Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Eric Sogard

With All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal signing a four-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, it appears that baseball’s offseason is truly about to begin.

Unlike years past under Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox will more than likely not be pursuing these kind of big splashes this winter. Instead, new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is tasked with trying to trim Boston’s payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, all while keeping the club relatively competitive heading into the 2020 season.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo composed a list of 46 free agents, three of whom played for the Sox in 2019, that Bloom and co. could go after to fill some holes in their roster.

One player that stuck out to me on that list was utility infielder Eric Sogard. Why? Because as Cotillo indicates, the 33-year-old veteran can play multiple positions, bats left-handed, and spent the last two months of the 2019 season with the Tampa Bay Rays after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in late July.

That trade with Toronto took place while Bloom was still serving under general manager Erik Neander with the Rays, so perhaps there is a connection there.

Numbers wise, Sogard slashed .290/.353/.457 with a career-best 13 home runs and 40 RBI over 110 total games between Toronto and Tampa Bay in 2019. He also missed time in September due to a deep bone bruise on his right foot.

The scenario of the Sox signing Sogard probably only takes place if Brock Holt signs elsewhere as a free agent himself this winter, and since Holt put together an impressive 2019 campaign, he more than likely played himself out of the Sox’ price range.

Even if Sogard is considered a fit, the Red Sox also have other internal options to fill the hole at second base alongside Dustin Pedroia in 2020, including C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Marco Hernandez, and Tzu-Wei Lin to name a few.

Also, I failed to mention this earlier, but “Nerd Power” is a pretty good nickname, too.

Red Sox Add Five Playes to 40-Man Roster, Including Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham, and Marcus Wilson

The Red Sox added five players to their major league roster on Wednesday night.

Infielders C.J. Chatham and Bobby Dalbec, outfielder Marcus Wilson, and left-handed pitchers Yoan Aybar and Kyle Hart were all added to Boston’s 40-man roster ahead of the 8 PM ET deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place during the Winter Meetings in December.

Since they only added five players on Wednesday, the Red Sox’ active roster stands at 39, meaning they still have one available spot to work with for the time being.

Out of the five minor-leaguers added, Hart would have to be the surprise of the bunch, or at least that’s how I view it.

The former 19th-round pick out of Indiana University in 2016 is set to turn 27 on Saturday.

In 27 appearances (24 starts) between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this past season, Hart posted a 3.52 ERA and .233 batting average against over 156 total innings pitched.

Ranked as the Sox’ No. 28 prospect on MLB.com, the left-handed Hart offers a pitch mix that includes an 87-92 MPH fastball, an 85-86 MPH cutter, a 76-79 MPH curveball, and an 81-82 MPH changeup, per SoxProspects.

As for the other four, both Dalbec and Chatham are ranked within Boston’s top 10 prospects, with the former coming in at No. 2 and the latter coming in at No. 9. The pair of infielders were also both part of Team USA’s fourth-place finish in this year’s Premier12 tournament.

Wilson, meanwhile, is ranked as Boston’s No. 18 prospect in his first offseason with the Sox after coming over in the deal that sent Blake Swihart to the Arizona Diamondbacks this past April.

The 23-year-old outfielder out of Los Angeles played in just eight Arizona Fall League games this year, but slashed an impressive .333/.412/.467 with one home run, eight RBI, and two stolen bases while doing so.

With the possibilities of Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., and even to an extent Andrew Benintendi, getting dealt this winter, Wilson could be someone to watch during the early stages of spring training in February.

Aybar also played in the Arizona Fall League this year, posting a 6.75 ERA and 1.38 WHIP across seven relief appearances and eight innings of work.

Initially signed as an outfielder out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, the 22-year-old has since converted to a left-handed reliever with a fastball that can top out at 97 MPH. He worked his way up to High-A Salem in 2019, so perhaps Double-A Portland is in the cards for the club’s No. 30 prospect in 2020.

