Christian Arroyo approached Red Sox about playing left field, Alex Cora says

Over the course of his professional career, Red Sox infielder Christian Arroyo has only known three defensive positions: second base, third base, and shortstop.

Since making his major-league debut with the Giants in 2017, the 25-year-old has played decent enough defense at all three positions, especially at second.

Last year alone, Arroyo was worth positive-2 defensive runs saved and posted an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 0.9 over 108 2/3 innings while patrolling second base for the Sox. That ultimate zone rating of 0.9 translates to 5.7 over 150 defensive games.

Despite being a surehanded second baseman, and infielder for that matter, the Florida native has surely seen what Boston has done over the course of the offseason in adding a number of versatile position players — like Marwin Gonzalez and Enrique Hernandez — and decided that he needs to add another dimension to his game as well.

That being the case because according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Arroyo approached the team at some point this spring to talk about playing some left field.

“We’re very comfortable with what he can do,” Cora said of Arroyo earlier Friday morning. “He can play second, he can play short, he can play third. The other day he went to [first base coach and outfield instructor Tom Goodwin] and he wanted to start working in left field, which is great.

“It’s something that he thought about,” added the Sox skipper. “I guess he looks around and sees Marwin and sees Enrique, and he’s like, ‘You know what? Maybe learning the outfield position can help me throughout my career.'”

On the other side of the ball, Cora, who has known Arroyo since he unsuccessfully recruited him to play for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, has been thoroughly impressed with what he’s seen from the former first-round pick at the plate thus far in Grapefruit League play.

Following Friday’s 11-7 victory over the Rays in which he went 0-for-2 in a pinch-hitting capacity, the right-handed hitter is now slashing .273/.314/.485 with a pair of home runs and four RBI over 35 plate appearances this spring.

“He’s a good at-bat,” Cora said. “So let’s see where it takes us. But so far, what I saw on TV, what I’ve seen in video, this is a much better version of Christian. He’s in better shape, he can move better now, and he can do some things that I thought he wasn’t able to do the last few years.”

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom echoed this same sort of sentiment regarding Arroyo, who used to play for the Rays, when speaking with WEEI’s Will Flemming and Rob Bradford earlier this week.

“He looks, to me, better than at any point that we had him when I was with the Rays,” Bloom said of the young infielder on Wednesday. “Body-wise, he came in looking good. And I’ve seen him — whether it was last year or this spring — drive pitches that I didn’t see him drive in the past and just hit them harder.”

Because he is out of minor-league options, Arroyo will have to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster or he will otherwise have to be exposed to waivers if the club wants to send him to Triple-A.

With that in mind, Arroyo and fellow right-handed hitting infielder Michael Chavis are projected to occupy the final two spots on Boston’s bench to kick off the 2021 campaign.

The pair of 25-year-olds have been enjoyable to watch on the field and in the clubhouse at the Fenway South complex, per Cora.

“We’re very pleased with the way [Christian’s] swinging the bat. We’re very pleased with the way Michael is swinging the bat,” Cora said. “Being able to catch up with some pitches in the zone — being disciplined enough. So it’s fun to see them playing this way. It’s fun to see them in the clubhouse, in the drills, helping each other out, and that’s what it’s all about.”

(Picture of Christian Arroyo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts dealing with shoulder soreness, Alex Cora says

Xander Bogaerts is “a little bit banged up” and dealing with some right shoulder soreness, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Monday.

The 28-year-old shortstop arrived to camp in Fort Myers on time a little more than a week ago, but had been shut down from throwing at one point on account of that aforementioned soreness.

That said, it sounds like he is starting to make some progress towards a full recovery.

As for the reason why Bogaerts has been hindered by a sore shoulder, that has something to do with the fact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected his offseason workouts in his home country of Aruba.

“He rushed himself with his throwing program during the offseason,” Cora said of the star infielder. “With everything that is going on with the virus, there were a few things he wasn’t able to do in Aruba because of lockdowns or whatever they had going on down there for the right reasons. So it wasn’t a regular offseason on that end.”

Despite those limitations, Bogaerts was still able to hit, but he may have overdone things with his throwing program in order to make up for lost time.

