Dustin Pedroia’s Red Sox career could be nearing its conclusion

Dustin Pedroia’s time on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster could be coming to an end relatively soon.

The 37-year-old second baseman was activated from the 60-day injured list along with five others late last month, which brought Boston’s 40-man roster up to 37 players.

Clubs have until this coming Friday, November 20, to protect Rule 5-eiligible minor-leaguers from this year’s Rule 5 Draft, or in other words, add them to their 40-man roster.

As currently constructed, the Sox have three open slots on their 40-man with upwards of 50 prospects in need of Rule-5 protection. Obviously, the math does not check out here, and the majority of those 50-plus minor-leaguers will be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft come December.

There are however a select handful of Red Sox prospects who will need to be protected, as they are regarded as some of the more promising young players in the club’s minor-league pipeline.

Left-hander Jay Groome, right-hander Bryan Mata, infielder Hudson Potts, outfielder Jeisson Rosario, right-hander Connor Seabold, and catcher Connor Wong are the six key prospects in this scenario.

Groome and Mata, both of whom signed with the Red Sox in 2016, are regarded by MLB Pipeline as the top two active pitching prospects in Boston’s farm system.

The other four — Potts, Rosario, Seabold, and Wong — have all been acquired by the Sox via trade(s) within the last 12 months, so it’s highly unlikely the club would want to risk losing any of them.

There could be other, lesser-known minor-leaguers the Sox consider worthy of a 40-man roster spot, as was the case with lefty Kyle Hart last year. But, for the sake of this exercise, let’s assume that the Red Sox have six players they would like to add to the 40-man with only three vacancies to work with.

This means that, in some capacity, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will presumably look to reshuffle his team’s 40-man roster between now and Friday.

Players who are currently on the 40-man could either get traded, designated, or outrighted within the next five days, but those same players could also help another team if they wind up in the right situation.

There is plenty of risk involved in this process, but there is one route Bloom and Co. could take that could help mitigate that risk just a little bit. That being, take Pedroia, among others off the 40-man roster.

The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham reported last month that Pedroia and the Red Sox “are prepared to talk soon about a mutual understanding that would end his playing career.”

Though WEEI’s Rob Bradford later added on to that report by stating that “nothing” had yet to have been discussed between the two sides, a mutual agreement of some sorts here certainly makes sense from the Red Sox’ point of view.

Pedroia, a former MVP, has played in just nine total games over the last three seasons on account of issues with his left knee. He’s undergone three knee surgeries since 2017.

As he enters the final year of the eight-year, $110 million contract extension he signed with Boston back in 2013, it appears that the former second-round draft pick will be unable to play in 2021, or again, on account of how inactive he has been recently.

With that in mind, the Sox may look to reach some sort of settlement with Pedroia so that they can get out from some of the $12 million they owe him next year while also freeing up a 40-man roster spot for someone who can consistently contribute.

This is not exactly a fun scenario to consider, as Pedroia has proven to be one of the Red Sox’ undisputed leaders and all-time greats in his 15 or so years with the club, but it may be time to move on and have the four-time Gold Glover transition to a front office or coaching role within the organization, if possible.

Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran addressed this very issue in September, and he emphasized the notion that Pedroia will have a say in what the future holds for him as a Red Sox.

“I don’t think that any one particular roster spot is something I would focus on as a problem and certainly not when it’s Dustin Pedroia,” O’Halloran said. “We’re going to talk to Dustin and he’s obviously going to have the most say in where things go from here. No. 1 is making sure he’s as healthy as he can be for the rest of his life, really. And certainly we want to talk to him and see how he’s feeling and see where he wants to go from here.”

In short, Friday’s Rule 5 deadline will serve as a key indicator for where the Red Sox currently stand with Pedroia and the four-time All-Star’s status moving forward.

Other players are likely to get moved around, too, but Pedroia is without a doubt the most significant figure whose spot on Boston’s 40-man roster could be in jeopardy. We will have to wait and see what Bloom and Co. have in store.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora hoping Xander Bogaerts can become ‘elite defender’ at shortstop

Xander Bogaerts has proven to be one of the best shortstops in all of baseball in recent years, but that’s not stopping Red Sox manager Alex Cora from wanting more out of the 28-year-old moving forward.

Bogaerts just wrapped up a 2020 campaign in which he finished 17th in American League MVP voting thanks to putting up a .300/.364/.502 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 28 RBI over 56 games played.

