Red Sox are ‘preparing for a series of moves’ in an effort to upgrade 2021 roster, per report

Despite having a relatively quiet offseason thus far, the Red Sox may be preparing to make a series of roster moves ahead of the start of spring training, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Per Olney, “the expectation [for the Sox] is that they will [make moves] in an effort to upgrade the ’21 team.”

Since ending the 2020 season with the fourth-worst record in baseball (24-36), Boston has made a handful of major-league caliber additions to its roster so far this offseason.

In November, right-hander Joel Payamps was claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks, while the likes of Eduard Bazardo, Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, Hudson Potts, Jeisson Rosario, Connor Seabold, and Connor Wong were all added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 deadline.

In December, righty Garrett Whitlock was selected from the Yankees in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, while a pair of former Rays — right-hander Matt Andriese and outfielder Hunter Renfroe — were signed to one-year deals for the 2021 season. Andriese’s contract includes a team option for 2022.

Outside of that, the Red Sox have jettisoned quite a few players — Tzu-Wei Lin, Yairo Munoz, Robert Stock, Kyle Hart, etc. — off its 40-man roster. They have also added (or re-signed) lesser-known players to minor-league deals for 2021.

Outfielder Cesar Puello, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, and right-handers Daniel Gossett and Kevin McCarthy stand out among that group given the fact that all four have major-league experience.

Having laid that all out, it becomes quite apparent that the Sox have yet to make a huge splash either via trade or free agency pickup. And to be fair, not many teams except the Mets and Padres have to this point.

With that in mind, as well as taking what Olney tweeted into consideration, it would appear that Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. are preparing to make some noise one way or the other this winter.

Outfielder Andrew Benintendi has been thrown out there in trade rumors with the Sox seeking young pitching or outfield help in return, two-time Cy Young Award winner and current free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber is slated to pitch in front of interested teams in Florida on Wednesday. These are just some of the avenues Boston could be exploring as spring training draws closer.

As for other specific players the Red Sox could be in pursuit of this winter, Bloom somewhat addressed that topic when asked about his ‘offseason check list’ during a radio interview on WEEI late last month.

“Right now, there’s a lot of players on it,” Bloom said in regards to his list. “Part of that is a function of where we are, where there’s a lot of different ways we can improve, and part of it is how we are looking to improve. In the short-term, we have touched base with so many different players who we think could help us, who could fit us. There’s pitching, obviously, but also on the position player side. I think there’s different ways we can improve and different profiles of players we can bring in to help us.

“We also don’t want to take our eye off the ball that at the end of the day, we’re not just looking to put a little plaster in here and patch some holes,” he added. “We’re looking to take this organization back to where we can compete for championships consistently, year in and year out. And that means we got to be open to different moves, different acquisitions that might not just be about 2021. But, it just speaks to [the fact] that there’s a lot of different ways that we can improve. The No. 1 question we ask ourselves on anybody is: Is this pushing us towards that goal of sustaining a championship contender here? If the answer is yes, then we can explore it further, we can figure out how it impacts us in the near-term, what it might mean for other players, and hopefully we check as many of those boxes as possible.”

On top of being open to different sorts of roster moves, Bloom also expressed confidence that the Red Sox would be able to add a few more new players to improve the team before pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers next month.

“I would hope that by the end of this offseason, there’s a number of different guys we’ve brought in here,” he said. “There’s certain possibilities on the trade market, creative things that could come together. They may not, because those things are harder to do — they take at least two to tango. But, different things that hopefully can impact us beyond just this year as well.”

And, again, for what it’s worth, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is still at full capacity. So, if in the next few days or weeks the club designates a player or multiple players for assignment, that could signal that another move could be coming, if that makes sense.

Then again, if a player of Benintendi’s status were to be traded, that kind of supplementary roster move might not be necessary. It really all depends on what Bloom and Co. have in store.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Chaim Bloom says trading for Blake Snell would have put Red Sox ‘further behind in our goal to win as many championships as we can’ over the long-term

Even with starting pitching issues to address this offseason, the Red Sox were likely never close to trading for former Rays left-hander Blake Snell.

The Rays dealt Snell to the Padres earlier this week in exchange for right-handed pitchers Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox as well as catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt.

Besides Mejia, who at 25 years old has already graduated from his prospect status, the other three players acquired by Tampa Bay were regarded by MLB Pipeline as some of the best prospects in San Diego’s farm system, with the 21-year-old Patino even ranking as baseball’s No. 23 overall prospect.

Having said that, the Padres were able to acquire a player of Snell’s caliber because of the strength of their minor-league pipeline.

Dealing for a 28-year-old who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018 and is under team control for three more seasons is no simple task, but the Pads, led by aggressive general manager A.J. Preller, were able to accomplish this.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, do not have the luxury of having one of the top farm systems in baseball, an honor they had enjoyed for a healthy portion of the 2010s.

Due to the recent decimation of their farm system and the urgency to build it back up to its once elite status, Boston felt as though it could not part with the pieces they would need in order to acquire a frontline starter such as Snell via trade. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when appearing on WEEI earlier Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s not something I would ever want to get into in detail, but I would just say, generally, that we try to be involved in everything,” Bloom told Rob Bradford and Jon Meterparel. “With a deal like that, what that deal amounted to was taking an enormous amount of long-term value and pushing it into the here and now. And pushing it into the short-term. When you look at the amount of talent that came back for Blake and the length of time over which that talent can impact the Rays, that’s exactly the sort of deal, given the cost and given the price tag, that would not make sense for where we’re positioned right now.

