Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom, Team President Sam Kennedy Address Coronavirus Concerns That Led MLB to Delay Start of Season

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as well as general manager Brian O’Halloran and team president Sam Kennedy, spoke in depth Friday on where Major League Baseball is headed in the wake of the remainder of spring training being suspended and the start of the 2020 season being pushed back at least two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

Earlier Friday, the league made it official that major-league players have the freedom to either remain at their club’s spring training facility, return to their club’s city, or go home themselves at their own discretion.

In a meeting between Red Sox executives, coaches, and players on Friday, Bloom and Co. echoed that same sentiment.

“We’ve just gotten word, and are getting the word out to our players, that since starting to discuss this, it’s been agreed that now our players can leave should they choose to, and go home or go wherever they need to go,” Bloom said in a conference call. “We’re trying to make sure that happens in a safe and orderly manner. We’re working on that as we speak. For players who want to stay here, we will have the facility available to them.”

The Sox have yet to gather a headcount on which players will be staying and which players will be leaving, but despite no official word from the league, they gave their minor-league players the same option as well. Although remaining in Fort Myers may be the most ideal route for them to take due to financial restrictions.

“We recognize, especially as we get into the population of minor leaguers, this may be the best option for them,” Bloom stated. “And we want to make sure that is a good option.”

Typically, the weeks leading up to April involve the movement of dozens of players, major and minor-league alike, in numerous transactions between clubs. But, with the United States now being in a state of national emergency and all, rosters may become frozen for the time being. Or in other words, no roster moves will be allowed until Major League Baseball can resume baseball activities. Nothing has been made official regarding this matter as of now, but Bloom did say that, “We are fully prepared that the next several days will include new information.”

There is also a possibility that rosters could be expanded from 26 players once the 2020 season does start to make up for less preparation time, although, according to Bloom, “There is no indication right now that anything will change.”

Because there is no definite date for a new Opening Day outside of April 9th, which is unlikely to happen, there’s a very real chance that additional spring training games will need to take place once the league resumes in order for players to up their workload once more.

“The short answer is, we don’t know,” Bloom said in regard to a later addition of spring training games. “We don’t have enough of a sense of what this will look like when we start up again.”

Regarding that point about players needing to increase their workload before the season starts, one thing that makes this outbreak-induced delay so challenging is that we simply don’t know when regular season baseball will be back.

As The Athletic’s Chad Jennings notes, “Bloom pointed out that spring training buildup is usually based upon working backward from a known point in time. Opening Day is usually on a specific date, and so players work to be ready on that exact day.

Right now, baseball has no idea when Opening Day will be, so there’s no working backward. The issue of building and sustaining is particularly tricky for pitchers as teams try to find a balance between sustaining their current status and not overworking for a start date that might be far, far down the road.”

How teams will prepare with no set Opening Day date in sight will be interesting to see, and according to Bloom, it will be “one of the tougher questions that I think every club is going to have to answer.”

Turning to some positive news, no Red Sox player has yet to test positive for coronavirus, and the club has even set up their own task force to deal with issues surrounding the virus, per Kennedy.

For the time being, JetBlue Park and the entire Fenway South complex will remain closed to the media and the public through Sunday, while all Fenway Park employees outside of stadium security have been told to work from home.

Fenway Park will also undergo a three-day cleaning starting Saturday morning where “every square inch [of the park] will be disinfected and cleaned,” Kennedy said.

In times like these, baseball takes a back seat as there are more pressing matters at hand. It may stink now, but baseball and the Red Sox will be back eventually.

 

Red Sox’ Tzu-Wei Lin Pulled From Tuesday’s Game Against Yankees Due to Left Hamstring Tightness

Red Sox utilityman Tzu-Wei Lin was pulled after the first inning of Tuesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the New York Yankees due to left hamstring tightness, the team announced.

Lin started in center field for Boston in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, played the entirety of the bottom half of the first inning, which was rather lengthy, and was subsequently replaced by Cole Sturgeon in the top half of the second.

The cause of Lin’s tight hamstring is not yet known, but the 26-year-old had gotten his spring off to an impressive start, slashing .412/.474/.471 with one double, one RBI, and one stolen base through his first 19 plate appearances entering Tuesday.

Entering his seventh full season with the Red Sox organization after signing as an international free agent out of Taiwan back in June 2012, Lin finds himself without any minor-league options remaining on his current contract, meaning he has to make the big-league club out of spring training if he does not want to be exposed to waivers.