Impressive offensive production, per usual. However, the Aruban-born infielder put up rather unimpressive defensive numbers, as has been the trend since he made his first career Opening Day roster back in 2014.

Among 20 qualified major-league shortstops this past season, Bogaerts ranked 19th in Defensive Runs Saved (-5), which essentially means he cost the Red Sox five runs, and 13th in Ultimate Zone Rating (0.3).

Going back to 2014, the two-time All-Star has posted negative DRS totals in each of his last seven seasons with Boston, per FanGraphs.

The Red Sox, with Cora back at the helm, would like to see Bogaerts put it all together and become just as adequate with the glove as he is with the bat in his hands.

“Xander, for instance, when you talk about about the shortstops around the league and now you add [Corey] Seager to that equation, he’s up there with them,” Cora said of Bogaerts when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron earlier this week. “Maybe the next step for us is to push Xander to be a better defender — and he’s not a bad defender — but to become an elite defender.”

This isn’t the first time Cora has brought up Bogaerts’ need to improve defensively, either. The Sox skipper said something along these same lines at least year’s winter meetings in San Diego.

Now that he is back, perhaps Cora will get on his shortstop in a similar fashion to the way he got on Rafael Devers in 2019. Of course, Devers has his own defensive kinks to work out, and Cora spoke about that process with Caron, too.

“With Raffy, we know what we have to work with,” he said. Expect both Bogaerts and Devers to be a focal point at the start of spring training in February.

Former Red Sox star Mookie Betts wins fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award

Former Red Sox star Mookie Betts took home his fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award and his first of the National League variety for right fielders on Tuesday night.

The 28-year-old had won the American League Gold Glove Award for right fielders in each of his last four seasons with the Sox from 2016 until 2019.

In his first go-around with the Dodgers, Betts logged 52 games and 438 2/3 innings in right field. While doing so, the Tennessee native led qualified National League right fielders in defensive runs saved (11), ultimate zone rate per 150 games (15.9), and Defense (3.7), according to FanGraphs. On top of that, he finished first among all right fielders in Outs Above Average (6), per Statcast.

By winning his fifth career and fifth consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award, Betts becomes the 30th outfielder in major-league history to win five Gold Gloves while also becoming the first outfielder to win as many as five straight since Ichiro Suzuki won 10 straight from 2001 until 2010.

Thanks mostly to Betts’ efforts, the eventual-World Series champion Dodgers had the top right field defense in the National League this past season going off multiple FanGraphs metrics. The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw their right field defense decline immensely in 2020, as the club finished 12th in the American League in DRS (-2), eighth in UZR/150 (1.8), and eighth in Defense (-1.4).

Betts, a former fifth-round draft pick, was traded to the Dodgers along with David Price back in February. Because he is under contract with Los Angeles through the end of the 2032 campaign, one might expect the four-time All-Star to add a few more Gold Gloves to his collection before all is said and done.

Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke Excited to See What Alex Verdugo Can Bring to Table in Right Field

Based off the positions they primarily play, Alex Verdugo will be tasked with replacing Mookie Betts in right field for the Red Sox this season. Seeing how Betts has won four straight Gold Glove Awards for his defensive work at the position, that will surely be no simple task for the former Dodgers top prospect.

Still, even with those lofty expectations placed upon him as the centerpiece for Boston in the trade that sent Betts and David Price to Los Angeles, Verdugo has done well thus far playing one of the toughest right fields in baseball at Fenway Park during the intrasquad games the Red Sox have held since Summer Camp began. His manager, Ron Roenicke, said as much when speaking to reporters via Zoom on Friday.

“He’s replacing a very tough guy in right field and that’s not fair to put on him to carry that kind of load,” Roenicke said of Verdugo. “But I think when this guy gets comfortable and he gets his timing right, I think we’re going to have a really exciting player. I think he’s going to be really good offensively. He runs well. He’ll steal some bases and he’s going to play a very good right field.”

While the expectation is that Verdugo will see the majority of his playing time come at right field with his new team, the 24-year-old has experience playing the other two outfield positions as well. Since making his major-league debut with the Dodgers in September 2017, Verdugo has played 31 games in left, 69 games in center, and 35 games in right.

“I think he’ll do a really good job no matter where we put him,” added Roenicke. “It looks like more right field at this time, but things change.”

Wherever he may play this year, the former second-round draft pick just wants to play everyday.

