Former Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree is on the verge of joining this years free-agency class, as the Phillies outrighted the 31-year-old from their 40-man roster earlier Thursday morning.
Because he has accrued enough major-league service time, Hembree, who was entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021, can reject an assignment to the minors in favor of becoming a free agent a year earlier than initially anticipated.
The South Carolina native opened the 2020 campaign as one of Boston’s primary bullpen fixtures and got off to a fantastic start, posting a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against over his first 10 relief appearances and 9 2/3 innings of work.
A four-run implosion in which he failed to record an out against the Phillies, of all teams, on August 18 resulted in Hembree’s ERA skyrocketing up to 5.59. That would wind up being the righty’s last outing with the Red Sox, as Philadelphia acquired his services, as well as free agent-to-be Brandon Workman, in exchange for right-handed pitchers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold on August 21.
Things did not improve for Hembree, nor Workman, when they arrived in Philly. Together, the two hurlers combined to yield 24 runs (23 earned) on 40 hits, 14 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 25 total outings spanning 22 1/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 9.27.
According to FanGraphs, Hembree’s fWAR of -0.8 and Workman’s fWAR of -0.5 from August 21 until the end of the regular season were the worst and second-worst marks among 262 National League relievers. For what it’s worth, Hembree’s year came to a close on September 21, when he was placed on the injured list due to a right elbow strain.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw signs of promise in Pivetta, who gave up just two runs over his first two starts and 10 innings pitched with Boston in late September, and got an interesting prospect in Seabold who will presumably be added to the club’s 40-man roster within the next few weeks.
With Workman and Hembree no longer members of the Phillies organization, this trade has the makings to be an absolute steal for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox.