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 outfield prospect Jarren Duran heating up in Puerto Rico

This offseason, Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran has been playing for Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League.

The 24-year-old got off to a slow start with his new team, accruing just three hits through his first 37 plate appearances, but has since picked things up.

Over the course of a three-game series against RA12 over the weekend, Duran went 7-for-13 (.538) at the plate with four RBI and five runs scored, raising his line on the season to a modest .250/.429/.278 through 11 games played. He also leads Caguas in stolen bases with six on the year thus far getting without getting caught.

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 1 outfield prospect and No. 8 overall prospect, Duran is one of the fastest players in the Sox’ system.

FanGraphs grades the California native’s speed tool at a 70 out of 80, which trails only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez for the best mark among Red Sox prospects.

In addition to his speed, Duran, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 187 lbs., made some adjustment to his swing last offseason and hit the ball further at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket over the summer as a result of said adjustments.

Portland Sea Dogs hitting coach Lance Zawadzki, among others, contributed to Duran’s swing evolution.

(For more on Zawadzki, check out this story from The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey)

“Working on my swing with Lance everyday here, Lance Zawadzki, and I worked with Doug Latta a little bit,” the Long Beach State product said back in August. “Just my swing path and cleaning things up, making things much simpler than they used to be, and just having a simple approach. I kind of owe it to those guys because I come here everyday and I grind it out with Lance everyday. Every day’s a struggle to find your swing. You can go home, not play baseball for a day, and it feels like you haven’t swung in two weeks.”

Though he is not yet on Boston’s 40-man roster, Duran very well could make his major-league debut at some point in 2021 given how close he already is.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom seemed impressed with what the former seventh-round draft pick did in 2020 when speaking with reporters last month.

“He had a tremendous 2020,” Bloom said of Duran. “He made strides hitting-wise and physically, didn’t lose any of his speed. He just had a really good year. I think for all players who didn’t play at the major league level, and even for some of those who did — because we had a shorter season — it’s tougher to feel confident in exactly what you know about them. He came into the year as someone who had spent some time in Double-A, but not with particularly distinguished performance, and then you see him put the year together that he had, and we have to try to figure out what that all means.”

For now, expect Duran to begin the 2021 campaign with Triple-A Worcester, though he will likely get plenty of time to shine once spring training begins in February.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora hints at team’s interest in free-agent outfielder Eddie Rosario

The Minnesota Twins non-tendered Eddie Rosario last Wednesday. It took all of a day for the free-agent outfielder to be linked to the Red Sox.

Rosario, 29, hails from Puerto Rico and is close with Sox manager Alex Cora, who served as Rosario’s general manager for Team Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Because he was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn approximately $9.6 million in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021, Rosario was ultimately let go by Minnesota, thus making him a free agent earlier than expected.

Having finished in the top-20 in American League MVP voting each of the last two seasons, Rosario being cut came as somewhat of a surprise. The former fourth-round draft pick had just put the finishing touches on a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .257/.316/.476 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI over 57 games and 231 plate appearances. That’s good for an OPS+ of 115 and a wRC+ of 110.

Cora was one of those in the game who were caught off guard by the Twins’ decision to let Rosario go. He said as much when speaking to Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia earlier Monday afternoon.

“As a friend, I was surprised by what happened to Eddie last week,” Cora said (in Spanish). “As a baseball man, we will see what happens in the future. Eddie is a complete player, who still has room to keep improving. Everyone knows how talented he is.”

Talented as the left-handed hitting Rosario may be, his fit within the Red Sox’ roster does not exactly line up at the moment. That is the case because Boston already has two left-handed hitting outfielders — Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo — on their major-league roster.

On top of that, Rosario is best suited for a corner outfield position defensively, more so left field if he were to regularly play at Fenway Park, meaning one of Benintendi or Verdugo would have to make a move to center or be traded in order to accommodate Rosario.

So, as of now, the odds of a Rosario-Cora reunion of sorts happening seems low, especially when you consider what the Sox should be prioritizing this offseason: starting pitching and bullpen help.

That said, if the opportunity arises and there is a way Rosario would fit on this roster, it would not be surprising to see Boston explore that avenue at some point this winter.

“What we are going to do for everything we do is be smart and opportunistic,” Cora said of his team’s offseason approach. “And this market is perfect for being opportunistic.”

Why the Red Sox should not be counted out of a potential Carlos Correa trade

Late Monday night, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros have been “floating” All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa in trade talks with other clubs due to the notion that it “is unlikely they will sign him befre he reaches free agency at the end of the season.”

Rosenthal has since updated his story though, and now reports that Houston “is not engaged in any active conversations on Correa.”

