Red Sox ‘have inquired on’ free-agent outfielder Jake Marisnick, per report

The Red Sox might not be considered favorites to land George Springer at this point, but there is another former Astros outfielder the club could pursue in free agency.

That particular outfielder’s name? Jake Marisnick.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Sox are looking at a number of outfield options in the event that they are unable to re-sign Jackie Bradley Jr., who they are “still in on” as of this moment.

“If the Red Sox aren’t able to bring back Bradley Jr., they’ll start considering other options,” Cotillo wrote Friday. “One name they’ve inquired on — at least primarily — is Jake Marisnick.”

Marisnick, who turns 30 in March, was limited to just 16 games with the Mets this past season due to issues related to both his left and right hamstrings.

Over that small sample size, the California native was impressive, going 11-for-33 at the plate (.333) to go along with two home runs, three doubles, and five RBI. He declared for free agency in late October.

Prior to getting traded to the Mets from the Astros in December 2019, Marisnick was somewhat of a mainstay in the Houston outfield more so for what he could do with the glove in his hand as opposed to the bat, with the majority of his playing time coming in center.

From the start of the 2015 season until the end of the 2019 season, the 6-foot-4, 220 lb. outfielder played a total of 3,676 2/3 innings in the outfield for Houston.

While doing so, he posted a positive-53 defensive runs saved as well as an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of 19.7, per FanGraphs.

Marisnick’s best year defensively might have come in 2016, but Baseball Savant does not go that far back with its outs above average (OAA) leaderboards.

Going back to 2019 though, the former third-round draft pick was worth eight outs above average, placing ninth among qualified major-league centerfielders that year, per Statcast.

In summary, Marisnick may be approaching 30, but he still has the makings to be a quality defensive center field option for whichever club he signs with.

In the Red Sox’ case, the ex-Astro may serve as a solid replacement for Bradley Jr. if the Gold Glover were to sign with another team in the coming weeks. He’s another free-agent who has a connection to Alex Cora (former bench coach in Houston as well.”

On top of his ability to potentially fill the hypothetical void left by Bradley Jr., Marisnick would presumably command a shorter-term deal on the open market, meaning he could serve as a bridge of sorts for Boston as Jarren Duran inches closer to the majors.

Duran, currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the organization’s top outfield prospect, is projected to start 2021 with Triple-A Worcester and could very well make his big-league debut for the Sox later on in the summer.

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen wrote last week that “Duran’s instincts in center field are still not good (though they’ve improved), and he relies on his speed to make up for what he lacks in off-the-bat feel and anticipation,” but it’s clear that the organization has high hopes for the 24-year-old.

That being said, under the assumption that Bradley Jr. does not return, Marisnick could be brought in to patrol center field to start the 2021 season. And if the timing is right, Duran could be called up to learn the ropes at the major-league level sometime in July, August, or even September.

This, of course, all depends on what Chaim Bloom and Co. have in mind for the puzzle that is the Red Sox outfield picture moving forward.

Boston’s chief baseball officer said back in November that he believes all three of Andrew Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and Hunter Renfroe could play center field if needed, but he would not be opposed to adding another outfielder, either.

“I think we have guys on this club who are capable of playing center field,” Bloom said during a Zoom call with reporters. “But we certainly would like to be in as strong of a defensive position as you can. We know we play in a ballpark where you basically have two center fields here in Fenway Park. So we want to be mindful of that.

“We’d certainly like to have as strong of a defensive outfield as possible,” he added. “And a lot of that is contingent on having multiple guys who can play center field.”

Bringing on someone as capable of playing center field as Marisnick would certainly seem to fit the mantra of “having multiple guys” who can play that position when asked to.

(Picture of Jake Marisnick: Sarah Stier/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 ‘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 free agency: Scott Boras likens Jackie Bradley Jr. to peanut butter and jelly sandwich; ‘He’s sweet, smooth, and spreads it all over and covers it well’

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s market may be heating up, but the Red Sox have remained interested in the free-agent outfielder, according to super-agent Scott Boras.

Per Boras, the Sox and Bradley Jr. have “certainly” had discussions about a potential reunion since his client declared for free agency last month.