Of course, just because these moves were made now does not mean that the Sox’ 2020 roster is set in stone. Changes will still come, and they will probably start once the Winter Meetings get underway in San Diego next month.

 

Red Sox’ Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts Take Home Third Career Silver Slugger Awards

For the third time in both of their respective careers, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts were named Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners on Thursday night, with Betts being one of three American League outfielders selected, and Bogaerts being the lone American League shortstop to win the award.

Betts, 27, followed up an MVP Award-winning 2018 season with another solid campaign at the plate in 2019, slashing .295/.391/.524 to go along with 29 home runs and 80 RBI over 150 games, 102 of which came batting out of the leadoff spot.

Among qualified American League outfielders this year, Betts ranked first in runs scored (135), second in OBP, and sixth in wRC+ (135). The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout and Houston Astros’ George Springer took home the other two Silver Slugger Awards for AL outfielders.

The Tennessee native has now won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award in the same year three times, becoming the first Red Sox player to ever accomplish the feat. It sure would be nice to see him try and do it a fourth time.

Bogaerts, meanwhile, built on a strong 2018 season and broke out even more in ’19, as he posted a .309/.384/.555 slash line to go along with a career-best 33 homers and 117 runs driven in over 155 games.

In terms of qualified AL shortstops not named Alex Bregman, who played 61 games at short for the Houston Astros, the 27-year-old ranked first in hits, (190), first in doubles (52), first in RBI, first in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, and first in wRC+ (141).

Back in April, Bogaerts inked a six-year, $120 million contract extension with Boston. The extension does not come into effect until next year, but the Aruba native seemed to settle into his own in 2019 and establish himself as a veteran presence in the Red Sox’ clubhouse.

Even if Boston is looking to shred payroll this winter, trading Bogaerts should not be on the table.

J.D. Martinez, who won two Silver Slugger awards last year, was not named an award winner for designated hitters this year. That honor went to Minnesota Twins slugger Nelson Cruz.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Pedro Strop

MLB Trade Rumors on Tuesday released their annual predictions for where this year’s crop of top 50 free agents will land this winter.

As it is already known, the Red Sox find themselves needing help out of the bullpen. That much is evident by how team chairman Tom Werner said that, ”Β we’re going to hopefully supplement our relief pitching,” back in September.

Whether adding new arms to the mix comes via trade or free agency has yet to be determined, but that should not stop new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from exploring his options.

Last month, I brought up the idea of the club reaching out to right-handed reliever and Massachusetts native Steve Cishek. Now, I am going to throw out another name who also spent the 2019 season with the Chicago Cubs in right-hander Pedro Strop.

MLBTR has the 34-year-old inking a one-year, $5 million deal with the Sox this winter.

Strop is coming off a 2019 campaign in which he posted a 4.97 ERA and 4.53 FIP over 50 relief appearances and 41 2/3 innings of work. Those numbers may not seem great on the surface, but it is worth mentioning that Strop did spend time on the injured list twice this year due to a left hamstring strain in May and left neck tightness in late July/early August.

Before that though, the Dominican Republic native had established himself as one of the better relievers in the National League since joining the Cubs from the Baltimore Orioles as part of the Jake Arrieta trade in July 2013.

Strop’s pitch arsenal includes a slider, four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, and split-finger fastball. He certainly appears to be someone who could very well bounce back in 2020.

Although Strop was the only free agent directly linked to the Sox by MLBTR, other named that Boston could be interested in include Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Will Smith, Cole Hamels, Jose Abreu, Daniel Hudson, Brock Holt, and Rich Hill.

J.D. Martinez Decides Not to Opt out of Contract With Red Sox

Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez has decided NOT to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million of his contract, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old had until midnight eastern time Monday to make his decision, and is now locked in for at least one more year, as he also has two more opt outs remaining in his contract following the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

In his second season with Boston, Martinez slashed .304/.383/.557 to go along with 36 home runs and 105 RBI across 146 games played in 2019.

