Red Sox’ Chris Sale on Handling Criticism: ‘I’ve Never Paid Attention to What People Say About Me, Because It Doesn’t Matter’

Red Sox ace left-hander Chris Sale underwent successful Tommy John surgery seven weeks ago.

Before Tuesday, the 31-year-old had only spoken to the media once since undergoing the procedure in Los Angeles, but he spoke with ESPN’s Mary Rivera in an extensive one-on-one, presumably over-phone interview earlier this week.

Topics covered in said interview included Sale’s recovery from Tommy John, criticism from fans over his contract, the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts and David Price, thoughts on a disappointing 2019 season, the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017, and Alex Cora’s departure from Boston.

You can read Rivera’s conversation with Sale in full here, but I wanted to hit on a few highlights, starting with the Florida native being asked if it’s “hard to handle the criticism” from people who believe he has not lived up to expectations under his new contract.

“When I got to Boston, my first year was really good,” Sale said. “My second season was decent but I ran into some shoulder issues. We ended up winning a World Series, so I’d even call that a relatively good season with a little hiccup. Then, 2019 was an absolute disaster. But in the end, I’ve never paid attention to what people say about me, because it doesn’t matter.”

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, Sale inked a five-year, $145 million contract extension with the Red Sox while Dave Dombrowski still served as the club’s president of baseball operations.

Dombrowski has since been removed from that post and was effectively replaced by former Rays executive and current chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, whose first major move at the helm in Boston was dealing Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February.

That sort of transaction, which significantly hindered the Red Sox’ chances of winning in 2020, could have upset a veteran like Sale, whose first priority is to win no matter who he plays for, but he did not seem to take too much offense to it.

“Very rarely in this day and age, you get to play with the same team for a long time,” Sale told Rivera. “We have to adapt and go with it. We don’t make decisions; we don’t trade players. We show up to spring training and we do our best to win with the players we have.”

At the time Betts and Price were dealt to Los Angeles, the 2020 MLB season really wasn’t in question. That has obviously changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, and Sale isn’t too sure there will even be a season at all. Not like that matters much for him anyway since he is still recovering from Tommy John.

It still is a concerning matter for players who can play this year though, and Sale certainly feels for them while the MLBPA remains in active negotiations with the league.

“There’s too many moving parts with all this right now,” he said in regard to getting baseball back this year. “There’s obviously negotiations between the players and the owners, and that’s what I hope we can iron out sooner rather than later. On my end of it, I’m not missing any games that everyone else isn’t missing. Plus, I’m not getting paid, so no one can call me an overpaid asshole right now [laughs].”

For the time being, Sale will continue the process of coming back from Tommy John surgery. He’s been one of the few players to work out at Fenway South in Fort Myers since the complex opened back up earlier in the month.

“I’ve been doing a shoulder program and we’re doing soft-tissue stuff but I’m starting to get into some pushing stuff, some rows,” Sale said of the rehab process. “A lot of this actually is a lot of shoulder work too, which is good.

“We can kind of start, as they say, tearing it down to the studs. I can work from the ground up. I can completely tear my body down and build it back up. Right now, since I’m not really working out to achieve anything, I can really focus on the little fine details that sometimes might be overlooked getting ready for a big, bulky season. I love the guys I’m working with and I know I’m in good hands.”

If all goes according to plan, Sale should be able to return to a big league mound sometime in June or July 2021.

Former Red Sox Star Mookie Betts Buys Groceries for Shoppers at Tennessee Supermarket

Under normal circumstances, former Red Sox star and current Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts would be about seven weeks into the 2020 season with his new club.

Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has put the MLB season on hold for the time being, Betts, like many across the country and world, are stuck at home for the most part.

While it’s still unclear how many games will be played or how much players will be paid this year, which is important in Betts’ case since he will become a free agent for the first time this winter, that is not stopping the 27-year-old from spreading some goodwill during these uncertain times.

According to WSMV-TV’s Chris Harris, Betts “surprised shoppers at the Kroger in Bordeaux, Tenn. by buying their groceries.” The Nashville native also “treated the staff at the store to pizza to thank them for all the hard work they have been doing as essential front-line workers.”

A very generous gesture from a very generous person. Remember, Betts supplied several trays of food to the homeless community outside of the Boston Public Library in the hours following Game 2 of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park.

