Red Sox sign Matt Barnes, 6 others to one-year deals, tender contract to Rafael Devers

UPDATE: As noted by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox also signed right-hander Chris Mazza and outfielder Yairo Munoz to one-year deals on Wednesday.

The non-tender deadline came and went Wednesday night without the Red Sox cutting a single arbitration or pre-arbitration eligible player from its 40-man roster.

Per a team release, the Sox agreed to one-year contracts with the likes of right-handers Austin Brice, Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, and Chris Mazza, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, and catcher Kevin Plawecki.

Additionally, Boston will tender one-year contracts for the 2021 season to 25 players who remain unsigned, with third baseman Rafael Devers being the most notable of those individuals after the two sides failed to reach agreement on a deal.

The 24-year-old will have until January 15 to come to terms on a contract with the Sox or he will otherwise be headed for salary arbitration for the first time in his career come February.

As for the other players involved here, MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo has the details on how much Barnes, Brasier, Brice, Mazza, Munoz, Plawecki, and Rodriguez will be earning next season:

Barnes: $4.5 million salary for 2021
Brasier: $1.25 million salary for 2021
Brice: $870,000 salary for 2021
Mazza: $576,000
Munoz: $582,500
Plawecki: $1.6 million salary for 2021
Rodriguez $8.3 million salary for 2021

All in all, the Red Sox owe this group listed above more than $17.5 million headed into the upcoming season.

Barnes, 30, and Rodriguez, 27, are the only two players who were entering their final year of arbitration eligibility, meaning they will become free agents for the first time in their respective careers next winter barring any extension talks.

On account of them not making any sort of cuts or subtractions on Wednesday, Boston’s 40-man roster is still at full capacity. That is likely to change now that this offseason’s free agency class has increased in size due to other clubs non-tendering a staggering amount of their eligible players in order to save money.

Red Sox believe top pitching prospects Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold will be big-league ready by next July

By this time Friday night, the Red Sox will have added six or seven minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect said minor-leaguers from this year’s Rule 5 Draft in December.

Among the handful of eligible prospects who will presumably be added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday are right-handers Bryan Mata and Connor Seabold.

Mata, 21, is regarded by MLB Pipeline as the top pitching prospect and No. 4 overall prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Venezuela native spent the 2020 season at the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket, and he really impressed there, according to Worcester Red Sox pitching coach Paul Abbott.

“I can’t say enough on this kid,” Abbott said of Mata back in October. “He’s as exciting, I think, as anybody in baseball. Top-shelf fastball, top-shelf slider. Curveball is above average. The changeup, too. It’s hard to squeeze all those pitches in when the first two are so dynamic. Young kid, got a little taste of Double-A last year and in the Fall League he did well, but this, for him… he got a ton of value out of this situation. His command wasn’t consistent enough. But a small little tweak in a low-stress environment like we were in allowed him to make some adjustments.”

Following his summer in Pawtucket, Mata was one of 62 players who took part in the Red Sox’ fall instructional league down in Fort Myers, though he did not see any in-game action, per SoxProspects.com’s Ian Cundall.

Seabold, meanwhile, also spent part of his summer working out at McCoy Stadium, but only after being acquired from the Phillies along with Nick Pivetta back in August.

The 24-year-old was originally selected by Philadelphia in the third round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Cal State Fullerton.

Boston dealt veteran relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree in order to obtain both Seabold and Pivetta’s services, but that trade already looks like a win for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom considering the fact that the pair of former Red Sox righties are currently free agents.

While working with Mata and the other pitchers present at the alternate training site for the latter half of the 2020 campaign, Seabold, too, drew attention from the likes of Abbott.

“His stuff across the board is probably middle of the road, or slightly above average,” Abbott said of the California native. “His changeup is not; his changeup is a top-of-the-food-chain type pitch. His fastball grades out, carries better and looks better than the velo. He’s got a little deception to him. He’s a grinder out there in the short time I saw him. Competes really well. We started developing a curveball with him, something a little slower and a little deeper than the slider. Another kid that needs to season a little bit, face some better hitters. He hasn’t been above Double-A. But I like his makeup and I like his pitchability. He’s a guy who can eat up some innings and give you some quality starts down the road.”

