Red Sox make Marwin González signing official, designate Marcus Walden for assignment

The Red Sox have officially signed veteran utilityman Marwin Gonzalez to a one-year contract for the 2021 season, the team announced Wednesday evening.

In order to make room for Gonzalez on their 40-man roster, Boston also designated right-hander Marcus Walden for assignment.

Gonzalez and the Red Sox originally agreed to a one-year pact for 2021 a little less than two weeks ago.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Gonzalez — who turns 32 in March — will earn a base salary of $3 million this year with the chance to earn up to $1.1 million in additional performance bonuses. There is no player, club, or dual option for a potential second year.

The Venezuelan switch-hitter had spent the last two seasons with the Twins and put up a .248/.311/.387 slash line to go along with 20 home runs and 77 RBI over 167 total games played. He also saw time at every defensive position besides center field in his time with Minnesota.

That versatile aspect of Gonzalez’s game will surely carry over to Boston as well, as the 6-foot-1, 205 pounder could line up to play both corner outfield spots while also serving as a left-handed complement to the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec at first base when needed.

With the additions of Gonzalez and Enrique Hernandez, both of whom are already familiar with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, the Sox have put themselves in a position where they are set up to a bevy of lineup combinations and defensive platoons depending on who they are going up against on a given day.

As for Walden, the move to designate him for assignment comes more than four years after he initially signed a minor-league deal with the Red Sox in December 2016.

Since then, the 32-year-old reliever has proven to be effective at the major-league level for an extended period of time.

Across 70 appearances out of the Boston bullpen in 2019, Walden posted a solid 3.81 ERA and 3.69 FIP over 78 total innings of work.

Coming off that successful campaign — his first full one in the majors — the California native figured to play an important role for the Sox in 2020, but he floundered to the tune of a disastrous 9.45 ERA and 8.59 FIP over 15 outings spanning 13 1/3 innings pitched in two separate big-league stints last year.

Even with a poor, truncated 2020 coming on the heels of a successful, full 2019, Walden’s leash appeared to be short as he is now without a 40-man roster spot for the time being.

The Sox will have seven days to either trade Walden, release him, or sneak him through waivers unless he is claimed by another club first.

With this transaction made, Boston’s 40-man roster remains at full capacity, which means more moves will need to be made in order to accommodate the likes of catcher Kevin Plawecki and outfielder Franchy Cordero, both of whom remain on the team’s COVID-19 related injured list.

(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora says team has to be better defensively in 2021: ‘That’s the bottom line’

During his re-introductory press conference back in November, one of the things that Red Sox manager Alex Cora emphasized was that his team needed to catch up to the speed of the game heading into the 2021 season.

“As a manager, as a coaching staff, I think spring training is going to be a lot different than ’18, ’19,” Cora said in the fall. “I do believe we have to catch up with the speed of the game. You look around and you look at the Padres, you look at the Rays, you look at the Dodgers and how athletic they are and how fast the game is. We have to catch up with that.

“It starts in the offseason, obviously, with workouts, and then we get to spring training,” he added. “It’s not going to be what you saw in ’18, ’19, kind of like building up, building up. Yeah, we’re going to build up, of course, so we don’t get hurt. But, at the same time I think the drills are going to be more dynamic. It’s going to be more game-time stuff, and I think they’re going to have fun doing that. And if we do that and we catch up with the speed of the division and the other teams, we’re going to be in a good spot.”

A little more than three months later, and Cora and Co. are already implementing these dynamic changes into their spring training drills at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers. The Sox skipper said as much when speaking with reporters earlier Friday morning.

“Certain fields are dedicated for defense only,” Cora said via Zoom. “With the guidelines, we have to split them up. So, Fields 1 and 2 are going to be for infielders. Field 1 is going to be only for offense. Field 2 is going to be like a defensive lab. So they’re going to have machines, they’re going to be doing drills, everything is going to be defense. Fields 3 and 4 are going to be for outfielders. Same thing: One of the fields is going to be only for defense, the other one for offense. And for offense, too, they’re going to have cameras and they’re going to have Rapsodo and they’re going to have machines.

