Predicting the Red Sox’ Opening Day Roster

One month from Wednesday, the Red Sox will open their 2020 season with the first of four against the Toronto Blue Jays north of border. As things stand right now, a solid portion of the club’s 26-man Opening Day roster is set, but with questions surrounding injuries and depth aplenty, there could still be a handful of spots up for grabs.

With that, I thought it would be a good time to take a crack at what the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster could look like this time next month. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Starting Rotation:

Eduardo Rodriguez
Nathan Eovaldi
Martin Perez
Ryan Weber
Kyle Hart

According to interim manager Ron Roenicke, left-hander Chris Sale might need to throw two live batting practice sessions before throwing in an actual game, leaving the 30-year-old’s status for Opening Day up in the air since he wouldn’t have a ton of time to ramp up his workload.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Sale, that leaves two spots in Boston’s rotation up for grabs. Right-hander Ryan Weber seems like a likely candidate, and I went with left-hander Kyle Hart over pitching prospect Tanner Houck for the fifth spot.

Hart, 27, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November, while Houck, who is not on the 40-man roster, could use more time to develop as a starter in Triple-A.

Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson have prior experience starting for the Red Sox, although Johnson would need to be added back to the 40-man roster after being outrighted in November.

The Bullpen:

Matt Barnes
Ryan Brasier
Brandon Workman
Darwinzon Hernandez
Josh Taylor
Heath Hembree
Marcus Walden
Austin Brice

As far as I am concerned, Barnes, Workman, Hernandez, Taylor, Hembree, and Walden are all locks to make the Opening Day roster.

Brasier struggled at times last year and has minor-league options remaining, while Brice, who was acquired from the Marlins last month, is out of options.

Outside candidates on the 40-man roster include Yoan Aybar, Matt Hall, Chris Mazza, Josh Osich, Mike Shawaryn, Jeffrey Springs, and Phillips Valdez.

The Catchers:

Christian Vazquez
Jonathan Lucroy

Although Kevin Plawecki is on a guaranteed deal for the 2020 season, it is only for $900,000, so it would not be a huge financial loss if the Sox went with Lucroy instead.

The two-time All-Star signed a minor-league deal with Boston earlier in February and has a far more impressive offensive track record than Plawecki does. He also appears to have a solid relationship with Roenicke from when the two were with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Infielders:

Mitch Moreland
Michael Chavis
Jose Peraza
Xander Bogaerts
Rafael Devers
Jonathan Arauz
Tzu-Wei Lin

Lin is out of options, and as a Rule 5 selection, Arauz would have to be offered back to the Astros if he does not stick on Boston’s 26-man roster, so I believe those two will make it, especially with the defensive versatility Lin offers.

Bogaerts has been dealing with a sore left ankle since workouts began nearly two weeks ago, but it looks like that is a non-issue as far as his status for Opening Day is concerned.

Top prospect Bobby Dalbec is not listed here, but I would personally love to see him make it if he were to get adequate playing time at the big-league level. With Devers manning third and Moreland and Chavis handling first base duties though, that does not seem likely at this point.

Also, Dustin Pedroia will begin the year on the 60-day injured list.

The Outfielders:

Andrew Benintendi
Jackie Bradley Jr.
Kevin Pillar
J.D. Martinez

With Alex Verdugo likely to start the season on the injured list due to a lower back stress fracture, Kevin Pillar is likely to slide in as an everyday outfielder, which he is more than capable of doing.

As I mentioned, Lin, and even prospect C.J. Chatham, are capable of playing a little outfield if necessary. And the Red Sox may need a temporary fourth outfielder during Verdugo’s absence if they do not want Martinez to spend too much time in the outfield.

So there you have it. 26 roster spots. 26 predictions with a whole lot of other possibilities as well. I’ll leave you with my guess for what the Opening Day starting lineup could look like:

  1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Christian Vazquez, C
  7. Michael Chavis, 2B
  8. Kevin Pillar, RF
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
    Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP

 

Connor Wong Crushes Grand Slam as Red Sox Blow out Orioles

In a game that was not televised, the Red Sox improved to 2-2-1 in Grapefruit League play on Tuesday afternoon with a 12-4 win over a split Baltimore Orioles squad at JetBlue Park.

Making his first start of the spring for Boston in this one was Ryan Weber, one of the many names vying for the fifth spot in the Sox’ starting rotation with just over a month to go until Opening Day.

