Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski wraps up solid spring with 3 strong innings of work against Twins

In what was undoubtedly be his last start of the spring, Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski impressed against the Twins at JetBlue Park on Sunday afternoon.

Making his first start of the Grapefruit League campaign, the 22-year-old right-hander held Minnesota’s lineup — which included the likes of Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, and Byron Buxton — to one earned run on two hits and one walk to go along with one strikeout over three solid innings of work.

That lone Twins tally came on an RBI groundout off the bat of Donaldson in the top half of the third after Willians Astudillo led off the frame with a double and advanced to third on a flyout.

Other than that, Winckowski wrapped up his day by getting Cruz to ground out to short to retire the side in the third.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 51, 33 of which went for strikes, the Ohio native finishes his first spring with the Sox having posted a 3.68 ERA and .154 batting average against over five total appearances spanning 7 1/3 innings pitched.

Boston acquired Winckowski — as well as outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later — in the three-team trade with the Mets and Royals that saw outfielder Andrew Benintendi land in Kansas City last month.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, Winckowski was originally selected by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Estero (Fla.) High School.

He signed with Toronto for $125,000 later that summer and proceeded to put up a 3.35 ERA over 54 appearances (50 starts) and 263 innings of work between rookie-league, Low-A, Class-A, and High-A over the next 3 1/2 seasons.

By that time, Winckowski had emerged as an intriguing prospect within the Jays’ minor-league pipeline, and even after not seeing any in-game at action at all (besides Toronto’s fall instructional league) on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was one of three pitchers the Blue Jays traded to the Mets in January in exchange for left-hander Steven Matz.

Emerging as New York’s 26th-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline in the wake of that trade, Winckowski’s time with the Mets did not last all that long.

As previously mentioned, he, again, was traded — this time to the Red Sox — on February 10, prompting him to jokingly change his Instagram bio to ‘I guess Red Sox.’

Given that he grew up and still resides in the Fort Myers-area, Winckowski going from the Mets to the Sox meant being within closer proximity to his new team’s spring training complex, which led to him captioning his Instagram post reacting to the trade with: ‘Spring training drive won’t be too bad.’

(For what it’s worth, his Instagram bio now reads: ‘Crazy few weeks but I’m pumped to be a Sox.’)

Winckowski arrived at the Red Sox’ Fenway South complex last month as one of 30 initial non-roster invitees at big-league camp. He was ultimately reassigned to the minor-leagues on March 9, but not before leaving a positive first impression on some of his new teammates, like fellow right-hander Matt Barnes.

“I was standing right next to him as he was warming up,” Barnes said about Winckowski following his scoreless outing against the Braves on March 7. “The ball was coming out good. Obviously he had a really good inning. Commanded the ball in the zone. Got ahead of guys, attacked hitters. It looks like he’s got firm, good stuff. It looks like the ball jumps out of his hand — really heavy fastball. That’s what it looks like to me. Obviously I’m not on the other end of it. But watching him from behind in the bullpen warming up and obviously the results speak for themselves in the game today, it looks like he’s got really good stuff.”

Winckowski, who does not turn 23 until June 28, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 33 prospect, ranking 17th among pitchers in the organization.

FanGraphs‘ Eric Longenhagen wrote this about Winckowski back in January, “Winckowski has a chance to pop in 2021 because he was pitching hurt in 2019 and still got guys out. He looked rusty during instructs but was also up to 97 and added a new splitter to an already decent slider.”

Equipped with a fastball, slider, changeup, and slider in total, Winckowski is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, though he could earn a promotion to Triple-A Worcester later in the year depending on how he progresses.

The 2021 campaign could prove to be a pivotal one for Winckowski, as he becomes eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career later on this winter.

The Red Sox will need to add the righty to their 40-man roster on or before November 20 of this year if they do not want to risk losing him to another club in the December draft.

(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: The Athletic’s Alec Lewis joins the show to discuss the Andrew Benintendi trade

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by The Athletic’s Alec Lewis, who covers the Kansas City Royals for the site.

Alec and I mostly talked about the trade between the Red Sox and Royals last week that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City and Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later from K.C. to Boston.

We also discussed how Benintendi will have to adjust to the dimensions at Kauffman Stadium, how Cordero needs to stay healthy as a member of the Sox, and much more.

