Red Sox reached out to DJ LeMahieu early on in free agency, could reconnect with veteran infielder this week (report)

In addition to improving their starting pitching depth, one of the holes the Red Sox need to address this offseason is at second base.

Boston is coming off a 2020 season in which its second basemen posted an American League-worst OPS of .586 and American League-worst wRC+ of 55.

The club was aggressive in their pursuit of coveted Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim to fill that hole at second base, but the 25-year-old inked a four-year, $28 million deal with the Padres in late December.

With Kim off the market, the Sox may very well turn to another highly-touted free agent second baseman in three-time All-Star D.J. LeMahieu.

LeMahieu, according to Yahoo Sports‘ Tim Brown, “has become dismayed by the slow-play tactics of the Yankees, along with other clubs.”

The 32-year-old out of Louisiana State University is coming off another successful season with the Bronx Bombers in which he slashed .364/.421/.590 with 10 home runs, 10 doubles, and 27 RBI over 50 games (216 plate appearances) in 2020.

Emerging as perhaps one of the best infielders in baseball in his time with New York, LeMahieu is reportedly seeking a new contract this winter that exceeds “Josh Donaldson’s four-year, $92 million deal with the Minnesota Twins and [is] at least on par with J.D. Martinez’s five years and $110 million with the Boston Red Sox.

“The Yankees, LeMahieu’s preferred club after two successful seasons in the Bronx, have not met those terms,” Brown writes.

Given his frustrations, LeMahieu has asked “his representatives to re-engage with teams that have previously shown the most interest…and to reconnect with teams that reached out early in the free agent period.”

The Red Sox are one of the teams that reportedly reached out to the two-time batting champ early on in the free agent period, likely in late October or early November.

They could also be one of the teams planning to meet virtually with LeMahieu at some point this week, according to Brown, seeing how they are “seeking to fill holes at second or third base.”

One caveat that comes with pursuing LeMahieu is the fact that he has a $18.9 million qualifying offer attached to him, meaning the Red Sox — or any club besides the Yankees — would have to forfeit a 2021 second-draft pick as well as $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money in order to sign him.

Back in November, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom stated that he would not shy away from certain free-agents with QOs attached to them as long as they fit a team need.

“I think it’s our responsibility to engage on everybody that could fit us,” Bloom said via a Zoom call. “Obviously when you’re talking about somebody that has a qualifying offer on them, the cost to us in signing them is greater and you have to factor that in on some level. But I don’t like ruling us out on anybody.”

While not ruling the likes of LeMahieu out then, Bloom also emphasized the significance second-round picks can have for an organization, citing Jon Lester (2002) and Dustin Pedroia (2004) as prime examples in the Sox’ case when speaking with reporters last month.

“All draft picks are calculated risks to some extent,” Bloom said. “There’s no guarantees with any of them. You can look at 2002 and 2004 just to see how valuable a second round pick can be in this organization. It’s really valuable. You saw this past year in the draft, we didn’t have one. And as a result we had to navigate the draft differently than we might have if we had our pick in that round. So it matters. It obviously has value. It gives you a very good shot at an impactful player. And so you just have to factor that in. It’s not an absolute one way or the other. But you can’t be blind to the value that you’re giving up in
that scenario.”

In addition to the constraints — both financial and developmental — bringing in LeMahieu would create, the right-handed hitter’s swing may not even play that well at Fenway Park in comparison to how it plays at Yankee Stadium.

That being the case because, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier noted in December, LeMahieu’s “batted-ball profile — a right-handed hitter who drills liners to the opposite field — represents an ideal fit for Yankee Stadium but a poor one for Fenway.”

In 14 career games and 65 career plate appearances inside Fenway Park, LeMahieu has posted a .516 OPS, which pales in comparison to his lifetime OPS of 1.042 at Yankee Stadium.

With those numbers in mind, LeMahieu could very well be attempting to use the Red Sox as leverage in this scenario, and the Red Sox, upon getting in touch with the veteran infielder’s reps in the fall, may have just been doing their due diligence, as noted by MLB Trade Rumors’ Mark Polishuk.

Still, it is somewhat fascinating to see that Boston could be in play for a premier free-agent like LeMahieu at this stage in the offseason, though I don’t really see the two sides coming to terms on a long-term contract that lines up with what the 32-year-old is looking for anytime soon.