“I think it would put us further behind in our goal to win as many championships as we can over the course of the long-term,” he continued. “It’s our job to be involved in everything and we’re remiss if we don’t check in every player who might be available. When it comes to taking an enormous amount of value and consolidating it into a smaller amount that impacts us right now, I think that’s the opposite of what we need to do at the moment.”

While the Rays, led by general manager Erik Neander, received plenty of flak for parting ways with a homegrown star like Snell as they have become accustomed to doing in recent years — think David Price, Evan Longoria — Bloom, who served as one of Neander’s right-hands for a few years before taking charge of the Sox’ baseball operations department last fall, defended the club’s and his former boss’ decision.

“The reason that the Rays are as good as they are right now is because they have the guts to do these things even though they were painful,” he said. “Regardless of what your budget is — it’s certainly more critical to do it on a smaller budget — planning for the future and seeing around corners is important. The Rays have figured out how to win over time because they’ve placed an emphasis on that.

“As difficult as it is emotionally, I think it’s easy to look at that and say ‘Hey, look at the Rays. Look how they win despite the fact that they do these things,'” added Bloom. “I would argue that they win because they do these things. Because they recognize that in order to have a consistently bright future, they have to consistently place great emphasis on it. And when you do that relentlessly over time, you end up with a really good, really sustainable team despite the limited budget they have.”

Though it’s safe to assume that the Red Sox will be operating on a larger budget than the Rays this offseason and for the foreseeable future, there are certain measures that need to be taken in order to achieve sustained success over an extended period of time, as Bloom alluded to.

One way to do that is to ensure the right kind of players are added through a variety of methods such as trade, free agency, or even waiver claim. While it’s not exactly known what the Red Sox specifically look for in the players they target, Bloom did provide some insight into what his ‘offseason check list’ looks like at the moment.

“Right now, there’s a lot of players on it,” he stated. “Part of that is a function of where we are, where there’s a lot of different ways we can improve, and part of it is how we are looking to improve. In the short-term, we have touched base with so many different players who we think could help us, who could fit us. There’s pitching, obviously, but also on the position player side. I think there’s different ways we can improve and different profiles of players we can bring in to help us.

“We also don’t want to take our eye off the ball that at the end of the day, we’re not just looking to put a little plaster in here and patch some holes,” said Bloom. “We’re looking to take this organization back to where we can compete for championships consistently, year in and year out. And that means we got to be open to different moves, different acquisitions that might not just be about 2021. But, it just speaks to [the fact] that there’s a lot of different ways that we can improve. The No. 1 question we ask ourselves on anybody is: Is this pushing us towards that goal of sustaining a championship contender here? If the answer is yes, then we can explore it further, we can figure out how it impacts us in the near-term, what it might mean for other players, and hopefully we check as many of those boxes as possible.”

So far this winter, the Red Sox have only added two major-league players via free agency in the forms of outfielder Hunter Renfroe and right-hander Matt Andriese, both of whom agreed to one-year contracts with the club earlier this month.

24-year-old righty Garrett Whitlock was also added to the major-league roster via the Rule 5 Draft, but Bloom and Co. are still hoping to add more pieces as the offseason ensues and the calendar flips to January.

“I would hope that by the end of this offseason, there’s a number of different guys we’ve brought in here,” Bloom said. “There’s certain possibilities on the trade market, creative things that could come together. They may not, because those things are harder to do — they take at least two to tango. But, different things that hopefully can impact us beyond just this year as well.”

For what it’s worth, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is currently at full capacity following the Andriese signing, so that should give you a good idea of where things stand right now in terms of potential, upcoming movement.

Red Sox select right-hander Garrett Whitlock from Yankees in major-league phase of 2020 Rule 5 Draft

For the second consecutive year under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox partook in in the major-league portion of Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 Draft, selecting right-hander Garrett Whitlock from the Yankees organization.

Whitlock, 24, was originally drafted by New York in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A native of Georgia, Whitlock most recently pitched at the Double-A level in 2019, posting a 3.07 ERA and 3.09 xFIP over 14 starts and 70 1/3 innings pitched for Trenton before undergoing Tommy John surgery last July.

The 6-foot-5, 190 lb. righty relies on a three-pitch mix that includes an average sinker, slider, and changeup, per his FanGraphs scouting report. He also works from a lower arm slot, which allows him to add more deception to his delivery.

Based off the fact he underwent Tommy John last summer, Whitlock should be ready for the start of the 2021 season, especially when you consider the fact he was up to 94 mph in August.

Assuming Whitlock is healthy and is still on the team come February, one might expect him to compete for a spot either at the back end of Boston’s starting rotation or as a swingman capable of providing multiple innings out of the bullpen. We will have to wait and see on that.

With the addition of Whitlock, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster currently sits at 39 players.

And of course, as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “Boston paid New York $100,000 for [Whitlock]. He must remain on the active roster the entire 2021 season (barring an injured list stint) or be offered back to his previous club, the Yankees, for $50,000.”