Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Reflects on Emotional Final Day of 2020 Regular Season

The Red Sox wrapped up their 2020 regular season with a 9-1 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon to finish the year with a record of 24-36.

Before Sunday’s series finale against Atlanta had even started, though, the club announced that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager in 2021, which was the catalyst for an emotional day all around among Red Sox players and staff alike.

For one, Xander Bogaerts, who by all accounts is one of this team’s emotional leaders, did not find out about the news of Roenicke’s dismissal until he arrived at Truist Park.

“It was tough. Coming to the ballpark, no one really expected that, but that’s the way stuff goes in life sometimes,” Bogaerts said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He was a huge influence for me personally, in my life and also my baseball career. And I know for sure he’s meant a lot to the other guys… I feel like he was just the perfect guy for the situation with this tough year. It was tough coming to the ballpark, especially losing a lot, and he just found a good way to communicate with us and try to make you feel good and important.

“He’s definitely someone that we will miss,” Bogaerts continued. “It was a tough year, and I remember before the game I was like ‘If I hit a homer today, I’m going to go up to him and give him a big hug before I go into the dugout, before I go to all the other guys.'”

Bogaerts did crush his 11th homer of the season in the top half of the fifth Sunday to put his side up 3-1, but he incidentally forget to give Roenicke that hug as he made his way back towards the Boston dugout after touching home plate.

“Everything just happened so quick and I kind of just forgot,” the 27-year-old recounted. “But I told myself that I would try to hit one for him and try to win this game for him. Obviously, it’s been a tough year, and it was some rough news for sure.”

On top of playing his final game with Roenicke as his manager, Bogaerts may have also played his final game with Jackie Bradley Jr. as his teammate.

Bradley Jr., who went 3-for-6 with a solo shot out of the leadoff spot and dazzled in the outfield on Sunday, is set to become a free agent for the first time in his big-league career this winter. A reunion between the 30-year-old Gold Glover and the Sox does not seem imminent at this point in time.

“He’s been through a lot here,” Bogaerts said of his teammate for parts of the last seven seasons. “We all know how good he is with the glove, we don’t need to speak about that anymore because he is obviously one of the best in the game to do that.”

While providing his typical, superb defensive prowess, which as mentioned was on full display Sunday, Bradley Jr. also enjoyed great success at the plate in 2020, as he finished the 60-game campaign boasting a .283/.364/.540 slash line, much to the delight of his teammates.

“For [Bradley Jr.] to be consistent with the bat this year, I think that was really nice,” said Bogaerts. “I know that’s something he’ll be very proud of going back and looking at the season that he had. He finished on a real strong note and I hope that he can stay here. I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family, because he’s also one of those guys who is a truly great person. He’s a good baseball player, but he’s an even better person and those guys deserve a lot. As I said, he’s been through some rough stretches here, but in the end I think with the season that he had, it was a nice season for him.”

Here’s to hoping that Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. will once again share the same field together in 2021.

Red Sox Rookie Bobby Dalbec Has Call of Duty To Thank for Tight Relationship With J.D. Martinez

J.D. Martinez is leaning towards not opting out of his current contract and remaining with the Red Sox for the 2021 season. The 33-year-old slugger made that much clear when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday.

While alluding to the notion that he will remain with the Sox next year, Martinez also had some kind words for a teammate who could emerge as a legitimate major-league slugger himself. That teammate’s name? Bobby Dalbec.

“He’s definitely got some tools,” Martinez said of the 25-year-old rookie. “He’s a really good kid, always asking questions, very humble, very quiet. He’s got a lot of power. I could see him being an impact [bat] in this lineup for the future, definitely sticking around.”

After making his big-league debut at the end of August, Dalbec came into Saturday with a .274/.361/.603 slash line to go along with seven home runs and 14 RBI through 21 games and 83 plate appearances thus far.

In those 83 plate appearances, the University of Arizona product has struck out 43.4% of the time, which according to FanGraphs is the highest rate among American League rookies who have accrued at least 80 trips to the plate. Getting that strikeout rate down is something Dalbec will need to improve upon as he prepares for his first full major-league season, and Martinez knows that.

