Red Sox free agency rumors: Jackie Bradley Jr. seeking ‘significant contract, perhaps beyond four years,’ per report

Potential Red Sox free-agent target Jackie Bradley Jr. remains unsigned as major-league camps in Arizona and Florida are set to begin in just a matter of weeks.

There have not been too many recent rumblings as to where Bradley Jr. could land, but on Wednesday evening, The New York Post’s Mike Puma reported that the 30-year-old outfielder “has been seeking a significant contract, perhaps beyond four years.”

Bradley Jr., who turns 31 in April, is a client of super-agent Scott Boras.

The one-time All-Star and one-time Gold Glove award winner is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .283/.364/.450 with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games played (217 plate appearances) for the Sox.

Boston has expressed interest in a reunion with Bradley Jr. since the closing stages of last season, but the two sides do not appear to be anywhere close to an agreement on a new contract at the moment.

“As far as Jackie, as it’s been all offseason, we continue to stay in touch with him,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters late last month. “We have been this entire time. And I expect we’ll continue to until his free agency resolves.”

Although it’s out there that Bradley Jr. may be seeking a four-plus year deal from interested clubs, it would be interested to see how much he is looking for in terms of average annual value.

The former first-round draft selection may be the top centerfielder on the open market now that George Springer has signed with the Blue Jays, but the fact of the matter is that Bradley Jr., while superb in the outfield, has proven to be inconsistent at the plate over the course of eight-year major-league career.

With that in mind, it seems unlikely that a team such as the Mets would be willing to invest that much in a practically defense-first outfielder who is now on the other side of 30, as noted by MLB Trade Rumors’ Jeff Todd.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are inching towards towards the $210 million luxury tax threshold with their 2021 payroll following the signings of Enrique Hernandez and Garrett Richards being made official, so they would probably prefer to avoid that much of an investment as well.

Given those circumstances, Boston could stand put and roll with an everyday outfield of Andrew Benintendi in left, Alex Verdugo in center, and Hunter Renfroe in right to open the 2021 season if they so choose.

Jarren Duran, one of the club’s top outfield prospects, also appears to be on the cusp of getting big-league consideration sometime this summer.

The 24-year-old, who played winter ball for Criollos de Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League, is currently representing Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Series.

If not Verdugo or Duran, the Red Sox could look at other free-agents still available who have experience playing center field, such as Jake Marisnick and old friend Kevin Pillar.

(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr.: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox are ‘preparing for a series of moves’ in an effort to upgrade 2021 roster, per report

Despite having a relatively quiet offseason thus far, the Red Sox may be preparing to make a series of roster moves ahead of the start of spring training, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

Per Olney, “the expectation [for the Sox] is that they will [make moves] in an effort to upgrade the ’21 team.”

Since ending the 2020 season with the fourth-worst record in baseball (24-36), Boston has made a handful of major-league caliber additions to its roster so far this offseason.

In November, right-hander Joel Payamps was claimed off waivers from the Diamondbacks, while the likes of Eduard Bazardo, Jay Groome, Bryan Mata, Hudson Potts, Jeisson Rosario, Connor Seabold, and Connor Wong were all added to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 deadline.

In December, righty Garrett Whitlock was selected from the Yankees in the major-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, while a pair of former Rays — right-hander Matt Andriese and outfielder Hunter Renfroe — were signed to one-year deals for the 2021 season. Andriese’s contract includes a team option for 2022.

Outside of that, the Red Sox have jettisoned quite a few players — Tzu-Wei Lin, Yairo Munoz, Robert Stock, Kyle Hart, etc. — off its 40-man roster. They have also added (or re-signed) lesser-known players to minor-league deals for 2021.

Outfielder Cesar Puello, left-hander Stephen Gonsalves, and right-handers Daniel Gossett and Kevin McCarthy stand out among that group given the fact that all four have major-league experience.

Having laid that all out, it becomes quite apparent that the Sox have yet to make a huge splash either via trade or free agency pickup. And to be fair, not many teams except the Mets and Padres have to this point.

With that in mind, as well as taking what Olney tweeted into consideration, it would appear that Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. are preparing to make some noise one way or the other this winter.

Outfielder Andrew Benintendi has been thrown out there in trade rumors with the Sox seeking young pitching or outfield help in return, two-time Cy Young Award winner and current free-agent right-hander Corey Kluber is slated to pitch in front of interested teams in Florida on Wednesday. These are just some of the avenues Boston could be exploring as spring training draws closer.

As for other specific players the Red Sox could be in pursuit of this winter, Bloom somewhat addressed that topic when asked about his ‘offseason check list’ during a radio interview on WEEI late last month.