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Alec for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here, and you can check out his work for The Athletic by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox were originally going to acquire outfield prospect Khalil Lee in Andrew Benintendi trade, flip him to Mets, Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo says

In the three-team trade that sent former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals on Wednesday, Kansas City ended up trading outfield prospect Khalil Lee to the Mets.

As it turns out, though, New York was not originally involved in trade conversations between the Sox and Royals, meaning Boston was going to acquire Lee from Kansas City before flipping him to another team.

Speaking with Quinn Riley of BostonSportsWave.com on Saturday, Royals assistant general manager A.J. Picollo detailed how the three-team swap between his club, the Mets, and Red Sox came to be.

“That was something that the Red Sox had orchestrated themselves, and informed us about a day before the trade that they were probably going to trade Khalil Lee to another team,” Picollo said. “And then as we got down to the last hours before the trade was finalized, they told us that he was going to be going to the New York Mets. Sometimes those three-team deals, all three teams are involved to make it work and in this case, it was really just us and the Red Sox, and then the Red Sox trying to be creative and improve their system. They had the idea that we could maybe trade Khalil Lee and get something else we need and they flipped him to the Mets. So, those deals are always interesting and they come together in different ways.”

Given the information provided by Picollo here, it seems more like the Red Sox traded Benintendi (and $2.8 million of his 2021 salary) to the Royals in exchange for Lee, Franchy Cordero, and two players to be named later, then traded Lee to the Mets in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and one player to be named later.

Just this past Friday, Mets acting general manager — and former Red Sox assistant GM — Zack Scott told reporters that New York acquiring Lee in the first place was more capitalizing on an opportunity as opposed to something that came together more formally.

“It was an opportunity. We didn’t have direct conversations with Kansas City on that,” Scott said. “They were obviously looking for a major-league player to add to their roster, so that wasn’t going to be necessarily where we were going to match up. With my connections to Boston, quite frankly they know that I like Khalil Lee as a prospect from when I was there. He was someone we had talked about, and I knew they liked Khalil Lee as well.

“Just they reached out and asked if there would be interest here, and we were excited and I know our pro scouts here really like the player,” he continued.”[Lee’s] got a lot to like, a lot of tools and athleticism. We like a lot of things about his performance as well. That was how that came about, just that kind of conversation. I believe in being pretty active in talking to other teams because you never know what ideas might come up in those conversations, especially the informal ones. And that was one of those cases.”

Lee, 22, was regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Royals No. 8 prospect.

The former 2016 third-round draft pick spent the entirety of the 2020 season at Kansas City’s alternate training site. In his most recent organized minor-league action, Lee slashed .264/.363/.372 with eight home runs, 51 RBI, and 53 stolen bases over 129 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2019.

Rather than take on Lee in a straight swap with the Royals, the Red Sox, as previously mentioned, opted to flip the speedy outfielder to the Mets in exchange for Winckowski and two additional players to be named later.

Winckowski, 22, posted a 2.69 ERA and .231 batting average against over 24 appearances (23 starts) and 127 1/3 innings pitched between Class-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin in 2019, when he was still a member of the Blue Jays’ organization.

Since that time, the 6-foot-4 righty was not added to Toronto’s 60-man player pool at any point last year and was promptly traded to the Mets along with two other pitchers in exchange for veteran southpaw Steven Matz in late January.

Prior to his being traded to Boston earlier this week, Winckowski had been regarded by MLB Pipeline as New York’s No. 26 prospect.

Because they essentially traded Lee to the Mets for Winckowski and a player to be named later, it seems like there’s a solid chance that PTBNL could be someone significant given Lee’s standing as a sought-after prospect.

That being said, it will likely be a while before the Red Sox decide on which two PTBNLs from the Royals and one PTBNL from the Mets they will be acquiring.

“I don’t want to get into too many specifics on it, but the specific identities of the players are still to be determined,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said late Wednesday night. “We have frameworks in place with the clubs as to how and when we are going to do that. But, there’s not names of the players that we are getting that we are involved with right now.”

The process for trades involving players to be named later can take as long as six months to play out, so it is not like Bloom and Co. will be in a rush to get this done.

As a matter of fact, according to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, the Red Sox have a list of four Royals minor-leaguers to choose from as their players to be named later from Kansas City. After the first month of the minor-league season, they can then choose any two players from that list.

Who will those two players from the Royals — and one from the Mets — be? Only time will tell.