“He’s going to have to make adjustments,” Martinez added. “I know he is, just because that’s the league. Once this league makes adjustments on you, that’s the biggest test, if the hitter can make the adjustment back. That’s when you find out, to me personally, if guys can stick around in the big leagues or not.”

Despite punching out at a rather high clip, Dalbec still manages to get on base frequently, as his walk rate (10.8%) and on-base percentage (.361) ranks fifth among AL rookies with 80 or more PAs this season.

“Talent-wise, I don’t see any reason why [Dalbec] can’t be an impact bat,” said Martinez. “You see what he’s been able to do in a short period of time.”

In his brief stint with Boston since his promotion on August 30, Dalbec has made sure to absorb as much useful information from veterans like Martinez, which is something he started doing while at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019.

“We always talk,” Martinez said in regards to his relationship with Dalbec. “We got close because we used to play Call of Duty together. We used to play Zombies on Call of Duty all the time… and he’d always ask me questions while we played video games. Once he came up here, or even when he was in Triple-A, he would text me about stuff he was struggling with, certain pitchers, certain pitch types, he would talk to me. Up here, it’s been kind of the same thing. He comes to me about pitchers all the time and what I think about certain moves, what I think about certain ideas.”

If Martinez does indeed remain with the Red Sox going into the 2021 campaign, how he interacts with and/or mentors Dalbec certainly could be something to keep an eye on as soon as spring training begins in February.

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 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 ‘Have a Chance’ to Sign Free-Agent Right-Hander Zack Godley, per Report

The Red Sox are one of several teams interested in acquiring the services of free-agent right-hander Zack Godley, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, “There are multiple teams interested in Godley, according to a source, but the Red Sox are believed to have a chance to sign him.”

Godley, who turned 30 in April, was released by the Tigers on Monday, nearly seven months after inking a minor-league deal with the club back in December.

Between the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays last season, the 6-foot-3, 240 lb. righty posted a 5.97 ERA and 5.20 FIP over 33 outings (10 starts) and 92 total innings of work.

A former 10th-round pick of the Cubs in the 2013 amateur draft, Godley, a native of South Carolina, is just three years removed from his best season in the majors in 2017; one in which he put up a respectable 3.37 ERA and 3.41 FIP over 26 appearances (25 starts) and 155 innings pitched for Arizona.

According to his Statcast page, Godley’s pitch mix consists of a curveball, sinker, cutter, changeup, and four-seam fastball.

It’s unclear whether the Red Sox would use Godley in a starter or reliever role, but the club could certainly use some pitching help regardless considering the current state their staff is in.

More specifically, Chris Sale is out for the year while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Eduardo Rodriguez’s status for the start of the season is up in the air due to his testing positive for COVID-19, and Collin McHugh has yet to throw a live bullpen.

In other words, Boston’s starting rotation would look something like this as currently constructed:

  1. Nathan Eovaldi
  2. Martin Perez
  3. Ryan Weber
  4. Brian Johnson
  5. Opener

Based off his struggles the past few years, Godley would be far from a sure thing, but the Red Sox are in need for some pitching help and Godley could potentially provide that as a low-risk free-agent signing.

The Red Sox currently have 10 open spots to work with in regards to their Summer Camp player pool, so adding Godley shouldn’t be too difficult if he is signed to a minor-league contract.

Dodgers’ Mookie Betts Says He Has No Regrets About Turning Down $300 Million Contract Extension From Red Sox

Former Red Sox star and current Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts says he has no regrets about turning down a 10-year, $300 million contract extension from Boston during the 2019 offseason.

According to WEEI’s Lou Merloni, the Sox had made that offer to Betts in their third attempt to keep the 2018 American League MVP in Boston long-term.

Betts countered that offer with $420 million over 12 years, and things only fell apart from there as the four-time All-Star was dealt to Los Angeles in February.