(Photo of D.J. LeMahieu: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Newest Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim viewed Red Sox as potential suitor before signing with San Diego, per report

South Korean sensation Ha-Seong Kim may have inked a four-year, $28 million deal with the Padres this past Thursday, but according to multiple reports out of South Korea, the 25-year-old strongly considered the Red Sox as a potential suitor.

As noted by DRaysBay’s Homin Lee, the right-handed hitting Kim may have thought his ‘pull-heavy swing style’ would be best suited for Fenway Park and its Green Monster in left field, but he ultimately picked the Padres on account of San Diego’s warm weather.

According to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, the Red Sox “made a strong bid” for Kim prior to him signing with the Padres.

That point backs up MLB Network’s Jon Heyman’s report from Thursday, which states that the versatile infielder “had five and six-year offers” on the table but he “wanted to bet on himself.”

With the ideas that Kim preferred a city with warmer weather and wanted to bet on himself in mind, it’s important to look back on what Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said this past Wednesday in regards to recruiting international free agents posted from countries such as Japan and South Korea.

“I think in different situations, you will sometimes see — especially when the money amount is smaller — there are other factors that come into play more,” Bloom told WEEI hosts Rob Bradford and Jon Meterparel. “Players will sometimes pick teams, pick from similar offers based on certain other factors that are important to them. Whenever we’re involved in that type of situation, we want to put our best foot forward and make sure that we can show a player how we can appeal to them. But, people are different and everybody’s got different things that they like and value. Money’s part of that and sometimes there are other factors that are part of that.”

By signing a four-year pact with the Friars that runs through the end of the 2024 season, Kim could become a free agent again at 29 years old, though the deal does include a mutual option for a potential fifth season in 2025.

In San Diego, the plan at the moment is for Kim to see the majority of his playing time come at second base, per the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. That likely would have also been the case had he landed with the Sox opposed to the Padres.

Instead, Boston will have to look elsewhere to address their issues at second base this offseason coming off a 2020 campaign in which that position group posted an American League-worst .586 OPS and league-worst wRC+ of 55.

On that front, the Sox are reportedly interested in free-agent utilityman Kike Hernandez, who can play second base as well as all three outfield positions.

Red Sox’ Chaim Bloom on pursuing international free agents posted from Japan, South Korea: ‘That’s a market we need to involve ourselves in just like any other’

While exploring options to improve their roster this offseason, the Red Sox have looked towards the international market for potential additions.

So far, the Sox have been in on the likes of Japanese right-hander Kohei Arihara and Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim, both of whom recently signed with other clubs in the Rangers and Padres.

That being said, Boston, by all accounts, is still in pursuit of another free-agent hurler out of Japan in Tomoyuki Sugano, a two-time winner of the Sawamura Award (Japan’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award) who was posted by the NPB’s Yomiuri Giants earlier this month.

Appearing on WEEI earlier Wednesday afternoon, Red Sox chief baseball officer addressed his club’s interest in the 31-year-old righty.

“I think it’s more difficult in a sense than it is with a pitcher who has pitched a lot domestically, where you just have more information,” Bloom said when asked about evaluating an international talent such as Sugano. “But, that doesn’t necessarily mean a pitcher from that market is an unwise investment. I think… there’s a lot more unknowns when you’re bringing someone over to compete in a different league, on a different schedule than they’re used to competing. But, baseball’s baseball. We have a number of examples, including in this organization, of guys coming from that market and having success. I think we have, as an industry, a decent ability to predict how they’ll do. So, that’s a market I think we need to involve ourselves in just like any other.”

Going back to Arihara and Kim, Bloom emphasized that while recruiting the pair of international sensations was important, there were other factors out of the team’s control to consider as well.

“I think with some of these other guys, [recruiting] is still part of what you do,” he said. “You want to put your best foot forward. You want to engage with the player to the extent that you can through the process and get to know them. I think there’s a little less of that now, obviously because it can’t happen in person, but it’s still something you do with those guys.

“But, I think to different degrees with different players, the money is obviously going to be a huge factor,” Bloom added. “And I don’t blame the players for that. Obviously, they want to make sure they’re comfortable with there they go — and that is a factor in some cases — but you also never know how many chances you’re going to have to set yourself up financially. And they’re right to care about that as well.”