Back in September, Sox ownership came out and said that it is a goal, not a mandate, to cut down on payroll ahead of the 2020 campaign. Following Monday’s events, Martinez is expected to earn $23.75 million next year. Combine that with Mookie Betts’ projected salary of $27.7 million, and that seemingly puts Boston’s new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom in a difficult spot.

Of course, there are plenty of options available here. For starters, Martinez’s deal could be restructured to presumably do away with the opt-outs and lock in one of the best hitters in the game for the next three years. Another avenue worth exploring could be looking into trading both Betts and Martinez.

According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Martinez can block trades to three teams, and no adjustments to his current deal have been made to this point.

During his introductory presser last week, Bloom emphasized being both “sustainable and competitive over the long term.” If the Sox really want to avoid paying those luxury tax penalties once more next year, then they’re going to have to get really creative to do so.

With that said, it would not be much of a surprise if Bloom and Co. listen to trade offers on any player besides Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.

There was already that report out of Arlington last week that the Texas Rangers had begun having preliminary, internal conversations about acquiring a Sox starter like Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, or even Chris Sale, so that is definitely an avenue to explore as well.

Red Sox Listed as 5-1 Favorites to Sign Stephen Strasburg This Winter

The Red Sox are 5/1 favorites to sign Washington Nationals right-hander and 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg this winter, according to BetOnline.ag.

Strasburg, 31, has until noon eastern time on Saturday to opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million of the seven-year, $175 million contract extension he inked with Washington in May 2016.

A client of Scott Boras, Strasburg will surely exercise that opt out after just putting together another impressive postseason campaign, posting a 1.98 ERA and .607 OPS against over six October outings (five starts) and 36 1/3 total innings pitched, including 8 1/3 dominating frames of two-run ball in his last time out against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the World Series.

Because of his reputation for showing up in the postseason, the San Diego native is likely to command a hefty pay day despite already being 31 years old.

With the statuses of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale up in the air headed into the offseason, it’s not out of question to believe that the Red Sox will be in need of starting pitching for next year. But it’s hard to imagine that new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. would be serious about pursuing a big money starting pitcher such as Strasburg, especially when it looks like the Red Sox want to shred some of their payroll ahead of the 2020 season.

Still, the oddsmakers have listed Boston as the third-place favorites to land the right-hander’s services, as they trail only the Nationals (5/4) and New York Yankees (3/1).

More information regarding Strasburg’s free agency will more than likely come into light beginning on Saturday afternoon, at about the same time the Nats take to the streets of the nation’s capital to celebrate their first ever World Series title.

 

Red Sox Claim Josh Osich off Waivers From White Sox

The Red Sox have made their first roster move under new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as the club claimed left-handed reliever Josh Osich off waivers from the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

Osich, 31, posted an ERA of 4.66 and batting average against of .242 over 57 appearances and 67 2/3 total innings pitched this past season with Chicago, his first in the Windy City after coming up and spending four years with the San Francisco Giants.

Per MLB Trade Rumors, Osich is projected to earn approximately $1 million in his first year of salary arbitration.

The Idaho native has a solid track record against left-handed bats over the course of his career, limiting them to a lifetime .659 OPS over the span of 380 plate appearances.

Beginning in 2020, relievers will be required to face a minimum of three hitters or end the inning they have entered, so it appears that the days of the LOOGY (Left-Handed One Out Guy) in baseball are over.

That new rule did not stop the Sox from picking up a left-handed option out of the bullpen though, especially when they did not have to give anything up to acquire him.

Based off of his Statcast page, Osich relied heavily on his cutter in 2019, turning to the pitch nearly 67% of the time he was on the mound. His pitch arsenal also includes a slider, sinker, changeup, and a mid-90’s fastball.

The offseason is just getting started, and the Red Sox are already on the board in terms of transactions made. It’s hard to imagine that they are anywhere close to being finished.