Red Sox trade: infield prospect Christian Koss acquired from Rockies in exchange for left-hander Yoan Aybar

The Red Sox have acquired infield prospect Christian Koss from the Rockies in exchange for left-handed pitching prospect Yoan Aybar. The club made the trade official earlier Thursday evening.

Koss, who turns 23 in January, was selected by Colorado in the 12th round of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of California, Irvine.

In 53 games with rookie-level Grand Junction of the Pioneer League last year, the Riverside native posted an impressive .322/.447/.605 slash line (172 wRC+) to go along with 11 home runs and 51 RBI over 238 plate appearances.

Named a mid and post-season Pioneer League All-Star thanks to his efforts, Koss opened the 2020 campaign regarded by Baseball America as the Rockies’ No. 29 prospect.

Capable of playing every infield position besides first base at the moment, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing Koss is listed at 6-foot-1 and 182 lbs.

Koss is Rule 5 eligible next winter, so the 2021 season will prove to be an important one for him regardless of where he begins the year, which will likely be High-A Salem.

As for Aybar, the now-former Sox prospect was added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November, yet he was the only member of the 40-man roster to not be included in the club’s 60-man player pool this past season.

Originally signed as an outfielder out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, the stout southpaw converted into a pitcher full-time in 2018, most recently posting a 4.61 ERA over 44 relief appearances and 56 2/3 innings pitched between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem last year.

With Aybar being traded to another organization, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is currently down to 39 players, with plenty more moves to come as the offseason continues.

Why the Red Sox should not be counted out of a potential Carlos Correa trade

Late Monday night, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Astros have been “floating” All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa in trade talks with other clubs due to the notion that it “is unlikely they will sign him befre he reaches free agency at the end of the season.”

Rosenthal has since updated his story though, and now reports that Houston “is not engaged in any active conversations on Correa.”

Whether someone within the Astros organization reached out to Rosenthal to provide an update or he simply corrected himself has yet to be determined, but one thing is for certain: Correa, as of now, will be a free agent this time next year.

The 26-year-old is coming off a rather underwhelming 2020 campaign in which he slashed .264/.326/.383 with five home runs and 25 RBI over 58 games played.

As uninspiring as those numbers may be, Correa made up for it in October by posting a 1.221 OPS and driving in a team-leading 17 runs en route to Houston coming up one game short of a second consecutive World Series appearance.

Given how well he performed this most recent postseason, the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year could entice a great many a club looking to upgrade their infield and make a deep run into the playoffs next year.

The Red Sox, having missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year in 2020, will certainly be one of those teams attempting to bolster their roster in many areas this offseason.

On the surface, dealing for Correa does not make all that much sense for Boston given the fact that Xander Bogaerts is the club’s everyday shortstop and is one of the best in the American League at what he does. The 28-year-old can opt out of his contract after the 2022 season, though.

Even with that in mind, a potential positional logjam has not stopped Chaim Bloom from at least exploring trades for high-caliber players thus far in his brief tenure as Boston’s chief baseball officer.

Just this week, it was reported by The Chicago Tribune that the Sox and Cubs talked about a potential Kris Bryant trade over the summer. Before that, it appeared as though the Red Sox had/have at least some interest in Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who like Correa is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility.

That leads us to this next point: the connection Correa and Lindor share with Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

All three of Cora, Correa, Lindor hail from Puerto Rico and Cora, by all accounts, is very close with both infielders.

In Correa’s case, Cora served as his bench coach in Houston during the Astros’ march to a controversial World Series victory over the Dodgers in 2017. Cora was also Correa and Lindor’s general manager for Team Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Cora’s relationship with players such as Correa and Lindor could provide the Red Sox with the inside track on acquiring their services, as Rosenthal noted last March.

At the end of the day, the chances of the Sox acquiring Correa or Lindor before next July’s trade deadline are likely slim to none, but as was the case before his first tenure as manager ended, Cora can prove to be a selling point for players who are contemplating getting traded to or signing with Boston for years to come.

Also, for what it’s worth, Correa is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $10.2 million in his final season of arbitration eligibility in 2021.

Red Sox and Cubs talked Kris Bryant trade over the summer, per report

The Red Sox and Cubs engaged in trade talks centered around All-Star third baseman Kris Bryant over the summer, according to The Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales.

Per Gonzales, “two sources confirmed the Red Sox and Cubs discussed Bryant this summer, but those talks faded.”

Bryant, who turns 29 in January, is under team control with the Cubs for one more season. He is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $18.6 million in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021.

Because he is on the verge of free agency, Bryant, like Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, seems likely to get dealt at some point this winter.

The Las Vegas native is nearly two months removed from an uncharacteristic 2020 campaign in which he slashed .206/.293/.351 with just four home runs and 11 RBI over 34 games played.