“It’s a way to get them up to what I want,” continued Cora. “And at the same time, with everything that is going on, to keep their minds away from the obstacles. Like I said yesterday, we’re lucky to be here. We’re lucky to be working, playing this game. I think we’re going to be more efficient as far as the work. We’re going to have a lot of stuff going on, which is cool.”

Cora added that additional fields will be reserved for pitchers and catchers, while newly-added turf close to the Red Sox clubhouse can be used for catching and infield drills and the batting cages can also be used for defensive work now that some nets have been taken down.

“It’s a pretty cool facility,” he opined. “You have to be open-minded, you have to be creative. We’re doing that and I think that’s going to help us to improve and get better.”

Aside from the COVID-19 protocols put in place by Major League Baseball for spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida, the driving force behind the Sox changing things up at Fenway South is to make defense more of a priority.

That being the case because over the last two seasons, both of which they failed to qualify for the postseason, Boston has put up rather pedestrian numbers.

They rank eighth in the American League in errors (133), seventh in fielding percentage (.984), ninth in defensive runs saved (-26), and sixth in ultimate zone rating (8.3) since 2019, per FanGraphs.

“We have to be better defensively. We have to be better defensively,” Cora said emphatically. “No doubt about it. That’s something championship teams do. I said, we have to be better than ’18 defensively, better than ’19, better than ’20. This is not about range factor or all that stuff that people measure, which is important. As far as first steps and angles going toward the ball, I’m going to challenge them to be better.”

The additions of versatile veterans like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez should aid the Sox on the defensive side of things, but the club will still be banking on players like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, and Christian Vazquez to pick up things on their end as well.

“We’re looking for these guys to improve their defense,” said Cora. “Raffy, Xander, Bobby at first base, Michael, Christian. We have to be better defensively. That’s the bottom line.”

(Picture of Alex Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox claim right-hander John Schreiber off waivers from Tigers, place left-hander Chris Sale on 60-day injured list

The Red Sox have claimed right-handed reliever John Schreiber off waivers from the Detroit Tigers, the team announced Thursday.

In order to make room for Schreiber on their 40-man roster, Boston also placed left-hander Chris Sale on the 60-day injured list.

Schreiber, 27 in March, was designated for assignment by the Tigers last Friday so that the club could make room on its own 40-man roster for outfielder Nomar Mazara.

Originally a 15th-round selection of Detroit in the 15th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Northwestern Ohio, the Michigan native made his major-league debut in August 2019.

Since that time, Schreiber has posted a 6.28 — but a much more promising 4.05 xFIP — over 28 relief appearances and 28 2/3 innings pitched out of the Tigers bullpen the last two seasons.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-2, 210 lb. sidearmer operates with a low-velocity four-seam fastball, a curveball, a changeup, and a sinker.

When he wasn’t up with the Tigers last year, Schreiber was at the team’s alternate training site in Toledo. He also brings with him a solid minor-league track record, owning a lifetime 1.99 ERA and .191 batting average against in 147 outings (204 innings pitched) across four different levels from 2016-2019.

Seeing how he still has three minor-league options, it’s somewhat surprising to see the Tigers part ways with Schreiber at this point in time. The fact that he has those options and is under team control through 2025 must have made the righty appealing to the Red Sox, though.

As for Sale being placed on the 60-day injured list, that move was expected and is more of a formality than anything since the ace left-hander is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent last March.

“I have not been off a mound yet,” Sale said Thursday, the first day of pitcher and catcher workouts in Fort Myers, when speaking to reporters via Zoom “That’s another one of those things, I’ll just wait until I’m told to do so. I don’t want to be vague with (the media), obviously, but you know how I operate and I said at the beginning of this process, I don’t want to get too far ahead. I’m not looking at a month from now, two months from now or even the season. I can’t. That wouldn’t be fair to myself, my teammates or anyone else in this process. The mound comes when it comes. Like I said, I take it a day at a time and I’m doing everything I can to get out there as soon as I can.”

With this transaction being made, Boston’s 40-man roster remains at full capacity, meaning another two moves will need to be made when the club officially signs veteran utilityman Marwin Gonzalez and activates catcher Kevin Plawecki from the COVID-19 related injured list. Stay tuned for that.

(Picture of John Schreiber: Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Red Sox free agency updates: Hirokazu Sawamura, Marwin González signings could be made official soon

As spring training approaches, the Red Sox are reportedly close to making their signings of right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura and utilityman Marwin Gonzalez official.

