Red Sox agree to one-year, $10 million deal with left-hander James Paxton, per report; contract includes two-year club option

The Red Sox are in agreement with free agent left-hander James Paxton on a one-year, $10 million contract for the 2022 season, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. The deal, which is pending a physical, includes a two-year club option and was first reported by Sportsnet 650’s Chad Dey.

Per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, the total value of Paxton’s contract could reach $35 million if the Red Sox were to pick up his two-year option for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

Paxton, 33, underwent Tommy John surgery this past April after making just one start for the Mariners in which he allowed one earned run in 1 1/3 innings against the White Sox at T-Mobile Park.

The Canadian-born southpaw was originally selected by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Kentucky and later made his major-league debut for the Mariners in September 2013.

After spending the first six years of his big-league career with the M’s, however, Paxton was dealt to the Yankees in exchange for three players at the conclusion of the 2018 campaign.

While donning the pinstripes, Paxton enjoyed a solid inaugural season with the Yankees in 2019, posting a 3.82 ERA and 3.86 FIP to go along with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks over 29 starts spanning 150 2/3 innings of work.

The following year was a different story, though, as Paxton managed to make just six starts for New York before his season prematurely came to a close in late August due to a left flexor strain.

Despite signing a one-year deal to return to Seattle in February, the same discomfort Paxton experienced in his left elbow in 2020 clearly carried over into 2021 since it ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Having undergone the elbow reconstruction procedure on April 14, Paxton likely won’t be able to return to in-game action until the later stages of the 2022 season at the earliest

Still, perhaps following a similar timeline they used with Chris Sale this year, the Sox elected to take a chance on Paxton. The veteran lefty operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Paxton — a native of British Columbia — is represented by the Boras Corporation and does not turn 34 until next November.

He also becomes the second significant starting pitching-related addition Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have made via free agency in the last week. Over the weekend, the club announced that they had signed veteran right-hander Michael Wacha to a one-year, $7 million deal for 2022.

Once he passes his physical and his signing is made official, Paxton will bring the size of Boston’s 40-man roster up to 38 players.

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward plays catch for first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward posted a video on social media of himself playing catch on Wednesday, marking the first time he has done so since undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Ward, 24, is regarded by Baseball America as the No. 14 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking seventh among pitchers in the organization.

The right-hander was originally selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida and had opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.

Just two starts and eight innings into his tenure with the Sea Dogs, however, it was revealed that Ward would require Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow after he suffered a forearm strain in mid-May. The procedure was later performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida in early June, thus ending the righty’s year prematurely.

Fast forward six months later, though, and it appears that Ward is on the right track towards a full recovery. While it’s likely that he won’t pitch in a game again until late 2022 at the earliest, the Red Sox will still have an interesting decision to make regarding Ward’s status in the coming weeks.

Major-league clubs have until November 19 to add eligible minor-leaguers to their 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, which is slated to take place during the winter meetings in December.

Along with the likes of Jeter Downs, Brayan Bello, and Gilberto Jimenez, Ward is one of several top Red Sox prospects who could become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they are not added to Boston’s 40-man roster later this month.

A native of Fort Myers, Fla., the 6-foot-3, 192 pound hurler is certainly an interesting candidate to be added. In his first full professional season in 2019, he posted a 2.14 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 157:57 over 25 starts spanning 126 1/3 innings pitched between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem.

This past spring, he put up a 5.63 ERA and 2.64 FIP to go along with 11 strikeouts to five walks in his two outings for Portland prior to getting injured.

With that being said, there would be some caveats to adding Ward on account of the fact that he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, which can take anywhere between 12-18 months to heal from.

Put another way, if the Red Sox were to add Ward to their 40-man roster before the Nov. 19 deadline, he would essentially be taking up a spot on their roster going into next season. Boston could place Ward, who turns 25 in January, on the 60-day injured list to temporarily clear a roster spot, but would subsequently be starting his service time clock as a result of doing so.

If Ward were to be left unprotected heading into next month’s Rule 5 Draft, other clubs would have the chance to select him. Any team that picks him up, though, would then ordinarily be tasked with carrying him on their active roster for a minimum of 90 days.

Since that would be unlikely to execute in Ward’s case, his new club would presumably place him on the 60-day injured list for the entirety of the 2022 campaign before being subject to the same set of rules in 2023.

Those rules being that once healthy, Ward will have to remain on his new team’s 26-man roster for the entire 2023 season or otherwise be offered back to the Red Sox.

It’s a fascinating situation, and one that can definitely be classified as unique and maybe even somewhat confusing. That said, all signs seem to point to the Red Sox not adding Ward to their 40-man roster by the Nov. 19 deadline and thus exposing him to this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale set to make another rehab start for Double-A Portland on Sunday

Red Sox ace Chris Sale woke up Wednesday morning without issue and is in line to make his next rehab start this weekend, manager Alex Cora said Wednesday afternoon.

Sale, who is on the road back from Tommy John surgery, dominated in his rehab outing for Double-A Portland Tuesday night, striking out six and walking just one over 3 2/3 scoreless, no-hit innings against the Harrisburg Senators in front of a sold-out crowd at Hadlock Field.

It was Sale’s second rehab start of the month and his first in front of thousands of fans in nearly two years.

Of the 49 pitches the veteran left-hander threw on Tuesday, 34 went for strikes. He retired 10 of the 12 hitters he faced and topped out at 97-98 mph with his vaunted four-seam fastball while also mixing in his swing-inducing slider.

“He was a little bit off mechanics-wise early on,” Cora said of Sale prior to Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays in Buffalo. “That’s part of the progression. Now he’s pitching in front of fans. Obviously the competition is a little better. But he settled down and he was able to repeat his delivery. His slider was really good. The fastball obviously was up velocity-wise. Everybody is very happy with the way the outing went. Warming up, he was excited. He was a little bit off. But little by little, he was able to repeat it and he was great.”

This latest milestone for Sale comes nearly 17 months after he initially underwent Tommy John surgery on March 30, 2020 — his 31st birthday.

Since that time, the 32-year-old hurler has reached the point where he can now face live hitters in a competitive environment on a regular schedule.

After completing his start in Portland on Tuesday, Sale was to work out with the Sea Dogs on Wednesday and is now slated to start for them once again on regular rest in Sunday’s series finale against the Senators (July 25).

Though it is not yet clear when Sale could potentially make his return to the Red Sox’ starting rotation, one thing is for certain: the day in which the seven-time All-Star takes a big-league mound again is only getting closer and closer.

“Everybody’s excited with what we saw yesterday. I’m happier with the way he reacted today,” said Cora. “Hopefully, we keep progressing the way it should be and he’ll join us whenever he’s ready.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale dominates with 6 strikeouts over 3 2/3 scoreless, no-hit innings in rehab start for Double-A Portland

Red Sox ace Chris Sale took yet another positive step in the right direction in his road back from Tommy John surgery on Tuesday night.

Five days after a successful outing for the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox in Sarasota, Fla., Sale was at it again, this time suiting up for Double-A Portland in front of a sold-out crowd at Hadlock Field.

Over 3 2/3 innings of work against the Harrisburg Senators (Nationals affiliate), the veteran left-hander did not allow a single run or hit while waking just one batter and striking out six for the Sea Dogs.

Coming into the night, Sale was going to be capped at three or four innings depending on how many pitches he would need. His day ended with a five-pitch strikeout of Aldrem Corredor for the second out of the fourth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 49 (34 strikes), the 32-year-old hurler wound up retiring 10 of the 12 batters he faced, as he promptly picked off the runner he had walked — Gage Canning — in the top half of the first before Canning reached base once again three innings later on a fielding error.

Besides that, Sale, on all accounts, was nearly perfect in the process of reaching 97-98 mph with his vaunted four-seam fastball, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Tuesday’s performance marks another important milestone for Sale as he continues to work his way back from Tommy John, which he underwent nearly 16 months ago — on his 31st birthday (March 30, 2020), no less — after experiencing inflammation in his throwing elbow during the latter half of the 2019 season.

In the time since undergoing that procedure on his elbow last spring, the 6-foot-6 southpaw has now reached a point where he has been pitching every five days and has made two rehab starts between the FCL Red Sox and Sea Dogs.

Assuming he wakes up on Wednesday morning with no ill effects from his latest outing, Sale, a seven-time All-Star, could be in line to make his next start on July 25 if he remains on the schedule he has been on.

Since the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox will be on the road and the Sea Dogs will still be at home, it seems likely that Sale will once again toe the rubber at Hadlock Field for this coming Sunday’s matchup against the Senators.

In the meantime, Sale told reporters (including Cotillo) Tuesday night that he plans on working out in Portland on Wednesday, but the Red Sox have yet to give him instructions for any next steps beyond that.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale strikes out 5 over 3 scoreless innings in first start of rehab assignment

Red Sox ace Chris Sale began his highly-anticipated rehab assignment on Thursday afternoon, and it’s safe to say things got off to a positive start.

Starting for the rookie-level Florida Complex League Red Sox in their contest against the FCL Orioles Orange team at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Sale was scheduled to throw two innings, but wound up going three instead.

Over those three frames, the veteran left-hander kept the Orioles off the scoreboard while scattering just four hits and zero walks to go along with five strikeouts on the day.

After working his way around a leadoff single in an otherwise perfect first inning, Sale put himself in a bit of a jam in the bottom of the second, as he fanned the first batter of the inning before putting two straight Orioles on on back-to-back singles.

Faced with runners on the corners and two outs still to get, the 32-year-old dialed it up and punched out both Ricardo Castro and Luis Sena in consecutive order to get out of the inning.

In the third inning, Sale again allowed another runner to reach base on a one-out double, but got Moises Ramirez to ground out and followed that up by striking out the last man he faced — Isaac Bellony — on three pitches to end his outing on an encouraging note.

Of the 13 Orioles who came to the plate against him on Thursday, Sale induced two groundouts and one fly out in addition to the five punchouts. He finished with a final pitch count of 39.

Per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Sale relied on his fastball, slider, and changeup over the course of his three innings pitched. The fiery southpaw topped out at 94 mph with his heater, hovered around 78-79 mph with his slider, and sat between 85-87 mph with his changeup.

