Red Sox Sign Former Cardinals Utilityman Yairo Muñoz to Minor-League Deal

The Red Sox have signed former Cardinals utilityman Yairo Munoz to a minor-league deal, according to Major League Baseball’s official transaction wire. He was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday.

Munoz, 25, was released by St. Louis earlier this month after he “left the team” and “flew home” without ever contacting the Cardinals. His agent apparently told the club that his client was frustrated with his role, something Cards manager Mike Shildt said on multiple occasions last season.

According to The Athletic’s Mark Saxon, that frustration did not hamper Munoz’s chances of making the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster this year, as Shildt told him that the Dominican Republic native had an “inside track” to landing a roster spot.

That vote of confidence did not stop Munoz from receiving his unconditional release from St. Louis though, and less than three full weeks after essentially excusing himself from the Cardinals, he has joined the Red Sox on a minor-league deal for the 2020 season.

Originally signed by the Athletics as an international free agent out of the DR back in 2012, Munoz was part of the trade that sent outfielder Stephen Piscotty to Oakland in December 2017.

The former top prospect is capable of playing second base, third base, and shortstop, as well as all three outfield positions. That sort of versatility is something the Red Sox have seemed to value immensely lately.

In 88 games with the Cardinals last season, Munoz slashed .267/.298/.355 with two home runs and 13 RBI. That rather underwhelming performance for Munoz was coming off an impressive rookie campaign where he posted an OPS+ of 109 over 108 games in 2018.

Munoz still has five years of team control remaining and is not arbitration eligible until the 2021 season.

If baseball is played in 2020, Munoz could provide the Red Sox with solid infield and maybe even outfield depth at the Triple-A level.

Red Sox Minor-Leaguer Tests Positive for COVID-19, Club Shuts Down Fenway South Complex for at Least Two Weeks

A Red Sox minor-league player has tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Tuesday night.

Per a team spokesman, that player tested positive and received the results of the test on Monday, eight days after he had last been at the Red Sox’ facility in Fort Myers.

That player is now recovering and “doing well” at home, and the Red Sox believe that it is “more likely” he contracted COVID-19 upon departing from Fort Myers last week.

With this news though, the Fenway South complex will now be shut down for at least the next two weeks, effective immediately. During that time, the facility, JetBlue Park included, will undergo a deep cleaning.

Some Red Sox players were still using the facilities at Fenway South to continue their workouts even after spring training was suspended by Major League Baseball. Those players will now have to find somewhere else to work out.

The Red Sox also advised any player or staff member who came into contact with the aforementioned minor-leaguer who tested positive for the virus to self-quarantine for the next two weeks.

Although this Red Sox minor-leaguer has yet to be identified, he is now the third known professional baseball player to test positive for COVID-19 after two Yankees minor-leaguers tested positive earlier in the month.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, Team President Sam Kennedy Address Coronavirus Concerns That Led MLB to Delay Start of Season

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as well as general manager Brian O’Halloran and team president Sam Kennedy, spoke in depth Friday on where Major League Baseball is headed in the wake of the remainder of spring training being suspended and the start of the 2020 season being pushed back at least two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Earlier Friday, the league made it official that major-league players have the freedom to either remain at their club’s spring training facility, return to their club’s city, or go home themselves at their own discretion.

In a meeting between Red Sox executives, coaches, and players on Friday, Bloom and Co. echoed that same sentiment.

“We’ve just gotten word, and are getting the word out to our players, that since starting to discuss this, it’s been agreed that now our players can leave should they choose to, and go home or go wherever they need to go,” Bloom said in a conference call. “We’re trying to make sure that happens in a safe and orderly manner. We’re working on that as we speak. For players who want to stay here, we will have the facility available to them.”

The Sox have yet to gather a headcount on which players will be staying and which players will be leaving, but despite no official word from the league, they gave their minor-league players the same option as well. Although remaining in Fort Myers may be the most ideal route for them to take due to financial restrictions.

“We recognize, especially as we get into the population of minor leaguers, this may be the best option for them,” Bloom stated. “And we want to make sure that is a good option.”