He has also used his other passion, bowling, to raise money for various causes in Tennessee and New England in recent years.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo: ‘Whenever the Season Starts I Think I Will Be Ready’

Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo is back working out at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers, and when the 2020 Major League Baseball season does resume, he feels like he’ll be good to go.

Speaking with reporters via conference call on Monday afternoon for the first time since spring training was suspended in March, Verdugo said he is “physically…100%” after fully recovering from the stress fracture in his lower back.

“I feel very good just moving around with everything,” said the 23-year-old. “My swing, my throwing, running. I feel really good. The complex shut down for three weeks when the whole coronavirus and all that started coming out. So I still stayed active at home. I was hitting, throwing a little bit and working out. But obviously didn’t have the amount of resources I do at the facility.”

Here’s some video of Verdugo working out at home in Fort Myers:

From there, Verdugo was able to get back into the facility last week after the Red Sox opened it back up following a brief shutdown period due to a minor-leaguer testing positive for COVID-19 on March 24th.

“When I got back…we took it slow again,” he said. “We just kind of ramped it back up, just seeing how the three weeks, how my body kind of looked and how it felt to my trainers.”

Here’s some video of Verdugo working out at the JetBlue Park complex:

When the Red Sox acquired Verdugo, as well as prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong, from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade in February, they were already aware of the young outfielder’s ailment. Had the 2020 season began as originally planned on March 26th, he probably would not have been ready for Opening Day.

Now, with the start date of the season still up in the air, Verdugo could be ready to start right away.

“I feel like we’re back on track,” he said. “Whenever the season starts, I think I’ll be ready. Whether that is soon, whether it’s a few months down the road or whatever that may be. I think physically I’m ready.”

While he is training every day like there is going to be a season and working out Fenway South four times a week, Verdugo is regularly checking in with Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke “every one or two weeks.” The training staff he is working with at JetBlue is also sending video to Roenicke and hitting coach Tim Hyers.

“I’m going to keep preparing and training and keeping my mind sharp so I’m already mentally locked in and physically ready to go for it,” said Verdugo.

As he came over from the Dodgers earlier in the year, the Arizona native admitted that being traded was at first difficult for him but he now views the move “as a blessing.”

With his new club, Verdugo expects to be as productive as ever, adding “I think I’m at such a good position mentally and physically. I’m just ready to go and just play. I know if I play and I feel the way I feel right now, my numbers will be what they always have been.”

Once touted as one of the best outfield prospects in baseball, Verdugo slashed .294/.342/.475 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI over 106 games played for Los Angeles in 2019.

The centerpiece in the aforementioned deal that sent soon-to-be free agent Mookie Betts to southern California, Verdugo did say that it would be “pretty crazy” and “pretty nuts” if his counterpart never played a game for the Dodgers if the 2020 season winds up getting cancelled. We’ll have to wait and see on that, though.

 

What If the Red Sox Hit a Home Run in the First Round of Every MLB Draft From 2010 Until 2017?

Late last month, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association reached an agreement to cut down on spending in what will likely be a shortened 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic impacting millions across the country and world.

Among the topics covered in said agreement was the 2020 amateur draft. According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, this year’s draft “will be cut to no fewer than five rounds (MLB can expand it if it so chooses and several scouting departments hold out hope that it could be expanded to 10 rounds). The draft will be held as early as the current June 10 start date and as late as July 20.”

Since 2012, the draft has consisted of 40 rounds, so up to 7/8ths of this year’s draft-eligible prospects could go undrafted if the 2020 draft is indeed only five rounds.

The Red Sox have been a team that has found success in the later rounds of the draft in recent years, so this cutback only means that they will have to be more spot on with the limited picks they have this year.

That notion, as well as this recent article from The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, inspired me to look back at past drafts and ponder what could have been for the Sox if they were perfect, or nearly perfect, in the process.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick with just the first round and begin with the 2010 amateur draft. Let’s get to it.

2010:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick ‘Perfect’ Pick
1 20 Kolbrin Vitek, 3B Christian Yelich, 1B
1s 36 Bryce Brentz, OF Noah Syndergaard, RHP
1s 39 Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Nick Castellanos, 3B

Analysis: Vitek never made it past Double-A, Brentz has not appeared in a major-league game since 2016, and Ranaudo has been out of professional baseball for three years.

