Red Sox ‘showing interest’ in two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, per report

The Red Sox are showing interest in free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.

Kluber, 34, is coming off a 2020 season in which he only made one start and threw one inning for the Rangers on account of suffering a torn right teres muscle against the Rockies on July 26.

Texas had acquired Kluber from the Indians in exchange for outfielder Delino Deshields and pitching prospect Emmanuel Clase last December.

As a result of his only making one start this year, Kluber had his $18 team option declined by the Rangers at the end of October, making him a free agent.

After collecting two American League Cy Young Awards and finishing third or better in A.L. Cy Young voting four times within a five-year span with Cleveland from 2014 through 2018, Kluber has fallen off a bit recently regarding his durability.

Since the start of the 2019 campaign, the three-time All-Star has made just eight starts and accrued 36 2/3 innings of work due to injuries. Last year, he suffered a right ulna fracture in early May, which wound up costing him the rest of the season.

Despite those potential concerns, Kluber was cleared for normal offseason activities back in October and is slated “to be ready to go for spring training,” per WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

As noted by Morosi in the tweet above, Kluber makes his offseason home in the greater Boston area since his wife, Amanda, is a Massachusetts native.

With that connection in mind, Kluber and the Red Sox certainly seem like a possible match, especially if the Texas native was willing to sign a short-term, incentive-laden deal in order to re-establish his value.

Of course, what the veteran righty is seeking in terms of contract details has yet to be revealed, but one thing is for certain: the Red Sox are in need of starting pitching, and for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co., Kluber certainly fits the bill.

Red Sox catching prospect Connor Wong ‘made a lot of progress’ in 2020, Jason Varitek says

Of the three players the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers in the infamous Mookie Betts trade back in February, catching prospect Connor Wong is undoubtedly the least well-known and the least heralded.

Alex Verdugo — the headliner of the deal for Boston — has the makings to be an All-Star caliber major-league outfielder, Jeter Downs is the organization’s top prospect, and then there’s Wong.

This isn’t to say the 24-year-old is not a talented prospect, because he is. So much so that MLB Pipeline has him ranked as the top catching prospect in the Sox’ farm system.

In his last minor-league season with the Dodgers in 2019, Wong posted a solid .281/.336/.541 to go along with 24 home runs and 82 RBI over 111 total games played between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa.

The majority of Wong’s playing time last year came behind the plate, but he also proved capable of playing multiple positions around the infield, which is something he did quite frequently at the University of Houston since he was originally recruited as a shortstop.

Despite that added dose of versatility, the Red Sox still view the 2017 third-round pick as a catcher primarily. Newly-promoted game planning coordinator and former Sox backstop Jason Varitek made that much clear when speaking with The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham last week.

“I saw him a lot, from spring training and spring training 2.0, and probably three weeks when he was on the taxi squad and around the team,” Varitek said of Wong. “He works extremely hard. He didn’t get in any [major-league] games, but he showed his abilities and made a lot of progress. He can play other positions, but I think he’s a catcher. There’s a lot there we can work with.”

Indeed, Wong did not appear in any games for Boston this past season, but as noted by Varitek, he still spent plenty of time around the club during spring training as well as parts of the summer and fall on account of being included on the 60-man player pool for the entirety of the 2020 campaign.

On top of that, the Houston native was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster earlier this month, so it would appear he is primed to make his major-league debut sooner rather than later.

With Wong being added to the 40-man, the Red Sox currently have four catchers — Wong, Deivy Grullon, Kevin Plawecki, and Christian Vazquez — on their major-league roster.

Red Sox prospect Juan Chacon ‘caught some attention’ at fall instructs, Eddie Romero says

Like fellow prospect Chih-Jung Liu, Juan Chacon’s baseball experience in 2020 was anything but normal.

The 17-year-old was likely going to spend the majority of the year playing in the Dominican Summer League, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that caused the minor-league season to be cancelled prevented that from happening.

Instead of getting more exposure in the Dominican, where he played in the Tricky League last summer, Chacon had to wait until early October to get his first real opportunity of 2020.

Up until then, Chacon had been working out a facility in Miami, which likely gave him an edge in preparedness when he received an invite to the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

“It was our official version of seeing him, finally under supervision,” Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero said of Chacon when speaking with WEEI’s Rob Bradford. “He has a tool-set. He is a plus-runner. It was something when we first saw him he kept getting faster every time and by signing day he was running a 6.6 60. He’s got above-average arm strength. We think he’s somebody who can stay in the middle of the field and cover a lot of range. He’s got a strong arm. And offensively, right now he’s got a projectable frame. He’s very athletic. He’s somebody from an offensive standpoint, he uses the whole field.”