With rosters expanding to 26 players this year, Lin has plenty of factors, like his versatility, working in his favor, so hopefully this hamstring injury does not sideline him for too long. I’m sure interim manager Ron Roenicke will provide an update at the conclusion of Tuesday’s contest.

Red Sox Sign Outfielder César Puello to Minor-League Deal, Invite Him to Major League Spring Training

As pitchers and catchers report to Fenway South in Fort Myers on Tuesday, the Red Sox have made another roster addition, signing outfielder Cesar Puello to a minor-league deal that includes an invite to big league camp.

Puello, who turns 29 at the beginning of April, had spent the 2019 season between the Angels and Marlins, slashing .248/.356/.384 with four home runs and 18 RBI over 44 total games between the two clubs.

Originally signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Mets in 2007, the Red Sox will be the ninth organization Puello has spent time with.

Despite only playing in 44 games last year, Puello was worth 1.0 fWAR thanks to some exceptional defense in the Angels and Marlins outfield, per FanGraphs. He logged time at all three outfield positions as well.

Puello will earn $625,000 if he makes it to the majors this year, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

With this signing, as well as the other non-roster invitees mentioned in the tweet above, the Red Sox now have 65 players attending major-league spring training this year. That number will have to be trimmed down to 26 by the time March 26th comes around.

 

 

Red Sox Designate Sam Travis for Assignment to Make Room on 40-Man Roster for Kevin Plawecki

In a corresponding move to signing catcher Kevin Plawecki to a one-year, major-league deal on Thursday, the Red Sox also announced that first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis had been designated for assignment.

As the above tweet indicates, the addition of Plawecki on a majors deal meant that someone else would need to be removed from the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, and now we know that it is indeed Travis.

Originally drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, the 26-year-old was out of options headed into the spring, meaning he would have had to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster.

In a career-high 59 games this past season, Travis slashed .215/.274/.382 to go along with six home runs and 16 RBI while playing first base and both corner outfield positions.

There was a stretch during the summer where it looked like the former top prospect was beginning to put it all together (he had an OPS of 1.007 from July 26th to August 20th), but he ultimately fizzled out over the final few weeks of the season.

With this move made, it now appears that Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec are the top two choices to take over first baseman duties for Boston in 2020. A reunion with free agent Mitch Moreland or even bringing in someone like Eric Thames could be in the mix as well.

Like MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo points out, Chaim Bloom and Co. now have seven days to either find a trade partner for Travis, waive him, or release him if nothing comes to fruition. If Travis goes unclaimed, he will be outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket and off the Sox’ 40-man roster.

Red Sox Select Jonathan Arauz in Rule 5 Draft

In their only major move of this past week’s Winter Meetings, the Red Sox selected Astros infield prospect Jonathan Arauz with their lone pick in the major-league portion of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft.

Arauz, 21, had been part of the Astros organization since December 2015, when he came over from the Philadelphia Phillies in the trade that sent Ken Giles to Houston exactly four years ago Thursday.

The selection of Arauz marks the first time since 2016 that Boston took a player in the Rule 5 Draft. That player? Josh Rutledge, who had signed a minor-league deal with the Colorado Rockies that November before making his return to the Sox’ active roster.

As it goes for all players selected in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, Arauz must stay on Boston’s 26-man roster or injured list throughout the 2020 season. If he does not, then he would have to be offered back to Houston.

According to the Red Sox’ vice president of professional scouting Gus Quattlebaum, Arauz, a native of Panama, will be given the chance to compete for a utility role with Boston come the spring.

Other infielders the switch-hitting Arauz could be competing with include C.J. Chatham, Marco Hernandez, and Tzu-Wei Lin.

Previously ranked as the No. 25 prospect in the Astros farm system, Arauz’s tenure in the minors has not been all smooth sailing. In fact, he was handed down a 50-game suspension in April 2017 for testing positive for the banned stimulant methamphetamine.

As the first tweet above from the Red Sox mentions, the club now has 37 players on their 40-man roster.

Turning to the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft now, the Sox also selected 22-year-old Jose Espada from the Toronto Blue Jays and 28-year-old Raynel Espinal from the New York Yankees, both of whom are right-handed pitchers who will more than likely begin 2020 with Triple-A Pawtucket.

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.