On the flip side, Yelich, who went to the Marlins with the 23rd overall pick in 2010, has emerged as one of the best outfielders in baseball and has finished first and second in National League MVP voting the past two seasons with the Brewers. Syndergaard, who went to Toronto with the 38th overall pick, has been solid with the Mets, while Castellanos, who went to Detroit with the 44th overall pick, earned himself a four-year, $64 million contract with the Reds back in January.

2011:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick ‘Perfect’ Pick
1 19 Matt Barnes, RHP Mookie Betts, 2B
1 26 Blake Swihart, C Trevor Story, SS
1s 36 Henry Owens, LHP Blake Snell, LHP
1s 40 Jackie Bradley Jr., OF Mike Clevinger, RHP

Analysis: Barnes was far from a poor pick at No. 19 in 2011, but if Theo Epstein and Co. could do it all over again knowing what they know now, I’d assume they’d jump on the chance to take Betts early instead of waiting for the fifth round like they originally did.

Swihart and Owens, meanwhile, own career bWAR’s of -0.3 and 0.1 respectively. Since they were still on the board at the time Swihart and Owens were selected, Story, who has won Silver Slugger awards in each of the last two seasons with the Rockies, and Snell, who despite struggling last year is still a Cy Young Award winner in his own right, would have been better picks in hindsight.

As for the Sox’ last pick of the first round in 2011, Bradley Jr. was a pretty solid choice out of the University of South Carolina, but given how much the Sox have struggled to develop starting pitching, Clevinger, who posted a 2.49 FIP with the Indians last year, probably would have been the way to go.

2012:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick ‘Perfect’ Pick
1 24 Deven Marrero, SS Alex Bregman, 2B
1s 31 Brian Johnson, LHP Matt Olson, 1B
1s 37 Pat Light, RHP Joey Gallo, 3B

Analysis: Marrero was regarded as one of the best infield prospects in the 2012 draft thanks to his glove. That defensive prowess stuck with him as he rose through the ranks of the Red Sox’ farm system, but he was really never able to put it together offensively.

Johnson was another well-regarded draft prospect, but he dealt with numerous on and off the field issues before making his major-league debut in 2015 and has since been taken off the Sox’ 40-man roster. It did look like he had a solid chance to make the team out of spring training before the league shut everything down, though.

As for Light, there’s not much to say, as he owns a lifetime 11.34 ERA over 17 major-league relief appearances between the Red Sox and Twins. He is a quality follow on Twitter, though, so I’ll give him that.

Turning to the ‘perfect’ picks, Bregman himself said he would have signed with the Sox if they took him with the 24th overall pick in 2012, but they didn’t. Instead, Boston took Bregman in the 29th round, and since he had already committed to LSU, the New Mexico native went the college route instead.

Olson and Gallo, meanwhile, were not taken off the board until the former was taken by the Athletics with the 47th overall pick and the latter was taken by the Rangers with the 39th overall pick.

2013:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick ‘Perfect’ Pick
1 7 Trey Ball, LHP Aaron Judge, OF

Analysis: Trey Ball, man. Oof. The first left-handed pitcher taken off the board in 2013 never made it past Double-A and even tried to resurrect his career as an outfielder before his minor-league contract expired at the conclusion of last season.

Besides the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, the best player taken in the first round of this draft to this point in time has been none other than Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who has mashed 110 home runs in his first 396 games in the majors. Would have been nice.

2014:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick ‘Perfect’ Pick
1 26 Michael Chavis, SS Jack Flaherty, RHP
1 33 Michael Kopech, RHP Brian Anderson, 3B

Analysis: Chavis just made his major-league debut last April, while Kopech was a key piece in the blockbuster trade that sent Chris Sale to Boston back in 2017. It’s still too early to say where those two stand in terms of their paths to big-league relevancy. But, Flaherty emerged as a legitimate ace during the latter half of the 2019 campaign with the Cardinals and is still just 24 years old. Anderson, meanwhile, slashed .261/.342/.468 over 126 games with the Marlins last year.

2015:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick ‘Perfect’ Pick
1 7 Andrew Benintendi, OF Walker Buehler, RHP

Analysis: As big of an Andrew Benintendi guy as I am, it’s pretty crazy that Walker Buehler was not off the board until the Dodgers took him with the 24th overall pick in 2015. It just goes to show how good Los Angeles is at drafting and developing their own talent.