At the time he was traded, Betts was gearing up to become one of this winter’s most coveted free agents and seemed locked in on signing a record-setting deal with whichever team would be willing to pay up.

Flash forward a little less than five months later, and the 27-year-old may have to settle for less of a payday than he was originally expecting due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has placed financial constraints on a many major-league ballclub.

Despite facing that potentially harsh reality, Betts still has no remorse about turning down that aforementioned extension from the Red Sox. He said as much at press conference at Dodger Stadium earlier Monday.

“I don’t regret turning down that [offer],” the Tennessee native told reporters. “Once I make a decision, I make a decision. I’m not going back and questioning myself. I don’t worry about that. The market will be what it is. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Added Betts: “Free agency is really on the back-burner. That’ll come. That’s nothing that I’m really thinking about right now. Right now, the main concern is (health and safety). There’s a lot going on, we haven’t gotten tests back and we don’t know who’s sick and not sick. There’s just a lot going on that needs to be addressed and free agency is not one of those things right now. That will come when it comes.”

It’s also worth mentioning that Betts is one of a number of players who don’t seem entirely confident that this truncated 2020 season will reach its conclusion even though Opening Day is less than three weeks away. He even said that he still has doubts about playing for the Dodgers in a real game.

How things continue in terms of adequate COVID-19 testing and protocols for teams will certainly be something to monitor moving forward.

Red Sox One of Several Teams Who Could Sign Yasiel Puig, per Report

The Red Sox are among the teams who could possibly sign free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Per Heyman, who appeared on Thursday night’s edition of MLB Tonight, the Red Sox are one of four clubs “who have been mentioned as possibilities” for the 29-year-old outfielder. The others being the Giants, Padres, and Rays.

Arguably the best free agent remaining ahead of the start of the 2020 season, Puig did have major-league offers on the table prior the coronavirus-induced, league-wide shutdown. The Marlins, for instance, were one of those teams who had offered the Cuba national a one-year deal.

But, as Heyman noted, Puig wanted to hold out in the hopes of playing in front of bigger crowds.

That component to his decision is off the table now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so it would appear that guaranteed money and/or playing time would be most prevalent in Puig’s pursuit to find a new club.

Splitting time between the Reds and Indians last season, the one-time All-Star slashed .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 149 games played primarily as a right fielder.

The Red Sox, as currently constructed, are a team that has a solid amount of outfield depth at the major-league level. Between Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo, Kevin Pillar, and J.D. Martinez, it’s somewhat difficult to see how Puig would fit in that crowded outfield picture in 2020.

Of course, as noted quality Twitter follow @RedSoxStats brings up, “If the Sox know they have any room below the tax threshold, they should gobble up any talent [at] any position.”

It’s definitely surprising that Puig is still on the open market six days after MLB’s freeze on roster moves was lifted. On a personal note, I don’t view Boston as favorites to sign the former Dodgers star, but it will certainly be fascinating to watch how things unfold regarding Puig and other free agents in the coming days.

Blogging the Red Sox Presents: An Interview With Chaim Bloom

When Major League Baseball first suspended spring training and delayed the start of the 2020 season back in March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I sent an email to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom asking if I could send him a handful of questions pertaining to those aforementioned events taking place.

It took some time, but after sorting things out with the club’s media relations department over the last few weeks, I have in my virtual possession the written responses to the questions I sent him.

Rather than structure this article like a story you would typically see on here, I am instead going to enclose the “transcript” of the “interview” below. So please enjoy, and remember, these questions were sent earlier in the spring, before this year’s draft and before MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he’s not “100%” confident there will be a season this year.

Would you rather the Red Sox host spring training workouts in Boston or Fort Myers?

Chaim Bloom: This is such a unique year – it forces us to rethink everything that goes into spring training. There are certainly benefits to both places and we’re hoping to get a clearer idea of exactly what 2020 will look like before we firm up a plan. In the meantime, we’re working on parallel tracks to make sure we’re ready for whatever makes the most sense once we see the schedule as a whole.