Neither Arihara, who at 28 signed a two-year, $6.2 million deal with Texas, nor Kim, who at 25 reportedly signed a four-year, $25 million deal with San Diego, received too large of a payday. As previously alluded to, that would make it seem as though both players had other priorities in mind when deciding which major-league club to sign with.

“I think in different situations, you will sometimes see — especially when the money amount is smaller — there are other factors that come into play more,” stated the Sox’ CBO. “Players will sometimes pick teams, pick from similar offers based on certain other factors that are important to them. Whenever we’re involved in that type of situation, we want to put our best foot forward and make sure that we can show a player how we can appeal to them. But, people are different and everybody’s got different things that they like and value. Money’s part of that and sometimes there are other factors that are part of that.

“I think historically, there’s a certain type of player that draws to Boston, and there’s certain types of players that would rather play elsewhere,” Bloom said. “This place is not for everybody, and you want to make sure that the players we’re bringing here in those circumstances are guys that are going to thrive playing here and really want to be here.”

So, if Sugano is indeed someone who Bloom and Co. believe fits the above criteria and really wants to play in Boston, the Red Sox have until 5 p.m. eastern time on January 7 to sign him.

ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel predicted earlier this month that a two-year, $24 million deal could be enough for a team to land the veteran right-hander’s services. We will have to wait and see on that, but January 7 is approaching rather quickly.

Red Sox one of several teams interested in signing Korean sensation Ha-Seong Kim, per report

The Red Sox are reportedly one of several teams that are interested in signing free-agent Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim, according to ESPN’s Daniel Kim.

Per ESPN’s Kim, “Kim has several MLB offers in the five-plus year range.”

Kim, 25, has has yet to play at the major-league level, but has proven to be one of the more impressive players in the Korean Baseball Organization over the past seven seasons.

Going back to 2014, the South Korean-born, right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing infielder owns a career slash line of .294/.373/.493 to go along with 133 home runs, 575 RBI, and 134 stolen bases over 891 total games between the Nexen Heroes and Kiwoom Heroes.

He has also proven to be one of the better defensive shortstops in the KBO in recent years, picking up a pair of Gold Glove awards for his efforts at short in 2018 and 2019.

Kiwoom officially posted Kim on December 7, giving major-league clubs until the first of January to acquire his services.

Depending on how much Kim signs for, that club will owe Kiwoom 20% of the contract’s first $25 million in value, 17.5% of the next $25 million, and 15% of anything beyond the $50 million threshold, as noted by MLB Trade Rumors‘ Mark Polishuk.

MLBTR predicts that Kim will land a five-year deal worth somewhere around $40 million with whichever club he signs with. They also had him as their seventh-ranked free agent at the onset of the offseason.

All this being said, the Red Sox should be players for Kim, but only if they can convince him to move to second base, a position he has very little experience at, on a (just about) full-time basis.

The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier observed earlier this month that as a five-star phenom in Korea, Kim’s “age and performance would fit the Sox’ vision of upgrading their long-term talent base” — but only if he is open to playing second.

“In all likelihood, [Kim’s] the only open-market second base option this winter for whom the Sox would consider a deal of more than two years,” Speier wrote.

This may be the case because the Red Sox are coming off a season in which their second basemen struggled mightily, as has seemingly been the case the past few years.

Among American League teams in 2020, Red Sox second basemen ranked 14th in on-base (.273) and slugging percentage (.313), and 15th in OPS (.586) and wRC+ (55).

Those are truly dismal numbers from one position group, and they will likely need to improve if Boston intends on not being one of the worst team in baseball for a second consecutive year in 2021.

Identifying second base as a potential area of weakness headed into the spring, how do Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. go about addressing that area in order to improve their squad?

Well, besides the trade market, free agency is always an option, too. And Kim — at the ripe age of 25 years old, just entering his prime — might just be the best infielder not named D.J. LeMahieu available to sign at the moment.

“The international market is an intriguing one and a good one,” Sox manager Alex Cora said of international free agents such as Kim during his virtual winter meetings media availability last week. “Like the rest of the big-league organizations, everybody’s paying attention and doing their homework.

“They’re very talented, they’re guys that can impact the game sooner rather than later,” added Cora. “It will be interesting how it moves in the upcoming days or weeks. These guys, throughout their careers, they’ve been very solid, very consistent, and that’s something that intrigues not only the Red Sox, but the rest of the organizations at the big-league level.”