2016:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick ‘Perfect’ Pick
1 12 Jay Groome, LHP Pete Alonso, 1B

Analysis: Groome has pitched in just 20 professional games since signing with the Red Sox in July 2016. He missed the entire 2018 season due to Tommy John surgery and he appeared in three games between the GCL Red Sox and short-season Lowell before last year’s minor-league campaign came to a close. He is still just 21 years old though, and is still ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Sox’ No. 7 overall prospect.

That is certainly encouraging, but after the season rookie first baseman Pete Alonso just put together for the Mets, where he crushed a record-setting 53 home runs and drove in 120 runs over 161 games last year, that certainly appears to have been the pick to make.

2017:

Round Pick No. Actual Pick Perfect’ Pick
1 24 Tanner Houck, RHP Nate Pearson, RHP

Analysis: Houck is developing at a solid pace and it looks like he’ll open the 2020 minor-league season, if there is one, as a member of the PawSox’ starting rotation.

Pearson, however, was taken by the Blue Jays shortly after the Sox selected Houck and has emerged as one of the brightest pitching prospects in all of baseball thanks in part to having a 100+ MPH fastball at his disposal.

Neither Houck or Pearson have made it to the majors yet, but as far as projections go, those seem to be favoring the 23-year-old Pearson rather than the 23-year-old Houck.

Pitchers: Noah Syndergaard, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger, Jack Flaherty, Walker Buehler, Nate Pearson

Catchers: None

Infielders: Trevor Story, Alex Bregman, Matt Olson, Brian Anderson, Pete Alonso

Outfielders: Christian Yelich, Nick Castellanos, Mookie Betts, Joey Gallo, Aaron Judge

16 players total, 10 All-Stars, two MVP Award winners, one Cy Young Award winner, one top pitching prospect, and no catchers.

It’s far from a complete roster, but it’s certainly a great place to start in terms of building through the draft.

Of course, the MLB draft is regularly regarded as a lottery, so it’s virtually impossible for any club to draft this well in a single year. This isn’t to say that this is how I expect the Red Sox to draft under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in the future, I just thought it would be fun to look back and go back in time to a certain extent. And you know what? It was fun.

A Look Back at Recent Red Sox Home Openers at Fenway Park

Thursday was supposed to be Opening Day at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. They were scheduled to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of a three-game series at approximately 2:05 PM EDT.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected millions across the country and the globe has pushed back the start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season for the foreseeable future.

In these times, baseball should take a backseat to more pressing issues we are all facing, but not having the comfort and distraction sports can provide over these past few weeks has certainly been odd.

So, since Thursday was supposed to be the first game played at Fenway Park this year, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some memorable Fenway Opening Day moments in recent years starting with the 2013 home opener. Let’s get to it.

April 8th, 2013: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1

Daniel Nava provided the only offense the Sox needed in this one to secure their fifth win of the year.

Going into their half of the seventh inning having yet to really muster anything offensively, Nava came through big time in his third trip to the plate against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, as he took the left-hander deep to left off a 1-1, 91 MPH heater on the inner half of the plate to drive in both Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli to make it a three-run contest.

Former Sox closer Joel Hanrahan wound up giving one of those runs back on an Adam Jones leadoff homer in the ninth, but the right-hander held on to notch his third save of the season in what would turn out to be a 3-1 victory for Boston.

This took place exactly one week before the Boston Marathon bombings, and as we already know, the 2013 season that ended in a World Series title was a very emotional one for the Red Sox.

April 4th, 2014: Brewers 6, Red Sox 2

Speaking of World Series titles, the Red Sox received their 2013 World Series rings on this day in 2014.

Will Middlebrooks also homered in this contest, although Boston would eventually be swept by Milwaukee in their first three home games of the year in what would turn out to be a mostly forgettable title defense.

April 13th, 2015: Red Sox 9, Nationals 4

Coming off a solid 4-2 road trip in Philadelphia and New York to begin the season, the new-look Red Sox got the home portion of their 2015 schedule off with a bang against Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals.

In his first home start as a member of the Red Sox, right-hander Rick Porcello provided Boston with eight solid innings of work while Mookie Betts and David Ortiz both went deep.