In those 34 games, Bryant saw the majority of his playing time come at the hot corner, but he also logged 29 innings in left field. Because of the experience he has in the outfield, as well as the fact that Rafael Devers appears to be the third baseman of the future, “the Red Sox would envision Bryant as a left fielder,” per Gonzales.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox’ outfield picture is somewhat shorthanded in the wake of Jackie Bradley Jr. declaring for free agency last month.

Without an everyday centerfielder on the roster, either Andrew Benintendi or Alex Verdugo could make the switch to patrol center on a regular basis, which would therefore create an opening for someone like Bryant.

For as disappointing as his 2020 season may have been, Bryant still has the potential to bounce back in a tremendous way in 2021, especially since it would be a contract year for him.

In 740 games spanning six big-league seasons with Chicago, the former first-round pick, who is a Boras Corp. client, has clubbed 142 homers and collected 414 RBI. He won National League Rookie of the Year in 2015, National League MVP in 2016, and has been named to three National League All-Star teams.

On top of that, Bryant’s father, Mike, hails from Medford, Mass. and was selected by the Red Sox in the ninth round of the 1980 amateur draft out of UMASS Lowell.

It remains to be seen how likely a Bryant-to-Boston trade is at the moment considering talks between the Cubs and Sox faded over the summer, but dealing for a player of Bryant’s caliber with only one guaranteed year of team control would certainly be an aggressive move for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

Also, as MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith notes, “it’s not uncommon for teams to lay groundwork at the trade deadline, then resume trade talks during the offseason.” We will have to wait and see if those trade talks do indeed resume.

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.

Despite Alex Cora connection, Red Sox not prioritizing Francisco Lindor trade this offseason

The Cleveland Indians find themselves in a similar position as last year’s Boston Red Sox. That being, they are open to trading an extremely talented player who his entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

That soon-to-be free agent would be none other than superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor, who turns 27 on Saturday and is in the running to be the most sought after free agent next winter.

Does the Indians’ situation sound familiar yet? It should. The Red Sox, faced with the dilemma last offseason of either trading Mookie Betts, who like Lindor was on the verge of free agency, or risk losing their homegrown star for nothing if they held on to him going into the following season.

Boston, much to the disdain of its fanbase and the general public, wound up dealing Betts and his one year of team control as well as left-hander David Price to the Dodgers in February in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo and prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong.

Now, roughly nine months after that blockbuster went down, the cash-strapped Indians could very well trade away their franchise cornerstone this winter so they don’t lose him for nothing outside of a compensatory draft pick in 2021.

With that being said, a number of suitors have likely begun contacting Cleveland about trading for Lindor. The Red Sox, having just re-hired Alex Cora, who like Lindor hails from Puerto Rico and served as Team Puerto Rico’s general manager during the 2017 World Baseball Classic, were, at least on the outside, seen as a club who could be interested in acquiring the shortstop’s services.

However, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Sox will not prioritize a trade for Lindor this winter despite the Cora connection and will instead focus on pitching.

Lindor, a four-time All-Star, is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he slashed .258/.335/.415 to go along with eight home runs and 27 RBI over 60 games played.

From 2016 through 2019, the former first-round draft pick was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger Award, and finished in the top-15 in American League MVP voting all four years, again proving he is one of, if not the best shortstop in baseball.

As currently constructed, the Red Sox have a quality shortstop themselves in the form of Xander Bogaerts, but there is a caveat in the 28-year-old’s contract and that is he can opt out and become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

That might not mean much at the moment since Lindor is only under team control for one more year, but as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal notes, “the team that gets [Lindor] would gain the inside track on signing him, the way the Dodgers did with Betts.”

Lindor has the edge over Bogaerts in that he is both younger and a better defender, but the latter has proven to be the better offensive player. That much is made evident when comparing Bogaerts’ 136 wRC+ to Lindor’s 119 wRC+ since 2018.

Even with a slight difference in their skillsets, Bogaerts has emerged as the Red Sox’ clubhouse leader in the wake of the Betts trade, and bringing in someone of Lindor’s caliber, who plays the same position, could send the wrong message.

Of course, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom could always opt to purse Lindor in free agency next winter if he does indeed hit the open market.

If another team, whether it be the Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Dodgers, or Giants, does acquire Lindor, though, one would have to assume that club would prefer to lock up their new star to a long-term extension right away.

As previously mentioned, the Dodgers did that with Betts in July, and the Cardinals did it upon acquiring Paul Goldschmidt from the Diamondbacks in December 2018.

For now, Bloom and Co. seem more interested in acquiring pitching help as opposed to offensive help, which is understandable when you consider how dismal Red Sox pitching was in 2020 (5.58 ERA, second-worst in the American League).