Here are some notes on each of those players’ situations regarding their pending contracts with Boston.

Hirokazu Sawamura: According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Sawamura’s deal with the Red Sox is good for $3 million over two years with a “conditional and complex” option for a potential third year. The contract could also grow to $7.65 million over three years thanks to performance bonuses and escalators.

Sankei Sports of Japan originally reported last week that Sawamura had reached agreement on a two-year deal with Boston worth $2.4 million.

The 32-year-old righty (33 in April) has spent the entirety of his professional career, which dates back to 2011, pitching in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball Organization.

Most recently, Sawamura split the 2020 season between the Yomiuri Giants and Chiba Lotte Marines. And while he was not particularly sharp with Yomiuri, the 6-foot, 212 lb. hurler turned things around for the better upon arriving in Chiba City via a midseason trade.

Over 22 appearances and 21 innings pitched out of the Marines bullpen, Sawamura dazzled by posting a 1.71 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while striking out nearly three times as many hitters as he walked (29:10 K:BB ratio).

Working with a four-seam fastball that sits anywhere from 94-99 mph, a whiff-inducing split-finger fastball, and a so-so slider, Sawamura figures to play a key role in Boston’s bullpen puzzle in 2021.

“Multiple evaluators saw Sawamura as at least a seventh-inning reliever, a pitcher who alternately dominates the strike zone with elite stuff and then loses the strike zone completely,” The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote of Sawamura on February 10. “Still, based on his peaks in the NPB, there’s a chance for an even more prominent late-innings role.”

Marwin Gonzalez: Earlier Monday, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo tweeted that Gonzalez is getting a straight-up, one-year deal with Boston worth $3 million for the 2021 season. No options or anything of the sort, though he could earn an additional $1.1 million in performance bonuses based off number of plate appearances.

That, of course, would take the total value of the contract up to $4.1 million.

Cotillo adds that Gonzalez, who turns 32 next month, is expected to arrive in Fort Myers for his physical at some point this week, though poor weather conditions in the southern part of the United States (i.e. Texas) may delay his arrival.

Once he does make his way to the Fenway South complex and passes his physical, though, Gonzalez’s deal with the Sox will become official.

As noted by Cotillo, the former Astro and Twin could be “slated for significant work in the outfield while also serving as a left-handed hitting complement to Bobby Dalbec at first base” in the wake of the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons with Minnesota, Gonzalez slashed .248/.311/.387 with 20 home runs and 77 RBI in 167 total games played while seeing time at every defensive position besides pitcher, catcher, and centerfield.

The versatile Venezuelan’s best year in the majors came with Houston in 2017, when he clubbed a career-best 23 homers and drove in 90 RBI over 134 games.

He finished 19th in American League MVP voting that year, and will now be reunited with his former bench coach in Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

In order for the Red Sox to make the additions of Sawamura and Gonzalez official, they will need to find a way to clear two spots on their 40-man roster, which is currently at full capacity.

(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Sports Nippon/Getty Images)

Red Sox make Martín Pérez re-signing official, designate right-hander Chris Mazza for assignment

Nearly a full month after reaching an agreement with him, the Red Sox announced on Friday that they have brought back left-hander Martin Perez on a one-year contract for the 2021 season that includes a club option for 2022.

In order to make room for Perez on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox also designated right-hander Chris Mazza for assignment on Friday.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported back in January that Perez, 30 in April, will earn a base salary of $4.5 million this season and will have the opportunity to earn $6 million in 2022 if his club option is picked up.

If not, Perez will net himself $500,000 in the form of a buyout, so he is guaranteed to make $5 million regardless of what happens next winter. His deal also includes incentives based on number of innings pitched in 2021 and 2022.

The 29-year-old hurler is a few months removed from a solid 2020 campaign with the Red Sox in which he posted a 4.50 ERA and 4.88 FIP over 12 starts and 62 innings pitched in his first go-around in Boston.

Don’t let those numbers fool you, though, because outside of two poor outings against the Orioles on July 25 and September 24, Perez proved to be one of the Sox’ most consistent starters last year by putting up a 3.57 ERA and .686 OPS against in 10 starts (53 innings) from July 30 through September 18.