Speaking of Betts, the now-four-time All-Star was just getting his career started at this point in time.

Fresh off making his first career big-league Opening Day roster, the 22-year-old swiped second and third base in consecutive order against Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann right away in the bottom half of the first inning. He also collected four RBI in addition to mashing his second homer of the season.

The Red Sox improved to 5-2 with the five-run victory over the Nats, and they looked like a team poised to bounce back from a last-place finish in 2014. That did not happen though, and come October, the Sox finished in the basement of the American League East for the third time in the past four seasons.

April 11th, 2016: Orioles 9, Red Sox 7

The sixth game of the Red Sox’ 2016 campaign marked David Price’s first start at Fenway Park since inking a then-record-setting seven-year, $217 million deal with Boston the previous December.

Unlike his Red Sox debut in Cleveland, where he fanned 10 over six two-run innings, Price struggled in his first start home, as he yielded five runs, all of which came in the top half of the third for Baltimore, over five innings of work.

Betts did impress once again though, as the 23-year-old plated a pair of runs on a solo homer and RBI single.

Ortiz, meanwhile, also shined in what was his final Opening Day as a member of the Red Sox, which was commemorated with a special pregame ceremony and his daughter, Alex, singing the National Anthem.

 

April 3rd, 2017: Red Sox 5, Pirates 3

While many expected the newly-acquired Chris Sale to get the Opening Day nod, ex-Sox manager John Farrell went with Rick Porcello, who was coming off winning his first Cy Young Award the year before.

Porcello was solid, racking up five strikeouts while surrendering three runs over 6 1/3 quality innings of work.

Offensively, all five of Boston’s runs came in their half of the fifth inning, with Pablo Sandoval and Dustin Pedroia plating a pair of runs on a pair of RBI singles and rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, fresh off making his first Opening Day roster, driving in three on a three-run blast to right off Pirates ace Gerrit Cole.

Benintendi would wind up finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting behind Yankees slugger Aaron Judge in 2017.

April 5th, 2018: Red Sox 3, Rays 2 in 12 innings

The only extra-innings game on here wound up in a one-run win for the Red Sox to open up the home portion of their 2018 schedule.

David Price contributed to the cause by hurling seven scoreless frames against his former team, while Hanley Ramirez and Xander Bogaerts came through with a pair of run-scoring knocks off Alex Colome in the ninth to make extra innings possible in the first place.

Fast forward all the way to the 12th, and Ramirez delivered in the clutch once more, this time coming to the plate with one out and the bases loaded against Ryan Yarbrough and plating Jackie Bradley Jr. from third on an RBI single to right field.

The Red Sox’ first walk-off victory of the season improved their record to 6-1 and they really wouldn’t have to look back en route to capturing their ninth World Series title that October.

April 9th, 2019: Blue Jays 7, Red Sox 5

Finally, we arrive at the most recent home opener. Another one in which the Red Sox received their World Series rings on what was an otherwise dreary day at Fenway Park.

Things did not get much better after the ceremony though, as Chris Sale surrendered five runs over four innings to eventually fall to 0-3 through his first three starts of the season.

Mitch Moreland and Mookie Betts did both homer, but at the end of the day, the Red Sox fell to 3-9 on the season and they never really were able to recover from that sluggish start despite finishing with a winning record.

So, there you have it. A nice look back at the last seven Opening Days at Fenway Park. Hopefully the next one will happen sooner rather than later.

Looking at How the Red Sox’ World Series Odds Changed Over the Course of a Hectic Offseason

If Major League Baseball is to be played in 2020, the Red Sox currently stand as long-shots to capture their 10th World Series title this fall, or perhaps winter.

As recently as this past Tuesday, March 31st, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series this year stood at +3667, according to SportsBettingDime.com. In other words, if you bet $100 on the Sox to win the Fall Classic and they do, your total payout would be $3,767.

Compare that to the reigning American League East champion New York Yankees’ most recent odds of winning the 2020 World Series (+367), and it’s clear to see that the Red Sox are underdogs coming off a turbulent offseason to say the least.

Right around the time the offseason began after the Washington Nationals won their first World Series title, Boston’s odds of winning in 2020 stood at +1200 as of November 1st, which were good for the third-best in the American League.