The Red Sox signed Chacon, a right-handed hitter, out of Venezuela for $900,000 last July, making him the club’s highest-paid international signee for the 2019-2020 international signing period.

That is quite the investment, and with that investment comes somewhat lofty expectations; expectations which Chacon lived up to at fall instructs.

“He performed well at instructs,” Romero added. “Which for a first-year signee, usually [with those] those guys, there aren’t many of them we push straight to the stateside instructional league. We wanted to see him and he did well and I know he caught some attention.”

Regarded by SoxProspects.com as Boston’s No. 49 prospect, the 6-foot-2, 170 lb. outfielder will have the opportunity to ascend the prospect ranks some more once he actually gets the chance to see some in-game action. That will presumably happen in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League at some point in 2021.

Fall instructs allowed Red Sox prospect Chih-Jung Liu to get ‘into more of a professional routine,’ Ben Crockett says

Chih-Jung Liu’s first exposure to professional baseball in the United States has been hindered by unprecedented circumstances.

The 21-year-old right-handed pitching prospect was originally signed by the Red Sox out of Taiwan for $750,000 last October, and the 2020 season was supposed to serve as his springboard into the organization

Instead, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused plans to change in a variety of ways, as Liu had to quarantine in his Fort Myers hotel room upon arriving from Taipei for spring training in late February.

While the pandemic continued to roll on in the United States as the calendars flipped to March, Major League Baseball was eventually forced to shut down all spring training camps on March 12.

With the majority of players returning to their homes as a result of that decision, Liu, too, decided to go back to Taiwan so he could work out in a familiar environment given all the uncertainties the U.S. was facing at that time.

Liu would remain in his home country until late September, when he made the trek back to Florida after receiving an invitation to participate in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league.

Once fall instructs began the following week, the Red Sox finally had the chance to see what exactly Liu brought to the table over an extended period of time.

Based off what vice president of player development Ben Crockett told The Athletic’s Chad Jennings, the club was quite impressed with what they saw from the right-hander.

“He was in spring training for such a short period of time,” Crockett said of Liu. “[It was] great to actually see him. [He was] really interesting. Showed good stuff. Good fastball with carry. Showed pitch-ability. Showed an ability to use multiple pitches that will ultimately help him. It was definitely nice to kind of get him into more of a professional routine.”

Regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 18 prospect, the 6-foot, 180 lb. hurler operates with a three-pitch mix that includes a 92-96 mph that can top out at 98 mph, an 86-88 mph slider, and a low-80s changeup “with some fade,” per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Because so little has been seen of him to this point, it’s difficult to project what Lui’s 2021 season will look like in terms of which minor-league level he starts at.

Wherever he does start out next spring, Liu does figure to work as a starting pitcher for the time being despite the fact he was a two-way player in high school and excelled as a switch-hitting infielder in college while taking a two-year break from pitching.

Red Sox prospect Brainer Bonaci ‘showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability’ at fall instructs

Brainer Bonaci has been a professional baseball player for just over two years and he doesn’t turn 19 years old until next July, but he is already looking like one of the more exciting young infielders in the Red Sox’ minor-league pipeline.

The 18-year-old shortstop is coming off an impressive showing at the Sox’ fall instructional league in Fort Myers. According to SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall, Bonaci “looked the best of the young shortstops [at fall instructs] and showed a solid blend of instincts and physical ability. He has a plus arm and both his glove and hit tool showed average potential.”

Signed out of Venezuela by Manny Padron and Eddie Romero for $290,000 on his 16th birthday in 2018, Bonaci is starting to get some legitimate attention thanks to what he did this fall.

Had there been a minor-league season in 2020, Bonaci likely would have began the year with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. Instead, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, he was limited in what he could do until October, when fall instructs began.

In his only organized action as a minor-leaguer thus far, the 5-foot-10 switch-hitter posted a solid .279/.356/.379 slash line (111 wRC+) to go along with three home runs, 37 RBI, and 18 stolen bases over 61 games played for the Dominican Summer League Red Sox last year.

Because he is still only 18 years old, Bonaci still has plenty of room to grow physically and developmentally. That said, there’s still reason to be excited about his potential, and SoxProspects’ latest prospect rankings reflect that.

Yes, Bonaci is now the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system according to SoxProspects, good for the fifth highest ranking among infielders after Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, Bobby Dalbec, and Nick Yorke.