“He was able to hit and all that, but his throwing program wasn’t perfect. So he rushed himself,” said Cora. “He was sore for a few days. We shut him down. He should be back to throwing in the next couple of days. He will take groundballs and all that. The hitting part, he’ll be okay in a few days.”

Although Cora did not reveal when Bogaerts would be fit enough to make his Grapefruit League debut this spring, he did not seem all that concerned that the two-time All-Star would miss the start of the 2021 season, which begins on April 1.

“We just got to be patient,” the Sox skipper stated. “We got plenty of days — 30 more days. As of now, we do feel that he should be ready for Opening Day.”

Additionally, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that Bogaerts had an MRI on his sore shoulder, though said MRI revealed “nothing concerning.”

Bloom, like Cora, expects Bogaerts to be ready for Opening Day.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora impressed by 18-year-old prospect Nick Yorke so far at spring training

When the Red Sox finalized their initial list of non-roster invitees that will be attending major-league spring training earlier this month, one name that stood out above the rest was infield prospect Nick Yorke.

Rarely do you see a player just months removed from being drafted receive an invite to big-league camp the following spring, but that was the case with Yorke.

Among the 70-plus players working out at the Fenway South complex right now, Yorke — who turns 19 in early April — is without a doubt the youngest of the bunch.

“It made me feel old,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Tuesday when asked about meeting Yorke for the first time. “[My daughter] Camila turns 18 in March. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is unreal.'”

Upon seeing the 2020 first-round draft pick at the batting cages the other day, Cora observed that Yorke had slimmed down a bit while still maintaining his strong, 6-foot frame.

“He’s in a better place physically. He’s a tall, strong kid. That was impressive,” said Cora. “I look and I’m like, ‘Who’s this kid?’ They told me and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s impressive.'”

Because he is at big-league camp, Yorke, a Southern California native, has the chance to absorb as much useful information as he can from the veterans he is sharing a clubhouse with for the time being.

“I asked him one question,” Cora recounted. “I go, ‘Who are you going to follow in spring training? Who’s the guy that you’re going to ask questions and follow?’ And he said, ‘Enrique Hernandez.’ I said, ‘That’s a good one. So, who else are you going to follow?’ He goes, ‘J.D. [Martinez].’ I said, ‘No, no, no. Don’t follow J.D. right now. Let’s keep it simple.’ And I said, ‘Just follow Xander. Follow Xander Bogaerts from 7 a.m. until whenever we’re done, and you’ll be in a good spot. That’s what we want from him.”

Cora acknowledged that while Yorke — the 17th overall pick in last year’s amateur draft — does have plenty of potential, he is mainly in Fort Myers right now to learn the ropes of what it takes to be a major-leaguer.

It’s a similar experience to what Bobby Dalbec did during one of the Sox’ homestands at the tail end of the 2019 season, well before the 25-year-old made his major-league debut.

Rather than getting called up to the team’s major-league roster, Dalbec spent time around the club at Fenway Park and familiarized himself with the Red Sox and the big-league environment, which surely helped him upon getting called up last August.

“It’s kind of like when Dalbec went to Fenway for a week in 2019,” the Sox skipper said when describing what Yorke is doing now. “He’s going to spend a lot of time with us, but that’s what I want him to do. Just learn, keep working, understand what it takes to be a big-leaguer, and he’ll be a big-leaguer. He’ll be a big-leaguer.”

A right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing second baseman out of Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Yorke is currently regarded by Baseball America as the Sox’ No. 9 prospect.

Many were shocked that Boston took Yorke, who entered last year’s draft as BA’s 96th-ranked draft-eligible prospect, as high as they did, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained that process when speaking with Chris Hatfield and Ian Cundall of SoxProspects.com last month.

“We knew that it would come with some blowback because Nick wasn’t a hyped player,” Bloom said on the SoxProspects.com podcast. “We also had a lot of belief in the player and there was also belief that if we had had a normal spring, he would have been seen. A lot of things kind of conspired with him having been hurt the year before and not having played the infield the year before. And if you weren’t there really all over him those first few weekends, you did not have enough information on Nick Yorke to really think anything about him.”

