Red Sox Bring Back Six Minor-League Free Agents, Including Austin Maddox and Daniel McGrath

The Red Sox brought back six minor-league free agents on minor-league deals on Saturday, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Depending on how you look at things, the most significant of the six free agents mentioned above who were brought back could either be Austin Maddox or Daniel McGrath.

Starting with Maddox, the 28-year-old right-hander is the only one of the bunch who has seen major league action, which came in five different stints with Boston over the course of the 2017 season.

In those five stints, Maddox yielded just one earned run on 13 hits, two walks, and 14 strikeouts over 13 relief outings and 17 1/3 total innings pitched, which in turn earned him a spot on the Sox’ ALDS roster, where he tossed two innings of one-run ball against the Houston Astros.

With that strong showing, the former 2012 third-round pick out of the University of Florida figured to play a key role in Boston’s bullpen plans for the 2018 campaign, but persistent right shoulder issues prevented that from happening, ultimately leading to Maddox undergoing rotator cuff surgery last September. A procedure that held him out for all of 2019.

As for McGrath, the 25-year-old left-hander was one of the better pitchers in the Eastern League this past season, posting a 1.68 ERA and .184 batting average against over 27 total outings (15 starts) and 112 1/3 innings pitched for Double-A Portland. He also had two brief stints with Triple-A Pawtucket in June and early September, where he allowed a total of six runs over 10 /13 frames of work.

McGrath is fascinating in that he signed with the Sox as a 17-year-old out of Melbourne, Australia back in January 2013. The contract the southpaw signed at that time was good for seven years, and now he figures to vie for a rotation spot with the PawSox in 2020.

These moves come just days ahead of the start of the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Az on Monday.

 

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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.

J.D. Martinez Decides Not to Opt out of Contract With Red Sox

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez has decided NOT to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old had until midnight eastern time Monday to make his decision, and is now locked in for at least one more year, as he also has two more opt outs remaining in his contract following the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In his second season with Boston, Martinez slashed .304/.383/.557 to go along with 36 home runs and 105 RBI across 146 games played in 2019.

Back in September, Sox ownership came out and said that it is a goal, not a mandate, to cut down on payroll ahead of the 2020 campaign. Following Monday’s events, Martinez is expected to earn $23.75 million next year. Combine that with Mookie Betts’ projected salary of $27.7 million, and that seemingly puts Boston’s new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in a difficult spot.

Of course, there are plenty of options available here. For starters, Martinez’s deal could be restructured to presumably do away with the opt-outs and lock in one of the best hitters in the game for the next three years. Another avenue worth exploring could be looking into trading both Betts and Martinez.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Martinez can block trades to three teams, and no adjustments to his current deal have been made to this point.

During his introductory presser last week, Bloom emphasized being both “sustainable and competitive over the long term.” If the Sox really want to avoid paying those luxury tax penalties once more next year, then they’re going to have to get really creative to do so.

With that said, it would not be much of a surprise if Bloom and Co. listen to trade offers on any player besides Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.

There was already that report out of Arlington last week that the Texas Rangers had begun having preliminary, internal conversations about acquiring a Sox starter like Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, or even Chris Sale, so that is definitely an avenue to explore as well.

Red Sox Listed as 5-1 Favorites to Sign Stephen Strasburg This Winter

The Red Sox are 5/1 favorites to sign Washington Nationals right-hander and 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg this winter, according to BetOnline.ag.

Strasburg, 31, has until noon eastern time on Saturday to opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million of the seven-year, $175 million contract extension he inked with Washington in May 2016.

A client of Scott Boras, Strasburg will surely exercise that opt out after just putting together another impressive postseason campaign, posting a 1.98 ERA and .607 OPS against over six October outings (five starts) and 36 1/3 total innings pitched, including 8 1/3 dominating frames of two-run ball in his last time out against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the World Series.

Because of his reputation for showing up in the postseason, the San Diego native is likely to command a hefty pay day despite already being 31 years old.

With the statuses of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale up in the air headed into the offseason, it’s not out of question to believe that the Red Sox will be in need of starting pitching for next year. But it’s hard to imagine that new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. would be serious about pursuing a big money starting pitcher such as Strasburg, especially when it looks like the Red Sox want to shred some of their payroll ahead of the 2020 season.

Still, the oddsmakers have listed Boston as the third-place favorites to land the right-hander’s services, as they trail only the Nationals (5/4) and New York Yankees (3/1).

More information regarding Strasburg’s free agency will more than likely come into light beginning on Saturday afternoon, at about the same time the Nats take to the streets of the nation’s capital to celebrate their first ever World Series title.

 

As Opt-Out Decision Looms, J.D. Martinez Is Officially on the Clock

Even though there is still one game remaining in this year’s installent of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros on Wednesday night, a former Astro in J.D. Martinez is on the clock.

Yes, the 32-year-old now has until 5 PM eastern time next Monday to decide whether or not he will opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract and become a free agent.

Martinez originally inked a five-year, $110 million deal with Boston back in February 2018. A deal that included built in opt-outs after the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons.

In the two seasons he has spent with the Sox to this point, the Florida native ranks second among qualified American League hitters in home runs (79), first in RBI (235), sixth in runs scored (209), and second in slugging percentage (.593).