How has it been preparing for this year’s draft with less material to go over than usual?

Bloom: The process to prepare for the 2020 draft really favored those staffs who had done their homework in the summer and the fall. When you have a hard-working staff with a lot of continuity, which we do, that’s one aspect we were well prepared to take advantage of. The biggest challenge for all 30 clubs was how to weigh those spring samples, which were either small or nonexistent. If a player changed dramatically from what he’d been, how much weight do you put on that? Is that who he is now – was it a real step forward or back – or was it just a small-sample fluke? Those types of discussions were some of the most interesting that we had amongst our staff.

Who in the front office or scouting department would be best at convincing undrafted players to sign with the Red Sox for up to $20,000?

Bloom: The decision to play pro ball is a very personal one for a lot of players and this year is no different. We certainly want to make the case to interested players that we’re the organization that can get the most out of them and maximize their potential. But we also want this to be a mutual fit, who see themselves as well-positioned to take advantage of what we have to offer. When those things line up, we will be set up well to have success in development.

Despite the current freeze placed on any sort of roster moves, have you had any conversations with free agents or other general managers during this period?

Bloom: Along with others in the front office, I’ve continued to speak to counterparts and contacts throughout the game, but not to discuss trades or roster moves. That’s just not appropriate right now and there have been many other issues to worry about.

As a spectator, how different would it be for you to watch Major League Baseball be played in empty ballparks? Would that impact the way you view or analyze a certain player since there would be no crowd noise to react to?

Bloom: It would be different, that’s for sure. I don’t think we know exactly how players will react. But I’d be hesitant to give too much blame or credit to the attendance (or lack thereof) when assessing how a player performs. There’s so much that goes into what these guys do that I don’t know how we could separate the signal from the noise. They’re pros and I have every reason to think they’ll be locked in when the time comes to compete.

Finally, how odd has it been to not have any live stateside baseball to watch at this point in the year? There are obviously more pressing issues at hand in this country, but as someone who has been part of a major-league front office in some capacity since 2005, this has to be kind of strange, no?

Bloom: No question. This is not an experience that has been fun for anyone in the game. We’ve done what we can to make the most of the time, but we’re all in this because we love baseball and when there isn’t any, it’s a downer. Having said that, we know that public health and the safety of our players, our staff, and our fans is and should be higher priorities. Those things have to come first, but we’re hopeful that we can provide some entertainment for our fans during this really difficult period.

Thank you to Chaim Bloom and Red Sox vice president of media relations Kevin Gregg for making this possible. 

On This Day in Red Sox History: Luis Tiant Signs With Boston

On this day in 1971, the Red Sox signed free-agent right-hander Luis Tiant to a minor-league contract.

Tiant, 30 at the time, had just been released by the Braves two days earlier after Atlanta refused to promote him to the majors.

The beginning of the 1971 campaign was eventful for Tiant. He had been diagnosed with a crack in a bone in his right shoulder the year prior and missed ten weeks of the 1970 season because of it.

Entering 1971 as a member of the Twins organization, Tiant missed two weeks of spring training due to a pulled muscle in his rib cage and was subsequently released by Minnesota in late March.

As previously mentioned, the Braves picked the veteran righty up on what was then called a 30-day trial contract with their Triple-A affiliate in Richmond.

That experiment did not work out however, as Atlanta eventually cut Tiant loose on May 15th. He was on the open market for just two days before the Red Sox acquired his services on the 17th.

Tiant’s Red Sox tenure began in Louisville home of the Sox’ Triple-A affilate at the time,, where he posted a 2.61 ERA over 31 innings of work, which was good enough to earn him a call up to Boston on June 3rd.

The Cuba national’s first major-league experience with the Sox did not go so well as he went just 1-7 with a 4.85 ERA over 21 appearances (10 starts) and 72 1/3 innings of work in ’71.

Fortunately though, El Tiante would wind up being one of the better starting pitchers of the decade in his time with the Red Sox.