Despite not having a minor-league season to work with in 2020, Yorke still impressed at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and their fall instructional league in Fort Myers, which in turn led to him skyrocketing up the organization’s prospect rankings to the point where he may just be one of the best middle infield prospects in baseball heading into the 2021 campaign.

On that note, Yorke is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, whose season begins on May 4.

Between then and now, though, it should be fascinating to see if Yorke finds his way into any Grapefruit League games over the next few weeks.

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Pawtucket Red S0x)

In Jeter Downs and Nick Yorke, Red Sox have two of the top middle infield prospects in baseball

At this time last year, infielders Jeter Downs and Nick Yorke were not yet members of the Red Sox organization.

Downs, now 22, was preparing for what was supposed to be his fourth (third full) season as a pro, while Yorke, now 18, was preparing for his senior season at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif.

Neither Downs’ nor Yorke’s 2020 went the way they likely expected, with the former getting dealt from the Dodgers to the Sox in February and the latter having his senior season halted due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Emerging as the top prospect in Boston’s farm system in wake of the trade that sent Mookie Betts to Los Angeles, Downs, who was born in Colombia, was at least able to salvage his minor-league season-less 2020 thanks to being included in the Sox’ 60-man player pool.

Yorke, meanwhile, was also able to salvage his year after somewhat surprisingly going 17th overall to the Red Sox in the 2020 first-year player draft. He was later added to the club’s 60-man player pool in mid-September.

Both players were able to spend time at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer to further their development, though Downs understandably got there a whole lot earlier than Yorke did.

Here’s what former PawSox and current Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon had to say about each young infielder when speaking to reporters in early October, courtesy of MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

On Downs: “Jeter’s kind of interesting. We were introduced to him in Spring Training 1. We could see glimpses of defense and offense. I would say he did better offensively in the first spring training. I think people were thinking about him potentially being a second baseman, everyday, for the Red Sox. I think the strides he made defensively are going to sway some of those questions people had.

“He made tremendous strides defensively. There are some things he needs to work on, like his makeup and his confidence and things like that. I think those issues affected how he did offensively. As far as Jeter, I see tremendous upside. His track record of offensive performance indicates that at 7:05, when the lights are on, he shows up at the plate. I’m hopeful his track record offensively meshes well with the strides he made defensively. If that happens, I think you’ve got a pretty good player. I don’t want to give a comp or anything, but I think he would more than hold his own based on what he did defensively and how much better and more consistent he got.

“I think he would be a better second baseman long-term, but I do believe he could play shortstop. He made some plays that were just unbelievable at shortstop. I personally would see him a better fit at second base if we were talking about 162 games. I think his athleticism, his skills, would be a little better at second base. But he’s still young. I don’t want it to seem like he can’t play shortstop. I think he could do a fine job over there. In my eyes, I see second base when I see him.”

On Yorke: “His first professional at-bat, he gets a single off Bryan Mata. Worked the count full, hit a line drive to right field like it was nothng. That was really, really refreshing, just to see… I’m not saying he should have been intimidated or whatever, but he went up there, playing high school not too long ago, and just worked the count full and went the other way. There’s an approach there.

“One of the things I tried to tell him was, ‘Hey, look. There are going to be some professional guys around here who have approaches, who have work. You have to figure out who you are and don’t try to match what you see other guys do. Just be yourself.’ He kind of took that to heart. Really impressive with his at-bats. Limited action at second base but I watched some of the early work with (coach Bruce Crabbe) and he has got some good actions out there. His body is kind of stocky but he’s not big and he moves well. You can see why he was a high-round pick. He blended in well. He was joking with the guys, he was interacting. If somebody walked into the clubhouse or onto the bench, they wouldn’t have known that this guy was drafted in 2020. They would have thought he was one of the guys. That’s a testament to the scouts who saw something there. There’s a lot to like in a very small sample.”

Because he got to the alternate training site in July as opposed to later in the summer, Downs was not included in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league roster down in Fort Myers

Yorke, however, was, and that gave the right-handed hitter even more of an opportunity to shine in front of Red Sox coaches and scouts alike.

Per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Yorke “was the most impressive member of the 2020 draft/NDFA class, showing off his offensive ability, but questions about his long-term defensive profile remain an issue. Yorke got off to a strong start at the plate, but as the camp went along, he struggled to pull the ball and seemed to be just trying to push the ball to right field. Regardless of his struggles near the end of camp, scouts were consistent in saying they believe he can hit and they are high on his bat, enough so that even with a questionable defensive profile and below average speed, they still like him.”