Going back to April 1, Bonaci was regarded by SoxProspects as the club’s 20th-ranked prospect, so it is clear he is trending in the right direction. And with Dalbec set to graduate from his prospect status next season, it’s safe to assume Bonaci will only continue to rise through the prospect ranks in 2021.

If we look even further ahead, Bonaci will become Rule 5 eligible for the first time in late 2022, so it’s not like he is too far out from garnering 40-man roster consideration as his development continues.

Red Sox claim right-hander Joel Payamps off waivers from Diamondbacks, designate Robert Stock

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Joel Payamps off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the club announced Wednesday.

In order to make room for Payamps on Boston’s 40-man roster, right-hander Robert Stock was designated for assignment. Righty Ryan Weber and left-hander Matt Hall were also outrighted to Triple-A Worcester.

Payamps, 26, had spent the previous two seasons with Arizona, appearing in a total of four games while allowing four runs (three earned) over seven total innings pitched in those appearances. He was designated for assignment last Friday.

The Dominican Republic native was originally signed by the Rockies as an international free agent in 2010 and has 145 career minor-league outings (119 starts) under his belt.

Per Statcast, Payamps utilizes a four-pitch mix that is comprised of a four-seam fastball, a slider, a sinker, and a changeup. He averaged 94.2 mph and topped out at 95.8 mph with his heater this past season.

With the addition of Payamps to the 40-man roster via a waiver claim, the Red Sox needed to create some room, and they did so by designating Stock.

The 31-year-old was initially claimed off waivers by Boston from the Phillies back on July 27.

In his debut season with the Sox, Stock posted a 4.73 ERA and 3.34 FIP over 10 appearances and 13 1/3 innings pitched spanning three separate stints with the big-league club.

Given the fact he can reach 99 mph with his heater, Stock may be someone that Boston would like to stash away in the minors for bullpen depth. The Washington native will of course have to clear waivers in order for that to happen, though.

As for Weber and Hall, the two hurlers who represented 40% of the Sox’ Opening Day rotation this year were outrighted to Triple-A after being designated for assignment on November 20.

Assuming both Weber and Hall accept their minor-league assignments as opposed to electing free agency, they too could provide integral swingman depth for the Red Sox since both are capable of starting and working out of the bullpen.

With Wednesday’s moves made, Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity. Expect more transactions like this one to be made by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. as the offseason continues.

UPDATE: As pointed out by SoxProspects’ Chris Hatfield, Payamps is out of minor-league options, so the Red Sox could very well look to sneak him through waivers as they did with second baseman Christian Arroyo over the summer.

Red Sox one of three teams who have Yasiel Puig ‘on their radar,’ per report

The Red Sox are one of three teams that have free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig “on their radar,” according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Per Feinsand, the Astros and Orioles are the other two clubs interested in signing Puig, “though others could also be in the mix.”

Puig, who turns 30 next month, did not play Major League Baseball at all in 2020. He initially agreed to a one-year deal with the Braves in July, but that pact fell through just three days later on account of his testing positive for COVID-19.

Since that time, the Cuban born outfielder has remained relatively quiet, most recently signing with agent Rachel Luba of Luba Sports earlier this week.

In his most recent big-league action, Puig posted a .267/.327/.458 slash line to go along with 24 home runs and 84 RBI over 149 games played between the Reds and Indians in 2019.

That decent showing made it seem as though Puig would be an enticing free agent for clubs last winter, but that turned out to not be the case.

Now, after a challenging 2020 in which he could not play Major League Baseball at all, Puig is ready to get after it once more.

“2021, Puig will be ready,” he said Tuesday via Twitter. “I am willing to put in the work and I am going after the total win!”

This is far from the first time the Sox have been linked to Puig. Back in early July, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that Boston had been mentioned as a possibility to sign the All-Star before he wound up agreeing to that short-lived deal with Atlanta.

Before that, going back to the 2017 offseason, the Red Sox reportedly turned down a trade proposal from the Dodgers that would have sent Jackie Bradley Jr. to Los Angeles and Puig to Boston.

With Bradley Jr. currently out of the picture on account of him being a free agent, the Sox find themselves in need of outfield help in some capacity.

Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has hinted that the club’s preference would be to add an outfielder who is capable of playing center, something Puig has not done since 2016.

Still, as Bloom said earlier this month, the Red Sox “can’t be too rigid and miss good opportunities” while exploring the trade and free agency markets.

Would bringing in a motivated Puig on a one-year, major-league deal laden with incentives be one of those “good opportunities” Bloom described? Perhaps.

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.

Red Sox and Cubs talked Kris Bryant trade over the summer, per report

The Red Sox and Cubs engaged in trade talks centered around All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant over the summer, according to The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales.