Since that time though, the Sox’ chances of winning have gotten significantly worse, as one might expect with the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in February, as well as the recent news that ace left-hander Chris Sale needed and underwent successful Tommy John surgery last month that will sideline the 31-year-old for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

With Betts at the top of the lineup and Price maintaining a top spot in the rotation, the Red Sox looked like a team that could still at least compete for a Wild Card spot this coming season even with injury concerns surrounding Sale.

Instead of Betts and Price, who served as important clubhouse leaders in recent years, reporting to Red Sox camp, the two were instead dealt to the Dodgers as part of an earlier-set goal put in place by Sox ownership to get under the $208 million luxury tax threshold.

In his first offseason as Boston’s chief baseball officer, Chaim Bloom did just that by packaging Price, who is owed $96 million over the next three years, and Betts, who will earn $27 million in his final year of salary arbitration, in the same deal.

The Red Sox will pay about half of what is owed to Price over the next three seasons, while Betts was already viewed as a potential trade candidate anyway since he seemed and still seems locked in on becoming a free agent for the fist time this winter.

Despite the financial flexibility gained in parting ways with Betts and Price, the competitive state of the club certainly didn’t get any better even with three controllable players coming back from Los Angeles.

Take these numbers for what they’re worth. On February 3rd, the day before the first, now-voided three-team trade between Boston, Los Angeles, and the Minnesota Twins was reported, the Red Sox’ odds to win the World Series stood at +2067.

Fast forward to February 10th, one day after Boston and Los Angeles agreed to terms on a new trade between just themselves, the Sox’ odds to win the World Series fell to +3433. They have only gotten worse since then, as previously mentioned.

Bloom was dealt a difficult hand as soon as he took over as the head of the Red Sox’ baseball operations department last October. As he said himself at the time the trade was made official in February, “Our biggest goal…is to put ourselves in position to compete and win sustainably for as many years as we can.”

The club will never admit it publicly, but as the oddsmakers and sportsbooks have indicated, trading two of their better players in Mookie Betts and David Price certainly hurt the Red Sox’ chances of competing in 2020 once baseball does finally return.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Collin McHugh

It’s pretty late to do being one of these with spring training well underway and less than a month ago until Opening Day, but with the news that ace left-hander Chris Sale will start the 2020 season on the injured list, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting pitching help.

With the news of Sale starting the year on the shelf, in addition to trading David Price to the Dodgers earlier in the month, the Sox’ starting rotation only has three established starting pitchers at the moment in Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Martin Perez.

Guys like Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez could fill in in either the No. 4 or No. 5 spots, and it also appears likely that an opener or two could be used, but that shouldn’t stop chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from looking at external options as well.

Obviously, with it being the last day of February and all, the free-agent market has essentially been thinned out, but there is still one intriguing name out there in former Astros right-hander Collin McHugh.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the 32-year-old has “recently been given the go-ahead to begin throwing after a [non-surgical] tenex procedure alleviated an elbow concern” and “nearly every team has checked in” on him thanks to his versatility.

Appearing in 35 games, eight of which were starts, for Houston last year, McHugh posted a 4.70 ERA and 4.34 xFIP over 74 2/3 total innings of work while dealing with ongoing right elbow discomfort.

His days of pitching anywhere between 150 to 200 innings in a season are probably behind him and he likely wouldn’t be ready for the start of the 2020 season if he were to sign soon, but there are still plenty of things working in McHugh’s favor.

First off, there’s the versatility piece I mentioned earlier. Maybe it’s just me, but I could see McHugh starting, serving as an opener, or working in relief once he gets up to speed with whatever club he signs with this year.

Second, he probably won’t be demanding much as a free agent. A one-year deal for cheap or even a minor-league deal could get it done. That way, if things didn’t work out, it would not be all that costly to cut ties.

Per MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, the Red Sox now have a little more than $13 million in payroll flexibility to work with before reaching that $208 million luxury tax threshold they got under by dealing Price and Mookie Betts to Los Angeles.

McHugh would surely not command more than 25% of that $13 million as a free agent, so the rewards in this case would far outweigh the risks, in my opinion.

Outside of McHugh, free agent starting pitchers who remain unsigned include old friends Clay Buccholz and Andrew Cashner, Jason Vargas, Clayton Richard, and Marco Estrada.