Whether someone within the Astros organization reached out to Rosenthal to provide an update or he simply corrected himself has yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain: Correa, as of now, will be a free agent this time next year.

The 26-year-old is coming off a rather underwhelming 2020 campaign in which he slashed .264/.326/.383 with five home runs and 25 RBI over 58 games played.

As uninspiring as those numbers may be, Correa made up for it in October by posting a 1.221 OPS and driving in a team-leading 17 runs en route to Houston coming up one game short of a second consecutive World Series appearance.

Given how well he performed this most recent postseason, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year could entice a great many a club looking to upgrade their infield and make a deep run into the playoffs next year.

The Red Sox, having missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year in 2020, will certainly be one of those teams attempting to bolster their roster in many areas this offseason.

On the surface, dealing for Correa does not make all that much sense for Boston given the fact that Xander Bogaerts is the club’s everyday shortstop and is one of the best in the American League at what he does. The 28-year-old can opt out of his contract after the 2022 season, though.

Even with that in mind, a potential positional logjam has not stopped Chaim Bloom from at least exploring trades for high-caliber players thus far in his brief tenure as Boston’s chief baseball officer.

Just this week, it was reported by The Chicago Tribune that the Sox and Cubs talked about a potential Kris Bryant trade over the summer. Before that, it appeared as though the Red Sox had/have at least some interest in Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who like Correa is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility.

That leads us to this next point: the connection Correa and Lindor share with Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

All three of Cora, Correa, Lindor hail from Puerto Rico and Cora, by all accounts, is very close with both infielders.

In Correa’s case, Cora served as his bench coach in Houston during the Astros’ march to a controversial World Series victory over the Dodgers in 2017. Cora was also Correa and Lindor’s general manager for Team Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Cora’s relationship with players such as Correa and Lindor could provide the Red Sox with the inside track on acquiring their services, as Rosenthal noted last March.

At the end of the day, the chances of the Sox acquiring Correa or Lindor before next July’s trade deadline are likely slim to none, but as was the case before his first tenure as manager ended, Cora can prove to be a selling point for players who are contemplating getting traded to or signing with Boston for years to come.

Also, for what it’s worth, Correa is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $10.2 million in his final season of arbitration eligibility in 2021.

Despite Alex Cora connection, Red Sox not prioritizing Francisco Lindor trade this offseason

The Cleveland Indians find themselves in a similar position as last year’s Boston Red Sox. That being, they are open to trading an extremely talented player who his entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

That soon-to-be free agent would be none other than superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, who turns 27 on Saturday and is in the running to be the most sought after free agent next winter.

Does the Indians’ situation sound familiar yet? It should. The Red Sox, faced with the dilemma last offseason of either trading Mookie Betts, who like Lindor was on the verge of free agency, or risk losing their homegrown star for nothing if they held on to him going into the following season.

Boston, much to the disdain of its fanbase and the general public, wound up dealing Betts and his one year of team control as well as left-hander David Price to the Dodgers in February in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

Now, roughly nine months after that blockbuster went down, the cash-strapped Indians could very well trade away their franchise cornerstone this winter so they don’t lose him for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick in 2021.

With that being said, a number of suitors have likely begun contacting Cleveland about trading for Lindor. The Red Sox, having just re-hired Alex Cora, who like Lindor hails from Puerto Rico and served as Team Puerto Rico’s general manager during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, were, at least on the outside, seen as a club who could be interested in acquiring the shortstop’s services.

However, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Sox will not prioritize a trade for Lindor this winter despite the Cora connection and will instead focus on pitching.

Lindor, a four-time All-Star, is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .258/.335/.415 to go along with eight home runs and 27 RBI over 60 games played.

From 2016 through 2019, the former first-round draft pick was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award, and finished in the top-15 in American League MVP voting all four years, again proving he is one of, if not the best shortstop in baseball.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox have a quality shortstop themselves in the form of Xander Bogaerts, but there is a caveat in the 28-year-old’s contract and that is he can opt out and become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

That might not mean much at the moment since Lindor is only under team control for one more year, but as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal notes, “the team that gets [Lindor] would gain the inside track on signing him, the way the Dodgers did with Betts.”

Lindor has the edge over Bogaerts in that he is both younger and a better defender, but the latter has proven to be the better offensive player. That much is made evident when comparing Bogaerts’ 136 wRC+ to Lindor’s 119 wRC+ since 2018.

Even with a slight difference in their skillsets, Bogaerts has emerged as the Red Sox’ clubhouse leader in the wake of the Betts trade, and bringing in someone of Lindor’s caliber, who plays the same position, could send the wrong message.

Of course, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom could always opt to purse Lindor in free agency next winter if he does indeed hit the open market.