(Picture of Khalil Lee: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi ready to ‘get going’ with Royals, begin next chapter of career

Former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi did not find out he was going to be traded to the Royals until relatively late Tuesday night, but he at least got some heads up about it.

The 26-year-old had been mired in trade rumors for much of the offseason, yet he was able to shut out most of that noise. Tuesday night, however, was a different story.

“I got a call last night from Chaim Bloom, and he said, ‘There’s a good chance you’re going to get traded tonight, so I’ll let you know,’” Benintendi recounted when speaking with the Kansas City media via Zoom earlier Wednesday. “I didn’t know the team, and then I find out it’s the Royals and I’m extremely excited — I’m from the Midwest — going to a Midwest team. So, I’m excited. I’m ready to get there, ready to meet people, build those relationships, and get going.”

Boston officially dealt Benintendi, as well as $2.8 million of his $6.6 million salary for 2021, to Kansas City in exchange for outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later as well as right-handed pitching prospect Josh Wincowski and one player to be named later from the New York Mets.

For Benintendi, the trade comes at an interesting point in his career.

The former 2015 first-round draft pick of the Red Sox has seen his once promising potential dip as of late. Most recently, he managed to collect just four hits in 14 games last year before suffering a season-ending rib injury in August.

“Last year, obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Benintendi said in regards to the pandemic shortened 2020 season. “It was the first time we had ever experienced something like that. I played 13 or 14 games and I broke my ribs, which is unfortunate. Obviously, it’s tough to swing with some broken ribs. But, I’m feeling good now and ready to get going.”

Expanding upon that, Benintendi’s injury, which occurred while he was rounding second base during an August 11 game against the Rays, was originally announced by the Red Sox as a right rib cage strain.

“I tripped around my own feet going around second base,” he said. “It was a rib strain, but there were a couple fractures. But, I’m feeling great now. Feel back to 100%.”

In being moved to a market like Kansas City, there is a level of comfort involved here for Benintendi, and it’s not just because of the city’s proximity to Nashville and his home state of Ohio or its quality barbecue.

For one, the former Arkansas Razorback is already quite familiar with Royals manager Mike Matheny. That being the case because Matheny’s son, Tate, was also drafted by the Red Sox in 2015, so the two played their rookie ball together with the Lowell Spinners.

“I’m extremely excited to be playing for him,” Benintendi said of the ex-Cardinals skipper. “I’ve known Tate since I was drafted. In 2015, we were in Lowell together in rookie ball for the Red Sox. And I also lived in St. Louis for a number of offseasons, so I got to know them pretty well. I’m excited going into this that I have somewhat of a relationship with Mike and having some familiarity. So, I’m excited to play for him.”

Adding on to that, Kauffman Stadium is a ballpark Benintendi has enjoyed success at in his time with the Red Sox. For his career, the left-handed hitter owns a lifetime .485/.564/.848 slash line to go go along with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, and three RBI at ‘The K.’

“Obviously it’s a lot different than Fenway,” Benintendi said of the Royals’ ballpark. “Left field, you have a lot more room to run out there, which I’m excited about. I always love playing there and something about it, I feel like I see the ball well. So, it’s exciting. It’s a big field. I feel like I’m a gap-to-gap kind of hitter and obviously those gaps there are pretty big, so we’ll see if we can run a little bit.”

While getting the chance to “run a little bit” for a new team, Benintendi is also hoping to show that the Royals made a smart decision in trading for him and the Red Sox made an unwise decision in letting him go.

“It’s nice to be wanted,” the 5-foot-9, 180 lb. outfielder said. “I feel like there’s a sense of pride for me. I want to go perform well, obviously, and show them it was worth the trade. I want to go play well for the fans and the organization. I’m excited and it’s nice to be wanted.”

Even while saying that, Benintendi will still cherish what he did with the Red Sox, highlighted by winning the World Series in 2018, for the rest of his career.

“They drafted me, and I’ll always have that connection with Boston,” he eloquently stated. “2018 is a tough one not to mention. That year was unbelievable. Most of all, it’s the relationships I’ve had with teammates, coaches, things like that. You get to meet a lot of people in this game and some of the relationships I had there, I’ll have forever. It’s something I’ll take with me.”

Taking those experiences with the Red Sox and what he learned from them to Kansas City, Benintendi is certainly open to the idea of becoming a player his new teammates can lean on for information if the occasion arises.

