Red Sox add right-hander Zac Grotz on minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Zac Grotz to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, according to MLB.com’s transaction wire.

The deal includes an invite to major-league spring training, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Grotz, who turns 28 next month, was originally drafted by the Astros in the 28th round of the 2015 amateur draft out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Shortly after getting drafted, though, Houston released the righty the following April, and it wasn’t until August 2016 when he was picked up by the Dodgers.

Since then, Grotz has spent time with the Dodgers, Mets, and Mariners organizations as well as three independent league teams. He made his major-league debut for Seattle on August 2, 2019.

In 19 appearances out of the Mariners bullpen between the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the California native posted a 7.30 ERA and 6.45 FIP to go along with 22 strikeouts and 19 walks over 24 2/3 innings of work. It is worth noting that he was far better in 2019 than he was in 2020, as was the case with many players.

Looking at what he’s done in the minors, Grotz owns a lifetime 3.29 ERA over 65 outings, 21 of which were starts, and 180 1/3 innings pitched across five levels.

Per Baseball Savant, the 6-foot-2, 195 lb. hurler’s pitch mix consists of a slider, a curveball, a split-finger fastball, and a slider.

With his addition, Grotz figures to vie for a spot in the Red Sox’ bullpen at the onset of spring training next month. In all likelihood, though, he’ll probably begin the 2021 season with Triple-A Worcester.

So far this offseason, the Red Sox have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett
RHP Zac Grotz

(Picture of Zac Grotz: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Longtime Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signs minor-league deal with Mariners

Lost in the madness that saw Francisco Lindor get traded to the Mets and Tomoyuki Sugano return to Japan, former Red Sox farmhand Jantzen Witte signed a minor-league contract with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday night.

Witte, who turned 31 on Monday, was originally selected by Boston in the 24th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University.

Before the 2020 minor-league season was lost due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the infielder had put together a solid 2019 campaign between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket.

Over 118 total games with both clubs, Witte posted a .271/.333/.390 slash line to go along with nine home runs and 51 RBI on the year while seeing time at first base, second base, third base, left field, and even an inning of mop-up duty on the mound.

Perhaps even more important than his play on the field, though, is the fact that the Dallas-area native had proven to be a vital veteran presence for some of the organization’s younger minor-leaguers. And he did so while seemingly being on the cusp of getting called up to the majors.

The Athletic’s Chad Jennings highlighted this trait of Witte’s in a fascinating story back in March, in the middle of the first version of spring training.

“He’s a freaking really good player,” Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec said of Witte, his spring training roommate, when speaking to Jennings. “And he’s a glue guy for a clubhouse. So, those guys are special … He’s a really good balance of care-free, but still getting his shit done when he needs to get his shit done. Never says a mean thing.”

In addition to Dalbec, Sox minor-leaguers such as Josh Ockimey, C.J. Chatham, and Chad De La Guerra, all of whom have shared the infield with Witte at one point in their professional careers, had positive things to say about their teammate as well.

Ockimey: “(Coaches) always talk about how to be a professional. But it’s different when you have a guy like him to show you how to be a professional.”

Chatham: “He’s the guy you go to when you’re not sure if something is right or wrong. There’s little things in baseball that can annoy people that (you don’t know) when you’re young. You just ask him, and he always has the right answer.”

De La Guerra: “I think he’s probably the biggest clubhouse guy, the most important one, for Pawtucket. He’s super popular. I think everybody sees him the same way. He’s just one of those guys. He’s probably even seen the same as the coaching staff. There’s no difference.”

Before becoming a minor-league free agent in November, Witte was one of the last members of the Red Sox’ 2013 draft class who was still with the organization, as noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield.

Witte originally signed with Boston for significantly less than $100,000 as a fifth-year senior out of TCU. He appeared in 661 games across six minor-league levels spanning seven seasons as a member of the Red Sox.

All the best to Witte as he embarks on this new chapter of his career with the Mariners. It would appear that he will have the opportunity to remain in the game even after his playing days come to an end.

(Photo of Jantzen Witte: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox re-sign infielder Jeremy Rivera to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have re-signed minor-league infielder Jeremy Rivera to a minor-league contract for the 2021 season, per MLB.com’s transaction wire.

Rivera, who turns 26 later this month, was originally selected by Boston in the 17th round (524th overall pick) out of El Paso Community College.

Signed by the club in early July that year, the switch-hitting Puerto Rican has since played all over the infield across five different minor-league levels, most recently spending the 2018 and 2019 seasons in Double-A Portland.

SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall wrote last May that Rivera “can really pick it at shortstop, but his bat lags behind, capping his ceiling and leading to his stalling out in Portland for the past couple seasons.”

This winter, Rivera has been playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League for a seventh consecutive offseason.

Through 14 games with Indios de Mayaguez, the infielder is slashing .238/.353/.310 with six RBI and seven runs scored over 52 plate appearances.

So far this offseason, the Red Sox have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league deals:

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
INF Jeremy Rivera
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly
RHP Jose Disla
RHP Daniel Gossett

(Top picture of Rivera: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox sign right-hander Zack Kelly to minor-league deal

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Zack Kelly to a minor-league contract, according to PNY Sports. It’s unclear at this point if this deal includes an invite to major-league spring training.

Kelly, 25, was cut loose by the Angels organization back in May when most clubs released a good number of their minor-leaguers in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Virginia native was originally signed by the Oakland Athletics for just $500 as an undrafted free agent out of Newberry College (SC) in June 2017. He posted a 3.77 ERA and 4.07 xFIP over 13 appearances and 28 2/3 innings pitched for the Arizona League A’s that summer before getting released the following April.

Signed to a minor-league pact by Los Angeles later that month, Kelly had worked his way up to the Double-A level as recently as 2019.

Across 2o outings (13 starts) and 75 1/3 innings for Double-A Mobile, the righty posted a 3.82 ERA and a much more impressive 3.17 xFIP while averaging nearly 10 punchouts per nine frames of work.

Having put up those numbers in ’19, Kelly likely thought big things were on the horizon this year. Instead, he suffered an elbow injury in spring training which would later require surgery and, as previously mentioned, was released by the Angels in May as part of that mass exodus of minor-league cuts across baseball.

“It’s kind of frustrating because I felt like I had a career that wasn’t worthy of getting released at this point,” Kelly told The New York Times’ James Wagner in June.

Though it’s not clear which kind of surgery Kelly underwent over the summer, he was apparently throwing off a mound in November.

So, it would appear that the 6-foot-3, 205 lb. hurler could be ready for spring training workouts in Fort Myers come February.

So far this offseason, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have either signed or re-signed the following players to minor-league contracts (h/t SoxProspects.com):

C Roldani Baldwin
C Jhonny Pereda
1B Joey Meneses
1B Josh Ockimey
OF Cesar Puello
OF Michael Gettys
OF Johan Mieses
LHP Emmanuel De Jesus
LHP Stephen Gonsalves
RHP Kevin McCarthy
RHP Seth Blair
RHP Raynel Espinal
RHP Caleb Simpson
RHP Zack Kelly

Red Sox add free-agent outfielder Michael Gettys on minor-league deal, re-sign Emmanuel De Jesus

The Red Sox have signed free agent outfielder Michael Gettys to a minor-league contract, per Major League Baseball’s transaction wire.

Gettys, who turned 25 last month, had spent the previous seven seasons with the Padres organization after being selected by San Diego in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft.

A Georgia native, Gettys declared for free agency earlier in November after not being included in the Padres’ 60-man player pool at any point during the 2020 season.

Prior to 2020, Gettys had made it as far as Triple-A El Paso, where he posted a .256/.305/.517 slash line to go along with 31 home runs and 91 RBI over 128 games played in 2019. He also swiped 14 bases en route to being named an organization All-Star for San Diego.

As much as he thrived as a power hitter last year, Gettys also dealt with his fair share of strikeouts, too. In 551 plate appearances with El Paso, he whiffed 168 times, or in other words, a whopping 30.5% of the time.

In terms of defensive capabilities, the 6-foot-1, 217 lb. outfielder has experience playing all three outfield positions, so that versatility may have played a key role in his signing with the Red Sox.

By adding Gettys, the Sox have now acquired three former Padres prospects in some fashion within the last three months. Back in August, the club acquired infield prospect Hudson Potts and outfield prospect Jeisson Rosario from San Diego in exchange for first baseman Mitch Moreland.

Both Potts and Rosario are eligible for this December’s Rule 5 draft, as is Gettys. And although neither Potts nor Rosario have played above Double-A yet, Gettys has a solid track record at the Triple-A level, so he could very well start the 2021 campaign in Worcester depending on how things pan out in the spring.

On another note, the Red Sox also resigned left-hander Emmanuel De Jesus to a minor-league contract.

De Jesus, who turns 24 next month, originally signed with Boston as an international free agent out of Venezuela for $787,500 back in 2013.