With Mata and Seabold both putting in quality efforts over the summer, the Red Sox obviously have high hopes for the pair of young hurlers. Combine that optimism with the notion that the two pitchers will be added to Boston’s 40-man roster on Friday, and they could very well be ready to make their major-league debuts sooner rather than later.

As a matter of fact, The Athletic’s Peter Gammons wrote Wednesday that, “the Red Sox believe that Byan Mata — who is 21 and was up to 99 [mph] in Pawtucket — will be up by July, as will Connor Seabold.”

What transpires in the spring — as well as how the Red Sox perform from a pitching perspective out of the gate next season — will likely serve as better indicators for what Mata and Seabold’s estimated time of arrival to the majors will look like.

Still, with all the uncertainties surrounding the Sox’ pitching staff moving forward, the emergences of Mata and Seabold will definitely provide some encouragement, and maybe even reassurance, for Bloom and Co. going into 2021.

Red Sox sign former Royals right-hander Kevin McCarthy to minor-league deal, per report

The Red Sox have signed free-agent right-hander Kevin McCarthy to a minor-league contract, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

Per Nightengale, McCarthy can make up to $825,000 if he makes Boston’s major-league roster.

The 28-year-old has spent the past five seasons with the Royals after being taken by the club in the 16th round of the 2013 amateur draft out of Marist College.

Most recently, the New York native appeared in just five games for Kansas City in 2020, allowing three earned runs over six innings pitched (4.50 ERA) before getting outrighted off the Royals’ 40-man roster last month.

Instead of accepting a minor-league assignment, McCarthy opted for free agency, and it only took him a little under two weeks to be scooped up by another team, albeit on a minor-league pact.

Prior to the 2020 season, McCarthy had proven to be a capable major-league reliever with the Royals. From 2016-2019, the righty posted a 3.78 ERA and 4.04 FIP over 164 appearances and 185 2/3 innings of work.

With those numbers in mind, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is presumably hopeful that McCarthy can revert back to that adequate form he had displayed in Kansas City with a new organization.

McCarthy, who turns 29 in February, will likely get a shot at making the Sox’ Opening Day roster if he impresses enough out of the bullpen this coming spring. We will have to wait and see on that.

On another note, McCarthy’s Twitter handle is @KMAC_n_cheez15, so that’s cool.

Red Sox’ Chaim Bloom values Bobby Dalbec’s versatility, is still confident in Rafael Devers’ defensive abilities at third base

Since making his major-league debut in 2017, Rafael Devers has tried to prove that he is capable of being a competent third baseman defensively, but has struggled thus far in doing so.

This past season alone, the 24-year-old logged 475 innings at the hot corner and was worth -6 defensive runs saved (DRS), the worst mark among qualified American League third baseman, according to FanGraphs.

Devers’ defensive difficulties have led to speculation that the Dominican-born slugger could eventually move over to first base, especially now with the emergence of Bobby Dalbec.

Dalbec, who was called up for the first time in late August and saw the majority of his playing time come at first, is capable of playing both corner infield positions adequately, and the Red Sox certainly value his versatility moving forward.

That being said, don’t expect Devers and Dalbec to swap primary positions anytime soon, as Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom still has faith in the former’s abilities with the glove.

“We know Raffy is capable of a lot more than he showed in 2020,” Bloom said when speaking to reporters via Zoom Wednesday. “I think he knows that. Everybody who has seen him knows that. You guys know the bond Alex [Cora] has with him, and that is already something we’ve discussed in making sure that we’re doing everything we can to help him be in position to play a really good third base, as he has done in the past.

“I think the early indications, from the offseason, are that Raffy is preparing himself to do that,” added Bloom. “It was obviously a tough summer. The way the season started back up, he never really got going — he was never really in-sync defensively. He knows that, and now with an offseason ahead of us, we’re really optimistic that he’s going to come into the spring looking very different.”

Despite the hardships Devers endured at third base this past season, he still enjoyed moderate success at the plate as highlighted by his .845 OPS for the month of September.

With Cora back in the fold as Red Sox manager, Devers could in theory return to his 2019 form in which he led the American League in doubles (54) and total bases (359) while finishing 12th in MVP voting.