Tossing two innings on Tuesday, the right-hander kept the O’s off the scoreboard while scattering two hits and zero walks to go along with one strikeout on the afternoon.

Both of those Baltimore hits came consecutively with two outs in the top of the first, but Weber was able to settle down and get Pat Valaika to fly out to center before retiring the side in order in the second.

In relief of Weber, left-hander Mike Kickham had a tough showing, as he surrendered one run in the third and three more, one of which was unearned, in the fourth due to a wild pitch and passed ball that got through Connor Wong behind the plate.

Hunter Haworth had to come on to try and clean Kickham’s mess up with two outs in the fourth, and he did just that by getting Anthony Santander to ground out to third.

From there, lefty Brian Johnson worked his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean fifth to eventually earn his first win of the spring, while Domingo Tapia and Denyi Reyes combined for four scoreless frames of work to close this thing out with a final score of 12-4.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox starting lineup that featured a healthy number of regulars like Andrew Benintendi, Christian Vazquez, J.D. Martinez, and Mitch Moreland was matched up against Orioles right-hander Tom Eshelman to start things out on Tuesday.

Eshelman may not have given up any runs over the course of his brief two-inning start, but he gave up plenty of hard contact, including a line-drive one-out single off the bat of Vazquez in the first.

Two innings later, it was Vazquez coming through again, as he drove in Benintendi all the way from first on a hard-hit double to left off Orioles reliever Zac Lowther for his side’s first run of the day. 1-1.

In the fourth, the Boston bats once again responded to Baltimore, as they countered three more O’s tallies with three of their own on a two-run home run off the bat of Jackie Bradley Jr. and RBI single off the bat of Tommy Joseph to plate Bobby Dalbec from second.

Both of those knocks came off Lowther, and they pulled the Sox back even with the Orioles at four runs a piece.

Fortunately, that stalemate did not last long at all, with the first five hitters who came to the plate in the fifth all reaching off Hunter Cervenka on two singles, two walks, and one HBP to make it a 6-4 contest.

Marco Hernandez added on to that with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to score Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Pillar re-loaded the bases with an infield single off new O’s reliever Zach Muckenhirn, and that brought Connor Wong to the plate with the chance to redeem himself after making a few defensive mistakes the inning prior.

On the third pitch he saw from Muckenhirn, Wong did just that, as the 23-year-old crushed a grand slam over the fence in right-center field for his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

That gave the Sox a commanding 11-4 advantage, and after Nick Longhi scored on a fielding error in the same inning, 12-4 would go on to be Tuesday’s final score.

Some observations from this win:

Because this game was not televised, I really do not have much to add here. Kevin Pillar went 2-for-2 with a double off the bench and Mitch Moreland hit a triple. Both of those things are nice to see.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll travel to Bradenton to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this spring.

Left-hander Martin Perez will make his Red Sox debut for Boston, while right-hander Mitch Keller will get the start for Pittsburgh.

Perez is essentially a lock to be the No. 4 starter this year, so I’m looking forward to see how his first outing goes even if it is just an exhibition game. He is no stranger to the Grapefruit League either.

First pitch Wednesday is scheduled for 1:05 PM EDT at LECOM Park. This game won’t be on NESN, but it will be on the Pirates’ network, so if you have MLB.TV, you are in luck.

 

Red Sox Officially Name Jerry Narron Bench Coach

The Red Sox have hired Jerry Narron to serve as the club’s bench coach under interim manager Ron Roenicke. The club made the move official following Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Narron, 64, had served as bench coach for the Diamondbacks under old friend Torey Lovullo for the last three seasons, but left the organization at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign after Arizona decided to promote Luis Urueta to the position.

If Narron’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he had previously been the Red Sox’ bench coach going way back to 2003, when Grady Little was at the helm in Boston.

It was a brief stint, but Narron said that he “had a great year here and enjoyed it.”

Prior to that, the North Carolina native managed the Texas Rangers from May 2001 until the conclusion of the 2002 season, where he posted a record of 134-162.

After spending the 2003 campaign with the Sox, Narron joined the Reds’ coaching staff as bench coach under then-manager Dave Miley before being named interim manager in June 2005.

That ‘interim’ tag was eventually removed, but Narron was fired by the Reds a little more than two years after his initial promotion. He went 157-179 while in charge in Cincinnati.

From there, Narron returned to the Rangers in 2008 to work as a front office consultant before being hired as the Brewers’ bench coach prior to the start of the 2011 season.

The manager who hired him at the time? Ron Roenicke.