The lanky southpaw most recently posted a 3.58 ERA over 24 starts and 130 2/3 innings pitched for High-A Salem in 2019. He, too, is Rule 5 eligible this winter.

Former Red Sox utilityman Tzu-Wei Lin is now a minor-league free agent

Last week, the Red Sox outrighted utilityman Tzu-Wei Lin and four other players from their 40-man roster.

At the time, I thought that because he was outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket, or Worcester, Lin was going to remain within the organization for the time being as opposed to becoming a free agent like Mike Kickham, Zack Godley, or Andrew Triggs.

It turns out that one week following his being outrighted, the 26-year-old was declared a minor-league free agent earlier Monday, according to Baseball America.

Lin was among 21 Red Sox minor-leaguers who became free agents to kick off the week. That list includes the likes of Jett Bandy, Juan Centeno, Ryder Jones, Tommy Joseph, Robinson Leyer, Nick Longhi, and Dan McGrath, among others.

The Taiwanese native had been with Boston for more than eight years after signing for just over $2 million as an international free agent in 2012.

Most recently, Lin had a tough go of things with the Sox this past season, as he posted an uninspiring .154/.182/.173 slash line to go along with two runs scored and three runs driven in while playing in 26 of a possible 60 games.

As was the case with infielder Marco Hernandez last year, it would not surprise me in the slightest if the Red Sox at least entertain the idea of a reunion with Lin at some point this winter if another club does not acquire his services first.

That is not to say Lin will have a bevy of suitors, but considering the fact he is a defense-first utilityman who can play all around the infield and outfield, one would think at least a handful of teams could be interested in signing him to a minor-league deal with an invite to major-league spring training. We will have to wait and see on that.

Red Sox re-sign Josh Ockimey, 8 others to minor-league contracts

The Red Sox made their first (minor) splash of the offseason on Tuesday, as the club re-signed nine minor-league free agent to minor-league contracts for the 2021 season, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and SoxProspects’ Chris Hatfield.

Those nine minor-leaguers, as indicated in the above tweet from Hatfield, are right-handers Seth Blair, Raynel Espinal, and Caleb Simpson, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, catchers Jhonny Pereda and Roldani Baldwin, first baseman Josh Ockimey, first baseman/outfielder Joey Meneses, and outfielder Johan Mieses.

Five of these nine players were at one point or another part of the Sox’ 60-man player pool this past season, and therefore spent some time at the alternate training site in Pawtucket.

Ockimey and Baldwin, meanwhile, are the only two listed here who have been with the Red Sox since before the 2019 Rule 5 Draft last December.

Speaking of Ockimey, the recently-turned 25-year-old slugger may just be the most notable name here, at least among Red Sox fans, despite having yet to make his major-league debut.

The former fifth-round draft selection out of Philadelphia has been with Boston since 2014. Most recently, he clubbed 25 home runs and collected 57 RBI over 122 games (468 plate appearances) for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019.

Power has never been the problem for Ockimey, as he has crushed 14 or more homers in each of the last four seasons, excluding 2020, of course. Despite being such a threat at the plate, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing first baseman has yet to get a shot at the next level.

The Red Sox, led by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, clearly like Ockimey enough to keep him around as depth at a fairly important position, but do they value him enough to eventually purchase his contract and see what he can do in the majors?

All signs point to no on that front thus far, but it should be somewhat interesting to watch Ockimey next spring considering the light tower power he is capable of providing at any given moment.

Red Sox Set To Kick off Fall Instructional League This Week With Bevy of Top Prospects in Attendance

The Red Sox are set to kick off their fall instructional league in Fort Myers on Monday. And according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, several of the club’s top prospects will take part in these offseason activities.

Among the 62 minor-leaguers who will report to Fenway South starting this week, several had just spent at least part of their summers at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket. Those names, per Speier, include pitchers Bryan Mata and Jay Groome, infielders Triston Casas, Nick Yorke, and Hudson Potts, and outfielder Jeisson Rosario.

As for the prospects who did not receive an invite to the alternate site this season, there are right-handers Brayan Bello and Thad Ward, left-hander Chris Murphy, infielders Brainer Bonaci and Matthew Lugo, and speedy outfielder Gilberto Jimenez.

On top of that group of players, infielder Blaze Jordan and pitchers Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland — the rest of Boston’s 2020 draft class — are also expected to attend this offseason program that will run until November 12.

Although it is not yet clear if teams will be allowed to play games against one another due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these instructional leagues do allow the Red Sox, as well as the other 29 clubs, to get back in contact with the core of their minor-league talent.