“For me, I’m an everyday player,” Verdugo said earlier this month. “That’s just that. It’s that simple. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. I want to be out there every single day competing.”

The 10 Best Red Sox Single-Season Performances of the 2010s

With the 2010s quickly coming to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the decade that was for the Red Sox. In this first installment, we’ll start with the best single-season performances for Red Sox position players and pitchers alike from 2010 up until 2019. Let’s get to it.

10. Chris Sale’s 2018 season (6.2 fWAR)

It may have been shortened due to left shoulder inflammation, but Sale’s second season with the Red Sox was something to behold. In 27 starts for the eventual World Series champs, the left-hander posted a dazzling 2.11 ERA and 2.31 xFIP over 158 innings of work, all while punching out more than 38% of the hitters he faced in 2018.

Sale also recorded the final three outs of the World Series against the Dodgers that year. Not a bad way to wrap up what could have been a Cy Young Award-winning campaign had he stayed healthy all the way through.

9. Adrian Gonzalez’s 2011 season (6.2 fWAR)

Gonzalez might not have spent much time with Boston, but the first baseman made his only full season with the Red Sox count, slashing .338/.410/.548 with 27 home runs and 177 RBI while leading the American League in hits (217) in an All-Star year.

Acquired from the Padres in exchange for a package headlined by Anthony Rizzo, Gonzalez and the Sox agreed to a seven-year, $154 million contract extension that April, but eventually shipped him off to the Dodgers in a blockbuster trade more than a year later.

8. Adrian Beltre’s 2010 season (6.4 fWAR)

Next month will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Red Sox and Beltre agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal for the 2010 season, and what a season it was for the veteran third baseman looking to reset his value.

In 154 games that year, Beltre slashed .321/.365/.553 with 28 homers and 102 RBI to go along with a league-leading 49 doubles.

Ultimately finishing ninth in American League MVP voting, the Dominican Republic native went on to sign a five-year, $80 million deal with the Rangers, leaving many to wonder what could have been had Beltre remained in Boston past 2010.

7. Mookie Betts’ 2019 season (6.6 fWAR)

After taking home his first MVP Award the previous year, many would describe Betts’ 2019 as a “down” season. But in reality, the 27-year-old was as impressive as ever, slashing .295/.391/.524 with 29 home runs, 80 RBI, and a league-leading 135 runs scored over 150 games played.

Defensively speaking, Betts notched his fourth consecutive Gold Glove Award for American League right fielders in what might have been his last full season in Boston depending on what happens between now and this coming July.

6. Xander Bogaerts’ 2019 season (6.8 fWAR)

Speaking of this year’s Red Sox team, Bogaerts really took it to another level both on and off the field in 2019 after agreeing to a six-year, $120 million extension back in early April.

Playing in 155 games this season, the All-Star shortstop slashed .309/.384/.555 to go along with a career-best 33 homers and 117 RBI. Those numbers landed the 27-year-old his third career Silver Slugger Award as well as fifth-place finish in AL MVP voting.

5. Chris Sale’s 2017 season (7.6 fWAR)

Turning back to the pitching now, Sale made quite the first impression in his first season in a Red Sox uniform.

After coming over in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago White Sox the previous December, the left-hander posted a 2.90 ERA and league-leading 2.45 FIP over 32 games started and a league-leading 214 1/3 innings of work.

Not to mention he also struck out 308 of the 851 batters he faced in what wind up netting Sale a second-place finish in AL Cy Young voting and ninth-place finish in MVP voting.

4. Dustin Pedroia’s 2011 season (7.9 fWAR)

Due to a historic September collapse, the 2011 season may be one the Red Sox would like to forget about, but it still netted a decent amount of positive individual performances statistically speaking.

Adrian Gonzalez’s season is one we already discussed, and now it’s on to Dustin Pedroia.

In his age-27 season, the second baseman slashed .307/.387/.474 with a career-best 21 home runs, 91 runs driven in, 26 stolen bases, and 86 walks over 159 games played, all of which came at second base.

Offensively and defensively, Pedroia was the best second baseman in all of baseball that season, as he earned his second of four career Gold Glove Awards while finishing ninth in American League MVP voting.

3. Mookie Betts’ 2016 season. (8.3 fWAR)

Oh look, it’s Mookie Betts again. We already talked about what the 2018 AL MVP did this past season, but now it’s time to talk about when the then 23-year-old truly broke out.

