Red Sox, utilityman Kiké Hernández agree to multi-year deal, per report

The Red Sox and free-agent utilityman Enrique Hernandez have reached agreement on a multi-year deal, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal adds that Hernandez’s new contract with Boston is good for $14 million over two years. It also includes deferrals and is pending a physical.

Hernandez, 29, had spent the previous six seasons with the Dodgers, most recently slashing a modest .230/.270/.410 to go along with five home runs and 20 RBI over 48 games played in 2020.

He also put together a decent postseason for Los Angeles en route to their first World Series title since 1988 by posting a .755 OPS across 15 games and 31 plate appearances this past October.

A right-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, Hernandez has proven to be quite the versatile player in his tenure with the Dodgers, seeing playing time all around the infield, outfield, and even the pitcher’s mound (one appearance in 2018).

Going back to last season, Los Angeles deployed the Puerto Rican at second base 27 times, in right field seven times, in left field four times, in center field three times, and at first base and shortstop two times each.

Based off these totals, one might assume Hernandez’s best position defensively is second base, which in this case is true.

Per FanGraphs, the 5-foot-11, 190 lb. infielder/outfielder played 220 1/3 innings at second base in 2020. In those 220 1/3 innings, he was worth positive-8 defensive runs saved despite posting a negative-2.6 ultimate zone rating.

Going into the offseason, the Red Sox sought out to address their second base issues coming off a 2020 season in which that particular position group  put up an American League-worst .586 OPS and league-worst wRC+ of 55.

The addition of Hernandez, who by no means is an offensive superstar, might not be too appealing on the surface, but this is really a solid pickup for the Sox.

That being the case because when they don’t need him to play second base, the club could start him at a bevy of other positions, including all three spots in the outfield if necessary.

As an added bonus, which the Red Sox likely took into consideration here, Hernandez owns a lifetime wRC+ of 120 in 893 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching.

That attribute could very well come in handy if Hernandez was to be used a platoon option with Andrew Benintendi in left field, assuming Benintendi is still on the team by Opening Day.

Of course, given his connections to Puerto Rico, Hernandez should be familiar with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who, as Team Puerto Rico’s general manager for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, picked the former sixth-round draft pick to play for his home island’s team.

In signing Hernandez to a two-year deal, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have now added four free-agents (Hernandez, Martin Perez, Matt Andriese, Hunter Renfroe) on major-league contracts so far this winter.

Of that group, Hernandez is the first to get a deal with a guaranteed second year as opposed to a club option.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo named fourth-best center fielder in baseball heading into 2021 season by MLB Network

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has been named the fourth-best center fielder in baseball headed into the 2021 season by MLB Network.

The 24-year-old, finishing behind the likes of Mike Trout, former teammate Cody Bellinger, and George Springer, only started one game in center field for Boston last year during his debut season with the club.

In said start, which came on the road against the Marlins on September 16, Verdugo went 1-for-1 in his defensive chances, recording a putout on a Miguel Rojas pop fly in the first inning of what would turn out to be an 8-4 defeat.

Per Baseball Savant, Rojas’ pop fly off of left-hander Mike Kickham left his bat with an exit velocity of 84.7 mph, giving Verdugo a 99% chance to catch it, which he did after jogging a few steps to his left.

Other than that, the rest of Verdugo’s playing time came in 2020 came in left or right field, where he did a decent job showing off his arm strength en route to recording seven outfield assists.

Prior to coming over from the Dodgers in that infamous trade last February, the former second-round draft pick patrolled center field quite a bit for Los Angeles in 2019.

Over a 61-game sample size (52 starts), Verdugo logged 475 2/3 innings in center, where he posted a positive-3 defensive runs saved as well as a 1.1 ultimate zone rating, which translates to an ultimate zone rating of 3.6 over 150 defensive games, per FanGraphs.

In that same stretch of games in center for the Dodgers, Verdugo was worth zero outs above average, according to Baseball Savant, which essentially means he was average at that position defensively.

Even with those numbers in mind, the Arizona native appears to be the frontrunner to become the Sox’ everyday center fielder in 2021.

This being the case because Jackie Bradley Jr. still remains unsigned while Andrew Benintendi could apparently be traded any day now.

Take those two options away, and outside of Verdugo, Hunter Renfroe, J.D. Martinez are the only other two outfielders on Boston’s 40-man roster who have major-league experience.

Having said all that, it’s safe to assume that The Shredder, MLB Network’s “player rating formula,” ran with the notion that Verdugo will fill the void left by Bradley Jr. come Opening Day in April.