From 1972 until 1978, Tiant owned an ERA of 3.30, an ERA+ of 121, and a FIP of 3.50 over 253 outings (228 starts) and 1,702 1/3 total innings pitched. Per FanGraphs, he was the 14th-most valuable starting pitcher in baseball during that time period in terms of fWAR (28.0) while compiling two All-Star appearances and three top-six finishes in American League Cy Young voting.

In his lone postseason action with Boston in 1975, the Red Sox won all four games Tiant started in against the Athletics and Reds, although they did go on to fall to Cincinnati in the World Series that year.

Following the 1978 season, Tiant inked a two-year deal with the Yankees and went on to also pitch for the Pirates and Angels before calling it quits in 1982.

Inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997, Tiant currently serves as a special assignment instructor for the club.

 

Former Red Sox Ace Jon Lester Open to Reunion With Organization He Began Career With

Former Red Sox ace and current Cubs left-hander Jon Lester is open to a potential reunion with Boston this winter, he said in a radio interview with WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Lester, who turns 37 in January, is entering the final year of the six-year, $155 million deal he signed with Chicago back in December 14. That contract includes a $25 million vesting option for 2021 if Lester were to pitch 200 innings this year or 400 innings between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Even if those numbers wind up getting prorated due to the coronavirus-induced shutdown, it seems unlikely that he would reach that mark, thus making him a free agent later in the year.

“We’ve got a lot of what-if’s going on right now,” Lester told Bradford. “For me, I don’t know what is going to happen next year. I know I have the team option, the player option, that sort of thing. We’ll figure that out one way or the other. I will either be here or be a free agent. Obviously everything is open. I’m open-minded to anything.”

Drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft out of Bellarmine High School in Tacoma, Wa., Lester won two World Series titles and made two All-Star teams in his first go-around with the Red Sox.

As you may recall, Sox brass famously low-balled Lester in the spring of 2014 as he was nearing free agency and coming off a 2013 campaign in which he was an All-Star, helped Boston win another World Series, and finished fourth in American League Cy Young voting.

At that time, principal owner John Henry and Co. offered the lefty a four-year, $70 million extension, good for an average annual value of $15 million.

Even after publicly expressing that he’d be willing to take a discount to keep the Red Sox as competitive as possible, that offer was still downright disrespectful, to be blunt. Especially when Lester had just seen the Yankees sign international free agent Masahiro Tanaka, then 25, to a seven-year, $155 million contract that January.

So after botching those extension talks, the Red Sox wound up dealing Lester to the Oakland Athletics prior to the 2014 trade deadline, and the Washington native went on to sign that aforementioned six-year deal with the Cubs a few months later.

As productive as Lester has been since joining the North Siders, his 2019 campaign was not the most memorable.

Starting 31 games, Lester posted a 4.46 ERA and 4.35 xFIP over 171 2/3 innings of work. Not terrible numbers by any means, but it certainly would appear that the southpaw is on the decline at this stage in his career.

Preferably, Lester would like to prove that last year was just a blip and not the way things are trending for him, but his chances to do that are growing slimmer and slimmer as each day passes with no plan for a 2020 season in place.

“On a personal level, this hurts me,” he said of the shutdown. “I’m not getting any younger and coming off a year like I had last year, this isn’t going to help me.”

Because of that uncertainty, I’m sure Lester has had more time to think about different things while waiting this pandemic out from his Georgia home, and it certainly seems like returning to Boston has crossed his mind more than once.

“Absolutely it would be cool to go back and finish my career where it all started,” he said. “But, I’ve got a little time before I really have to sit down and weigh that decision, even if it’s something where they want me back. Hopefully, I’m still a good enough caliber pitcher that the want of my services will still be out there for people. We’ll see.”

We will have to wait and see. I mean, who knows what the market for a veteran 37-year-old left-hander with 2,500+ innings under his belt will look like come free agency? How much would Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom be willing to dish out for someone like that if he feels like Lester fits a team need? Both are unknowns at this point in time.