Narron served as bench coach under Roenicke throughout his entire tenure as manager in Milwaukee and remained with the club even after Roenicke was fired midway through the 2015 season.

“He’s got a great baseball mind.” Roenicke said of Narron when speaking to reporters Saturday. “He’s a lot smarter than I am which helps me to go to him when I want to. All of that helps make things go smoother here.”

Upon being named interim manager earlier in the month, Roenicke was left without a bench coach, the role he had previously held under Alex Cora.

There was plenty of speculation that Roenicke, along with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran, were going to go with an internal candidate for the position. But, going with someone who is familiar with Roenicke and his style isn’t too bad, either.

“I wouldn’t do it just because [Narron’s] familiar with me,” said Roenicke. “I’d do it because he’s really good.”

Narron should also be somewhat familiar with at least one player on the Sox’ 40-man roster in J.D. Martinez, who spent the latter half of the 2017 campaign with the Diamondbacks after coming over in a July trade from the Tigers that year.

We should see Narron on the bench for the first time on Sunday afternoon, when the Red Sox take on the Orioles in Sarasota.

 

J.D. Martinez’s Outlook on 2020 Red Sox: ‘If Guys Continue to Get Better, I Think We’re Going to Be Really Good’

By trading away one of the best players in baseball in Mookie Betts, the outlook for the Red Sox’ 2020 season may have changed in some people’s eyes, but not to JD Martinez.

When speaking with reporters earlier Monday, Martinez acknowledged that the Sox will ‘feel’ the loss of Betts, but that should not stop them from being competitive in 2020.

“I think we have a lot of really good players,” Martinez said. “I believe in the guys we have. If guys continue to get better, I think we’re going to be really good.”

Before Boston dealt Betts and left-hander David Price to the Dodgers last week, Martinez had the chance to opt out of his current contract and become a free agent back in November.

“You have to make decisions based on what’s in front of you,” the 32-year-old slugger said in regard to his decision to remain with the Red Sox. “That was the decision I made. That was the hand I had. Obviously, [Betts and Price] are gone, but I don’t think this team is a bad team because they left.”

Martinez pointed towards the pieces the Sox get back in the trade as a reason to be excited about the future.

“I know we got some good guys for them,” Martinez said of Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong.

When asked about the 2020 version of the Red Sox having a bit of a chip on their shoulders coming off an underwhelming 2019 campaign, Martinez seemed to agree with that notion, saying, “I definitely think a lot of guys are a little bit more hungry than last year. I’m not saying our team was complacent last year, but I think we were a little more relaxed coming in. Last year was kind of a slap in the face, a reality check for us. I think a lot of guys are coming in a lot more determined and ready to go. The team we put on the field last year wasn’t us.”

The 2019 Red Sox, despite finishing with a record of 84-78, still boasted one of the more lethal lineups in the American League. And even with the loss of Betts, the Boston bats should still do plenty offensively.

It’s the pitching that has been the main concern, especially with the starting rotation that has lost Rick Porcello to free agency and Price to a trade.

The three guys the Sox will presumably look to lean on the most this year — Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodriguez — have all dealt with durability issues in the past, or more specifically, as recently as 2019, when both Eovaldi and Sale missed a significant amount of time with injuries.

“We’re hoping this year everyone stays healthy,” said Martinez. “And we go out there and play the way we know how to play.”

With all the negativity surrounding the Red Sox in the wake of trading a franchise cornerstone such as Betts, it could be easy to overlook a club that looks poised to be the third-best team in their division. However, if the Sox do adopt an “Us against the World” kind of mentality headed into the new season, they could go out looking to prove their doubters wrong in 2020.

The 10 Best Red Sox Single-Season Performances of the 2010s

With the 2010s quickly coming to a close, I thought it would be interesting to look back on the decade that was for the Red Sox. In this first installment, we’ll start with the best single-season performances for Red Sox position players and pitchers alike from 2010 up until 2019. Let’s get to it.

10. Chris Sale’s 2018 season (6.2 fWAR)

It may have been shortened due to left shoulder inflammation, but Sale’s second season with the Red Sox was something to behold. In 27 starts for the eventual World Series champs, the left-hander posted a dazzling 2.11 ERA and 2.31 xFIP over 158 innings of work, all while punching out more than 38% of the hitters he faced in 2018.

Sale also recorded the final three outs of the World Series against the Dodgers that year. Not a bad way to wrap up what could have been a Cy Young Award-winning campaign had he stayed healthy all the way through.