Typically, the weeks leading up to April involve the movement of dozens of players, major and minor-league alike, in numerous transactions between clubs. But, with the United States now being in a state of national emergency and all, rosters may become frozen for the time being. Or in other words, no roster moves will be allowed until Major League Baseball can resume baseball activities. Nothing has been made official regarding this matter as of now, but Bloom did say that, “We are fully prepared that the next several days will include new information.”

There is also a possibility that rosters could be expanded from 26 players once the 2020 season does start to make up for less preparation time, although, according to Bloom, “There is no indication right now that anything will change.”

Because there is no definite date for a new Opening Day outside of April 9th, which is unlikely to happen, there’s a very real chance that additional spring training games will need to take place once the league resumes in order for players to up their workload once more.

“The short answer is, we don’t know,” Bloom said in regard to a later addition of spring training games. “We don’t have enough of a sense of what this will look like when we start up again.”

Regarding that point about players needing to increase their workload before the season starts, one thing that makes this outbreak-induced delay so challenging is that we simply don’t know when regular season baseball will be back.

As The Athletic’s Chad Jennings notes, “Bloom pointed out that spring training buildup is usually based upon working backward from a known point in time. Opening Day is usually on a specific date, and so players work to be ready on that exact day.

Right now, baseball has no idea when Opening Day will be, so there’s no working backward. The issue of building and sustaining is particularly tricky for pitchers as teams try to find a balance between sustaining their current status and not overworking for a start date that might be far, far down the road.”

How teams will prepare with no set Opening Day date in sight will be interesting to see, and according to Bloom, it will be “one of the tougher questions that I think every club is going to have to answer.”

Turning to some positive news, no Red Sox player has yet to test positive for coronavirus, and the club has even set up their own task force to deal with issues surrounding the virus, per Kennedy.

For the time being, JetBlue Park and the entire Fenway South complex will remain closed to the media and the public through Sunday, while all Fenway Park employees outside of stadium security have been told to work from home.

Fenway Park will also undergo a three-day cleaning starting Saturday morning where “every square inch [of the park] will be disinfected and cleaned,” Kennedy said.

In times like these, baseball takes a back seat as there are more pressing matters at hand. It may stink now, but baseball and the Red Sox will be back eventually.

 

Red Sox’ Tzu-Wei Lin Pulled From Tuesday’s Game Against Yankees Due to Left Hamstring Tightness

Red Sox utilityman Tzu-Wei Lin was pulled after the first inning of Tuesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the New York Yankees due to left hamstring tightness, the team announced.

Lin started in center field for Boston in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, played the entirety of the bottom half of the first inning, which was rather lengthy, and was subsequently replaced by Cole Sturgeon in the top half of the second.

The cause of Lin’s tight hamstring is not yet known, but the 26-year-old had gotten his spring off to an impressive start, slashing .412/.474/.471 with one double, one RBI, and one stolen base through his first 19 plate appearances entering Tuesday.

Entering his seventh full season with the Red Sox organization after signing as an international free agent out of Taiwan back in June 2012, Lin finds himself without any minor-league options remaining on his current contract, meaning he has to make the big-league club out of spring training if he does not want to be exposed to waivers.

With rosters expanding to 26 players this year, Lin has plenty of factors, like his versatility, working in his favor, so hopefully this hamstring injury does not sideline him for too long. I’m sure interim manager Ron Roenicke will provide an update at the conclusion of Tuesday’s contest.

Looking at Red Sox Players Who Are out of Minor-League Options

With Red Sox spring training underway and full-squad workouts scheduled to begin next week, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the players who need to make Boston’s Opening Day roster this year.

Granted, these following players on the Sox’ 40-man roster don’t HAVE to make the Opening Day roster, but if they do not, they will be exposed to waivers since they are out of minor-league options.

The following players have been excluded from this list despite also not having any minor-league options remaining on their current contracts.

Juan Centeno
Jett Bandy
Cesar Puello
Brian Johnson
Mike Kickham

That is the case because they are not on the 40-man roster. On to the main event…

Kevin Plawecki

Signed to a one-year, $900,000 major-league deal last month, the soon-to-be-29-year-old backstop will primarily serve as Christian Vazquez’s backup this season.