If another team, whether it be the Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Dodgers, or Giants, does acquire Lindor, though, one would have to assume that club would prefer to lock up their new star to a long-term extension right away.

As previously mentioned, the Dodgers did that with Betts in July, and the Cardinals did it upon acquiring Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks in December 2018.

For now, Bloom and Co. seem more interested in acquiring pitching help as opposed to offensive help, which is understandable when you consider how dismal Red Sox pitching was in 2020 (5.58 ERA, second-worst in the American League).

Top Red Sox Outfield Prospect Jarren Duran Set To Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Top Red Sox outfield prospect Jarren Duran will be competing in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico this winter for Los Criollos de Caguas, the club announced earlier Tuesday.

Duran, who turned 24 last month, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 8 overall prospect and top outfield prospect.

The 2018 seventh-round draft pick out of Long Beach State was added to the Sox’ player pool back in July and put on quite a show at the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket in what would have been his second full minor-league season.

In joining Caguas, Duran will be managed by Red Sox coach Ramon Vazquez, while Alex Cora’s brother-in-law Jesus Feliciano serves as the team’s general manager.

“Jarren Duran has a great chance to play in the big leagues next year. A player who has hit for average, has strength and has stolen 70 bases in his two seasons as a professional,” Feliciano said (in Spanish) of the speedy outfielder. “He is a versatile player who we are going to like a lot because of the strong way he plays and he will help us with the experienced outfielders we have on our team.”

According to FanGraphs, Duran, who has swiped 70 bags in 199 career minor-league games, has the second-best speed tool (70) in the Sox’ farm system behind only fellow outfielder Gilberto Jimenez (80).

With that speed, as well as the uptick in power he put on display at McCoy Stadium, the California native may have a legitimate shot to crack Boston’s Opening Day roster come next spring.

Many around the organization seem impressed with what they have seen out of Duran in the relatively short period of time he has been a professional. Worcester Red Sox manager Billy McMillon is no exception.

“He had an unbelievable offensive camp. Stole a lot of bases, hit a lot of home runs. Impacted the baseball hard day in and day out,” McMillon said of Duran earlier this month. “I think he continues to get better in the outfield and as that continues to get better, I think that’s going to help clear the path for him. He’s okay, he’s solid, but you can see there’s some room for improvement there. We did some things working on footwork and routes to balls and he kind of cleaned that up a little bit. For me, the question is, can he do that consistently? If he hits a lull with his offense, is he going to stay as positive as we was all camp? I never saw him down during the camp. He hit really well for the entirety of the camp. He’s a very intriguing, very interesting guy.”

Because of what he did in Pawtucket this summer, the Red Sox likely felt that Duran did not need to attend fall instructs, which are currently underway in Fort Myers. Instead, the young speed merchant will take the field for Los Criollos de Caguas down in Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.

Barring any COVID-19-related setbacks, the 2020-2021 Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente season should begin sometime in mid-November.

Red Sox’ Michael Chavis’ Season Likely Over, Rookie Will Play Winter Ball in Puerto Rico

Red Sox rookie infielder Michael Chavis will more than likely play in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, per his manager Alex Cora. That news came earlier Friday, while Cora also announced that Chavis had been shut down for the remainder of the 2019 regular season.

The 24-year-old has been out of action since August 12th after being diagnosed with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder sustained on this catch in the eighth inning of a 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals on August 6th.

The Sox sent Chavis out on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket back on August 23rd, one in which he went 8-for-30 (.267) over a nine-game span, but he began to felt discomfort in his right oblique while working out in Boston, and that put a real damper on things.

“He was sore the last few days,” Cora said of Chavis on Friday, who did not travel with the team for their weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays. “Too bad he has to end this way. He did his best to get back but obviously we’re going to take care of him.”

Called up for the first time on April 19th, the Georgia native slashed .254/.322/.444 with 18 home runs and 58 RBI over 95 games in his first big league season, playing first, second, and third base.

Going back to that Winter League part, the plan for Chavis is to play for the Criollos de Caguas of the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, the hometown team of one Alex Cora.

“Most likely, he’ll go to Caguas and play a month down there,” said Cora. “While he plays, he can stop by my house and we can cook some good Latin food and he can hang with me.”

That quote is really why I wanted to write about this, because it creates quite the visual, in my honest opinion.

According to MassLive.com‘s Chris Cotillo, Chavis will play around the infield while in Puerto Rico per usual, but he will also see playing time in the outfield for the first time.

“He’ll get at-bats,” Cora articulated Friday. “Not too much, only a month if that. I think it’ll be good for him to keep working at his craft and get ready for next year.”

Per MLB.com, the Puerto Rican Winter League typically begins play in the middle of November. Something to look forward to for sure.