“They’ve certainly expressed the interest and let us know that he’s a clear part of the Red Sox’ support hose, let’s put it that way,” Boras said earlier Tuesday via Zoom. “We know that he’s had great success there, he’s a winning player, and the Red Sox’ intentions are to advance their winning ways, certainly beyond what happened in ’20. As with most free agent players, we get notice of interest, then we’ll wait and see how the market unfolds moving forward” 

Despite how poorly Boston played this past season, Bradley Jr. was a key contributor on both sides of the ball, as he finished second on the team in bWAR (2.1) behind only fellow outfielder Alex Verdugo (2.2).

Over 55 games played, the 30-year-old slashed .283/.364/.450 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI. He also led all major-league center fielders in Outs Above Average (7), per Statcast, meaning he was credited with “recording seven more outs on balls hit to the outfield than an average center fielder in 2020.”

While providing his usual stout defensive efforts in center, Bradley Jr.’s offensive approach evolved in a way this past season. As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier and Pete Abraham, the former first-round pick showed a “willingness to hit the ball to center and left field” to the tune of a career-best 201 wRC+ when hitting the ball in those directions, per FanGraphs.

Boras figures that this added dimension to Bradley Jr.’s game will bode well for him once clubs are ready to make their final offers.

“I think the fact that he has really illustrated a dimension of a different approach, particularly going the other way, his OPS was well over .800, that seems to be very attractive to a lot of clubs,” said Boras. “They ask a lot of questions about it, what adjustments he’s made. When you have a world champion, someone who has done what Jackie’s done, being as young as he is, being as efficient as he is, as great of a teammate as he’s been, he’s received a lot of attention and we expect something very grand here going forward.”

Along with the Red Sox, Bradley Jr. is drawing interest from the likes of the Blue Jays, Cubs, and Phillies, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. The University of South Carolina product is likely seeking a multi-year deal worth nearly $10 million in average annual value.

And with the way the game is trending in terms of defensive metrics, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched for the Gold Glover to get that kind of money on the open market.

“JBJ is kind of the PBJ of the major leagues. He’s sweet, smooth, and spreads it all over and covers it well,” Boras said of Bradley Jr. “What Jackie does in a defensive runs-saved environment has been popular.”

How popular? We shall see.

Red Sox one of three teams who have Yasiel Puig ‘on their radar,’ per report

The Red Sox are one of three teams that have free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig “on their radar,” according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Per Feinsand, the Astros and Orioles are the other two clubs interested in signing Puig, “though others could also be in the mix.”

Puig, who turns 30 next month, did not play Major League Baseball at all in 2020. He initially agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves in July, but that pact fell through just three days later on account of his testing positive for COVID-19.

Since that time, the Cuban born outfielder has remained relatively quiet, most recently signing with agent Rachel Luba of Luba Sports earlier this week.

In his most recent big-league action, Puig posted a .267/.327/.458 slash line to go along with 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 149 games played between the Reds and Indians in 2019.

That decent showing made it seem as though Puig would be an enticing free agent for clubs last winter, but that turned out to not be the case.

Now, after a challenging 2020 in which he could not play Major League Baseball at all, Puig is ready to get after it once more.

“2021, Puig will be ready,” he said Tuesday via Twitter. “I am willing to put in the work and I am going after the total win!”

This is far from the first time the Sox have been linked to Puig. Back in early July, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that Boston had been mentioned as a possibility to sign the All-Star before he wound up agreeing to that short-lived deal with Atlanta.

Before that, going back to the 2017 offseason, the Red Sox reportedly turned down a trade proposal from the Dodgers that would have sent Jackie Bradley Jr. to Los Angeles and Puig to Boston.

With Bradley Jr. currently out of the picture on account of him being a free agent, the Sox find themselves in need of outfield help in some capacity.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has hinted that the club’s preference would be to add an outfielder who is capable of playing center, something Puig has not done since 2016.

Still, as Bloom said earlier this month, the Red Sox “can’t be too rigid and miss good opportunities” while exploring the trade and free agency markets.

Would bringing in a motivated Puig on a one-year, major-league deal laden with incentives be one of those “good opportunities” Bloom described? Perhaps.

Red Sox and Cubs talked Kris Bryant trade over the summer, per report

The Red Sox and Cubs engaged in trade talks centered around All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant over the summer, according to The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales.