Thanks to a lack of significant catching depth, Plawecki should be a lock to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster regardless of how he performs this spring.

The ex-Met and Indian slashed .222/.287/.342 with three home runs and 17 RBI over 59 games for Cleveland last season.

Heath Hembree

The 31-year-old right-hander has been a consistent mainstay in the Sox’ bullpen for the past three seasons, yet injury concerns last year seemed to peg Hembree as a potential non-tender candidate back in December.

The Red Sox decided not to go that route though, and instead paid him $1.61 million in his penultimate season of arbitration eligibility.

With plenty of other names vying for a spot in Boston’s bullpen out of spring training, Hembree could see himself competing for a spot depending on how he fares in the coming weeks.

Austin Brice

Acquired from the Marlins for infield prospect Angeudis Santos last month, Brice is not yet arbitration eligible.

The 27-year-old right-hander posted an ERA of 3.43 and FIP of 4.87 over 36 relief appearances and 44 2/3 innings pitched last season before being designated for assignment by Miami in January.

With a pitch mix that heavily relies on a curveball and four-seam fastball, Brice could offer the Sox with a unique look out of the bullpen at a relative bargain.

Tzu-Wei Lin

Perhaps the most fascinating name on this list, Lin went from a surprise call-up during the middle stages of the 2017 season to someone who is now on the outskirts of the Sox’ 40-man roster.

Lin, who turns 26 on Saturday, dealt with a left knee sprain and a concussion last season, leading to the Taiwan product playing in just 13 games at the big-league level in 2019.

The former international signee offers versatility as both an infielder and outfielder, but with plenty of depth in both areas abound, Lin may struggle to find a spot on Boston’s Opening Day roster this year.

Bonus: Jonathan Arauz

Arauz may not be out of minor-league options like the names listed above, but as a Rule 5 Draft pick out of the Astros organization back in December, the 21-year-old has to stick on the Sox’ 26-man roster throughout the entirety of the 2020 season.

If he does not, he will be offered back to the Astros. So, not exactly the same circumstances as the others, but still someone who would probably like to break camp on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster.

Thanks to RosterResource for providing the information used in this piece.

Red Sox Outright Marco Hernandez to Triple-A Pawtucket After He Clears Waivers

Less than a week after designating him for assignment in order to make room for reliever Austin Brice on the 40-man roster, the Red Sox outrighted utility infielder Marco Hernandez to Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday.

This roster move comes one day after the club dealt another utility piece in Sam Travis to the Texas Rangers in exchange for left-handed reliever Jeffrey Springs.

Like Hernandez, Travis was designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A earlier in the month, so it does not seem out of the realm of possibilities that the 27-year-old could also be traded in the coming weeks if there is any interest.

Returning from a two-year absence in 2019 due to multiple shoulder surgeries, Hernandez slashed .250/.279/.338 with two home runs and 11 RBI over 61 games for Boston last season.

Since Chaim Bloom took over as the Sox’ chief baseball officer last October, the Dominican Republic native has been non-tendered, brought back as a free agent, designated for assignment, and outrighted to the minors in the span of just over a month. Quite the eventful offseason.

Entering his sixth season with the Red Sox organization, Hernandez will look to compete for a spot back on Boston’s 40-man roster once spring training begins, if he is not already traded by then.

Red Sox Outright Sam Travis to Triple-A Pawtucket After He Clears Waivers

One week after he was designated for assignment Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket earlier Thursday, meaning he is now off Boston’s 40-man roster.

The 26-year-old Travis was designated on January 2nd in order to make room on the Sox’ 40-man roster for former Mets and Indians catcher Kevin Plawecki, whom the club signed to a one-year major-league contract earlier that day.

That decision to drop Travis from the 40-man roster more than likely came from the fact that the Illinois native was out of minor-league options headed into the spring and would have had to fight for a spot on Boston’s Opening Day squad.

Now, with Travis neither being traded to or claimed by another club, he will have the chance to provide the Sox with depth at both corner outfield spots as well as first base while in Triple-A.

In a career-high 59 games in 2019, the former 2014 second-round pick slashed .215/.274/.382 with six home runs and 16 RBI.

As MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo notes, Travis will likely still receive an invite to major league camp come February.