Cundall also noted that Sale’s feel for his secondary pitches improved as he threw them more and that the majority of the contact he gave up was weak.

Sale, as you may recall, is on the road back from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent on March 30, 2020 — his 31st birthday — after experiencing inflammation in his throwing elbow throughout the latter half of the 2019 season.

The seven-time All-Star last appeared in a major-league game on August 13, 2019, when he struck out 12 over 6 2/3 innings against the Indians at Progressive Field.

In working his way back from Tommy John, Sale has now reached the point where he can face live hitters, as he has done on a frequent basis since late June.

Under the pretext that he wakes up Friday morning without feeling any sort of pain or discomfort in his left elbow, Sale could be in line to make his second rehab start early next week seeing how he has been pitching every five days.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had previously said that the club would like to keep Sale close to Boston while he rehabs so that he has easy access to the team’s medical staff. With that condition in mind, it appears likely that Sale’s next outing will come with Double-A Portland, per Cora.

The Sea Dogs open up a 12-game homestand at Hadlock Field beginning on Tuesday, July 20, so that should be the date for Sale’s next rehab start if he continues to pitch on four days rest. He probably would see his workload increase to four innings as well.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward undergoes Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida.

Ward, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fourth among pitchers in the organization.

The right-hander opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, where he allowed five runs on 11 hits, five walks, and 11 strikeouts over his first two starts and eight innings pitched prior to being placed on the injured list due to a forearm strain.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Ward “visited multiple doctors in recent weeks before surgery was recommended.”

Selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida, Ward emerged as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects thanks in part to posting a 2.14 ERA over 25 starts (126 1/3 innings) between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem during his first full professional season in 2019.

While he did not pitch in 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the minor-league season, the Florida native did receive an invite to big-league spring training this year before getting reassigned to minor-league camp in early March.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 193 pounds, Ward — who works with a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball — will miss the rest of the 2021 campaign and likely the majority of 2022 as well considering the typical timetable for pitchers to come back from Tommy John surgery is anywhere between 12-15 months.

Ward undergoing Tommy John is the latest instance of the Red Sox’ minor-league pitching depth taking a major hit so far this year.

Bryan Mata, the top pitching prospect in the system, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Tanner Houck, the No. 3 pitching prospect in the system, has been on the injured list with a flexor muscle strain.

Connor Seabold, the No. 5 pitching prospect in the system, has been on the injured list with elbow inflammation. Eduard Bazardo, the 27th-ranked prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline, has been on the injured list with a lat strain.

For the Red Sox, the silver lining with Ward is that they likely won’t need to add the young righty to their 40-man roster in November even though he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this winter.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Kutter Crawford tosses four scoreless innings for Double-A Portland in first start back from Tommy John surgery

On Saturday, Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford made his first start of the minor-league season for Double-A Portland.

Not only was it Crawford’s first start since August 24, 2019 with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it was also his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019.

Matched up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays, at Hadlock Field over the weekend, the right-hander turned in a solid outing in his 2021 debut.

Over four innings of work, Crawford kept the Fisher Cats off the scoreboard while scattering just three hits and no walks to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon. He retired 12 of the 15 hitters he faced in the process of throwing 54 pitches, 40 of which were strikes.

Crawford, who turned 25 last month, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, the same school Chris Sale attended.

Signing with Boston for $125,000, the Florida native rose through the ranks and came into the 2019 season ranked as the Sox’ No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America.

Crawford opened the 2019 campaign with High-A Salem and posted a 3.39 ERA and a 77:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 starts and 69 innings of work to earn Carolina League All-Star honors.

Promoted to Portland on June 20, Crawford provided six quality innings in two of his first three Double-A starts. But after lasting just 2 2/3 innings in his fourth start on July 12, he was placed on the injured list.

From that point forward, Crawford would be sidelined for a month before making one start in his return from the IL in August before once again getting shelved for the remainder of the season.

As he explained to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith in February, Crawford had been experiencing elbow issues throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was able to pitch through it for a quite a while, but the discomfort got to a point in 2019 where he couldn’t throw every five days.

That led to an MRI on the hurler’s right elbow, which revealed a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament that would require Tommy John surgery.

Crawford had the procedure done by Dr. James Andrews on October 29. About nine months later, he began experiencing elbow pain again while getting back into his throwing program and would have to have bone spurs removed from his right elbow as a result.

Since then, Crawford has obviously been able to get back on track to the point where he was ready for the start of the minor-league season. His pitch arsenal still consists of a fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

“One of my main focuses with the rehab throwing was to shorten my arm action a little bit,” Crawford told Smith. “I had this little hitch in 2019. I don’t really know how it developed. I didn’t have it in college. But I started having this little hitch. And that was really one of my main focuses: getting rid of that hitch and also trying to shorten my arm path just to make it more efficient so it can work a little bit easier.” 

With that new arm action in tow, Crawford will look to re-establish himself as a legitimate pitching prospect that caught people’s attention in 2018 and 2019.

The 6-foot-1, 192 pound hurler out of Okeechobee, Fla. can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Jill Brady/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)