As for Dalbec, here’s what Bloom had to say about the 25-year-old former top prospect who looks primed to make his first career Opening Day roster next spring:

“With Bobby, we want to be able to maintain his ability to play both [corner infield] positions. I think the versatility is going to be great for him. That could be important on day one or it could be important in a year or two years. The fact that he is capable [of playing third] is huge. You never want somebody who has the ability to play other positions to be pigeonholed at first base.”

Per FanGraphs, Dalbec accrued 175 2/3 innings at first base and 15 innings at third base over the course of his rookie season. The former fourth-round draft pick made three errors, all of which came at first. He also hit eight home runs in 23 games, which equates to 56 homers over 162 contests.

Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Appears Confident Andrew Benintendi Can Bounce Back in 2021

On the night of August 11, it appeared as though Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was on the verge of potentially turning his 2020 season around.

Entering the day with just two hits through his first 36 plate appearances of the year, the 26-year-old managed to double his hit total within the first three innings against the Rays that Tuesday with a pair of leadoff singles.

Fast forward to the eighth, and Benintendi again reached base after getting plunked by an Aaron Loup sinker.

An Alex Verdugo single to shallow left field moments later allowed Benintendi to advance to second base, but as the University of Arkansas product rounded the bag to take off for third, he subsequently slipped while on the run and wound up getting caught in a rundown.

As he made one last effort to reach third base, Benintendi slid head first before getting tagged out, but appeared to get up rather slowly after said out was recorded.

On August 12, the Cincinnati native was placed on the injured list after getting diagnosed with a right rib cage strain, which would wind up costing him the rest of the season.

“It’s frustrating,” Benintendi said at the time he was placed on the IL. “I got a few hits. I was feeling good. Felt like I was about to get hot, so, I mean, I’m frustrated.”

With his 2020 season prematurely coming to a close, Benintendi has now seen his on-field performance continue to decline going back to the start of the 2019 campaign.

In his first full two seasons with Boston, the 2015 first-round draft pick got on base 36% of the time while posting an OPS+ of 113 over a 299-game span that saw him nearly win American League Rookie of the Year and become a first-time All-Star.

Since then, though, as previously mentioned, Benintendi has been rather underwhelming, as he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 138 games played last year before running into the buzz saw that was 2020.

Still, even as he trends ever so slightly in the wrong direction two years out from free agency, Benintendi is still viewed as a plus-player in the eyes of the Red Sox front office. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s prospects. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.

“I thought he looked great coming in both in spring training and Summer Camp,” Bloom continued. “This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”

As he continues to recover from that rib cage strain, Benintendi is expected to undergo a typical offseason where he will not be limited in his activities.

“He’s not full-go at this moment if we were still playing,” said Bloom. “That shouldn’t be a surprise. But, substantively, his offseason should be pretty normal.”

From there, depending on what Bloom and Co. do between now and February, Benintendi should be in line to be a prime bounce-back candidate in 2021, especially with the potential he still brings to the table.

Myocarditis Shuts Down Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez for Remainder of 2020 Season

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will not pitch this season, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom announced Saturday.

The announcement comes as Rodriguez has been dealing with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, while recovering from COVID-19, which the 27-year-old tested positive for while at home in Miami early last month.

Although mild, the myocarditis Rodriguez is dealing with is still present, resulting in him being shut down for the remainder of 2020. As noted by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, “the prognosis hasn’t changed but the timetable has.”

Bloom said as much when speaking with reporters Saturday, stating that, “While we remain very optimistic he will make a full recovery, due to the fact that it is persistent, and the amount of care we need to take with this, he’s not going to be able to come back and pitch this year.”

Again, the Sox fully expect Rodriguez to recover from this seeing how the myocarditis has not damaged the Venezuela native’s heart “and is not expected to impact him over the long-term,” That being said, “The recovery should be complete. It’s just a question of time.”

Heading into the season, Rodriguez was slated to be Boston’s No. 1 starter with Chris Sale going down for the year due to Tommy John surgery and David Price getting dealt to the Dodgers.

Even when the idea of Rodriguez starting on Opening Day against the Orioles last month was thrown out the window due to his bout with COVID-19, it still appeared likely that the southpaw would be a welcome addition to the Sox’ rotation sometime later in the season.

Now, the Red Sox will have to endure as they have for the first week of the 2020 campaign. That being without their best left-handed starter.

“It certainly makes the mountain a little bit higher,” Bloom said in regards to being without Rodriguez for the remainder of the season. He also mentioned the fact that the Sox are ‘monitoring the market and also working with pitchers in Pawtucket.’