“If guys have questions or anything like that, I’m an open book about it,” he said. “If they want to bounce questions or anything like that off me, I’d be more than happy to share those experiences and whatever it takes.”

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox officially trade Andrew Benintendi to Royals as part of three-team deal with Mets that sends Franchy Cordero, Josh Winckowski to Boston

The Red Sox have officially dealt Andrew Benintendi as well as cash considerations to the Royals as part of a three-team trade that also involves the Mets, the club announced Wednesday night.

In return for Benintendi and those cash considerations, Boston will be getting back outfielder Franchy Cordero as well as two players to be named later from Kansas City.

On top of that, the Mets are sending right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later to the Sox, as they receive outfield prospect Khalil Lee from the Royals.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Red Sox will be sending approximately $2.6 million in cash considerations to the Royals.

Benintendi, 26, was set to earn $6.6 million in 2021, so as Feinsand puts it, the $2.6 million Boston is sending Kansas City will help cover for that.

A veteran of five major-league seasons, Benintendi is coming off a dismal 2020 campaign in which he went 4-for-39 (.103 batting average) at the plate with one extra-base hit and one RBI over 14 games before a right rib cage strain prematurely ended his year in August.

The Cincinnati native had been mired in trade rumors as recently as last month, but those talks died down some and it appeared as though Benintendi would make it to spring training still a member of the Red Sox.

As it turns out, though, Benintendi has indeed been traded to the Royals, a team that ranked 11th in the American League in outfield WAR (2.1) last season, per FanGraphs.

Since the time he was selected with the seventh overall pick by Boston out of the University of Arkansas in 2015, there were instances where it seemed like Benintendi could emerge as a ‘face of the franchise’ type of player.

The left-handed hitting outfielder breezed through the minors, made his major-league debut in August 2016, finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017, and was nearly an All-Star in 2018.

From that point on, though, it’s fair to say Benintendi has been trending in the wrong direction and not living up to his former top prospect potential, which presumably played a role leading up to Wednesday’s decision despite the fact he is still under team control for two more seasons.

Perhaps a change of scenery will do Benintendi well. He does own a lifetime .485/.564/.848 slash line in eight career games (39 plate appearances) at Kauffman Stadium, after all.

As for the five players the Sox got in return for Benintendi (and cash), only two — Cordero, Winckowski — of them are known at this point, while the other three are players to be named later.

Cordero, 26, is a left-handed hitter like Benintendi.

The Dominican native has spent the past four seasons with the Royals and Padres, most recently accruing a .211/.286/.447 slash to go along with two home runs and seven RBI over 16 games for Kansas City in 2020.

A former top prospect of the Friars, Cordero is known for his power and speed, an interesting combination that leads the outfielder to best be described as “toolsy as hell,” as ESPN’s Jeff Passan put it.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 226 lbs, Cordero has experience playing all three outfield positions, though he has played in just 95 games since making his major-league debut in May 2017.

Given his lack of experience, it should be interesting to see how the Sox plan on rolling out Cordero to begin the 2021 season. He joins an outfield mix that currently consists of Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe. One of the organization’s top outfield prospects, Jarren Duran, could get some consideration as well.

Turning to Winckowski now, the 22-year-old righty was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of Estero High School, which is not terribly far away from Fort Myers, in Florida.

The 6-foot-4, 202 lb. hurler compiled a 2.69 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 24 outings (23 starts) and 127 1/3 innings pitched between Class-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin in 2019.

Winckowski was not included in the Jays’ 60-man player pool at any point last year, but he was part of the trade package that sent southpaw Steven Matz from New York to Toronto in late January.

Following that trade, which involved four players in total, Winckowski had been regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Mets’ No. 26 prospect.

Per FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, Winckowski “has a chance to pop in 2021 because he was pitching hurt in 2019 and still got guys out. He looked rusty during instructs but was also up to 97 and added a new splitter to an already decent slider.”

The three players to be named later the Red Sox acquired from the Royals and Mets in this deal will, obviously, be revealed at a later date. The clubs have six months to agree upon which players will be sent to Boston.

With that in mind, @RedSoxStats makes a good point in that the Sox may want to scout players from the Royals’ and Mets’ system before making up their minds regarding who those three PTBNLs will be.