After the Red Sox took him off the board with their top pick in the 2020 draft, Yorke ultimately signed with the club for $2.7 million last July. He is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 11 prospect.

Downs, meanwhile, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Sox’ No. 1 prospect with a slight advantage over Triston Casas.

Recently, MLB Pipeline released lists for their top-10 prospects at each position, and Downs — listed as a shortstop — and Yorke — listed as a second baseman, both made their respective lists, coming in at No. 8 and No. 10, respectively.

Regarding Downs’ ranking, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo did not have any ‘top tools’ or ‘superlatives’ to give the 5-foot-11, 195 lb. infielder. He simply listed him as his eighth-best shortstop prospect.

Regarding Yorke’s ranking, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes that the 6-foot, 200 lb. infielder was that particular position group’s ‘highest riser,’ though he also has the ‘most to prove.’

“Yorke had shoulder surgery before his high school junior season in 2019, which relegated him to DH duty that spring and curtailed him on the showcase circuit,” Callis wrote earlier this week. “A year later, the Red Sox made him a surprise first-round pick (17th overall) and signed him for $2.7 million.

“While the Red Sox fully believe in Yorke and some clubs regarded him as the best high school hitter on the West Coast, most teams evaluated him as more of a second- or third-rounder,” added Callis. “His arm hasn’t bounced all the way back from his shoulder surgery, so he also has to show he can handle second base.”

While Downs and Yorke are still both prospects under the age of 23, the future of the Red Sox’ middle infield may very well be in strong hands.

Downs could have the chance to put that to the test this coming season, as he’ll likely begin the year at Triple-A Worcester with the opportunity to get called up by the Red Sox if all goes accordingly for him.

Yorke, on the other hand, is still a long ways away from sniffing a major-league roster seeing how he only turns 19 years old in April. He is projected to start the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, though it is not yet known when the new season will begin for Class-A and Double-A minor-league affiliates.

(Picture of Jeter Downs: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox add infielder Jack López on minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent infielder Jack Lopez to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, per MLB.com’s transaction wire. It’s unclear at this point if the deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Lopez, who turned 28 last month, was originally drafted by the Royals in the 16th round of the 2011 amateur draft out of Deltona High School (Fla.).

Since then, the native of Puerto Rico has spent time in the Royals and Braves’ organizations, accruing a career .237/.290/.324 slash line to go along with 42 home runs, 282 RBI, and 130 stolen bases over 820 total minor-league contests between the Rookie League, Class-A, Advanced-A, Double-A, and Triple-A levels.

This winter, Lopez has been playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League for Indios de Mayaguez, who are currently in that league’s championship series against Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s hometown Criollos de Caguas.

In 13 games with Mayaguez, Lopez has posted a .655 OPS over 52 plate appearances while also drawing eight walks and swiping three bases.

Capable of playing all over the infield and in addition to some corner outfield, Lopez could potentially serve as upper-level minor-league depth in his new role with the Sox.

The 5-foot-10, right-handed hitter’s baseball roots run deep, as he is the son of former minor-league backstop and major-league bullpen catcher Juan Lopez and the nephew of former Royals infielder Onix Concepcion.

A one-time commit to the University of Miami, Lopez already has some Red Sox connections given the fact that he is followed on Instagram by the likes of Cora and Enrique Hernandez.

So far this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jack Lopez
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett
RHP Zac Grotz

(Picture of Jack Lopez: Scott Audette/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

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)

Why 2021 could prove to be pivotal year for Red Sox infield prospect Antoni Flores

In the summer of 2017, the Red Sox made infielder Antoni Flores one of their top priorities, as they signed the Venezuelan prospect for a hefty sum of $1,400,000 that July, which would go on to make him the third-highest paid international addition of that particular signing class for Boston.

Flores initially rewarded the Sox for their investment in him the following year in both the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League.

Over 15 total games and 57 total plate appearances between the two affiliates, the young infielder, primarily playing shortstop, went 18-for-53 (.340) at the plate to go along with one home run and 14 RBI.