While the Red Sox scour the market for more pitching, here’s to wishing Eduardo Rodriguez the best and hoping he undergoes a full recovery so that he is all systems go in 2021.

Red Sox Reliever Phillips Valdez Pitching Himself ‘Into Bigger Role,’ Ron Roenicke Says

One week into the 2020 season, Red Sox relievers own the 15th-best ERA (4.54), the 15th-best FIP (4.21), and the 20th-best fWAR (0.0) in baseball. Put simply, the Boston bullpen has been rather mediocre to begin things this year, which is understandable given the current state the starting rotation is in.

Despite that ‘mediocire’ notion, there have been a handful of Sox relievers who have stuck out in a positive way thus far, and one of them worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees on Friday night. His name? Phillips Valdez.

Yes, the right-hander scattered three hits and struck out three batters in relief of Ryan Weber in Friday’s series-opening loss to New York. With that outing in mind, Valdez has yet to give up a run through his first three appearances and 5 2/3 innings pitched as a member of the Red Sox.

Originally claimed off waivers by Boston from the Seattle Mariners back in February, the 29-year-old hurler has struck out more than 27% of the 22 hitters he has faced so far this season while holding them to a .200 clip.

Because of his strong first impression, Valdez could find himself in more high-leverage spots out of the Red Sox bullpen in the near future. His manager, Ron Roenicke, said as much when speaking with reporters Friday night.

“He’s pitching himself maybe into a bigger role,” Roenicke explained. “That’s why we stuck with him today because he’s been throwing the ball well when he starts going through some of these really good hitters and getting them out.”

Some of those “really good hitters” Valdez has gotten out thus far include Aaron Judge and Luke Voit, who both fell victim to 84 mph changeups from the Dominican Republic national on Friday.

Signed by the Indians as a 17-year-old out of the DR back in 2008, Valdez made his major-league debut with the Texas Rangers last June and is under team control with Boston through the end of the 2025 season.

Per Statcast, the slender 6-foot-2, 160 lb. righty primarily works with a changeup and sinker, while his slider and four-seam fastball lean more towards secondary pitches.

At the time he joined the Sox during the first version of spring training earlier this year, Valdez seemed like a long shot to make Boston’s Opening Day roster. But, coming out of the pandemic-induced layoff, the club obviously liked what they saw during Summer Camp and he was in there pitching against the Orioles last Friday.

Now, after getting off to a hot start with his new team, Valdez could become a legitimate weapon out of the Red Sox bullpen if he continues to prove that he can handle tougher situations as a reliever.

Red Sox to Add Chris Mazza, Remove Jonathan Lucroy From Roster Ahead of Wednesday’s Series Opener Against Mets

UPDATE: Jonathan Lucroy has been designated for assignment.

Before taking on the Mets in Queens on Wednesday, the Red Sox will be recalling right-hander Chris Mazza from the club’s alternate training site in Pawtucket, according to The Athletic’s Chad Jennings and Ken Rosenthal. In order to make this happen, veteran catcher Jonathan Lucroy will be removed from the Sox’ 30-man roster.

A somewhat surprising move considering the player taken off the roster, but on a team that needs plenty of pitching help at the moment, removing another catcher in Lucroy for a fresh arm in Mazza makes plenty of sense for the Red Sox.

Starting with Mazza, the 30-year-old right-hander was left off Boston’s Opening Day squad earlier this month, nearly seven months after he was claimed off waivers from the Mets back in December.

Throughout Summer Camp workouts at Fenway Park, Mazza looked like a potential candidate to open games for the Sox, but instead of including him on the Opening Day roster, the club opted for more unproven pitchers like Dylan Covey or Phillips Valdez instead.

Now, after joining the Sox in New York for this upcoming road trip, Mazza will get the chance to prove he belongs with his new team. He only has nine career major-league relief appearances under his belt, all of which came with the Mets last season.

As for Lucroy, the 34-year-old backstop made the Sox’ Opening Day roster as the club’s third catcher but only got into one game as a defensive replacement against Baltimore last Friday, and as Jennings mentions in the tweet above, never got an at-bat.

