Red Sox make signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official

Moments before shocking the baseball world by acquiring Jackie Bradley Jr. and a pair of prospects from the Brewers for Hunter Renfroe, the Red Sox made the signings of Rich Hill and James Paxton official on Wednesday night.

Both veteran left-handers had agreed to one-year deals with the Sox within the last 24 hours, as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier first reported the agreement with Hill and Sportsnet’s Chad Day first reported the agreement with Paxton.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Hill will earn a base salary of $5 million in 2022, though his deal includes up to $3 million in performance bonuses based on number of innings pitched.

Hill, who turns 42 in March, is coming off a solid 2021 campaign in which he posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 150 strikeouts to 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) spanning 158 2/3 innings of work between the Rays and Mets.

The Milton, Mass. native will be preparing to embark upon his 18th big-league season in 2022 after signing with Boston as a free agent for the seventh time in his career.

“This guy is one of the best competitors in our game,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said of Hill. “It seems like he doesn’t age. Wherever he goes, it seems like he has success. Not only is he a good pitcher, but he’s a tremendous clubhouse presence. To be able to add a veteran like him who has shown the ability to pitch here and shown the ability to pitch in different roles, really to take on whatever is thrown at him.”

Paxton, on the other hand, is more of a unique signing since the Red Sox added the lefty on a one-year, $10 million deal for 2022 that also includes a two-year club option that could take the total value of the contract up to $35 million, per Speier.

More specifically, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo reports that if the Sox pick up Paxton’s option, he will be guaranteed $26 million in 2023 and 2024 ($13 million in each season). If they decline, he can either exercise a one-year player option for 2023 at $4 million or turn it down and become a free agent himself.

In other words, Paxton’s contract comes with $10 million in guaranteed money (a $6 million base salary in 2022 and the $4 million conditional player option) that can max out at $35 million over three years when taking performance bonuses and escalators into account.

After spending the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Yankees, Paxton re-joined the Mariners in 2021. But he suffered an elbow injury in his first start of the year that would ultimately require season-ending Tommy John surgery in April.

Because Paxton is still recovering from that elbow procedure, the Red Sox do not anticipate that the 33-year-old to return to the mound until some point during the second half of the 2022 campaign.

“He’s not going to be ready for Opening Day, but we do expect to see him at some point during the second half of the season if all goes well, ” said Bloom. “We’re hopeful that when he does come back, he’ll be able to give us a lift. Before injuries really started to impact his career, this guy was one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League.”

Going back to his first season with New York, Paxton put up a respectable 3.82 ERA and 3.86 ERA with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks across 29 starts and 150 2/3 innings pitched in 2019.

“If he gets back to that, he could provide a huge boost for us in the second half,” Bloom said of Paxton. “We also have the ability, if all goes well this coming year, to control him for a couple years after that. And that was a big part of this deal for us: adding someone who might be able to help us down the stretch this coming year, but then also be a big part of what we’re doing in the years ahead.”

Within the last week, the Red Sox have added three starting pitchers (Hill, Paxton, and Michael Wacha). While the goal of doing this may have something to do with filling the void left by Eduardo Rodriguez, it also allows Boston to bolster its rotation depth going into 2022.

“To add to this group that we have, to have the depth to make sure we’re not putting too much on our young guys, and that we have enough capable major-league pitchers to get through the marathon of a season, it’s huge,” Bloom said.

Indeed it is.

(Picture of James Paxton: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Red Sox agree to one-year deal with veteran left-hander Rich Hill, per report

The Red Sox have agreed to a one-year contract with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The deal is still pending a physical, but figures to increase the size of Boston’s 40-man roster to 39.

Hill, who turns 42 in March, has been linked to the Red Sox for quite some time as this will mark the seventh instance in which he has signed with Boston as a free agent.

The Milton, Mass. native was originally drafted by the Cubs in the fourth round of the 2002 amateur draft out of the University of Michigan, but has spent parts of four major-league seasons (2010-2012, 2015) with the Sox.

After garnering interest from the Red Sox last winter, Hill ultimately inked a one-year, $2.5 million pact with the Rays in February and was later traded to the Mets in July.