While introducing new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on Monday, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said that he does not know what Martinez’s decision will be and that, “We’ll find out very soon.”

A client of super agent Scott Boras, Martinez may be enticed to enter free agency once again, as at 32, he may only have one last chance to earn a sizable contract in terms of both length and dollar figures.

In the following days leading into Monday evening, the Red Sox will have exclusive negotiating rights with their two-time All-Star slugger, as well as their other free agents. Martinez could reach a decision as early as 9 AM on Thursday, per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

If Martinez were to opt out of his contract, the Sox would owe him a buyout in the form of $2.5 million. They would also more than likely extend him a qualifying offer in this scenario, which will be worth $17.8 million this offseason. That way, any club that signed Martinez would also owe Boston a compensatory draft pick, one that would fall after the fourth round of the 2020 amateur draft.

Given how Henry and chairman Tom Werner have essentially made it clear that they would like to cut down on payroll this winter, it should be interesting to see how serious the club is about bringing Martinez back if he does indeed opt out.

Red Sox Formally Introduce Chaim Bloom as Their New Chief Baseball Officer

The Red Sox officially named Chaim Bloom as their new chief baseball officer on Monday afternoon through a press conference that featured Bloom himself, principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and team president Sam Kennedy. Brian O’Halloran was also formally promoted to general manager, marking the first time Boston has had a GM since 2016.

“We’ve tried to keep up with the change in nature of the baseball operations landscape,” Kennedy said of Bloom’s new title. “We value the collaboration and brainpower and institutional knowledge that our incredible team of baseball operations folks have.”

In his new role with his new organization, Bloom, who is coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays after 15 seasons working various roles, most recently as senior vice president of baseball operations, will have plenty of tough decisions to make right from the jump.

The futures of two Red Sox All-Stars, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, are among those, with Betts having one year remaining in arbitration before reaching free agency for the first time next winter, and Martinez having five days to decide whether or not to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million on his current contract once the World Series comes to a close later this week.

“Our top priority is sustainability and competitiveness over the long term,” Bloom said when asked about Betts and Martinez. “That can take many forms but that’s really going to be the top priority. There’s a lot I don’t know. I’m just coming in here. So I’m looking forward to building relationships with them.”

The theories surrounding what the Sox plan to do with Betts has been a hot topic since the club’s 2019 season ended last month. So much so that Henry discussed it, as well as Martinez’s situation, when describing what the interview process with Bloom was like.

“We talked about that there are a lot of tough decisions to make during this offseason. That’s not uncommon,” Henry said. “We talked about Mookie, J.D. other issues, but we didn’t focus on what should we do.”

As has already been indicated by Red Sox ownership, it is a goal, not a mandate, to get the team’s 2020 payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold. Betts, who is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration, and Martinez, who would earn $23.75 million next year if he opts in, would account for approximately 24.7% of that $208 million.

“You’re going to look at a number of factors,” said Henry. “Including where Mookie wants to play in the long-term.”

If the Red Sox were to offer Betts a contract extension and the 27-year-old were to turn it down, a trade would not be out of the question. Bloom did discuss how integral a quality farm system is for a team’s long-term success. Even with one year left of team control, Betts still could garner a hefty return in terms of prospects in a potential trade.

How Bloom makes his mark in his tenure with the Red Sox will be something to pay attention to for the foreseeable future. Someone who came up in a club with limited financial resources now has a great deal more to work with. How he utilizes those will be worth monitoring as Boston heads towards an offseason full of uncertainties.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Steve Cishek

Even without a head of baseball operations as things stand right now, the Red Sox are going to be in the market for relief pitching this winter.

Over the course of a disappointing 84-78 campaign in 2019, the Sox bullpen ranked sixth in all of baseball in innings pitched (665.0), 17th in ERA (4.40), eighth in FIP (4.14), 10th in xFIP (4.43), and fifth in fWAR (5.5) while names such as Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman emerged as a legitimate core to build around.

In the past few days, both The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey and MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith have pinpointed a handful of relievers that Boston could target once free agency begins, and one name that stuck out to me was right-hander Steve Cishek.

I should probably preface this by first saying that I am a big Steve Cishek guy, and I’ll explain why now.

Cishek, 33, posted a 2.95 ERA and .210 batting average against over 70 appearances and 64 total innings pitched this past season with the Chicago Cubs, the second of a two-year, $13 million deal he signed back in December of 2017.

A native of Falmouth, Ma., Cishek has experience closing games, as he has racked up 132 career saves between the Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, and Miami Marlins.

Per FanGraphs, Cishek has been worth $9.2 million over the last two seasons, so it is hard to imagine his asking price being all that high.

One thing to be wary of is that the sidearm reliever has dealt with his fair share of issues with his left hip, most recently spending 10 days on the injured list due to left hip inflammation in August.

With a pitch arsenal that heavily relies on a sinker and a slider, as well as a four-seam fastball and changeup, Cishek could provide the Boston bullpen with a unique look from a unique arm slot.

As a noted former Red Sox fan himself, it would be interesting to see how intrigued Cishek would be with a potential homecoming.