Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With 5 of 7 Eligible Players

The Red Sox have agreed to one-year deals with five players for the 2020 season, thus avoiding salary arbitration. Those five players are outfielders Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and relievers Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Brandon Workman.

On the other hand, two players, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and outfielder Andrew Benintendi, were unable to reach one-year agreements with the Sox, meaning they are both more than likely headed to arbitration hearings come early February.

Starting with the five players who did reach agreements on Friday, here are the figures that were settled upon by both sides.

Matt Barnes – $3.1 million

Coming off an up-and-down 2019 campaign, the 29-year-old Barnes was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $3 million in penultimate year of arbitration eligibility. Instead, the UCONN product received a bit more than that projected figure and even saw a 94% increase in his salary from last year.

Mookie Betts – $27 million

As has already been discussed on here, Betts’ $27 million payday for 2020 marks the highest ever for a player in their final year of arbitration eligibility, surpassing Colorado’s Nolan Arenado’s record of $26 million from last February. The 27-year-old was projected to earn slightly more ($27.7 million) than that historic figure.

Jackie Bradley Jr. – $11 million

This time, MLB Trade Rumors got it right in the dot, as Bradley Jr. and the Sox settled on $11 million nearly three months after the site released that projection. Like his outfield counterpart in Betts, Bradley Jr. too is set to become a free agent for the first time at the conclusion of the 2020 season.

Heath Hembree – $1.6125 million

A potential non-tender candidate back in late November and early December, Hembree has struck around for the time being, earning a $300,000 raise from his 2019 salary.

Brandon Workman – $3.5 million

Another free agent at the end of the 2020 season, Workman enjoyed great success last year and earned a well-deserved 204.3% raise because of it. He was projected to earn $3.4 million by MLB Trade Rumors.

Going back to Benintendi and Rodriguez, the player and team could still theoretically split the difference in their price and reach an agreement, according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

With that scenario unlikely to happen, it appears as if the two will take part in individual arbitration hearings by the first week of February. Winter Weekend just a got a bit more interesting.

 

Looking Back at Adrian Beltre’s Time With the Red Sox

10 years ago Wednesday, the Red Sox formally introduced third baseman Adrian Beltre to the media at Fenway Park four days after agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal with the then-30-year-old infielder.

In his brief stint donning a Sox uniform, Beltre was productive, slashing .321/.365/.553 with 28 home runs, 102 RBI, and an American League-leading 49 doubles over 154 games played. Impressive enough to earn his first All-Star nod, his second career Silver Slugger Award, and a top-nine finish in AL MVP voting.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, were not as impressive as a whole that season, as the club finished 89-73, good for third place in a competitive American League East, and failed to qualify for postseason play.

Come that following January, Beltre had done well to re-establish his value as one of the better third baseman in baseball after turbulent times in Los Angeles and Seattle, eventually cashing in by agreeing to a six-year deal with the Texas Rangers worth $96 million, or $16 million per season.

Because the Red Sox offered the Dominican Republic native a qualifying offer prior to his departure to Texas, the club was rewarded with two compensation picks in that year’s amateur draft. Two picks that fell in the top 40.

So, after selecting University of Connecticut right-hander Matt Barnes with their first and own pick at No. 19, Theo Epstein and Co. made the choice to go with a promising high school catcher out of Rio Rancho, New Mexico in Blake Swihart with their first of the two Beltre compensation picks at No. 26.

This move may have raised eyebrows at the time, as Swihart was locked in on playing college baseball at the University of Texas at Austin, but by offering a signing bonus of $2.5 million, they convinced the 19-year-old to sign.

Fast forward to later in the first round, with high school southpaw Henry Owens already drafted with the 36th overall pick, and the Sox made a statement with their second and final Beltre pick.

Yes, with the 40th overall selection, Boston selected University of South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.

Both Bradley Jr. and Swihart experienced their growing pains upon their promotions to the majors in April 2013 and May 2015 respectively, but to land the quality of prospects the Red Sox did for losing to Beltre to free agency was quite the accomplishment.

Think about it like this: for one season of Beltre, the Red Sox in turn received one of the best catching prospects in the game in Swihart, and one of the best outfield prospects in Bradley Jr.

Currently, it’s more like Boston acquired one of the best defensive center fielders in the American League in Bradley Jr. and, after trading Swihart to Arizona last April, outfield prospect Marcus Wilson.