Opening the 2016 campaign by making his second straight Opening Day Roster, Betts followed up an impressive first full season by being even better the next.

In 158 games, the first-time All-Star slashed .318/.363/.534 to go along with 31 homers and a career-best 113 RBI, all while leading the American League in total bases with 359 of them on the season.

2016 was the first step in Betts earning the unofficial title of “the best outfielder in baseball not named Mike Trout,” as the Tennessee native finished right behind the Angels star in MVP voting while also taking home his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards that year.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2011 season (9.5 fWAR)

Ellsbury may have just been cut loose after a mostly disappointing six-year tenure with the Yankees, but let’s not forget that from the time he made his first Opening Day roster in 2008 up until his departure in 2013, the Oregon State University product was a top-five outfielder in the American League in his time with the Red Sox.

Looking at his 2011 season more specifically, Ellsbury posted a .321/.376/.552 slash line to go along with a career-high 32 homers and 105 RBI over 158 games played.

Many wonder if Ellsbury would have won AL MVP in 2011 had it not been for his club’s historic collapse in September. Instead, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander took home the award, while Ellsbury took home his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

1. Mookie Betts’ 2018 season (10.4 fWAR)

Finally, we arrive at the only Red Sox player to win an MVP Award this decade in Betts, who put together a monster 2018 season, which also happens to arguably be the greatest season in Sox history.

Playing in 136 games and batting primarily out of the leadoff spot, Betts slashed .346/.438/.640 with a career-high 32 home runs and 80 RBI while pacing the American League in runs scored with 129 of them on the season.

In terms of MVP voting, it was not particularily close, as the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award-winning outfielder received 28 of 30 first-place votes.

According to FanGraphs, Betts accrued 10.4 fWAR in 2018, the highest total from one single season this decade. In short, the Tennessee native is very good at baseball.

Honorable mentions

Because I used FanGraphs’ fWAR metric to compile this list, David Ortiz’s 2016 season and J.D. Martinez’s 2018 season did not make the cut.

Also, Rick Porcello is the only Sox pitcher this decade to win a Cy Young Award, which he accomplished in 2016, so that deserves a shout out in its own right.

Mookie Betts Makes Spectacular Throw to Nab Avisail Garcia at Third in Red Sox’ Loss to Rays

The Red Sox may have dropped their final contest against the Tampa Bay Rays of 2019 by a final score of 7-4 on Monday night, but that did not stop Mookie Betts from making one of the plays of the season in right field.

It came in the top half of the sixth inning, when with no outs and Ji-Man Choi on at second following a leadoff double, Sox right-hander Hector Velazquez yielded another two-bagger to Avisail Garcia, this one coming off the bat at 100.1 MPH on the ground to Betts in right field.

Garcia was able to drive in Choi to make it a three-run game at 7-4, but the mistake he made come on his own decision to try and extend that double into a triple.

Betts was having none of that, as he wound up and made one of the better throws you will see directly to Rafael Devers to nab Garcia at third base for the first out of the frame. No cut-offs, no bounces. Just perfection.

According to MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, Betts’ long toss spanned 305 feet from the right field corner to third on the fly and it is the fourth-longest on-the-fly outfield assist in the Statcast era (since 2015).

A three-time Gold Glove Award winner, Betts appears well on track to add another Gold Glove to that collection in November.

Three #RedSox Capture Gold Glove Awards, Including Jackie Bradley Jr.’s First.

On Sunday night, Major League Baseball announced its 2018 Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners for both leagues on ESPN, and the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox came away with three award winners.

Tied with the Atlanta Braves for the most recipients, Ian Kinsler, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts took home the honor for the American League at second base, center field, and right field, respectively.

For Kinsler, this is the second time he has been awarded with a Gold Glove in his 13-year career.

According to FanGraphs, the 36-year-old, who played in 37 games with Boston this season, led all American League second baseman in Ultimate Zone Rating (9.7).

For Jackie Bradley Jr., this is the first time he has been named a Gold Glove winner, and it finally solidifies the 28-year-old as one of, if not the best defensive center fielder in the American League. Here are some highlights from this season to drive that point home:

And finally, to no one’s surprise, Mookie Betts took home his third consecutive Gold Glove Award patrolling right field. He, like Kinsler, led all American League right fielders in UZR by a wide margin (15.3).

Betts will be looking to add to his impressive award collection in the coming days, as Silver Slugger Award winners will be announced on November 8th. JD Martinez should be in that conversation as well.