The Red Sox originally inked the Venezuelan international to a one-year pact that also included a $6.25 million team option back in December 2019, but went on to decline that option this past November.

At the time, Perez was rather dismayed by that decision, but he did not give up hope that he might be able to re-sign with the club this winter.

“I was disappointed at one point,” he said when speaking with reporters via Zoom earlier Friday evening. “But at the same time, I told my agent, ‘I want to wait because I know they’re trying to make a lot of moves.’ And I want to wait because all offseason, my mind was in Boston — my heart too. I felt good last year. I enjoyed the short season that we played, and I especially enjoyed the fans and how they texted me after games. You guys, too, do a great job for me. That’s why I always told my agent, ‘I want to be back. I just want to wait and let’s see what they got for me.’ And finally, we made the deal and now I’m back.”

Given his return to Boston’s pitching staff, Perez figures to open the 2021 season as the Sox’ No. 2 or No. 3 starter depending on how things play out at spring training. He joins a mix of arms vying for rotation spots that consists of Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathen Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, Tanner Houck, Matt Andriese, and Garrett Whitlock.

Moving on to Mazza now, the 31-year-old was designated for assignment by the Sox a little under 14 months after originally being claimed off waivers from the Mets in late December 2019.

Starting the 2020 season at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, Mazza made his Red Sox debut on August 1 and went on to produce a 4.80 ERA and 4.26 FIP over nine appearances, six of which were starts, and 30 innings of work in three separate stints with the team.

The Red Sox now have a week to either trade, release, or sneak Mazza through waivers, though it doesn’t seem too crazy for another team to put in a waiver claim for the California native considering the fact he still has one minor-league option remaining for 2021.

With this transaction completed, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is at full capacity, which means two spots still need to be cleared so that Hirokazu Sawamura and Marwin Gonzalez can be added sooner rather than later.

That will be something to monitor as the start of major-league camp draws closer (February 18).

(Picture of Martin Perez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox reach agreement with veteran utilityman Marwin González on one-year deal, per report

The Red Sox and veteran utilityman Marwin Gonzalez have agreed to a one-year contract, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Per Feinsand, Gonzalez will earn $3 million in 2021 with the chance to earn a little over $1 million more in incentives.

Gonzalez, who turns 33 next month, is coming off a 2020 season with the Twins in which he posted a .211/.286/.320 slash to go along with five home runs and 22 RBI over 53 games (199 plate appearances).

The Red Sox were known to be in the market for a left-handed bat that could potentially complement the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec at first base, and Gonzalez, a switch-hitter certainly fits that mold.

The Venezuelan has proven to be quite versatile over the course of his nine year major-league career with the Astros and Twins, as he has seen time at every defensive position minus pitcher and catcher.

Most recently, as a member of the Twins from 2019-2020, Gonzalez appeared in 35 games at first base, 22 at second base, 63 at third base, one at shortstop, 18 in left field, zero in center field, and 52 in right field. He also served as a designated hitter, pinch-hitter, and pinch-runner in his time with Minnesota.

Given the fact he spent the first seven years of his big-league career — including 2017 — in Houston, Gonzalez is obviously already familiar with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as the ‘Stros’ bench coach that year.

The reported addition of Gonzalez comes less than two weeks after the Enrique Hernandez signing was made official, so Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. appear intent on having as versatile team as possible.

As currently constructed, Boston’s 40-man roster is at full capacity, so the club will need to make a flurry of moves in order to officially add the likes of Gonzalez, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Martin Perez.

Also, this is not Gonzalez’s first time with the Red Sox. He spent less than one full day with the team back in December 2011 after being selected from the Cubs in the major-league phase of that year’s Rule 5 Draft before promptly getting traded to the Astros for Marco Duarte.

(Picture of Marwin Gonzalez: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

Michael Chavis’ chances of making the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster appear slim at the moment

Michael Chavis’ chances of making the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster this year are, at the moment, slim. So slim that MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo wrote earlier Friday that “at present, it would be an upset for Chavis to make the Opening Day roster, even if the Red Sox can carry 26 players.”

The 25-year-old is coming off a dismal 2020 season in which he posted a .212/.259/.377 slash line to go along with five home runs, 19 RBI, and 50 strikeouts over 42 games (158 plate appearances).