Also, for what it’s worth, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. made this transaction on the one-year anniversary of the Mookie Betts trade being made official, so there’s that.

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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)

Might Red Sox consider adding George Springer if free-agent outfielder remains unsigned going into spring training?

Alongside the likes of Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto, outfielder George Springer remains one of the top free-agents still on the market.

The 31-year-old is coming off a 2020 season with the Astros in which he posted a .265/.359/.540 slash to go along with 14 home runs and 32 RBI over 51 games played, which was enough to finish 13th in American League MVP voting.

While there have not been too many definitive rumblings as to where Springer could land this offseason, it is apparent that the Blue Jays and the Mets are pursuing the three-time All-Star the hardest.

That being the case because according to The Athletic’s Jayson Stark, “indications are [Toronto’s] No. 1 free-agent priority is still center fielder George Springer.”

MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi, meanwhile, notes that Springer “has drawn the most significant interest from the Blue Jays and Mets” and “the 31-year-old is said to have a preference to play near his home state of Connecticut.”

Given that reported preference, Springer — a UCONN product — would seem more likely to lean towards signing with the Mets, although New York might be limited in what they can do now in order to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold.

As SNY’s Andy Martino wrote on Friday, “Once the Mets traded for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco last week, their pursuit of Springer downshifted significantly, according to people involved in the talks.”

Martino also reports that Springer, who does not turn 32 until September, has a five-year deal on the table from the Blue Jays worth anywhere from $115 million to $125 million.

Assuming what has already been reported is true, it does not seem like the two-time Silver Slugger will remain on the open market for too much longer.

That being said, the possibility still remains that Springer could remain unsigned going into the start of spring training, as has been the case with past coveted free-agents such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in 2019.

In that scenario, it might not be too crazy for a team that has not been seriously linked to the right-handed hitting, 6-foot-3, 221 lb. outfielder to this point, like the Red Sox for instance, to explore a potential deal there.

Of course, any team outside of the Astros that signs Springer would have to forfeit a second-round draft pick as well as $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money due to the fact that Houston extended a qualifying offer, which was later rejected, to its former first-round draft pick in November.

Even with that caveat in mind, though, the Sox could at least consider negotiating with Springer if he is still a free agent come mid to late-February.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo discussed that possibility with MLB.com’s Ian Browne and The Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam on the latest installment of the Fenway Rundown podcast.

“I think if the bottom falls out of this George Springer market, and he is unsigned into spring training, which it feels like the Mets aren’t going there, the Blue Jays are a lot of talk and not a lot of action like another team we know… If the bottom really falls out of that, I think [the Red Sox] will legitimately consider whether it’s worth giving up a second-round pick for him. He might be the one exception to that rule there,” Cotillo said.

“He has the talent of somebody you would give up a second-round pick for. That would justify cheaping out on some of these other guys if they go out and get George Springer,” Browne added.

“He solves a ton of problems. He gives you an above-average defender in center — I don’t think he’s equal to [Jackie Bradley Jr.] but he’s good — but more importantly…he’s a terrific leadoff option. So you don’t have to worry about, in the event that [Andrew] Benintendi somehow stayed, putting [Benintendi] there since he’s not crazy about it. [Alex] Verdugo, I think, has made it well known that while he’ll do it, he’d prefer to hit lower. So it takes care of your leadoff guy.

“And as we know, Springer has shown himself to be a fabulous October player. He’s had a ton of experience on the big stage with Houston the last four years. So, presumably, if someone can do that in the big moment in October, then playing in Boston with expectations would not be anything that would rattle him. Of course, he’s got a New England background having gone to UCONN,” said McAdam.

“And Alex Cora. There are some damaged relationships from all the fallout of the Astros’ scandal. That’s not one of them. Alex has said that he communicates with Springer pretty frequently, so that won’t be an issue,” concluded Cotillo.

So, even though Queens may be slightly closer to New Britain, Conn. — Springer’s hometown — than Boston, it’s probably fair to say that the Red Sox, with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom at the helm, cannot be ruled out of the Springer sweepstakes at this point in time.

If push were to come to shove within the next few weeks, then perhaps former UCONN right-hander turned Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, who was teammates with Springer on the Huskies baseball team from 2009-2011, would be willing to do some recruiting as well.

(Picture of George Springer: Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

New Mets star Francisco Lindor grew up watching Red Sox ‘a lot’ in Puerto Rico; Could Boston be in play for shortstop’s services next winter?