The reason Flores only managed to play in 15 games, in 2018 was due to the fact that he missed six weeks of action from mid-June until late July due to “general soreness.”

Upon returning and getting promoted from the DSL to GCL, Flores played in just two games before pulling his hamstring in early August, which wound wind up costing him the rest of the season.

The fact Flores was able to put on an impressive showing at the Red Sox’ fall instructional league that year in the wake of suffering that hamstring injury was certainly encouraging, but more red flags arose in 2019.

Entering the year regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 7 prospect, Flores struggled mightily in his first exposure to non-rookie-league baseball in the United States.

Playing in 55 games for the short-season Lowell Spinners, the then-18-year-old posted a dismal .193/.293/.227 slash line over 208 plate appearances while striking out 28.4% of the time. He also committed 10 errors in 410 defensive innings at shortstop, which would signal a transition to second base.

According to SoxProspects‘ director of scouting Ian Cundall, “scouts really soured on Flores” following his first full professional season, “as he showed a poor approach and limited offensive ability while simultaneously struggling in the field.”

Unfortunately, Flores would not get the chance to bounce back in a traditional manner in 2020, as the minor-league season was cancelled in June due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, Flores, like most other Red Sox minor-leaguers, had to wait until the 2020 installment of fall instructs to try to continue on with their development.

Alas, a long break from organized baseball did the right-handed hitter no favors, as he continued to underwhelm in Fort Myers this past fall.

Per Cundall, Flores, now 20 years old, “again struggled and now seems to have moved to second base primarily. The athleticism he showed in the Fall Instructional League in 2018 is gone, and his speed has regressed to the point where he was consistently timed at 4.6 seconds down the line, which is a 20 on the 20-80 scouting scale.”

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen added on to this, writing last month that though he wished Flores’ disappointing 2019 was more of an outlier, it may have very well been the start of a negative trend.

“Flores was generating Willy Adames comps during the Fall of 2018, and has since regressed physically and technically,” Longenhagen wrote. “He no longer looks athletically capable of playing the middle infield and has continued to struggle with the bat.”

While Longenhagen still has Flores as his No. 43 prospect in the Red Sox farm system, he notes that “he’s in danger of slipping off the list entirely next year unless he performs statistically and looks more athletic early in the year.” 

SoxProspects projects Flores, who does not turn 21 until October, will start the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem.

Before the 2021 season begins, though, there is still the minor-league portion of spring training — which will likely start later than usual this year — to look forward to.

Between the time fall instructs ended and the time in which minor-league spring training eventually starts up, it appears as though the Sox have given Flores some homework to do.

“Antoni has been working on his agility and quickness a lot this offseason,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero, who played a significant role in Flores signing with the organization, told BloggingtheRedSox.com via email. “He’s made a lot of strides in the past few months, so we’re looking forward to seeing him in spring training.”

On that note, 2021 could prove to be a monumental year for Flores in terms of development and career trajectory.

Not only is the 6-foot-1, 190 lb. infielder looking to buck the trend that has seen his stock take a hit in recent years, but he is also Rule 5 eligible for the first time come December.

If he were to make an impact with Salem, or whichever affiliate he played with this year, Flores could be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster if Boston believes in his potential enough to not want to see him scooped up by another club.

If Flores were not to be added, which does seem unlikely at this point given the fact that other prospects such as Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs, Thad Ward, and Gilberto Jimenez will be in need of protection, then as previously mentioned, an opposing team could pick him up if they felt he was ready to make an impact at the major-league level.

That, too, seems unlikely, but there’s a reason why Flores was once considered one of the top prospects in the Sox’ farm system. The talent is still there somewhere, and so is a relatively high ceiling given his age.

Having written all that, it’s fair to say that 2021 could be a ‘make-or-break’ type year for Flores. We will have to wait and see how he performs.

(Picture of Antoni Flores: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox among clubs that have ‘been involved to some extent in negotiations’ with free-agent infielder Marcus Semien, per report

The Red Sox are among the clubs that have been “involved to some extent in negotiations with free-agent infielder Marcus Semien,” according to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.

Bowden additionally reports that the Athletics, Philles, and Reds have also been negotiating in some capacity with Semien, while “there are probably more clubs interested due to his versatility, athleticism, and durability.”