Over 32 appearances (31 starts) between both clubs, the veteran southpaw posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP to go along with 150 strikeouts to 55 walks across 158 2/3 innings of work in 2021.

The 158 2/3 frames Hill threw this year marked the most he has accrued in a single season since 2007 (195 innings pitched), when he was an up-and-coming 27-year-old with the Cubs.

Per Baseball Savant, the 41-year-old lefty operates with a six-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, curveball, sinker, cutter, changeup, and slider. He held opponents to a .111 batting average against with his sinker, a .167 batting average against with his changeup, and a .176 batting average against with his cutter this year.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 221 pounds, Hill — who is represented by ACES — will be embarking upon his 18th big-league season come Opening Day 2022.

By reportedly agreeing to a deal with Hill just hours before Major League Baseball’s impending work stoppage, the Red Sox have shown that adding starting rotation depth has been a priority so far this off-season.

In the wake of losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers via free agency, Boston has gone out and signed right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal and veteran left-hander James Paxton to a one-year, $10 million deal that is pending a physical and includes a two-year club option within the last four days.

Like Wacha and Paxton, Hill is somewhat of a lottery ticket given his age and injury history. Still, Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. must have felt that the potential rewards outweighed the risks, as Hill is once again slated so suit up for his hometown team.

A product of Milton High School, Hill was used as a reliever in his first stint with the Red Sox from 2010-2012, pitching to the tune of a 1.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 36:15 over 40 total relief appearances spanning 31 2/3 innings pitched.

In his second stint with the club, Hill came aboard by signing a one-year deal out of Indy Ball in August 2015. He then proceeded to put up a 1.55 ERA and 2.27 FIP in four starts (29 innings pitched) and leveraged that impressive stretch into a major-league deal with the Athletics. Since then, he has pitched for the A’s, Dodgers, Twins, Rays, and Mets.

Of all the teams Hill has pitched for throughout his lengthy career, though, he credits the Red Sox for being one of the best at doing what they do.

“The Red Sox do things right,” Hill told Speier last month. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Are Red Sox open to reunion with Rich Hill?

The Red Sox appear open to a reunion with free agent left-hander Rich Hill, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

In a recent conversation with Speier, Hill “suggested that he’s been in touch with members of the Red Sox this offseason, just as he was as a free agent last offseason.”

While noting that these conversations have mainly been social exchanges, Hill did hint that the Sox do seem interested in his services.

“There is an interest, without a doubt,” Hill said. “There’s a need on the other end. [But] the need for starting pitching is very apparent throughout the league — not just in Boston. It’s also many other clubs that need it.”

Hill, 41, became a free agent earlier this month after splitting the 2021 season with the Rays and Mets. He posted a 3.86 ERA and 4.34 FIP with 150 strikeouts and 55 walks over 32 appearances (31 starts) and 158 2/3 innings pitched between both clubs.

As noted by Speier, this marked Hill’s healthiest season since he was a member of the Cubs in 2007, which had been the last time he eclipsed the 150-inning plateau prior to this year.

A native of Milton, Mass., Hill has spent parts of four big-league seasons with the Red Sox, with his most-recent stint with the team coming in 2015. To date, he has signed with Boston as a free agent on six separate occasions (June 2010, December 2010, December 2011, February 2014, March 2014, August 2015).

By Opening Day next spring, Hill will have turned 42 years old. Still, the veteran lefty expects to pitch in the majors in 2022 and wants to do so for a contender.

But Hill, who still lives in Milton, also expressed interest in living closer to home, making it seem as though the Red Sox would be at the top of his destination wish list for that very reason.

“The Red Sox do things right,” said Hill. “I’ve been around 14 organizations. If I tell you that they’re in the upper echelon, they’re doing pretty good.”

Along those same lines, the Red Sox find themselves in need of starting rotation help this winter after Eduardo Rodriguez left in free agency to ink a five-year, $77 million contract with the Tigers.

Hill, who is preparing to embark upon his 18th major-league season, would not command the sort of pay day other free agent starters — such as Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, or Kevin Gausman — are seeking.

Last winter, the Sox were in talks to bring Hill back for the 2021 campaign, though those conversations dissipated once chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. brought in Martin Perez and Garrett Richards by early February.