“Right now, there’s a lot of players on it,” Bloom said in regards to his list. “Part of that is a function of where we are, where there’s a lot of different ways we can improve, and part of it is how we are looking to improve. In the short-term, we have touched base with so many different players who we think could help us, who could fit us. There’s pitching, obviously, but also on the position player side. I think there’s different ways we can improve and different profiles of players we can bring in to help us.

“We also don’t want to take our eye off the ball that at the end of the day, we’re not just looking to put a little plaster in here and patch some holes,” he added. “We’re looking to take this organization back to where we can compete for championships consistently, year in and year out. And that means we got to be open to different moves, different acquisitions that might not just be about 2021. But, it just speaks to [the fact] that there’s a lot of different ways that we can improve. The No. 1 question we ask ourselves on anybody is: Is this pushing us towards that goal of sustaining a championship contender here? If the answer is yes, then we can explore it further, we can figure out how it impacts us in the near-term, what it might mean for other players, and hopefully we check as many of those boxes as possible.”

On top of being open to different sorts of roster moves, Bloom also expressed confidence that the Red Sox would be able to add a few more new players to improve the team before pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers next month.

“I would hope that by the end of this offseason, there’s a number of different guys we’ve brought in here,” he said. “There’s certain possibilities on the trade market, creative things that could come together. They may not, because those things are harder to do — they take at least two to tango. But, different things that hopefully can impact us beyond just this year as well.”

And, again, for what it’s worth, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is still at full capacity. So, if in the next few days or weeks the club designates a player or multiple players for assignment, that could signal that another move could be coming, if that makes sense.

Then again, if a player of Benintendi’s status were to be traded, that kind of supplementary roster move might not be necessary. It really all depends on what Bloom and Co. have in store.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/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)

Newest Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim viewed Red Sox as potential suitor before signing with San Diego, per report

South Korean sensation Ha-Seong Kim may have inked a four-year, $28 million deal with the Padres this past Thursday, but according to multiple reports out of South Korea, the 25-year-old strongly considered the Red Sox as a potential suitor.

As noted by DRaysBay’s Homin Lee, the right-handed hitting Kim may have thought his ‘pull-heavy swing style’ would be best suited for Fenway Park and its Green Monster in left field, but he ultimately picked the Padres on account of San Diego’s warm weather.

According to The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, the Red Sox “made a strong bid” for Kim prior to him signing with the Padres.

That point backs up MLB Network’s Jon Heyman’s report from Thursday, which states that the versatile infielder “had five and six-year offers” on the table but he “wanted to bet on himself.”

With the ideas that Kim preferred a city with warmer weather and wanted to bet on himself in mind, it’s important to look back on what Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said this past Wednesday in regards to recruiting international free agents posted from countries such as Japan and South Korea.

“I think in different situations, you will sometimes see — especially when the money amount is smaller — there are other factors that come into play more,” Bloom told WEEI hosts Rob Bradford and Jon Meterparel. “Players will sometimes pick teams, pick from similar offers based on certain other factors that are important to them. Whenever we’re involved in that type of situation, we want to put our best foot forward and make sure that we can show a player how we can appeal to them. But, people are different and everybody’s got different things that they like and value. Money’s part of that and sometimes there are other factors that are part of that.”

By signing a four-year pact with the Friars that runs through the end of the 2024 season, Kim could become a free agent again at 29 years old, though the deal does include a mutual option for a potential fifth season in 2025.

In San Diego, the plan at the moment is for Kim to see the majority of his playing time come at second base, per the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. That likely would have also been the case had he landed with the Sox opposed to the Padres.

Instead, Boston will have to look elsewhere to address their issues at second base this offseason coming off a 2020 campaign in which that position group posted an American League-worst .586 OPS and league-worst wRC+ of 55.

On that front, the Sox are reportedly interested in free-agent utilityman Kike Hernandez, who can play second base as well as all three outfield positions.

Red Sox one of several teams interested in free-agent reliever Alex Colomé, per report

The Red Sox are among the teams reportedly interested in free-agent reliever Alex Colome, per FanSided’s Robert Murray.

Colome, who recently turned 32, is coming off a 2020 campaign with the White Sox in which he posted a superb 0.81 ERA and .460 OPS against over 21 appearances and 22 1/3 innings of work while converting 12 out of a possible 13 save opportunities.

The veteran right-hander is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to net himself a one-year deal worth somewhere around $6 million this offseason, though MLBTR does have him returning to the South Side.

That being said, Colome does have connections to the Red Sox, as the above tweet mentions, thanks to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

Both Bloom and Colome spent plenty of time together with the Rays following the latter’s big-league debut in 2013, which came more than six years after he signed with Tampa Bay out of the Dominican Republic in March 2007.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 225 lbs., Colome works with just two pitches: a cut and four-seam fastball, per Baseball Savant. He posted a 15.3% whiff rate with those pitches last season.

