Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Taijuan Walker

Following the fallout of the non-tender deadline Monday night, one of the many notable players released by his club was right-hander Taijuan Walker being let go by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The 27-year-old was a key piece along with Ketel Marte for Arizona in the trade that sent Zac Curtis, Mitch Haniger, and Jean Segura to the Seattle Mariners back in November 2016.

Old friend Mike Hazen, who at the time was just over a month into his new role as Diamondbacks’ general manager, more than likely thought he was getting a key member of his club’s starting rotation in the then-24-year-old Walker. Instead, injuries ravaged the hurler’s time in the desert, and he is now a free agent.

A former first-round pick of the Mariners back in 2010, Walker made just one start for Arizona in 2019, when he pitched one scoreless inning in the team’s final game of the season, after working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, which he underwent in April 2018.

Coming into this winter, the Louisiana native was projected to earn a little more than $5 million in salary arbitration for 2020, but the Diamondbacks must have felt that was too steep a price to pay given the recent health concerns.

When asked about the reason for non-tendering Walker, Hazen emphasized the starting pitching depth his team already has, as in Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

“I think if (Walker) comes into camp and he ends up in the pen, through competition, I don’t know that that was an outcome for us that was an ideal solution – probably for either side,” Hazen said Monday. “We think he’s a starting pitcher.”

You know which team could use some major league-ready starting pitching for next season? The Red Sox.

With a projected rotation of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi, a fifth spot will be needed. Not to mention that the statuses of Sale, Price, and Eovaldi, both in terms of health and trade rumors, are up in the air at the moment.

In Walker, Boston would get someone who owns a career 3.95 ERA and 4.21 FIP over 97 appearances (94 starts) and 528 1/3 innings pitched. Neither of those first two numbers are particularly elite, but an elite pitcher is not what the Red Sox are looking for.

Sure, there are health concerns, but across baseball, it seems like Walker was viewed as a bounce back candidate for 2020. That is someone that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. should be willing to take a risk on.

 

Red Sox Non-Tender Marco Hernandez and Josh Osich

The Red Sox have non-tendered infielder Marco Hernandez and left-handed reliever Josh Osich, making them free agents. The club made the transactions official earlier Monday night.

For many, the move to non-tender Hernandez comes as quite the surprise, as the 27-year-old was projected to earn $700,000 in his first year of arbitration eligibility in 2020.

After making his way back from multiple shoulder surgeries in 2019, Hernandez slashed .250/.279/.338 with two home runs and 11 RBI over 61 games with Boston this past season. He also played second base and shortstop.

With Hernandez seemingly out of the picture at this point, options at second base for the Red Sox who are currently on the 40-man roster include C.J Chatham, Michael Chavis, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Dustin Pedroia.

As for Osich, the move to non-tender the 31-year-old comes just over a month after Boston claimed him off waivers from the Chicago White Sox back in late October.

Per MLB Trade Rumors, Osich was set to make $1 million in arbitration in 2020 after spending the first five years of his career between the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox.

Going back to the 40-man roster, left-handed options out of the bullpen the Red Sox now have include Yoan Aybar, Kyle Hart, Darwinzon Hernandez, Bobby Poyner, and Josh Taylor.

Following Monday’s moves, the Sox’ 40-man roster now stands at 34 players.

Red Sox Will Reportedly Tender Contract to Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox WILL tender a contract to outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Bradley Jr., who turns 30 in April, is projected to earn $11 million in his final year of salary arbitration in 2020 before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

As Speier indicates in the tweet above, there had been a fair amount of speculation surrounding just what the Red Sox would do with Bradley Jr. as they look to cut down on their payroll.

In 147 games this past season, the University of South Carolina product slashed .225/.317/.421 with 21 home runs and 62 RBI while also providing solid defense in center field.

Is that production worth $11 million next season? Well, it’s hard to say. But for now, it appears that Boston will hold on to Bradley Jr. in the hopes that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. can potentially work out a trade and continue to slash payroll.

The non-tender deadline is at 8 PM ET Monday.

Red Sox’ Brian Johnson Outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket After Clearing Waivers

After placing him on outright waivers on Monday, the Red Sox officially outrighted Brian Johnson to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday, meaning the left-hander went unclaimed.

Johnson, who turns 29 next month, is no longer a part of Boston’s 40-man roster after posting an ERA of 6.02 and FIP of 5.32 over 21 total appearances (seven starts) and 40 1/3 innings of work in an injury-filled 2019.

A former first round pick out of the University of Florida in 2012 and a Florida native himself, Johnson can still provide the Sox with pitching depth, and he’ll still probably get an invite to major-league camp in the spring, but he is no longer one of the top two or three choices to make a spot start for Boston when needed. That much was made evident when 27-year-old left-hander Kyle Hart was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last week.

Speaking of 40-man rosters, the Red Sox currently have 38 players on theirs.

Evaluating How Red Sox Prospects C.J. Chatham, Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, and Noah Song Performed for Team USA in Premier12 Tournament

Team USA was officially eliminated from the Premier12 tournament on Sunday afternoon in Tokyo, as they fell to Team Mexico in the bronze medal game by a final score of 3-2 in 10 innings to temporarily squash their hopes of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games.

As has already been mentioned on here, four Red Sox prospects made up the 28-man Team USA roster four this tournament, so I thought it would be a good time to go over how each of C.J. Chatham, Bobby Dalbec, Tanner Houck, and Noah Song fared over the last few weeks. Let’s get to it.

C.J. Chatham

Chatham, who turns 25 in December, slashed .292/.292/.417 with three doubles and two runs scored over seven games for Team USA in this tournament. He also committed just one error over that same span while manning both second base and left field.

A third-round pick out of Florida Atlantic University in 2016, Chatham needed to be added to the Sox’ 40-man roster by November 20th in order to avoid being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place later in December. He is listed as Boston’s ninth-ranked prospect on MLB.com.

Bobby Dalbec

Dalbec was named to the tournament’s All-World Team as a first baseman for his efforts, as the 24-year-old posted a .250/.364/.500 slash line to go along with two home runs and eight RBI over eight games for Team USA.

The Washington native could have had the game-winning RBI with a run-scoring single in the top half of the seventh to put his side up 2-1…

…but Team Mexico rallied with a run of their own in ninth to tie it and another in the 10th to walk it off.

Like Chatham, Dalbec, who is ranked as Boston’s No. 2 prospect, needs to be added to the club’s 40-man roster by November 20th.

Tanner Houck

Houck made two starts for Team USA in this tournament, with the first coming against Team Mexico on November 3rd and the second coming against Team Australia on the 13th.

In those two outings, the 23-year-old right-hander surrendered five runs, four of which were earned, on seven hits and two walks to go along with 11 strikeouts over 9 1/3 total innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 3.86 and a batting average against of .206.

Ranked as the Sox’ No. 5 prospect, Houck is interesting in that he worked as both a starter and reliever in 2019, but the plan for him now seems to be to remain in the starting rotation, wherever that may be.

Noah Song

I mentioned how impressive Song had been in this tournament this past Friday. The 22-year-old right-hander made one final appearance for Team USA on Sunday, entering with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, walking one, getting another to fly out to end the frame, and then retiring the only three hitters he faced in order in the eighth.

All in all, Song did not surrender a single run over his five relief outings and 5 1/3 innings pitched this month.

A graduate of the Naval Academy back in May, Song will head to flight school in Pensacola, Fla. in December and is currently awaiting a decision from the Department of Defense on whether he’ll be able to defer his two-year active service requirement.