Speaking of minor-league talent, as of September 1, the Sox had the No. 25 farm system in baseball according to MLB Pipeline.

As underwhelming as that ranking may be, there appears to be optimism from within the organization that things in that developmental area are steadily improving. PawSox manager Billy McMillon opined as much when speaking with reporters this past Friday via Zoom.

“I think it’s very promising right now,” McMillon said regarding the state of the Red Sox farm system. “Some of the returns that we got back in some of the various trades and offseason acquisitions, I think that’s going to raise the level of our minor-leagues. We saw some guys develop, get a little bit better. There’s encouraging news from guys that impressed on the mound to seeing how some of the position players developed. I think the cupboard is getting full again, and I think there’s reason for optimism with some of the guys that we saw in the alternate camp.”

Expect the full list of Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be attending fall instructs to be released relatively soon.

UPDATE: Here’s the full list of the 62 Red Sox minor-leaguers who will be at full instructs, courtesy of SoxProspects.

Red Sox Prospect Jarren Duran Belts Two Doubles, Shows off Speed in Fenway Park Debut

Despite not seeing any live pitching during the pandemic-induced shutdown period, Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran had himself quite the night in the Red Sox’ final intrasquad game of Summer Camp at Fenway Park on Monday.

Making the trek up from Pawtucket along with Jeter Downs and Josh Ockimey, Duran started in center field and hit out of the nine-hole for the Home Sox in Monday’s contest and went 2-for-3 with a pair of hard-hit doubles, the first of which drove in two runs off left-hander Jeffrey Springs in the second inning.

On the defensive side of the ball, Duran was just as impressive, as the Sox’ eighth-ranked prospect put his speed on full display while robbing Marco Hernandez of an extra-base hit off Martin Perez in the top half of the sixth.

That flash of the leather prompted Perez to tell reporters after the game that “[Duran’s] really good, man.”

As for what Duran himself thought about his performance, the 23-year-old led off by saying that it was “just surreal” to play at Fenway Park and that “he couldn’t stop looking around” the ballpark.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” Duran added when speaking to reporters via Zoom. “I missed baseball so much. It was an honor just to be here.”

Before spring training was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Duran was opening up eyes around Red Sox camp as it looked like he was going to start the year with Double-A Portland.

Instead, the 2020 minor-league season was eventually cancelled last month, and Duran, like so many other prospects across baseball, lost the chance to continue to hone his craft in actual games.

Still, the southern California did not view that cancellation as a massive road block and instead opted for a more optimistic outlook on things.

“I think it just depends on how bad you want it,” he said. “We have the resources to push ourselves.”

For Duran, those resources were made available at Long Beach State, his alma mater, where he hit during the layoff before the Angels took over the facility for their own workouts.

Because there will be no organized minor-league baseball at all in 2020, Duran will likely spend his second professional season as a member of the Red Sox organization in Pawtucket at the club‘s alternate training site, otherwise known as McCoy Stadium. 

The former Dirtbag was taken by Boston in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft and is regarded by FanGraphs as the second-fastest prospect in the Sox’ farm system behind only Gilberto Jimenez.

Like Duran, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke is also a native of southern California. The Sox skipper liked what he saw from the speedster during spring training earlier in the year, and he certainly liked what he saw from him at Summer Camp on Monday.

“How do you do that?” Roenicke asked rhetorically. “You sit for 3 1/2 months and you come back right where you left off. If he figures it out he’s going to be some kind of player.”

 

 

Red Sox Add Left-Hander Mike Kickham to Summer Camp Player Pool as Non-Roster Invitee

UPDATE: It looks like this move is now official.

The Red Sox have added left-hander Mike Kickham to their Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee, per Major League Baseball’s transaction wire.

Kickham, 31, signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in December and appeared in three games for the club during the initial version of spring training.

Over that stretch, the St. Louis native allowed four runs, only one of which was earned, on six hits and one walk to go along with six strikeouts over 4 1/3 total innings of relief.

Prior to joining the Sox on said minor-league contract, Kickham spent time in the Giants, Cubs, Rangers, and Marlins’ farm system. The last time he saw major-league action came during the 2014 campaign, when he appeared in just two games for San Francisco.

Per his SoxProspects scouting report, Kickham’s pitching arsenal is comprised of a 90-91 mph fastball, an 88-90 MPH sinker, and an 80-83 MPH slider.

By adding Kickham to their player pool, the Red Sox now have 50 players on their Summer Camp roster, meaning the club still has 10 open slots to work with.