Growing up in Puerto Rico, new Mets star shortstop Francisco Lindor did not have too many options when it came to watching specific Major League Baseball teams on television.

Star players from the island — such as Roberto Alomar and Carlos Delgado –took precedence, but among the 30 major-league clubs out there, Lindor’s options were really whittled down to just a handful of teams: the Braves, Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Marlins, and last but not least, the Red Sox.

Surrounded by fans infatuated with the Bronx Bombers, the young Lindor opted to follow their biggest rivals at the time in the Red Sox.

“In Puerto Rico, back in the day, they weren’t showing every team,” the27-year-old explained on SNY following his introductory press conference earlier Monday. “They were showing the Atlanta Braves, they would show the Dodgers, they would show the Yankees, Boston, the Marlins when they had Ivan Rodriguez, the Mets when they started getting players from Puerto Rico.

“So, Boston was a team that I watched a lot,” he continued. “Because everybody was [for the] Yankees in Puerto Rico, so it was like ‘All right, I got to pick something to have the rebuttal. So, that was one of the teams that I watched.”

In addition to the Red Sox, Lindor also watched quite a bit of the Mets, the organization he now plays for. However, in citing the players from old Mets teams he enjoyed to watch, the four-time All-Star mentioned former big-league infielder and current Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Cora, about to embark upon his second stint as Sox skipper, served as Lindor’s general manager for Team Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The pair of Puerto Ricans share a very close bond, as evidenced by the former Indians star likening Cora to his “big brother” in 2019.

Even with that close bond in mind, the Red Sox were never really close to trading for Lindor before Cleveland dealt the star infielder to the Mets in a blockbuster, six-player trade last week.

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported back in November that Boston wouldn’t “prioritize” a trade for the two-time Silver Slugger given their need to allocate resources towards pitching.

The reason Lindor was a trade candidate in the first place is because he is entering his third and final season of arbitration eligibility, meaning he can become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.

That being said, the Mets could very well lock up their new superstar to a lucrative contract extension before that happens. They certainly dealt for him with the intention to do that. Sandy Alderson, New York’s head of baseball operations, even said last week that he expected to talk to Lindor’s representatives about a potential long-term deal relatively soon.

Lindor himself said Monday that he’s open to signing an extension with the Mets to remain in the Big Apple for the foreseeable future, but only if an agreement that makes sense for both sides can be reached before the start of the season.

“I have never negotiated a contract during the season,” he told reporters. “Never. I’ve always said either before spring training, but once it gets to a point in spring training, it’s time to enjoy the ride and focus on winning. That’s the only thing I should be focused on — not how much money do I get, how much money do I need to get for my family. No, it’s about focusing on every day, my task.”

Given his willingness to potentially sign an extension, Lindor is not exactly locked in on hitting the open market this winter. But then again, free agency is definitely something that has been on his mind recently.

“I have never said, ‘I can’t wait to get to free agency,'” stated Lindor. “That was always so far ahead for me… When the negotiations with the Indians weren’t going how we were planning, then it was like, ‘Okay, this at some point might become a reality.’ Either I go to free agency or I get traded. But, if I told you I didn’t think about [free agency] this offseason, I would be lying. Yes, it was on my mind, but I’m happy to be where I am today and we’ll see what happens.”

When it comes down to it, Lindor’s situation resembles that of former Red Sox sensation Mookie Betts from over the summer.

Having just been traded from the Sox to the Dodgers in February, Betts opted to sign a record-breaking 12-year, $365 million extension with Los Angeles in July before even playing a game for the team.

Betts agreeing to that extension came at a time when the 28-year-old had already publicly stated he was intent on reaching free agency, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic likely changed his mind.

Taking into account the financial constraints that have been placed on clubs as a result of said pandemic, Lindor may opt to follow Betts and agree to a deal with the Mets before suiting up for them.

New York, with owner Steve Cohen now at the helm, has shown a willingness to spend after all, and re-upping a bona fide talent such as Lindor would certainly be money well spent.

Having written all this, I did think it was interesting that Lindor brought up the Red Sox in his presser earlier Monday.

Given the connection to Cora, as well as the fact that Boston’s current shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, can opt out of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the 2022 season, I feel like the Sox can’t be ruled out on Lindor as long as he doesn’t commit to the Mets for the long-term.