Since getting his big-league career off to a roaring start in the spring of 2019, Chavis has cooled down considerably, even while getting the opportunity to play multiple defensive positions.

As noted by Cotillo, the Georgia native split time between first and second base during his rookie season, lost out on the starting job at second base to Jose Peraza last summer, platooned with Mitch Moreland at first base for a time, and ultimately got some playing time in the outfield thanks to the emergences of Christian Arroyo and Bobby Dalbec.

In somewhat of a utility role during the closing stages of the 2020 campaign, Chavis did not do anything to distinguish himself — offensively or defensively — and things have not gotten any easier for him since then.

That being the case because earlier this week, the Red Sox officially signed Enrique Hernandez, another right-handed hitter who can play around the infield and outfield, to a two-year, $14 million contract.

Hernandez, Cotillo writes, “will likely get the lion’s share of work at second while also having the ability to play the outfield or back up at shortstop or third base.”

This would leave Arroyo, who was claimed off waivers from the Indians in August and showed flashes of potential with Boston in September, as “the primary backup” at second base, and perhaps other infield spots as well.

Seeing how Arroyo and Hernandez, as well as Dalbec and Xander Bogaerts all hit from the right side of the field, it would appear that the Sox are set in terms of rostering right-handed hitting infielders.

Taking that, and the fact that the club is still “in the market for a left-handed bench option with the ability to play first base” to complement Dalbec (Mitch Moreland, Marwin Gonzalez) into consideration, Chavis starts to become obsolete in a way.

If that notion holds true heading into the regular season, there are a number of things the Red Sox could do.

For starters, they could entertain the idea of trading Chavis, though as noted by Cotillo, “teams may be hesitant to give up anything of value for an unproven player with clear holes in his game.” Especially at a time when “so many middle-tier veteran free agents are still available.”

Trading Chavis, Cotillo writes, would also “signal that the Red Sox are giving up on their former first-round pick, meaning the team would admit another development failure in a decade in which those have been far too frequent.”

Boston selected the 5-foot-10, 210 lb. infielder/outfielder with its top selection (26th overall) in the 2014 amateur draft out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Ga.

For the steady pace at which he developed, Chavis does only have 113 career Triple-A plate appearances under his belt, which leads to this next point.

That being, the Red Sox can afford to option Chavis to Triple-A Worcester if they so choose since he still has two minor-league options remaining.

Considering the fact that he is a former first-round pick and was at one point one of the organization’s top prospects, Chavis may be someone you do not want to give up quite yet. Especially since he is still under team control through the 2025 season.

Instead, allowing him to get regular playing time in a less stressful environment while “re-tooling his swing and fine-tuning his defense without the pressure of sticking in the majors” could be in the Red Sox’ best interest moving forward, as Cotillo notes.

Then again, in his tenure as Boston’s chief baseball officer thus far, Chaim Bloom has not shied away from reshuffling the club’s 40-man roster. Far from it, in fact.

This offseason alone, the Sox — whether it be by trade or DFA — have jettisoned approximately 19 players off its 40-man roster (not including Dustin Pedroia, who retired on Monday).

That being said, it would not be shocking to see that Bloom and Co. do not value Chavis to the point where they deem him worthy of a 40-man spot moving forward, and instead attempt to trade him for a non-40-man minor-leaguer — as was the case with Yoan Aybar in December — or designate him for assignment with the intention to sneak him through waivers.

Of course, given what Chavis still has going for him (relatively young, under team control, somewhat versatile), another team would likely try to claim him for themselves if he was placed on waivers.

In that scenario, the Red Sox would be losing Chavis for nothing, but that would probably be a risk they were willing to take if they designated him for assignment in the first place.

As Cotillo writes, Chavis’ “future will be one of the storylines to follow throughout spring training.” Personally, I do not think it would be a bad thing if he started out the season in Worcester, but we will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox have expressed interest in free-agent infielder Travis Shaw, per report

The Red Sox have reportedly expressed interest in free-agent infielder Travis Shaw, according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

Shaw, who turns 31 in April, is coming off a 2020 season with the Blue Jays in which he slashed .239/.306/.411 to go along with six home runs and 17 RBI over 50 games played and 180 plate appearances.