That may sound a bit confusing, but in short, it was not a terrible trade-off despite Beltre going on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Rangers.

Also, I highly recommend reading Homegrown by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier if you haven’t already. A quality read for any baseball fan.

Red Sox ‘Actively’ Trying to Trade Jackie Bradley Jr., per Report

The Red Sox are actively trying to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham.

Abraham also notes that before last week, the Sox were engaged with the Mets regarding a potential deal before New York opted to trade for Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick instead.

Entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2020, Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is projected to earn $11 million next season.

That price may be too high for a Chaim Bloom-led Red Sox team looking to trim down payroll to under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, especially when you consider that the majority of Bradley Jr.’s value comes from what he does with his glove compared to his bat.

The Virginia native slashed .225/.317/.421 to go along with 21 home runs and 62 RBI over 147 games played in 2019. He also finished just short of notching his second straight Gold Glove Award for American League center fielders this past season, finishing as the runner up behind Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier.

This is certainly not the first time Bradley Jr. has been on the trade block, and with teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks being linked to him, the former first-round pick out of the University of South Carolina’s days with the Sox may be numbered.

All of this information has come from a busy first full day of the Baseball Winter Meetings out in San Diego, so there is definitely going to be more to come in the next few days as well.

Red Sox Will Reportedly Tender Contract to Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox WILL tender a contract to outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is projected to earn $11 million in his final year of salary arbitration in 2020 before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

As Speier indicates in the tweet above, there had been a fair amount of speculation surrounding just what the Red Sox would do with Bradley Jr. as they look to cut down on their payroll.

In 147 games this past season, the University of South Carolina product slashed .225/.317/.421 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI while also providing solid defense in center field.

Is that production worth $11 million next season? Well, it’s hard to say. But for now, it appears that Boston will hold on to Bradley Jr. in the hopes that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. can potentially work out a trade and continue to slash payroll.

The non-tender deadline is at 8 PM ET Monday.

Red Sox’ Jackie Bradley Jr. Takes Home MLB Network’s Top Play of 2019

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s jaw-dropping, home run-robbing catch against the Baltimore Orioles was named MLB Network’s play of the 2019 season on Sunday night.

The catch, which came back on May 8th, robbed O’s outfielder Trey Mancini of a potential walk-off solo shot off of right-hander Ryan Brasier in the 11th inning of a 1-1 contest. The Red Sox would go on to win the game by a final score of 2-1 in 12 innings.

Per Statcast, Bradley Jr. only had a 27% chance of making that catch off a fly ball that had an exit velocity of 101.5 MPH off of Mancini’s bat.

The 29-year-old Bradley Jr. was responsible for two other plays on MLB Network’s Top 100, while Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, and Chris Sale also made the cut.

After taking home his first career Gold Glove Award for American League center fielders in 2018, Bradley Jr. finished behind Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier for the award this year.

With trade rumors continuing to build, 2019 very well may have been Bradley Jr.’s last season in Boston. In his time with the Sox, the former 2011 first round pick has put together quite the highlight reel of outstanding plays in the outfield.

What the Immediate Future Holds for Red Sox’ New Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom

The Red Sox are holding a press conference on Monday afternoon, more than likely to formally introduce Chaim Bloom as the club’s new chief baseball officer. Brian O’Halloran, who had been serving as an assistant GM alongside Eddie Romero and Zack Scott, will also be promoted to general manager.

With these moves coming days before the Major League Baseball season comes to a close, it appears that the Red Sox are headed towards what could be a transformative kind of offseason.

The 36-year-old Bloom hasn’t even been on the job for a day to this point, yet he’ll have plenty of decisions to make and ponder once he officially begins on Monday. Here are five things that the former Rays vice president will have to decide on almost immediately.

1. The future of Mookie Betts

As we all know by now, Mookie Betts has one year remaining on his contract headed into the 2020 season. Per MLB Trade Rumors, the reigning American League MVP is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration.

Since the time spring training began in Fort Myers, Fla in February, the notion has been that principal owner John Henry and the rest of the Sox brass would prefer to keep Betts in Boston for the rest of his career. Granted, that came about seven months before Henry also said he would like to see his team get below the $208 million luxury tax threshold for 2020.

Betts himself seems gun ho on reaching free agency and testing the open market rather than agreeing to an extension with Boston.