Seeing how Bradley Jr. is a Gold Glove Award winner and one of, if not the best defensive center fielder in baseball, that could be a sizable void to fill, but Red Sox officials seem confident that Verdugo could handle it if given the opportunity.

“I think Verdugo’s probably the one who — if we were starting today — would probably be most suited to it,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said last month when asked who on the Red Sox could play center field on a consistent basis. “But, it’s just great to have a group of athletes that you feel confident that they could all cover it.”

Red Sox general manager and Bloom’s right-hand man Brian O’Halloran echoed this same sort of sentiment when speaking with reporters in early December.

“I think he did a really good job. He’s obviously a very athletic outfielder who moves around very well,” O’Halloran said of the fiery outfielder. “I have not seen him play center field, but I believe that he could do it. And in terms of evaluations, this year I thought he did a terrific job both offensively and defensively.”

Verdugo’s manager, Alex Cora, also expressed optimism that the 6-foot, 192. lb. left-handed hitter would be able to handle things as the anchor of the Red Sox outfield this coming season.

“We do believe that he’s athletic enough to do that,” said Cora, when appearing on MLB Network Radio in December. “He’s got the instincts. His first step is pretty good. He can do it… We do feel comfortable with Alex playing center field.”

There is still plenty of time for the Red Sox’ outfield outlook to change during these winter months, but for now, let’s just roll with the idea that Verdugo will be Boston’s Opening Day center fielder, likely batting leadoff or out of the two-hole.

(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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)

Red Sox should consider claiming former Indians outfielder Greg Allen off waivers

So far this offseason, the Red Sox have done a fine job in bolstering their outfield depth.

Slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe signed a one-year deal with the club last month, while the likes of Cesar Puello and Michael Gettys have been signed to minor-league contracts for 2021.

That being said, you can never have enough depth at any position, and it just so happens an intriguing outfielder technically became available earlier this week. That outfielder’s name? Greg Allen.

The 27-year-old was designated for assignment by the Padres on Thursday in order for the club to make room on its 40-man roster for South Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim.

With San Diego this past season, Allen appeared in just one game after being part of the trade that sent Mike Clevinger from the Indians to the Friars in late August.

Prior to that blockbuster trade, Allen spent parts of four major-league seasons with the Tribe starting in 2017, accruing a .239/.295/.344 slash line to go along with eight home runs, 57 RBI, and 31 stolen bases over 220 total games played.

Seven of those 220 games have come at Fenway Park, where Allen owns a career-best 1.249 OPS over 27 plate appearances.

In addition to providing speed on the base paths, the California native has proven to be a capable major-league defender who can play all three outfield positions adequately.

Looking back at the 2019 campaign, Allen posted a positive-six defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating of 5.0 while logging 570 1/3 innings — 360 2/3 in left, 132 2/3 in center, 77 in right — in the Indians outfield.

He also ranked sixth among major-league left fielders in sprint speed (29 feet per second) and 44th among major-league outfielders in outs above average (3) in 2019, per Statcast.

Having presented all this information, the Red Sox could very well look into adding Allen to their outfield mix despite the former top prospect’s light-hitting ways.

It’s a scenario that is reminiscent of Christian Arroyo’s over the summer.

Boston claimed the infielder off waivers from the Indians on August 13, promptly designated him for assignment a week later, and then outrighted him on August 23 before purchasing his contract on September 8.

It’s a unique — and somewhat risky — way to go about adding depth, but the Sox managed to do it with Arroyo, who is out of minor-league options, as is the case with Allen.

On top of that, trying to stash Allen away would address an offseason need by bolstering Boston’s outfield defense. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom conveyed this school of thought last month in the wake of the Renfroe signing.

“I always talk about depth and it’s so important, but I do think we still have room to add without straining our roster,” Bloom said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “The good thing here is we have a number of outfielders who are all good enough athletes to play center field. But we still also have room to augment that with a center fielder or a corner outfielder. So we now have options and different paths we can take. But it would be nice to increase our depth as we go forward.”

Bringing on Allen seems like a potentially sound way for Bloom and Co. to increase the Red Sox’ depth going forward. But, another roster move would be required in order for that to happen.

This is the case because the club’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity.

To make it clear, this is just a suggestion. Allen won’t clear waivers until late next week, and I’m assuming he doesn’t have enough service time to refuse an outright assignment to the minors given the fact he isn’t supposed to reach free agency until the conclusion of the 2024 season.