At the time he signed a minor-league deal with Boston back in February, it appeared as though Lucroy could legitimately contend with Kevin Plawecki for the Red Sox’ backup catcher spot behind Christian Vazquez.

Both Lucroy and Plawecki were impressive during the spring, and because of the 30-man rosters for the first two weeks of the season that were implemented as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Red Sox were able to carry all three backstops on their Opening Day squad.

But, as SoxProspects’ Ian Cundall notes, “It didn’t make much sense to carry three catchers when you can have one on the taxi squad, who doesn’t take up a roster spot. With the Red Sox pitching struggles, another arm is much more useful at this point.”

Former Brewers and Angels catcher Jett Bandy will now be the third catcher on the Sox’ taxi squad and will not take up a roster spot in doing so.

Following Wednesday’s moves, the Red Sox could have an open spot on their 40-man roster depending on what happens with Lucroy. Perhaps they could use that opening on someone like Tanner Houck?

Red Sox’ Collin McHugh Opts Out of 2020 Season

Right-handed pitcher Collin McHugh has opted out of the 2020 season, Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke announced Sunday.

Per Roenicke, McHugh made this decision based off the fact that he really was nowhere close to appearing in a game anytime soon and it had nothing to do with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, the 33-year-old would have begun the year on the injured list and it would have taken about “half a season” to get him back healthy. Now, while at Summer Camp with the Red Sox, it became apparent that McHugh, who is recovering from an elbow procedure, was more in “rehab mode” rather than “game prep mode,” as Roenicke put it. In other words, “His arm just didn’t respond as fast as he’d like it to.”

By opting out of the 2020 season, McHugh will be removed from Boston’s 40-man roster, meaning the club now has two open spots on said roster to work with. Those two spots could go to Brian Johnson and Zack Godley.

As for McHugh, the veteran right-hander initially signed a one-year, major-league deal with the Sox back in February after undergoing a non-surgical procedure to repair a flexor strain over the winter. He will now return to his family in Atlanta.

 

 

Red Sox’ Jonathan Lucroy Continues to Impress at Summer Camp

Veteran backstop Jonathan Lucroy has been with the Red Sox for less than five months. He signed a minor-league deal with the club back in February, put up solid numbers in 12 Grapefruit League games, and then the COVID-induced shutdown happened.

During that layoff, the 34-year-old stayed busy and got acquainted with a few of his new Red Sox teammates – Ryan Brasier, Colten Brewer, and Brandon Workman – at a facility in Dallas. There, Lucroy, a native of Florida, caught bullpens for the trio of Texans frequently, thus potentially forging a stronger relationship with those Red Sox relievers.

When the Sox announced their initial 47-man player pool for the start of Summer Camp, Lucroy was not included on said roster, which raised some eyebrows considering how well he looked earlier in the year.

It turns out that the reason Lucroy was not originally included in Boston’s Summer Camp pool was due to contract-related issues. That dilemma did not last too long, obviously, as the two-time All-Star was added to the Sox’ Summer Camp player pool as a non-roster invitee on July 2.

Since then, Lucroy has picked up from where he left off in Fort Myers and continues to prove that when healthy, he can contribute.

You see, one of the reasons Lucroy had to take a minor-league deal this year was because of how poorly he had played the previous three seasons.

Over that span, in 315 games between the Rangers, Rockies, Athletics, Angels and Cubs, the former third-round draft pick has posted a wRC+ of 76 and an fWAR of 0.2, ranking 17th and 19th among 19 qualified big-league catchers.

One of the main reasons for those struggles were injuries. Between a herniated disc in his neck that has been a bother the last three years and a concussion-broken nose combo suffered in a home plate collision with Jake Marisnick last summer, Lucroy, as he puts it, has “played in pain.”

Now, following an offseason procedure to replace the aforementioned herniated disc in his neck with a metal facsimile, Lucroy is feeling much better health-wise. He showed that during the initial version of spring training, and he’s showing it again at Summer Camp.

Through the Sox’ first two intrasquad games at Fenway Park, Lucroy has racked up four hits while also catching a handful of innings behind the plate. If all goes according to plan, he’ll likely be the third catcher on Boston’s Opening Day, 30-man roster alongside Christian Vazquez and Kevin Plawecki.

“I do feel really, really good,” Lucroy said Friday. “I do feel like I can compete at a very high level and be consistent. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and have a chance to do that.”