The Red Sox, coming off a 2020 campaign in which they ranked 27th in baseball in bullpen ERA (5.79), are in need of upgrades to their relief corps.

Colome, despite owning a lifetime 5.31 ERA at Fenway Park, certainly fits that mold and could even emerge as the club’s closer if he is indeed signed.

For the time being, though, that remains just a possibility since it is not yet known how aggressively the Red Sox are pursuing the experienced hurler.

Red Sox showing ‘strong interest’ in free-agent utilityman Kiké Hernandez, per report

The Red Sox reportedly have strong interest in free-agent utilityman Kike Hernandez, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Per Cotillo, “a deal is not believed to be imminent between the sides but Boston is one of the teams in pursuit of the former Dodger.”

Hernandez, 29, has spent the last six seasons with the Dodgers after beginning his major-league career with the Astros and Marlins in 2014.

Most recently, the right-handed hitting Puerto Rico native put together a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .230/.270/410 with five home runs and 20 RBI across 48 regular season games for Los Angeles, though he did post a .755 OPS in the postseason before being declared a free agent in late October.

Over the course of his tenure with the Dodgers, Hernandez has proven to be quite versatile defensively, as he has logged time at every position besides catcher since 2015.

This past season, the former sixth-round draft pick saw the majority of his playing time come at second base (220 1/3 innings). According to FanGraphs, he was worth positive-8 defensive runs saved at that position despite posting a negative-2.6 ultimate zone rating.

Given their struggles at second base in 2020, the Red Sox, as noted by Cotillo, “would likely view Hernandez as an option there with the added ability to play all three outfield spots.”

In addition to his versatility, Hernandez should also be familiar with Red Sox manager and fellow Puerto Rican Alex Cora, who served as Hernandez’s and Team Puerto Rico’s general manager during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Red Sox free agency: Scott Boras likens Jackie Bradley Jr. to peanut butter and jelly sandwich; ‘He’s sweet, smooth, and spreads it all over and covers it well’

Jackie Bradley Jr.’s market may be heating up, but the Red Sox have remained interested in the free-agent outfielder, according to super-agent Scott Boras.

Per Boras, the Sox and Bradley Jr. have “certainly” had discussions about a potential reunion since his client declared for free agency last month.

“They’ve certainly expressed the interest and let us know that he’s a clear part of the Red Sox’ support hose, let’s put it that way,” Boras said earlier Tuesday via Zoom. “We know that he’s had great success there, he’s a winning player, and the Red Sox’ intentions are to advance their winning ways, certainly beyond what happened in ’20. As with most free agent players, we get notice of interest, then we’ll wait and see how the market unfolds moving forward” 

Despite how poorly Boston played this past season, Bradley Jr. was a key contributor on both sides of the ball, as he finished second on the team in bWAR (2.1) behind only fellow outfielder Alex Verdugo (2.2).

Over 55 games played, the 30-year-old slashed .283/.364/.450 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI. He also led all major-league center fielders in Outs Above Average (7), per Statcast, meaning he was credited with “recording seven more outs on balls hit to the outfield than an average center fielder in 2020.”

While providing his usual stout defensive efforts in center, Bradley Jr.’s offensive approach evolved in a way this past season. As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier and Pete Abraham, the former first-round pick showed a “willingness to hit the ball to center and left field” to the tune of a career-best 201 wRC+ when hitting the ball in those directions, per FanGraphs.

Boras figures that this added dimension to Bradley Jr.’s game will bode well for him once clubs are ready to make their final offers.

“I think the fact that he has really illustrated a dimension of a different approach, particularly going the other way, his OPS was well over .800, that seems to be very attractive to a lot of clubs,” said Boras. “They ask a lot of questions about it, what adjustments he’s made. When you have a world champion, someone who has done what Jackie’s done, being as young as he is, being as efficient as he is, as great of a teammate as he’s been, he’s received a lot of attention and we expect something very grand here going forward.”

Along with the Red Sox, Bradley Jr. is drawing interest from the likes of the Blue Jays, Cubs, and Phillies, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. The University of South Carolina product is likely seeking a multi-year deal worth nearly $10 million in average annual value.

And with the way the game is trending in terms of defensive metrics, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched for the Gold Glover to get that kind of money on the open market.

“JBJ is kind of the PBJ of the major leagues. He’s sweet, smooth, and spreads it all over and covers it well,” Boras said of Bradley Jr. “What Jackie does in a defensive runs-saved environment has been popular.”

How popular? We shall see.

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.”