Shortly thereafter, the University of Michigan product signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays, thus closing the door on any shot of a reunion with his hometown team.

This time around, however, a reunion could take place if the Red Sox believe Hill can contribute as a starter in 2022 and Hill, in turn, feels like the Red Sox give him the best chance to win a World Series ring.

(Picture of Rich Hill: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

How Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo became a better major-leaguer because of veteran teammates like Mitch Moreland, Rich Hill

Alex Verdugo’s inaugural season with the Red Sox ended with the outfielder finishing 12th in American League MVP voting.

Well before that, though, the 24-year-old had gotten off to a rough start with his new team.

After being left off the Sox’ Opening Day lineup last July, Verdugo struggled to the tune of a .231/.286/.231 slash line with no extra-base hits, no RBI, two walks, and sevens strikeouts through his first eight games and 28 plate appearances of the year.

The centerpiece for Boston in the five-player trade with the Dodgers that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles, the former top prospect had grown frustrated with his performance, and he let out that frustration in a demonstrative way; much to the chagrin of his veteran teammates — like Mitch Moreland.

“Every at-bat it felt like I was going into the tunnel and hitting something or throwing a helmet down,” Verdugo said recently on the Baseball Tonight podcast with ESPN’s Buster Olney. “And Mitch kind of made a side comment, like ‘Shoot. Seeing him act like that has got me exhausted.’ Like I’m tiring him out just watching what I’m doing. And I sat back on that. I thought about it, and I went over there and I apologized to the team.

“This anger — this stuff that I show — I want you guys to know that it’s from a good place,” he added while recalling how he apologized. “It’s because I’m a competitor. I’m so used to competing.”

Since being selected by the Dodgers in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft out of Sahuaro High School, the Arizona native has always had a fiery personality.

It’s a personality and a way of going about things that may rub others the wrong way, but Verdugo has managed to succeed at every level he’s played at while still maintaining that boisterous edge to him.

That trend of performing to a high level continued for Verdugo over the summer and into the early stages of the fall. From August 4 through the end of the 2020 season, the left-handed hitter slashed .320/.378/.514 with six home runs, 15 RBI, and four stolen bases over his final 45 games (193 plate appearances) of the year.

“I felt like towards the middle and end of the season, I was a lot better,” said Verdugo. “I was a lot better. I was able to handle it more. It was kind of cool, Jason Varitek got a nice little punching bag right in the tunnel. So we’d go down there and I got a nice little inflatable pitching bag with my Verdugo jersey on it. No. 99.”

Verdugo will look to carry over the individual success he enjoyed in 2020 into 2021 for a Red Sox team that figures to be much more competitive than they were last year.

The 6-foot, 205 pounder is no stranger to playing for a team with postseason aspirations, and one of his former teammates on that particular team — Milton’s own Rich Hill — believes that Verdugo can take that next stop with the Sox.

The 41-year-old Hill, now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, was Verdugo’s teammate with the Dodgers for parts of the 2017, 2018, and 2019 campaigns.

While the veteran left-hander was one of those who initially took issue with the way Verdugo went about his business upon getting called up by the Dodgers in 2017, he also realized — and still realizes — the potential the young outfielder has to do special things on the field.

“When I heard the trade happened, I had gotten the chance to talk to a few people in Boston and just said, ‘Hey, you guys got a really good player here, and not just any player,'” Hill told Olney. “I think he can be a perennial All-Star and be a standout in Boston because of his ability to put the bat to the ball and consistently create damage with runners on and/or start a rally.

“Again, it’s the way he goes about playing the game,” the former Red Sox hurler added. “I think of players right off the top of my head who play hard. Like a Chase Utley for example, a Clayton Kershaw, a Dustin Pedroia. You look at Jose Abreu with the White Sox. I put Alex in that category. It doesn’t have to be just position players, right? I mentioned a few pitchers because when you go to the game and you buy the ticket, you want to see the intensity and the passion from the player — whether it’s the pitcher or position player.”

Pedroia, who retired from the game of baseball in February after spending 14 big-league seasons with the Sox, was teammates with Hill for parts of the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015 seasons.