Over the course of those 50 games with Toronto, the Ohio native saw the majority of his playing time come at third base with a little bit of first base, designated hitter, and pinch-hitting duties mixed in there as well.

Earlier this week, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reported that the Sox are “hoping to sign a left-handed hitter who can complement Bobby Dalbec at first base.” And although Cotillo did not specifically mention Shaw in this report, the left-handed hitting infielder certainly fits that mold.

Against right-handed pitching last year, Shaw posted a .710 OPS while clubbing all six of his homers off righties.

For his career, the Kent State product owns a lifetime .247/.338/.465 slash line to go along with 88 home runs and 253 RBI in 1,836 total plate appearances against right-handed pitching.

Shaw, a former 32nd and ninth-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2008 and 2011, spent the first two seasons of his major-league career in Boston before getting dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2016.

In addition to Shaw, the Sox have also expressed interest in a reunion with another familiar face in free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland, per Cotillo.

More versatile free-agent options, such as the switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez and left-handed hitting Brad Miller, may be in the mix as well as Boston looks to solidify its bench in the weeks leading up to the start of spring training.

(Picture of Travis Shaw: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox ‘have had some talks’ with free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland about potential reunion, per report

The Red Sox have ‘had some talks’ with free-agent first baseman Mitch Moreland about a potential reunion, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Cotillo reported over the weekend that the Sox would like to add ‘a left-handed hitting bench bat’ to complement the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec at first base.

Moreland, a left-handed hitter, obviously fits that mold.

The 35-year-old spent 3 1/2 seasons with Boston — signing three separate contracts with the club — from 2017 until August 2020, at which point he was dealt to the San Diego Padres.

Moreland was having a superb year up until that trade, posting a .328/.430/.746 slash line to go along with eight home runs and 21 RBI over 20 games and 73 plate appearances.

That level of production decreased significantly upon Moreland’s arrival in San Diego, but you can make the argument that the Red Sox benefitted immensely from jettisoning one of their hottest players at the plate.

For one, trading Moreland opened up a spot for Dalbec to get called up regularly play first base for the remainder of the 2020 campaign. The 25-year-old rookie went on to crush eight homers himself while collecting 16 RBI in just 23 games (92 PAs) in his first go-around in the majors.

Second, in return for Moreland, Boston received infield prospect Hudson Potts and outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario from San Diego. The two minor-leaguers are currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as top-20 prospects within the Sox’ farm system after both were added to the club’s 40-man roster in November.

Moreland, meanwhile, struggled in his new role with the Padres, as previously mentioned. And even though he did not perform at the highest of levels, it still came as somewhat of a surprise to see the Friars decline the former All-Star’s $3 million club option for the 2021 season this past fall.

So, the Red Sox got two of their better prospects in exchange for a few weeks of Moreland’s services. Not too shabby.

Now that Moreland is once again a free-agent and still remains unsigned, though, a reunion between the two sides certainly seems palpable.

The Gold Glove-caliber first baseman was revered as a clubhouse leader in his time with Boston who was more than capable of coming up in clutch spots when needed.

At this stage of his career, Moreland likely is not looking to be an everyday player, and could even be willing to take a backseat to someone like Dalbec while also DH’ing and coming off the bench in pinch-hitting situations.

If the two were to form some sort of platoon, Moreland does own a lifetime .256/.325/.469 slash line against right-handed pitching.

It also doesn’t hurt that, even before these rumors emerged, the Mississippi State product talked to fellow former Bulldog Hunter Renfroe about what it was like to play in Boston before the newest Red Sox outfielder signed with the club in December.

At the end of the day, whether Moreland returns to the Sox is presumably dependent on A. what his market looks like and B. how the Red Sox front office views him.

Moreland was one of the first free-agents Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom signed to a major-league contract, so there is a connection there.

Moreland’s bond with Red Sox manager Alex Cora cannot be forgotten about, either.

Then again, as Cotillo tweeted, other options — such as Brad Miller and Marwin Gonzalez — are in the mix as well.

(Picture of Mitch Moreland: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox would like to address bench depth by adding left-handed hitter, per report

While the Red Sox continue to fill out their major-league roster, one area of concern they would like to address between now and Opening Day is bench depth, or more specifically, adding a left-handed hitter who could come off the bench, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, it would be ideal if this left-handed bat could complement the right-handed hitting Bobby Dalbec at first base. Among the free-agents who could do this, Cotillo notes that Marwin Gonzalez, Brad Miller, and old friend Mitch Moreland stand out above the rest.