Semien, 30, was projected by MLB Trade Rumors back in November to net himself a one-year, $14 million deal this offseason.

The Bay Area native is coming off a 2020 campaign with the Athletics in which he posted an underwhelming .223/.305/.374 slash line in the wake of finishing third in American League MVP voting in 2019. He clubbed just seven home runs and drove in 28 RBI over 53 games played this past season.

That said, Semien improved his stock in October, as he went 11-for-27 (.407) at the plate while putting up an OPS of 1.151 in seven games against the White Sox and Astros in the American League Wild Card and Divisional Series’.

Bowden notes that this “strong postseason helped him” in terms of garnering interest as a free agent in addition to his past reputation as one of the more solid middle infielders in the American League.

The Athletic’s Peter Gammons was the first to report Boston’s interest in Semien late last month, tweeting that the “Sox like him” and view him as a second baseman despite his experience at shortstop with the A’s.

Gammons added that while attending the University of California, Berkeley, Semien was roommates with Red Sox amateur scouting director and former Golden Bear Paul Toboni. So there is a connection there.

At the time of this tweet, Gammons reported that the Red Sox did not yet know how much money it would take to sign Semien, but perhaps that dollar figure is starting to become more clear as spring training quicky approaches.

As currently constructed, the Sox’ 40-man roster is somewhat lousy with infielders capable of playing second base, but none have established themselves of being able to play the position on an everyday basis in the major-leagues. Christian Arroyo and Michael Chavis are among those in the organization that fit this description.

“We definitely have some options internally,” general manager Brian O’Halloran said in December in regards to Boston’s outlook at second base. “But we’re also open-minded. And this is not exclusive to second base. We’re open minded to different ways of improving the club.”

If they were to sign Semien, who has played 29 career games and has logged 236 2/3 career innings at second (none since 2014), to a short-term deal to primarily play that position, then perhaps the Red Sox’ plan would be for the former sixth-round draft pick to serve as somewhat of a bridge to top prospect Jeter Downs.

That all depends on what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and the rest of Boston’s baseball operations department have in store, though.

ESPN’s Buster Olney did tweet on Tuesday night that the expectation around baseball was that the Red Sox are preparing to make a series of roster moves to upgrade the club’s roster for the 2021 season.

(Picture of Marcus Semien: Kevork Djansezian/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 prospect Brainer Bonaci ‘showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability’ at fall instructs

Brainer Bonaci has been a professional baseball player for just over two years and he doesn’t turn 19 years old until next July, but he is already looking like one of the more exciting young infielders in the Red Sox’ minor-league pipeline.

The 18-year-old shortstop is coming off an impressive showing at the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers. According to SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, Bonaci “looked the best of the young shortstops [at fall instructs] and showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability. He has a plus arm and both his glove and hit tool showed average potential.”

Signed out of Venezuela by Manny Padron and Eddie Romero for $290,000 on his 16th birthday in 2018, Bonaci is starting to get some legitimate attention thanks to what he did this fall.

Had there been a minor-league season in 2020, Bonaci likely would have began the year with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. Instead, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was limited in what he could do until October, when fall instructs began.

In his only organized action as a minor-leaguer thus far, the 5-foot-10 switch-hitter posted a solid .279/.356/.379 slash line (111 wRC+) to go along with three home runs, 37 RBI, and 18 stolen bases over 61 games played for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox last year.

Because he is still only 18 years old, Bonaci still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. That said, there’s still reason to be excited about his potential, and SoxProspects’ latest prospect rankings reflect that.

Yes, Bonaci is now the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system according to SoxProspects, good for the fifth highest ranking among infielders after Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, Bobby Dalbec, and Nick Yorke.

Going back to April 1, Bonaci was regarded by SoxProspects as the club’s 20th-ranked prospect, so it is clear he is trending in the right direction. And with Dalbec set to graduate from his prospect status next season, it’s safe to assume Bonaci will only continue to rise through the prospect ranks in 2021.

If we look even further ahead, Bonaci will become Rule 5 eligible for the first time in late 2022, so it’s not like he is too far out from garnering 40-man roster consideration as his development continues.