Per Gonzales, “two sources confirmed the Red Sox and Cubs discussed Bryant this summer, but those talks faded.”

Bryant, who turns 29 in January, is under team control with the Cubs for one more season. He is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $18.6 million in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021.

Because he is on the verge of free agency, Bryant, like Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, seems likely to get dealt at some point this winter.

The Las Vegas native is nearly two months removed from an uncharacteristic 2020 campaign in which he slashed .206/.293/.351 with just four home runs and 11 RBI over 34 games played.

In those 34 games, Bryant saw the majority of his playing time come at the hot corner, but he also logged 29 innings in left field. Because of the experience he has in the outfield, as well as the fact that Rafael Devers appears to be the third baseman of the future, “the Red Sox would envision Bryant as a left fielder,” per Gonzales.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox’ outfield picture is somewhat shorthanded in the wake of Jackie Bradley Jr. declaring for free agency last month.

Without an everyday centerfielder on the roster, either Andrew Benintendi or Alex Verdugo could make the switch to patrol center on a regular basis, which would therefore create an opening for someone like Bryant.

For as disappointing as his 2020 season may have been, Bryant still has the potential to bounce back in a tremendous way in 2021, especially since it would be a contract year for him.

In 740 games spanning six big-league seasons with Chicago, the former first-round pick, who is a Boras Corp. client, has clubbed 142 homers and collected 414 RBI. He won National League Rookie of the Year in 2015, National League MVP in 2016, and has been named to three National League All-Star teams.

On top of that, Bryant’s father, Mike, hails from Medford, Mass. and was selected by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1980 amateur draft out of UMASS Lowell.

It remains to be seen how likely a Bryant-to-Boston trade is at the moment considering talks between the Cubs and Sox faded over the summer, but dealing for a player of Bryant’s caliber with only one guaranteed year of team control would certainly be an aggressive move for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

Also, as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, “it’s not uncommon for teams to lay groundwork at the trade deadline, then resume trade talks during the offseason.” We will have to wait and see if those trade talks do indeed resume.

Red Sox free agency rumors: Astros prioritizing signing Jackie Bradley Jr., per report

The Astros are reportedly interested in signing free-agent outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. — so much so that the club is making it a priority — per MLB Network’s Peter Gammons.

Bradley Jr., 30, declared for free agency late last month after spending the first eight years of his major-league career in Boston.

The former first-round draft pick is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to net himself a two-year deal worth somewhere around $16 million this winter, with the ‘Stros being the favorite to acquire his services.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are reportedly interested in bringing back Bradley Jr. “for the 2021 season and beyond,” according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

In his eighth season with the Sox this year, Bradley Jr. put up quality numbers, slashing .283/.364/.540 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games played.

While producing at the plate at that impressive level, the 2018 Gold Glover also provided superb defense in center field, ranking second among major-league centerfielders in outs above average (7), per Statcast.

That defensive prowess of Bradley Jr.’s, as noted by Gammons in the above tweet, has become quite significant for the Red Sox and Red Sox pitching over the years.

Going back to the start of the 2016 campaign, when Bradley Jr. essentially established himself as Boston’s everyday centerfielder, the Sox have had the sixth-best centerfield defense in baseball in terms of Ultimate Zone Rating (18.1).

Given the possibility that Bradley Jr. could depart for Houston or elsewhere this winter, the Red Sox would be faced with the reality that without Bradley Jr. manning center field on a regular basis, the club’s pitching could struggle as a result. That being the case because the flashy outfielder is capable of turning potential extra-base hits into outs at a moment’s notice.

With this in mind, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom addressed the team’s outlook for its outfield alignment going into 2021 when speaking with reporters earlier this week.

“I think we have guys on this club who are capable of playing center field,” Bloom said Wednesday via Zoom. “But we certainly would like to be in as strong of a defensive position as you can. We know we play in a ballpark where you basically have two center fields here in Fenway Park. So we want to be mindful of that.

“We’d certainly like to have as strong of a defensive outfield as possible,” he added. “And a lot of that is contingent on having multiple guys who can play center field.”

Whether it be Bradley Jr., a free-agency or trade acquisition, or one or several internal candidates, Bloom and Co. have to determine what the Red Sox will do at center field moving forward. They do not have a great deal of time to do that if Bradley Jr.’s market is indeed heating up.