Gonzalez, a switch-hitter, spent the 2020 season with the Twins and played 23 games at third base, 21 games at second base, nine games at first base, and eight games in right field.

When facing right-handed pitching as a left-handed hitter last year, the 31-year-old slashed .209/.295/.357 to go along with five home runs and 16 RBI over 132 plate appearances.

For his career, which spans nine seasons, Gonzalez is a lifetime .261/.321/.411 hitter off of right-handers when hitting from the left side of the batter’s box.

Cotillo linked the Venezuelan-born utilityman to the Sox earlier this month, citing that Boston ‘was in’ on Gonzalez. One reason for this is likely because of the relationship Gonzalez has with Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as the versatile veteran’s bench coach for the Houston Astros in 2017.

Miller, meanwhile, hits strictly from the left side of the plate and is also capable of playing several defensive positions.

Last year with the Cardinals, the 31-year-old played every infield position besides first base, which he has done in the past.

In 48 games (171 plate appearances) with St. Louis, Miller posted a solid .807 OPS while clubbing seven homers and 25 RBI.

Narrowing that down to what he did against right-handed pitching — when he got most of his playing time — in 2020, the Orlando native proved to be quite effective by posting a .240/.364/.464 slash line. Six of his seven home runs on the year came against righties.

Over the course of his eight-year big-league career, Miller owns a lifetime wRC+ of 111 off of right-handed pitching, which pales in comparison to his lifetime wRC+ of 84 off of left-handed pitching.

Unlike Gonzalez, Miller does not have a connection to Cora, but he does have one to Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

That being the case because the former Clemson Tiger spent 2 1/2 seasons with the Rays from 2016 until June 2018, so it’s likely he and Bloom got to know each other a little bit during their time together in Tampa.

On Friday night, Cotillo tweeted that Miller was a guy the Red Sox “are looking at,” so there’s that.

Finally, we arrive at someone who has a connection to both Bloom and Cora in Moreland, who spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Sox on three separate contracts before being dealt to the Padres in late August.

That trade turned out to be a win for Bloom and Co., as they received prospects Hudson Potts and Jeisson Rosario in exchange for Moreland while San Diego declined the 35-year-old’s club option for 2021 in early November.

The move also cleared up a spot for Dalbec to get the call up from the alternate training site and make his major-league debut. It’s safe to say the 25-year-old made the most of that opportunity.

Before said three-player trade went down, Moreland was on an absolute tear to kick off his 2020 campaign in Boston after re-signing with the club in January.

Over the course of 22 games, the Mississippi native slashed a robust .328/.430/.746 in addition to clobbering eight homers and driving in 21 RBI in just 79 plate appearances.

Moreland’s playing time decreased when he arrived in San Diego, as did his on-field performance, but the former All-Star could still prove to be a valuable, veteran addition to the Red Sox if he were willing to embrace a bench role and maybe even mentor Dalbec.

While being limited to just first base, designated hitter, and pinch-hit duties, the left-handed hitting Moreland does carry with him a career OPS of .794 against right-handed pitching.

He was also one of Bloom’s first free-agent signings as Boston’s CBO last January and is lauded as an impact leader and veteran presence by Red Sox players and coaches — Cora included — alike.

Last week, Cotillo wrote that a reunion between Moreland and the Sox cannot be ruled out at this point, so that is also something to monitor.

At the end of the day, it would appear that while the Red Sox may be ready to make Dalbec their everyday first baseman, they do not want to put too much on his plate to at least start off the 2021 campaign.

The power-hitting prospect did well against both lefties and righties in his first go-around in the majors last September, but there remains a a possibility that Boston would like to see him play some third base (his natural position) in addition to first base as well.

In that scenario, if there was a game where the Red Sox wanted to sit Rafael Devers for whatever reason, they could slide Dalbec over to third while Moreland, Miller, Gonzalez, or another free-agent/in-house candidate could man first base in his place.

That is all just speculation, though. We will just have to wait and see what Bloom and Co. actually have in mind for Boston’s infield plans moving forward.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)