There are multiple directions Bloom and the Red Sox could go with this. For starters, they could deal the 27-year-old outfielder for a plethora of prospects to improve what’s viewed as a weak, yet improving farm system. They could hold on to him to begin the 2020 season and then decide to deal him at the July 31st trade deadline if they are not in a competitive spot. And among other things, they could somehow convince Betts to agree to a long-term contract extension.

2. The future of Jackie Bradley Jr. 

Jackie Bradley Jr., like Betts, is entering the final year of his contract with Boston before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter. The 29-year-old is projected to earn $11 million in arbitration the coming season, per MLB Trade Rumors.

With the Red Sox wanting to slash their 2020 payroll, Bradley Jr. emerges as a potential non-tender candidate or trade candidate if the former does not happen. At that aforementioned price tag of $11 million, Bloom and co. could decide that Bradley Jr.’s inconsistent play at the place is not worth it despite the fact that he is one of the better defensive center fielders in all of baseball.

3. The state of the starting rotation in 2020

Rick Porcello’s $21 million may be coming off the books, but all of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale dealt with injury issues in 2019 and are going to be another year older in 2020.

Per @RedSoxPayroll, the trio of Eovaldi, Price, and Sale will earn approximately $72.5 million all together next season, which is a larger amount than the Tampa Bay Rays’ payroll from this year.

Both Price and Sale were shut down at different points during the 2019 campaign, while Eovaldi, who turns 30 in February, missed more than two months of action from late April until late July while recovering from surgery to remove loose bodies from his throwing elbow.

Depending on the statuses of these three heading into the spring, it may be in Bloom’s best interest to scour the free agency or trade market for affordable starting pitching.

4. The state of the starting pitching pipeline going forward

Speaking of starting pitching, one thing that has bothered me about the Red Sox over the last few years has been their inability to develop any sort of reliable starting pitching options in the minor leagues.

Now more than ever, that needs to change. Whether it be through the amateur draft or international signings has yet to be determined.

5. Exploring contract extensions 

Outside of Mookie Betts, there a few other Red Sox worthy of contract extensions. Rafael Devers, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brandon Workman all come to mind immediately.

Devers, who just turned 23 last week, broke out in a big way in 2019, slashing .311/.361/.555 to go along with a career-high 31 home runs and 115 runs driven in while providing solid defense at third base for most of the year.

The Dominican Republic native is due to earn somewhere around $650,000 in his final year under team control in 2020, meaning the Sox could factor that into any sort of long-term extension to stay under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, if that is what ends up happening.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, also enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, posting a career-best 19 wins in 34 starts to go along with an ERA of 3.81 and FIP of 3.86 over a career-best 203 1/3 innings of work.

The 26-year-old out of Venezuela is projected to earn $9.5 million in his third and second-to-last year of arbitration in 2020.

Workman, finally, is the oldest of the group, as he turned 31 this past August and is entering his final season of arbitration next year. MLB Trade Rumors has him earning $3.4 million.

In a career-high 73 appearances in 2019, Workman emerged as Boston’s best option to close out games, posting a 1.88 ERA and minuscule .123 batting average against over 71 2/3 innings pitched.

It’s too early to say whether or not Workman will remain the Sox’ closer entering the 2020 season, but he certainly has established himself as a legitimate late-inning reliever out of Alex Cora’s bullpen.

We really haven’t even scratched the surface with this, but it is a start. Looking forward to Monday’s press conference.

Red Sox Reportedly Looking to Trade Jackie Bradley Jr. This Offseason

The Red Sox may be looking to trade outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. this winter, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is entering his final year of salary arbitration and is projected to earn $11 million in 2020.

With it already out there that the Sox would look like to bring their payroll below the $208 million luxury tax threshold for next season, Bradley Jr.’s projected 2020 salary may not be in the club’s plans.

As Smith notes, Boston could non-tender their outfielder at any time before the December 2nd deadline, meaning he would become a free agent immediately.

Another possibility is that the team could tender Bradley Jr. a contract, look for a trade partner in the coming months, and potentially release him if no partner is found before Opening Day rosters are set, since, “arbitration contracts aren’t fully guaranteed until a player makes the Opening Day roster.”

Bradley Jr. is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he slashed .225/.317/.421 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI over 147 games played while also providing steady defense in center field.

Given the chance that Boston also deals Mookie Betts this winter, it would be hard to imagine a Red Sox outfield without Betts and Bradley Jr. in it in 2020. More is sure to come once we officially hit the offseason later this month, so stay tuned for that.