9. Adrian Gonzalez’s 2011 season (6.2 fWAR)

Gonzalez might not have spent much time with Boston, but the first baseman made his only full season with the Red Sox count, slashing .338/.410/.548 with 27 home runs and 177 RBI while leading the American League in hits (217) in an All-Star year.

Acquired from the Padres in exchange for a package headlined by Anthony Rizzo, Gonzalez and the Sox agreed to a seven-year, $154 million contract extension that April, but eventually shipped him off to the Dodgers in a blockbuster trade more than a year later.

8. Adrian Beltre’s 2010 season (6.4 fWAR)

Next month will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Red Sox and Beltre agreeing to a one-year, $10 million deal for the 2010 season, and what a season it was for the veteran third baseman looking to reset his value.

In 154 games that year, Beltre slashed .321/.365/.553 with 28 homers and 102 RBI to go along with a league-leading 49 doubles.

Ultimately finishing ninth in American League MVP voting, the Dominican Republic native went on to sign a five-year, $80 million deal with the Rangers, leaving many to wonder what could have been had Beltre remained in Boston past 2010.

7. Mookie Betts’ 2019 season (6.6 fWAR)

After taking home his first MVP Award the previous year, many would describe Betts’ 2019 as a “down” season. But in reality, the 27-year-old was as impressive as ever, slashing .295/.391/.524 with 29 home runs, 80 RBI, and a league-leading 135 runs scored over 150 games played.

Defensively speaking, Betts notched his fourth consecutive Gold Glove Award for American League right fielders in what might have been his last full season in Boston depending on what happens between now and this coming July.

6. Xander Bogaerts’ 2019 season (6.8 fWAR)

Speaking of this year’s Red Sox team, Bogaerts really took it to another level both on and off the field in 2019 after agreeing to a six-year, $120 million extension back in early April.

Playing in 155 games this season, the All-Star shortstop slashed .309/.384/.555 to go along with a career-best 33 homers and 117 RBI. Those numbers landed the 27-year-old his third career Silver Slugger Award as well as fifth-place finish in AL MVP voting.

5. Chris Sale’s 2017 season (7.6 fWAR)

Turning back to the pitching now, Sale made quite the first impression in his first season in a Red Sox uniform.

After coming over in a blockbuster trade with the Chicago White Sox the previous December, the left-hander posted a 2.90 ERA and league-leading 2.45 FIP over 32 games started and a league-leading 214 1/3 innings of work.

Not to mention he also struck out 308 of the 851 batters he faced in what wind up netting Sale a second-place finish in AL Cy Young voting and ninth-place finish in MVP voting.

4. Dustin Pedroia’s 2011 season (7.9 fWAR)

Due to a historic September collapse, the 2011 season may be one the Red Sox would like to forget about, but it still netted a decent amount of positive individual performances statistically speaking.

Adrian Gonzalez’s season is one we already discussed, and now it’s on to Dustin Pedroia.

In his age-27 season, the second baseman slashed .307/.387/.474 with a career-best 21 home runs, 91 runs driven in, 26 stolen bases, and 86 walks over 159 games played, all of which came at second base.

Offensively and defensively, Pedroia was the best second baseman in all of baseball that season, as he earned his second of four career Gold Glove Awards while finishing ninth in American League MVP voting.

3. Mookie Betts’ 2016 season. (8.3 fWAR)

Oh look, it’s Mookie Betts again. We already talked about what the 2018 AL MVP did this past season, but now it’s time to talk about when the then 23-year-old truly broke out.

Opening the 2016 campaign by making his second straight Opening Day Roster, Betts followed up an impressive first full season by being even better the next.

In 158 games, the first-time All-Star slashed .318/.363/.534 to go along with 31 homers and a career-best 113 RBI, all while leading the American League in total bases with 359 of them on the season.

2016 was the first step in Betts earning the unofficial title of “the best outfielder in baseball not named Mike Trout,” as the Tennessee native finished right behind the Angels star in MVP voting while also taking home his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards that year.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury’s 2011 season (9.5 fWAR)

Ellsbury may have just been cut loose after a mostly disappointing six-year tenure with the Yankees, but let’s not forget that from the time he made his first Opening Day roster in 2008 up until his departure in 2013, the Oregon State University product was a top-five outfielder in the American League in his time with the Red Sox.

Looking at his 2011 season more specifically, Ellsbury posted a .321/.376/.552 slash line to go along with a career-high 32 homers and 105 RBI over 158 games played.