MLB free agency: Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. have talked about outfielder returning to Boston, per report

The Red Sox have reportedly approached Jackie Bradley Jr. about bringing the free-agent outfielder back for the 2021 season “and beyond,” according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Per Bradford, the Red Sox “are far from the only suitors for Bradley Jr., with the Astros showing strong interest and one American League Central team putting the 30-year-old at the top of its free agent wish-list.”

Bradley Jr., who does not turn 31 until next April, is coming off one of his better all-around seasons in the majors in 2020. Primarily serving as Boston’s centerfielder, the former first-round draft pick slashed a robust .283/.364/.450 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games played.

Those impressive numbers, as well as still proving to be one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball, will certainly help Bradley Jr.’s case as he embarks on free agency for the first time in his career.

Based off industry speculation, which can best be highlighted by MLB Trade Rumors’ free agency predictions, the Boras Corp. client is projected to land a two-year deal worth somewhere around $16 million this winter after not receiving a qualifying offer from Boston earlier this month.

MLBTR, in correspondence with the aforementioned report from Bradford, have Bradley Jr. joining the Astros on that two-year pact, but it would appear that the Red Sox can not be ruled out as favorites to retain the South Carolina product’s services.

“We love Jackie,” chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters back in August. “That shouldn’t be news. He’s been here for a long time. He means an enormous amount to this organization. For me personally, not having known him as long, I’ve still come to regard him so highly and see what an incredible person he is. We know he’s a good player. We’d love to have him for a long time. But that was the case months ago. It’s the case yesterday. It’s the case today. It’s the case tomorrow.”

Besides Bradley Jr., this year’s free agency class is not exactly filled to the brim with starting-caliber centerfielders save for three-time All-Star George Springer, who has a qualifying offer attached to him. The likes of Jarrod Dyson, Brett Gardner, Jake Marisnick, and Kevin Pillar represent some of the other possibilities on that front.

Internally, the Sox could move either one of Andrew Benintendi or Alex Verdugo to center, both of whom have logged a combined 147 games at the position at the major-league level. Neither would likely provide the level of defensive prowess Bradley Jr. would, though, and another vacancy at either corner outfield spot would open up as a result.

Looking at the prospect pipeline, outfielder Jarren Duran, Boston’s No. 8 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is without a doubt one of the Sox’ most exciting young talents.

The 24-year-old had a terrific spring and consistently put on a show at the alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer, but he still may be at the point where he needs just a little more time to develop before getting the call.

Marcus Wilson, who is currently on Boston’s 40-man roster, and Jeisson Rosario, who will presumably be on Boston’s 40-man roster within the next 12 days, are also intriguing options, but like Duran, neither have played above the Double-A level yet.

At the end of the day, who Bloom and Co. decide to roll with at center field moving forward will be no simple decision. Perhaps the Sox will take advantage of what looks to be a slow-moving market this winter, but if a savvy team like the Astros are that interested in acquiring Bradley Jr.’s services, they will surely be aggressive in doing so.

On another note, it should be fascinating to see how Bradley Jr., who described free agency as “cool” because “you get to weigh out your options,” goes about fielding offers this winter. Will he allow the Red Sox to counter any offer he may get? Or, will he just take the best deal possible due to the current economic climate? We will have to wait and see on that.

Tzu-Wei Lin, Zack Godley Among Five Players Outrighted From Red Sox’ 40-Man Roster

The Red Sox are full steam ahead in terms of trimming down their 40-man roster. After losing righty Domingo Tapia on waivers over the weekend, the club announced Monday that five players have been outrighted.

Both utilityman Tzu-Wei Lin and right-hander Robinson Leyer were outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, or Worcester, while right-handers Zack Godley and Andrew Triggs, and left-hander Mike Kickham were outrighted and elected free agency.

Among these five players who have now been dropped from Boston’s 40-man roster, Lin was the longest tenured Red Sox.

The 26-year-old originally signed as an international free agent out of Taiwan in 2012 and made his major-league debut with the Sox five years later.

Lin got his big-league career off to a hot start thanks to a solid rookie campaign in 2017, but he has since cooled down considerably. Most recently, he collected just eight hits in 57 plate appearances (.154) this past season while only playing in 26 of a possible 60 games.