In other words, under the assumption that Lindor heads into next winter as a free agent, which I should add is unlikely, I have to assume that the Red Sox will to some extent be in play for his services next winter.

Even as I type that out, whatever is in store for the Red Sox all depends on what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have in mind for the time being. I will leave it at that.

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

Could Red Sox Welcome Soon-To-Be Free Agent Stephen Gonsalves Back in 2021?

Excluding position players, 27 different pitchers took the mound for the Red Sox in 2020. Left-hander Stephen Gonsalves was not one of them.

The 26-year-old was claimed off waivers by Boston from the Mets early in the season and was subsequently optioned to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, where he remained on the Sox’ 40-man roster up until August 19.

At that point, Gonsalves was designated for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for veteran right-hander Andrew Triggs.

A week went by and Gonsalves went unclaimed, which resulted in his being outrighted to Pawtucket.

As he spent the final few weeks of his 2020 campaign working out at McCoy Stadium, the San Diego native was actually very impressive, which is important when you consider the fact that he will become a minor-league free agent this winter. Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom last week.

“Gonsalves is a guy that can make an impact next year if we bring him back,” Abbott said. “I know he’s a minor-league free agent. His velo went from 89-90 mph — and he already had a highly rated fastball that had some carry — the velo jumped up to 94-96 mph. He got better as we went along and I know he was close to getting an opportunity because they brought him up there.”

A former fourth-round pick of the Twins out of high school in 2013, Gonsalves only has seven major-league outings under his belt. In those seven appearances, four of which were starts, towards the end of the 2018 season, the one-time University of San Diego commit posted a 6.57 ERA and .822 OPS against over 24 2/3 innings pitched.

At the start of the 2019 campaign, Gonsalves suffered an elbow strain in April and a stress reaction to that same elbow in May, which resulted in the former top prospect accruing just 13 innings of work across three minor-league levels last year prior to ultimately getting designated by Minnesota in November.

Since joining the Red Sox organization over the summer, Gonsalves obviously has not had the chance to showcase himself in any real, meaningful games. But, as Abbott mentioned, an uptick in the 6-foot-5 southpaw’s fastball velocity could mesh well with his other three pitches — changeup, slider, curveball — moving forward.

With that being said, in addition to how highly Abbott spoke of him, Gonsalves may be someone the Red Sox look to bring back early on in free agency this offseason.

Assuming he is brought back by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. on a minor-league deal, Gonsalves could prove to be an interesting hurler to monitor during spring training next year given the fact he has experience as both a starter and reliever.

Right-Hander Chris Mazza to Make First Career Start for Red Sox on Sunday Night

Right-hander Chris Mazza will make his first career major-league start for the Red Sox in Sunday night’s game against the Yankees, manager Ron Roenicke announced Saturday.

Per Roenicke, Mazza’s last outing at Yankee Stadium, in which he tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings of relief on August 1, factored into this decision.

The 30-year-old hurler allowed just one hit, walked two, and fanned three in what was his Red Sox debut earlier this month, but he was promptly optioned back to the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket on August 6 when roster sizes across baseball had to be reduced from 30 to 28 players.

That being said, a roster move will have to be made in order to add Mazza back to the active roster, which is exactly what Roenicke said would happen earlier in the week.

Prior to being claimed off waivers by the Red Sox from the Mets back in December, Mazza made 17 total starts between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse last season. With Syracuse, the California native posted a 3.77 ERA and .234 batting average against over 13 starts and 74 innings of work.

By going with Mazza for Sunday night’s contest, Roenicke and Co. “are trying to be a little bit more specific” in terms of managing the club’s starting rotation. Through Boston’s first 20 games of the season, 10 different starting pitchers have already been used.

Following Mazza’s start on Sunday, the Red Sox will turn to left-hander Martin Perez on Monday to close out this series against New York before going with Zack Godley and rookie Kyle Hart in next week’s two-game set against the Phillies back at Fenway Park.

When asked about the struggles his pitching staff has endured so far this season, Roenicke acknowledged that it is certainly “more difficult to manage” when you don’t have five definitive starting pitchers and that the 2019 Red Sox “kind of went through the same thing.”

With that in mind, it’s Nathan Eovaldi getting the ball for the Sox on Saturday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 p.m. eastern time on FOX and WEEI.