Many wonder if Ellsbury would have won AL MVP in 2011 had it not been for his club’s historic collapse in September. Instead, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander took home the award, while Ellsbury took home his first career Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

1. Mookie Betts’ 2018 season (10.4 fWAR)

Finally, we arrive at the only Red Sox player to win an MVP Award this decade in Betts, who put together a monster 2018 season, which also happens to arguably be the greatest season in Sox history.

Playing in 136 games and batting primarily out of the leadoff spot, Betts slashed .346/.438/.640 with a career-high 32 home runs and 80 RBI while pacing the American League in runs scored with 129 of them on the season.

In terms of MVP voting, it was not particularily close, as the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award-winning outfielder received 28 of 30 first-place votes.

According to FanGraphs, Betts accrued 10.4 fWAR in 2018, the highest total from one single season this decade. In short, the Tennessee native is very good at baseball.

Honorable mentions

Because I used FanGraphs’ fWAR metric to compile this list, David Ortiz’s 2016 season and J.D. Martinez’s 2018 season did not make the cut.

Also, Rick Porcello is the only Sox pitcher this decade to win a Cy Young Award, which he accomplished in 2016, so that deserves a shout out in its own right.

J.D. Martinez Decides Not to Opt out of Contract With Red Sox

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez has decided NOT to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old had until midnight eastern time Monday to make his decision, and is now locked in for at least one more year, as he also has two more opt outs remaining in his contract following the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In his second season with Boston, Martinez slashed .304/.383/.557 to go along with 36 home runs and 105 RBI across 146 games played in 2019.

Back in September, Sox ownership came out and said that it is a goal, not a mandate, to cut down on payroll ahead of the 2020 campaign. Following Monday’s events, Martinez is expected to earn $23.75 million next year. Combine that with Mookie Betts’ projected salary of $27.7 million, and that seemingly puts Boston’s new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in a difficult spot.

Of course, there are plenty of options available here. For starters, Martinez’s deal could be restructured to presumably do away with the opt-outs and lock in one of the best hitters in the game for the next three years. Another avenue worth exploring could be looking into trading both Betts and Martinez.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Martinez can block trades to three teams, and no adjustments to his current deal have been made to this point.

During his introductory presser last week, Bloom emphasized being both “sustainable and competitive over the long term.” If the Sox really want to avoid paying those luxury tax penalties once more next year, then they’re going to have to get really creative to do so.

With that said, it would not be much of a surprise if Bloom and Co. listen to trade offers on any player besides Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.

There was already that report out of Arlington last week that the Texas Rangers had begun having preliminary, internal conversations about acquiring a Sox starter like Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, or even Chris Sale, so that is definitely an avenue to explore as well.

As Opt-Out Decision Looms, J.D. Martinez Is Officially on the Clock

Even though there is still one game remaining in this year’s installent of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros on Wednesday night, a former Astro in J.D. Martinez is on the clock.

Yes, the 32-year-old now has until 5 PM eastern time next Monday to decide whether or not he will opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract and become a free agent.

Martinez originally inked a five-year, $110 million deal with Boston back in February 2018. A deal that included built in opt-outs after the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons.

In the two seasons he has spent with the Sox to this point, the Florida native ranks second among qualified American League hitters in home runs (79), first in RBI (235), sixth in runs scored (209), and second in slugging percentage (.593).

While introducing new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on Monday, Red Sox principal owner John Henry said that he does not know what Martinez’s decision will be and that, “We’ll find out very soon.”

A client of super agent Scott Boras, Martinez may be enticed to enter free agency once again, as at 32, he may only have one last chance to earn a sizable contract in terms of both length and dollar figures.

In the following days leading into Monday evening, the Red Sox will have exclusive negotiating rights with their two-time All-Star slugger, as well as their other free agents. Martinez could reach a decision as early as 9 AM on Thursday, per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith.

If Martinez were to opt out of his contract, the Sox would owe him a buyout in the form of $2.5 million. They would also more than likely extend him a qualifying offer in this scenario, which will be worth $17.8 million this offseason. That way, any club that signed Martinez would also owe Boston a compensatory draft pick, one that would fall after the fourth round of the 2020 amateur draft.

Given how Henry and chairman Tom Werner have essentially made it clear that they would like to cut down on payroll this winter, it should be interesting to see how serious the club is about bringing Martinez back if he does indeed opt out.