“Dustin kind of rejuvenated me and got more out of myself when I saw his effort and what he brought on a daily basis and what consistent intensity looked like ,” said Hill. “That was something I saw and was like, ‘Wow, if this guy is showing up at 1 o’clock and he’s ready with a full batting practice uniform on, it wasn’t fake. It was real.’ It was every single day.

“And that’s what Alex has,” he continued. “Alex has that every single day, it’s the same mentality. It’s the passion, the joy, the intensity, the love for the game. However you want to put a title over it, he has that for the game. So he’s going to do fine here in Boston.”

Based off his style of play, Verdugo is someone who feeds the energy of the crowd regardless of which ballpark he is at.

After going through an entire season with no fans in the stands in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Verdugo is relishing the opportunity to play in front of a crowd –albeit a reduced one — at not only Fenway Park, but venues like Yankee Stadium as well in 2021.

“I think the fans are a big part of the game,” he said. “I miss that interaction where they’re talking their smack. They’re letting you have it. Especially when I’m in New York. If I’m in the Yankees’ stadium, I want that, man. I want it. I know you got to be careful what you ask for, but for me, I love it. I really do.”

(Picture of Mitch Moreland and Alex Verdugo: Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

Red Sox ‘uninterested’ in exploring four-year deals for free-agent pitchers this winter, prefer ‘shorter-term deals of up to to two or three years in length’

Before coveted Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano returned to the Yomiuri Giants of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization on Thursday, it appeared as though the Red Sox had at least some interest in signing the 31-year-old hurler before his posting period ended.

According to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the Sox had some interest in Sugano – who possesses excellent command of a four-pitch mix anchored by a low-90s fastball along with a slider and splitter – but his asking price exceeded the team’s level of interest.”

This is mainly the case because Sugano was reportedly seeking out a contract of four years or more from interested clubs, which apparently goes against Boston’s philosophy when it comes to signing free-agent pitchers this offseason.

In other words, the Red Sox “have been uninterested in exploring deals of that length for pitchers” and “have been focused on shorter-term deals of up to two or three years in length this winter,” per Speier.

Free-agent righty Jake Odorizzi would seemingly fit that mold after The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that the 30-year-old “expects to land a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range” at some point this winter.

Aside from Odorizzi, who is familiar with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom from their time together in Tampa Bay, Speier notes that while top free-agent pitcher Trevor Bauer likely won’t garner interest from the Red Sox on account of his hefty price tag, the club is still very much in need of starting pitching help following a dismal 2020 campaign from its shorthanded rotation.

With that in mind, Boston may look into signing other veterans still on the market such as Corey Kluber or Rich Hill, both of whom reside in Massachusetts during the offseason.

Kluber, a two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, is expected to hold a workout — one in which the Red Sox will attend — for interested teams in Florida on January 13.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

RECAP: #RedSox Bounce Back and Score Nine Unanswered Runs en Route to Game Four Win over Dodgers, Stand One Victory Away from World Series Title.

After losing in demoralizing fashion in Game Three of the World Series on Friday night, the Red Sox bounced back less than 24 hours later with a pivotal, come from behind win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in nine innings on Saturday.

Learning he was going to start in this game hours before first pitch, Eduardo Rodriguez, who had already appeared in this series as a reliever, Eduardo Rodriguez put together a solid performance in this one up until the sixth.

Pitching into the sixth inning, the left-hander surrendered four earned runs on four hits and two walks to go along with six strikeouts on the night.

Retiring 15 of the first 18 hitters he faced, things were looking great for Rodriguez until he plunked David Freese to lead off the bottom half of the sixth.

With his pitch count steadily rising, it seemed as though the Venezuela native’s evening was about to come to a close, but even after giving up a one out double to Justin Turner, intentionally putting Manny Machado on to load the bases, he remained in the game.

The sixth inning could have come to a close with Cody Bellinger grounding into a potential 3-2-3 double play, but instead, Christian Vazquez made a poor throw back to first, and Turner came into score as a result. 1-0 Los Angeles.

Just a few moments after that transpired, with runners on the corners, Rodriguez still remained in the game to face the right-handed Yasiel Puig, who made the most of the opportunity by blasting a 439 foot three-run home run much to Rodriguez’s disdain.