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 ‘feel comfortable’ with Alex Verdugo playing center field, Alex Cora says

Even as the Red Sox remain interested in bringing back Jackie Bradley Jr. this winter, club officials appear confident that fellow outfielder Alex Verdugo can take the Gold Glover’s spot in center if needed in 2021.

“One of the great things is [Verdugo, Andrew Benintendi, and Hunter Renfroe] all could do it,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said via Zoom earlier this week when asked who stands out as the primary centerfield option at this point. “I think Verdugo’s probably the one who — if we were starting today — would probably be most suited to it. But, it’s just great to have a group of athletes that you feel confident that they could all cover it.”

Bloom’s right-hand man, Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran praised Verdugo for what he did on both sides of the ball in his debut season with Boston when speaking with reporters last week.

“I think he did a really good job. He’s obviously a very athletic outfielder who moves around very well,” O’Halloran said of the fiery 24-year-old. “I have not seen him play center field, but I believe that he could do it. And in terms of evaluations, this year I thought he did a terrific job both offensively and defensively.”

Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who described Verdugo as the team’s 2020 MVP back in November, echoed this same sort of sentiment on Tuesday when appearing on MLB Network Radio.

“We do believe that he’s athletic enough to do that,” the Sox skipper said of Verdugo’s ability to play center field. “He’s got the instincts. His first step is pretty good. He can do it.”

This past season, Verdugo managed to start just one game in center for now-ousted manager Ron Roenicke against the Marlins on September 16, a contest in which the Arizona native made one putout over eight innings of work.

Prior to coming over to Boston back in February, though, Verdugo actually saw the majority of his playing time for the Dodgers in 2019 come in center field.

Across 61 games in which he logged 475 2/3 innings in center for Los Angeles, Verdugo posted a positive-3 defensive runs saved and 1.1 ultimate zone rating, which translates to an ultimate zone rating of 3.6 over 150 defensive games, per FanGraphs.

Baseball Savant, meanwhile, states that Verdugo was worth zero outs above average as a center fielder last year, which essentially means he was average at that position in terms of defensive capabilities.

With that in mind, it would appear that the Red Sox would indeed benefit from bringing back Bradley Jr. to regularly patrol center field, and there’s still time to make that happen.

As of now, however, Boston’s current, everyday outfield alignment would have Benintendi in left, Verdugo in center, and the recently-signed Renfroe in right.

“That’s a pretty solid outfield,” Cora said Tuesday. “But obviously the season doesn’t start tomorrow. Let’s see what the offseason brings and what Chaim and the group decide to do. But we do feel comfortable with Alex playing center field.”

Red Sox sign slugging outfielder Hunter Renfroe to one-year deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent outfielder Hunter Renfroe to a one-year contract for the 2021 season, the club announced earlier Monday afternoon.

Renfroe, who turns 29 next month, was designated for assignment by the Rays in late November. The right-handed hitting outfielder slashed a measly .156/.252/.393 to go along with eight home runs and 22 RBI over 42 games for Tampa Bay this past season.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Renfroe will earn a base salary of $3.1 million in 2021, but his deal includes bonuses that could bump that number up to $3.7 million.

Because he was just about to enter his first season of arbitration eligibility, Renfroe could remain with the Sox through the end of the 2023 campaign. The former Padres prospect clubbed 26 or more homers in each of his first three full seasons with San Diego, and he was part of the trade that sent fellow outfielder Tommy Pham to the Pads last December.

One would have to figure that although he had already joined Boston’s front office as chief baseball officer at that time, Chaim Bloom very well could have been involved in the process leading up to that trade for Renfroe while he was still serving under Erik Neander in Tampa Bay.

Prior to getting drafted by the Padres in the first round of the 2013 draft out of Mississippi State University, Renfroe was initially selected by Boston in the 21st round of the 2010 amateur draft out of high school, but the club could not get him to sign.

Now, more than 10 years later, Renfroe joins the Red Sox representing some pretty important outfield depth considering the fact he has experience at all three outfield positions, primarily in left and right.

On top of that, Renfroe has an impressive track record against left-handed pitching over the course of his major-league career, as he has posted a .912 OPS in 495 lifetime plate appearances against southpaws thus far.

With that in mind, we could see the former Bulldog potentially form a platoon in left field with Andrew Benintendi, who owns a career .691 OPS against lefties.

Bloom could very well address this topic when he speaks to reporters via Zoom later this afternoon, so stay tuned for that.