Red Sox, Matt Barnes talked contract extension earlier this year prior to COVID-19 shutdown

Before the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced Major League Baseball to shut down in March, the Red Sox and right-handed reliever Matt Barnes apparently talked about a potential contract extension.

Speaking with The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the 30-year-old hurler expressed his desire to remain with the organization he began his professional career with back in 2011.

“I’ve expressed my interest to the front office and ownership of wanting to stay in Boston for the rest of my career,” Barnes said. “We had some conversations about a longer relationship moving forward. And then COVID hit and there were so many things going on with the season shut down and the health and safety, things kind of got put on hold a little bit.”

The only member of the Sox’ 2011 draft class who is still currently with the club, the former first-round pick is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he posted a 4.30 ERA and 4.01 xFIP over 24 appearances and 23 innings pitched.

On the surface, those are not exactly spectacular results. But, upon closer inspection, Barnes turned things around for the better in September by allowing just three runs over 10 innings of work spanning his final 11 outings of the year. He did that while limiting opposing hitters to a .556 OPS against while striking out nearly 37% of the batters he faced.

With those improved numbers in mind, the Sox signed Barnes to a $4.5 million contract earlier this week for the upcoming 2021 season, the UCONN product’s final season under team control before becoming a free agent for the first time next winter.

“There had been some discussions on trying to make something work moving forward beyond next season,” Barnes told Speier. “We’ll see if there’s more dialogue going forward. We’re not going to force anything, but some discussions have been had.”

A client of ISE Baseball, Barnes has been one of the more durable relievers in the American League in his time with the Red Sox, appearing in 62 or more games for three straight seasons (2016-2019).

Despite his shortcomings, such as untimely control issues which leads to in uptick in walks at times, the flamethrower has without a doubt proven he has the “ability to go out there and be able to take the ball every single day.”

That being said, if Barnes puts together another solid effort in 2021, he will presumably have a fair number of suitors in need of bullpen help come this time next year.

As things currently stand, Barnes, as noted by Speier, is on the cusp of surpassing the likes of Cy Young, Ellis Kinder, Roger Clemens, and Derek Lowe in all-time appearances with the Red Sox (325).

Barnes would have the chance to move up that list even more if he stayed in Boston beyond in 2020, which, of course, is something he would be more than happy to do.

“It’s the only place where I’ve played,” said Barnes. “It’s a first-class organization. I’d love to spend the rest of my career here.”

Red Sox free agency rumors: Astros prioritizing signing Jackie Bradley Jr., per report

The Astros are reportedly interested in signing free-agent outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. — so much so that the club is making it a priority — per MLB Network’s Peter Gammons.

Bradley Jr., 30, declared for free agency late last month after spending the first eight years of his major-league career in Boston.

The former first-round draft pick is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to net himself a two-year deal worth somewhere around $16 million this winter, with the ‘Stros being the favorite to acquire his services.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, are reportedly interested in bringing back Bradley Jr. “for the 2021 season and beyond,” according to WEEI’s Rob Bradford.

In his eighth season with the Sox this year, Bradley Jr. put up quality numbers, slashing .283/.364/.540 to go along with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 55 games played.

While producing at the plate at that impressive level, the 2018 Gold Glover also provided superb defense in center field, ranking second among major-league centerfielders in outs above average (7), per Statcast.

That defensive prowess of Bradley Jr.’s, as noted by Gammons in the above tweet, has become quite significant for the Red Sox and Red Sox pitching over the years.

Going back to the start of the 2016 campaign, when Bradley Jr. essentially established himself as Boston’s everyday centerfielder, the Sox have had the sixth-best centerfield defense in baseball in terms of Ultimate Zone Rating (18.1).

Given the possibility that Bradley Jr. could depart for Houston or elsewhere this winter, the Red Sox would be faced with the reality that without Bradley Jr. manning center field on a regular basis, the club’s pitching could struggle as a result. That being the case because the flashy outfielder is capable of turning potential extra-base hits into outs at a moment’s notice.

With this in mind, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom addressed the team’s outlook for its outfield alignment going into 2021 when speaking with reporters earlier this week.

“I think we have guys on this club who are capable of playing center field,” Bloom said Wednesday via Zoom. “But we certainly would like to be in as strong of a defensive position as you can. We know we play in a ballpark where you basically have two center fields here in Fenway Park. So we want to be mindful of that.

“We’d certainly like to have as strong of a defensive outfield as possible,” he added. “And a lot of that is contingent on having multiple guys who can play center field.”

Whether it be Bradley Jr., a free-agency or trade acquisition, or one or several internal candidates, Bloom and Co. have to determine what the Red Sox will do at center field moving forward. They do not have a great deal of time to do that if Bradley Jr.’s market is indeed heating up.