Because he was outrighted to Triple-A, it is safe to assume that Lin went unclaimed on waivers, which is understandable seeing how he is out of minor-league options. That being said, the Red Sox should find themselves fortunate to retain Lin’s services, as he could provide quality depth at multiple positions and be an interesting name to monitor come the spring.

As for the pitchers involved here, all four made their Red Sox debuts in 2020, while Leyer also made his major-league debut on August 31. Both he and Kickham had been with the Sox since 2019, though Kickham signed a minor-league pact with the club in December.

Godley and Triggs, meanwhile, were in-season acquisitions, as the former inked a minor-league deal with the Sox in July and the latter was claimed off waivers from the Giants in August.

The two veteran hurlers combined to allow 30 earned runs over 12 outings (nine starts) and 36 2/3 innings pitched with Boston this year. That’s good for an ERA of 7.36.

With these moves made, the Red Sox currently have 35 players on their 40-man roster. More roster shuffling will have to be done by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. in order to protect the likes of prospects Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, Hudson Potts, Jeisson Rosario, Connor Seabold, and Connor Wong from the Rule 5 Draft in December.

Additionally, as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. electing free agency the day after the World Series ends will free up another roster spot, though Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, Colten Brewer, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Kyle Hart — who are all on the 60-man injured list — will have to be returned to the Sox’ 40-man roster within the next seven days.

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Reflects on Emotional Final Day of 2020 Regular Season

The Red Sox wrapped up their 2020 regular season with a 9-1 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon to finish the year with a record of 24-36.

Before Sunday’s series finale against Atlanta had even started, though, the club announced that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager in 2021, which was the catalyst for an emotional day all around among Red Sox players and staff alike.

For one, Xander Bogaerts, who by all accounts is one of this team’s emotional leaders, did not find out about the news of Roenicke’s dismissal until he arrived at Truist Park.

“It was tough. Coming to the ballpark, no one really expected that, but that’s the way stuff goes in life sometimes,” Bogaerts said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He was a huge influence for me personally, in my life and also my baseball career. And I know for sure he’s meant a lot to the other guys… I feel like he was just the perfect guy for the situation with this tough year. It was tough coming to the ballpark, especially losing a lot, and he just found a good way to communicate with us and try to make you feel good and important.

“He’s definitely someone that we will miss,” Bogaerts continued. “It was a tough year, and I remember before the game I was like ‘If I hit a homer today, I’m going to go up to him and give him a big hug before I go into the dugout, before I go to all the other guys.'”

Bogaerts did crush his 11th homer of the season in the top half of the fifth Sunday to put his side up 3-1, but he incidentally forget to give Roenicke that hug as he made his way back towards the Boston dugout after touching home plate.

“Everything just happened so quick and I kind of just forgot,” the 27-year-old recounted. “But I told myself that I would try to hit one for him and try to win this game for him. Obviously, it’s been a tough year, and it was some rough news for sure.”

On top of playing his final game with Roenicke as his manager, Bogaerts may have also played his final game with Jackie Bradley Jr. as his teammate.

Bradley Jr., who went 3-for-6 with a solo shot out of the leadoff spot and dazzled in the outfield on Sunday, is set to become a free agent for the first time in his big-league career this winter. A reunion between the 30-year-old Gold Glover and the Sox does not seem imminent at this point in time.

“He’s been through a lot here,” Bogaerts said of his teammate for parts of the last seven seasons. “We all know how good he is with the glove, we don’t need to speak about that anymore because he is obviously one of the best in the game to do that.”

While providing his typical, superb defensive prowess, which as mentioned was on full display Sunday, Bradley Jr. also enjoyed great success at the plate in 2020, as he finished the 60-game campaign boasting a .283/.364/.540 slash line, much to the delight of his teammates.

“For [Bradley Jr.] to be consistent with the bat this year, I think that was really nice,” said Bogaerts. “I know that’s something he’ll be very proud of going back and looking at the season that he had. He finished on a real strong note and I hope that he can stay here. I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family, because he’s also one of those guys who is a truly great person. He’s a good baseball player, but he’s an even better person and those guys deserve a lot. As I said, he’s been through some rough stretches here, but in the end I think with the season that he had, it was a nice season for him.”

Here’s to hoping that Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. will once again share the same field together in 2021.