That would put the Dodgers up 4-0 and also put an end to Rodriguez’s night. It will be lost in the numbers, but given the circumstances, the 25-year-old gave the Red Sox what they needed.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 93 (59 strikes), the former international free agent, who was caught by Christian Vazquez, relied on his four-seam fastball 45% of the time on Saturday and topped out at 96.5 MPH with the same pitch in the first inning. If this series were head back to Boston, that is when I would expect to see Rodriguez out of the bullpen again.

I would have more to say about Alex Cora’s decision to stick with Rodriguez in the sixth, but given how things worked out later on, I’ll give him a pass for now.

Anyway, in relief of Rodriguez, the Red Sox bullpen was not stretched thin in this one, as they were only responsible for the final 3.1 innings to close this thing out.

Matt Barnes entered with the bases empty in the sixth, and he worked his way around a two out walk to end the inning with a strikeout of Austin Barnes.

Joe Kelly was next up for the fourth time in the last five days, and he shined while scattering three hits and three strikeouts over two scoreless frames of work to eventually pick up the winning decision.

Finally, Craig Kimbrel came on in the ninth with a fresh five-run lead to work with, and he trimmed that down to two on the way to securing the Game Four victory for his club.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill, who they were seeing for the first time in this series.

A native of Milton, Massachusetts, Hill, like Game Three starter Walker Buehler, had his way with the Boston bats early on.

No one could really couldn’t get anything going up until the seventh inning, when Chris Sale decided to light a fire under their bellies in the visitors dugout.

Coincidence or not, the bats got rolling after that, and it all started with a leadoff walk drawn by Xander Bogaerts.

Four batters and two separate pitching changes later, Mitch Moreland came on for his first at bat of the night pinch-hitting for Matt Barnes.

With Ryan Madson, a pitcher Boston had success against at Fenway Park, on the mound for Los Angeles, Moreland did not waste any time screwing around, and promptly mashed a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw.

4-3 Dodgers on that 437 foot blast from Moreland.

An inning later, another Red Sox first baseman struck for a home run, as Steve Pearce took one deep off of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to knot this game up at four runs a piece.

In the ninth, looking for some insurance, Brock Holt ended up being the catalyst of a five-run inning by ripping a one out double off of Dodgers reliever Dylan Floro.

Hitting in Sandy Leon’s spot in the order, Rafael Devers came up to bat next, and as he has done so much this October, delivered with yet another clutch RBI on a single to center field that allowed Holt to score from second and put his team up 5-4.

They would not stop there, though.

Nope, Steve Pearce got another chance with the bases loaded, two outs, and Kenta Maeda on the mound for Los Angeles, and he came through yet again with a bases-clearing three RBI double to all but put this contest out of reach.

In case it was not enough, Xander Bogaerts was responsible for the final RBI of the night on an RBI single that plated Pearce from second and made it a 9-4 game, which is all the Red Sox would need to pick up their first win of the year at Dodger Stadium.

Some notes from this 9-6 victory:

From @SoxNotes: The 2018 Red Sox are the 3rd team ever to hit multiple pinch-hit home runs in a single World Series, joining the 1975 Red Sox and 1959 Dodgers.

From @MLBStatoftheDay: The Red Sox have scored 17 of their 23 runs in this World Series with two outs.

From @MLBStatoftheDay: Steve Pearce is the third Red Sox player ever to homer and drive in four runs in a single World Series game (Yastrzemski, 1967; Ortiz, 2004).

In 10 postseason games this year, Rafael Devers has collected nine RBI.

A quote from Devers about Chris Sale’s in-game speech:

With the opportunity to clinch their fourth World Series title Sunday, it will be David Price, not Chris Sale, getting the start for Boston in Game Five.

Alex Cora made that announcement following his post game press conference.

In two career starts at Dodger Stadium, Price is 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA over 12 innings pitched. The Red Sox have won the last three postseason games the left-hander has started in.

Opposite Price will be another left-hander in the form of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who served up five earned runs on seven hits in four-plus innings pitched in his Game One start back on October 23rd.

Do they end it tonight or does this series head back to Boston? First pitch of Game Five of the 2018 World Series is scheduled for 8:09 PM ET on FOX.