouting and executive roles before accepting the job of executive vice president and GM of the DBacks back in October of 2016.

In Hazen’s tenure with Arizona, the Diamondbacks secured the top National League Wild Card spot with a 93-69 record before being swept and eliminated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS in 2017, missed the postseason altogether with an 82-80 record in 2018, and are currently four full games off the pace for the second NL Wild Card spot with a 75-72 record to this point in 2019.

When speaking with reporters on Friday, Hazen noted that extension talks between him and the DBacks began before the Red Sox and Dombrowski parted ways, so it would not appear as though the club reached out to their former executive beforehand.

With Hazen off the list of potential names to head Boston’s baseball operations department moving forward, it will be worth monitoring who else the Sox may be interested in.

For me personally, getting Theo Epstein back would be incredible, but that seems to be more of a pipe dream at this point.

Eddie Romero, one of the three assistant GMs tasked with leading the Sox’ baseball operations department in Dombrowski’s place, seems to be the leading option internally.

 

 

 

Red Sox Sign Former Royals and Diamondbacks Utility Man Chris Owings to Minor-League Deal

Per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, the Red Sox signed veteran utility man Chris Owings to a minor-league contract Monday.

Owings, 27, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Kansas City Royals last December and slashed .133/.193/.222 with two home runs and nine RBI over 40 games played before being designated for assignment and eventually released on June 4th.

Initially selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft, Owings spent six big league seasons in the desert, posting a .250/.291/.378 slash line to go along with 31 homers and 196 runs driven in.

A native of South Carolina, Owings is capable of playing all around the field with experience at second base, shortstop, third base, and all three outfield positions.

Despite the poor numbers he has amassed with Kansas City this year, Owings can still provide the Red Sox with solid minor league depth at Triple-A Pawtucket once he gets there from Fort Myers.

#RedSox Acquire Minor League Outfielder Marcus Wilson from Arizona Diamondbacks in Exchange for Blake Swihart

Three days after designating him for assignment, the Red Sox have traded catcher/utility man Blake Swihart as well as international amateur signing bonus pool space to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league outfielder Marcus Wilson. Both clubs made the deal official Friday.

Swihart, 27, had been with the Red Sox organization since he was selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft.

With Arizona, Swihart will now join a team with some familiar faces in Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo, who were both with the Red Sox last.

Entering the 2019 season as Boston’s second catcher behind Christian Vazquez, the New Mexico native slashed .231/.310/.385 with one home run and four RBI over 29 plate appearances before being DFA’d this past week.

Since he could really never latch on to an everyday role while with the Red Sox, it would be nice to see if Swihart could become a more established player in the desert, where he’ll be closer to home.

On the other side of this deal, Marcus Wilson was a second round selection (69th overall pick) of the Dbacks out of Juniperra Serra High School in Gardena, Ca. back in 2014.

Listed at 6’3″ and 175 lbs. and ranked as Arizona’s 20th best prospect on MLB.com, the 22-year-outfielder slashed .235/.350/.529 to go along with two home runs and seven runs driven in 12 games this season with the Southern League’s Jackson Generals, the Double-A affiliate of the Diamondbacks.

Now assigned to the Portland Sea Dogs, Wilson will join a crowded outfield consisting of names like Keith Curcio, Tate Matheny, Joseph Monge, Aneury Tavarez, and Luke Tendler up in Maine.

Mitch Moreland Comes Through in Clutch yet Again as #RedSox Cap 11-Game Road Trip with Narrow Win over Diamondbacks

The Red Sox improved to 3-8 on Sunday afternoon following a 1-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Somehow, that news is very encouraging as the club makes the trek back to Boston.

Wrapping up their 11-game west coast road trip to start the 2019 season, it was more of a bullpen day pitching-wise for the Sox, with Hector Velazquez making his first start of the year in this one.

Having already appeared in three games as a reliever before Sunday, the right-hander really impressed in a short sample size in the desert.

Tossing three full innings, Velazquez held Arizona scoreless while yielding just one hit and zero walks to go along with three strikeouts on the evening.

Pitching at Chase Field for the first time in this three-year career, the 30-year-old hurler sat down nine of the 10 hitters he faced and finished with a final pitch count of 39, 26 of which went for strikes.

Unable to pick up the winning decision due to the number of innings he pitched, Velazquez is still the first Red Sox starter to not give up at least one run 11 games into the 2019 season.

In relief of Velazquez, the Red Sox bullpen was almost equally impressive, as Brandon Workman, Marcus Walden, Matt Barnes, and Ryan Brasier combined to work six innings of shutout ball, giving up just one walk and two hits in the process.

Workman, who was responsible for the fourth, retired all three hitters he faced while fanning one in a perfect frame of relief. He has yet to give up a run through five appearances out of the ‘pen so far.

Walden, meanwhile, made his first relief outing since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday. He, like Matt Barnes, pitched two scoreless innings, which made sense given the circumstances of why he was called up in the first place: to provide the bullpen with a fresh arm. Walden was also credit with his first winning decision of the season.

Going back to Barnes, the UCONN product made his first appearance since Wednesday in this one, and he collected a pair of punch outs over two perfect innings while featuring a four-seamer that topped out at 97.2 MPH en route to the hold.

And finally, Brasier, pitching for the second straight day, worked his way around a two-out double from David Peralta to notch his second career save.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Diamondbacks rookie right-hander Merrill Kelly, who had never faced Boston before in his career, as you may have guessed.

Surprisingly, the 30-year-old Kelly held his own in his second career big league start, limiting the Red Sox to just four hits over eight innings.

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until the top half of the seventh when Boston’s bats finally got going a little bit.

Entering the inning already 0-for-2 against Kelly, Mitch Moreland came through in the clutch for the Red Sox yet again, leading off the seventh by blasting the first pitch he saw that barely landed out of Adam Jones’ reach in right field.

Still, a home run is a home run, and Moreland’s third of the young season gave the Sox the only lead they would need to secure their third win of the year in this one.

Some notes from this slim 1-0 victory:

From Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes):

JD Martinez’s 10-game hitting streak may have came to a close following an 0-for-3 day at the plate on Sunday, but an intentional walk in the ninth inning means the Red Sox slugger has now reached base in 11 straight contests to start the new season.

Outside of that ninth inning double given up by Brasier, the Red Sox pitching staff only gave up one extra-base hit to the D-backs on Sunday.

Next up for the Sox, it’s a well-deserved off day back in Boston on Monday following 11 straight on the road before the home opener on Tuesday.

At 3-8, things could certainly be better, but with six games at Fenway Park over the next eight days, this club has the chance to show that they still should be taken seriously as defending World Series champions.

Ace left-hander Chris Sale will get the ball for Boston on Tuesday, while the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, now under new manager Charlie Montoyo, will go with former Los Angeles Angel Matt Shoemaker.

First pitch Tuesday is scheduled for 2:05 PM EDT with plenty of pregame festivities with plenty of special guests set to take place beforehand.

Have a good week, everyone.

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