Per Gonzales, “two sources confirmed the Red Sox and Cubs discussed Bryant this summer, but those talks faded.”

Bryant, who turns 29 in January, is under team control with the Cubs for one more season. He is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $18.6 million in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021.

Because he is on the verge of free agency, Bryant, like Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, seems likely to get dealt at some point this winter.

The Las Vegas native is nearly two months removed from an uncharacteristic 2020 campaign in which he slashed .206/.293/.351 with just four home runs and 11 RBI over 34 games played.

In those 34 games, Bryant saw the majority of his playing time come at the hot corner, but he also logged 29 innings in left field. Because of the experience he has in the outfield, as well as the fact that Rafael Devers appears to be the third baseman of the future, “the Red Sox would envision Bryant as a left fielder,” per Gonzales.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox’ outfield picture is somewhat shorthanded in the wake of Jackie Bradley Jr. declaring for free agency last month.

Without an everyday centerfielder on the roster, either Andrew Benintendi or Alex Verdugo could make the switch to patrol center on a regular basis, which would therefore create an opening for someone like Bryant.

For as disappointing as his 2020 season may have been, Bryant still has the potential to bounce back in a tremendous way in 2021, especially since it would be a contract year for him.

In 740 games spanning six big-league seasons with Chicago, the former first-round pick, who is a Boras Corp. client, has clubbed 142 homers and collected 414 RBI. He won National League Rookie of the Year in 2015, National League MVP in 2016, and has been named to three National League All-Star teams.

On top of that, Bryant’s father, Mike, hails from Medford, Mass. and was selected by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1980 amateur draft out of UMASS Lowell.

It remains to be seen how likely a Bryant-to-Boston trade is at the moment considering talks between the Cubs and Sox faded over the summer, but dealing for a player of Bryant’s caliber with only one guaranteed year of team control would certainly be an aggressive move for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

Also, as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, “it’s not uncommon for teams to lay groundwork at the trade deadline, then resume trade talks during the offseason.” We will have to wait and see if those trade talks do indeed resume.

Who is Eduard Bazardo? Newest addition to Red Sox’ 40-man roster could prove to be important bullpen piece in 2021

At this time last year, it appeared as though Eduard Bazardo had a legitimate shot to be added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster.

The right-handed pitching prospect was Rule 5 eligible for the first time, and he needed to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster in order to be protected from the 2019 Rule 5 Draft.

Among the five players who were added last November, Bazardo was not one of them as left-handers Kyle Hart and Yoan Aybar were the only two pitchers to make the cut.

The decision by the Red Sox to leave Bazardo off the 40-man roster meant the Venezuelan could be snatched up by another club during the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft.

Fortunately for Boston, that did not happen, as Bazardo went undrafted and remained with the organization he began his professional career with back in 2014 after signing for just $8,000 as an international free agent.

Even while staying with the Sox, Bazardo did not get too much exposure in 2020 on account of there being no minor-league season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He was able to appear in four Grapefruit League games back in March before the shutdown, but that was some of the only in-game action he saw up until October.

That being the case because after not being added to the Red Sox’ 60-man player pool at any point during the season, Bazardo was invited to participate in the club’s fall instructional league down in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall, the 6-foot, 155 lb. righty caused quite the stir thanks to what he did on the mound.

“Right-handed reliever Eduard Bazardo was the most impressive arm at Instructs, showing off increased velocity that puts him squarely in the mix to either be added to the 40-man roster on Friday or selected in the Rule 5 draft,” Cundall wrote earlier this week. “At Instructs, all of Bazardo’s stuff was improved, as he sat 93-97 mph and often pitched at 95-96 with, as one scout called it, a ‘silly’ curveball. His curveball elicited some horrible swings, and its spin rate topped  3000 rpm, which is elite. His fastball is now a plus-to-better pitch, and his curveball is solidly a plus pitch as well.”

The way Bazardo pitched at fall instructs obviously caught the attention of Red Sox higher-ups, such as chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, and he was able to leverage his performance to a spot on Boston’s 40-man roster earlier Friday evening.

As indicated above, Bazardo’s pitch mix includes a fastball and curveball, as well as a split-finger fastball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. 

With consistent control and improved command, Bazardo was able to fool hitters at a decent rate at fall instructs, and he’ll presumably have the chance to do that again come February.

Cundall predicts that Bazardo will make his major-league debut in 2021 as a reliever, and given the current state of the Red Sox bullpen, it’s not hard to see why that may be a legitimate possibility.