Former Red Sox star Mookie Betts wins fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award

Former Red Sox star Mookie Betts took home his fifth consecutive Gold Glove Award and his first of the National League variety for right fielders on Tuesday night.

The 28-year-old had won the American League Gold Glove Award for right fielders in each of his last four seasons with the Sox from 2016 until 2019.

In his first go-around with the Dodgers, Betts logged 52 games and 438 2/3 innings in right field. While doing so, the Tennessee native led qualified National League right fielders in defensive runs saved (11), ultimate zone rate per 150 games (15.9), and Defense (3.7), according to FanGraphs. On top of that, he finished first among all right fielders in Outs Above Average (6), per Statcast.

By winning his fifth career and fifth consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award, Betts becomes the 30th outfielder in major-league history to win five Gold Gloves while also becoming the first outfielder to win as many as five straight since Ichiro Suzuki won 10 straight from 2001 until 2010.

Thanks mostly to Betts’ efforts, the eventual-World Series champion Dodgers had the top right field defense in the National League this past season going off multiple FanGraphs metrics. The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw their right field defense decline immensely in 2020, as the club finished 12th in the American League in DRS (-2), eighth in UZR/150 (1.8), and eighth in Defense (-1.4).

Betts, a former fifth-round draft pick, was traded to the Dodgers along with David Price back in February. Because he is under contract with Los Angeles through the end of the 2032 campaign, one might expect the four-time All-Star to add a few more Gold Gloves to his collection before all is said and done.

Former Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree outrighted by Phillies, making August trade look like even bigger steal for Chaim Bloom

Former Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree is on the verge of joining this years free-agency class, as the Phillies outrighted the 31-year-old from their 40-man roster earlier Thursday morning.

Because he has accrued enough major-league service time, Hembree, who was entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2021, can reject an assignment to the minors in favor of becoming a free agent a year earlier than initially anticipated.

The South Carolina native opened the 2020 campaign as one of Boston’s primary bullpen fixtures and got off to a fantastic start, posting a 1.86 ERA and .503 OPS against over his first 10 relief appearances and 9 2/3 innings of work.

A four-run implosion in which he failed to record an out against the Phillies, of all teams, on August 18 resulted in Hembree’s ERA skyrocketing up to 5.59. That would wind up being the righty’s last outing with the Red Sox, as Philadelphia acquired his services, as well as free agent-to-be Brandon Workman, in exchange for right-handed pitchers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold on August 21.

Things did not improve for Hembree, nor Workman, when they arrived in Philly. Together, the two hurlers combined to yield 24 runs (23 earned) on 40 hits, 14 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 25 total outings spanning 22 1/3 innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 9.27.

According to FanGraphs, Hembree’s fWAR of -0.8 and Workman’s fWAR of -0.5 from August 21 until the end of the regular season were the worst and second-worst marks among 262 National League relievers. For what it’s worth, Hembree’s year came to a close on September 21, when he was placed on the injured list due to a right elbow strain.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, saw signs of promise in Pivetta, who gave up just two runs over his first two starts and 10 innings pitched with Boston in late September, and got an interesting prospect in Seabold who will presumably be added to the club’s 40-man roster within the next few weeks.

With Workman and Hembree no longer members of the Phillies organization, this trade has the makings to be an absolute steal for chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox.

Medfield Native Matt Klentak Steps Down as Phillies General Manager

Matt Klentak has stepped down as general manager of the Phillies, the club announced earlier Saturday.

Klentak, a native of Medfield, Mass., had been on the job in Philadelphia since October 2015.

In his tenure as the youngest general manager in franchise history, Klentak saw the Phillies post a .460 winning percentage (326-382) while failing to reach the postseason in any of his five seasons at the helm in spite of facing increasingly lofty expectations.

A graduate of Xaverian Brothers High School in Braintree, Klentak attended and played baseball at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire before earning a bachelor’s degree in economics.

Despite losing the GM title with the Phils, Klentak will remain in the organization and serve a different role within the club’s front office.

“While I am disappointed that we failed to reach our ultimate goal, I am nevertheless very proud of the progress that this organization made over the last five years and of the people who worked so hard to make it happen,” the 40-year-old Klentak said in a statement. “I am grateful for all of the support that I received along the way from Phillies ownership, friends and colleagues, and our loyal Phillies fans.”

As it now turns out, one of the final major moves Klentak made as Phillies general manager was dealing right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold to the Red Sox in exchange for righty relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree back in late August.

That four-player swap proved to be very costly for Philadelphia’s postseason chances, as Workman posted a 6.92 ERA and 1.146 OPS against over 14 appearances and 13 innings pitched out of the Phillies bullpen. Hembree, meanwhile, yielded 13 earned runs in just 9 1/3 innings pitched (12.54 ERA) before hitting the injured list with a right elbow strain.

Workman, 32, is now a free agent, while Hembree, who turns 32 in January, has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before reaching free agency at the end of the 2021 season.

Nick Pivetta Shows Promise, Offers Hope in Red Sox Debut

It had been well over a year, or 434 days to be more exact, since Nick Pivetta started a major-league game. In that July 17, 2019 contest against the Dodgers, the then-Phillies right-hander surrendered one earned run on no hits and four walks in just 2 1/3 innings of work, but was promptly demoted to the Philadelphia bullpen from that point forward.

Fast forward to Tuesday night and Pivetta, now a member of the Red Sox, got the chance to start in the majors once again against the Orioles at Fenway Park. The 27-year-old took full advantage of this opportunity, as he held Baltimore to one run on four hits and three walks to go along with eight punchouts over five strong innings of work.

That effort eventually netted Pivetta his first win of the year, and the native of British Columbia seemed quite pleased with the way things went in his Red Sox debut when speaking with reporters via Zoom postgame.

“Honestly, I’m just really grateful for this opportunity. It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to start in the big-leagues,” Pivetta said. “To be able to go out there, put up five pretty good innings, I was very elated.”

As elated as Pivetta may have been by the time his outing came to an end, how his evening began was rather shaky with three of the first five Orioles he faced reaching base on two walks and a single, resulting in that lone run crossing the plate on a D.J. Stewart RBI base knock.

With two outs in the top half of the first and runners on first and second, Pivetta found himself in a predicament where his goal was to limit the damage. He did just that by fanning Pedro Severino on four pitches, with the last strike coming on a nasty, swing-inducing 87 mph slider at the bottom of the zone. That proved to be a significant confidence booster for the righty.

“I would have liked to limit that damage a little bit more with some better fastball command,” said Pivetta. “But, getting out of that and moving into [cruise control] after that, getting my legs underneath me, get my confidence back, just relax and have some fun out there. I think that’s the biggest thing. When you get that first inning out of the way, you kind of just move into it and just go out there and compete.”

By the time he had recorded the final out of the fifth, Pivetta’s pitch count had reached 96. Out of those 96 pitches, the former Nationals prospect relied on his fastball 51% of the time, his slider 23% of the time, his curveball 21 % of the time, and his changeup 5% of the time. Relying on a healthy mix of these four pitches is something Pivetta worked to improve upon while in Pawtucket.

“Getting back as a starter, building back up, getting better command with all four of my pitches,” Pivetta continued. “That’s the pitcher that I am. You can’t go out there with two pitches, so being able to have a solid mix of four pitches, which I showcased tonight pretty well, that’s what we’ve been working on and it paid off tonight.”

Speaking of showcasing himself, Pivetta will get the starting nod in the Red Sox’ season finale against the Braves in Atlanta this coming Sunday. Two starts is obviously a small sample size, but that is no reason to believe that the 6-foot-5 hurler won’t be giving it everything he’s got as he heads towards the offseason.

“I think it’s huge,” he said. “I’m given two opportunities to showcase myself and do the best I possibly can. I’m looking forward to every opportunity I have and just moving on from that.”

Pivetta has made seven prior starts against the Braves at Truist Park. In those outings, he owns a lifetime 4.10 ERA and .731 OPS against over 37 1/3 total innings pitched. Sunday’s start in Atlanta will of course be Pivetta’s first outside of the Phillies organization.

Red Sox Call up Top Prospect Bobby Dalbec From Pawtucket

In the wake of trading Mitch Moreland to the Padres, the Red Sox are calling up top prospect Bobby Dalbec, manager Ron Roenicke announced Sunday.

Dalbec, who is regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 3 prospect behind only Jeter Downs and Triston Casas, could be in Sunday’s starting lineup against the Nationals depending on what time he arrives at Fenway Park from Pawtucket.

The 25-year-old corner infielder was originally drafted by Boston in the fourth round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Arizona and in that time has established himself as one of the most dangerous power hitters in the organization.

In 135 games between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, Dalbec slashed .239/.356/.460 while clubbing 27 home runs and collecting 73 RBI. As was the case when he was in the minor-leagues, the Washington native will be competing with Michael Chavis for playing time at first base. Roenicke is very much looking forward to that.

“I think it’s really important to see the possibility of what the future could look like,” Roenicke said of Dalbec. “Getting Bobby up here, who has been a guy who has been on our radar for a long time as one of our top prospects. Knowing the upside to what we think this guy can become. I think it’s important to see him, to see what he can do, and for him also to get comfortable with being in the big leagues. It’s still a weird atmosphere. It’s not the same as it was. I still think the atmosphere, knowing you’re in the big leagues will be important to him.”