Red Sox Bring Back Marco Hernandez and Josh Osich on Split Contracts

Less than two full days after non-tendering them, the Red Sox have brought back infielder Marco Hernandez and left-handed reliever Josh Osich on cheaper, one-year contracts for the 2020 season. The club made the transactions official earlier Wednesday.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Hernandez’s new deal is a split contract, or one that pays him $650,000 in the majors and also allows him to spend time in the minors if needed.

The 27-year-old out of the Dominican Republic slashed .250/.279/.338 with two home runs and 18 RBI over 61 games in his return to Boston this past season.

Hernandez was projected to earn $7 million in salary arbitration for the 2020 campaign, hence the incentive to work out a new deal that saves the Sox a little bit of money.

As for Osich, the 31-year-old reliever is back with Boston on a one-year split contract worth approximately $850,000, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Claimed off waivers by the Red Sox back in late October, the former White Sox southpaw posted an ERA of 4.66 and FIP of 4.96 over 57 relief appearances and 67 2/3 innings of work in 2019. He was projected to earn about $1 million in arbitration next year, so once more Boston is saving themselves some change.

With these moves, the Sox’ 40-man roster is back up to 36 players as the winter meetings in San Diego quickly approach.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Taijuan Walker

Following the fallout of the non-tender deadline Monday night, one of the many notable players released by his club was right-hander Taijuan Walker being let go by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The 27-year-old was a key piece along with Ketel Marte for Arizona in the trade that sent Zac Curtis, Mitch Haniger, and Jean Segura to the Seattle Mariners back in November 2016.

Old friend Mike Hazen, who at the time was just over a month into his new role as Diamondbacks’ general manager, more than likely thought he was getting a key member of his club’s starting rotation in the then-24-year-old Walker. Instead, injuries ravaged the hurler’s time in the desert, and he is now a free agent.

A former first-round pick of the Mariners back in 2010, Walker made just one start for Arizona in 2019, when he pitched one scoreless inning in the team’s final game of the season, after working his way back from Tommy John Surgery, which he underwent in April 2018.

Coming into this winter, the Louisiana native was projected to earn a little more than $5 million in salary arbitration for 2020, but the Diamondbacks must have felt that was too steep a price to pay given the recent health concerns.

When asked about the reason for non-tendering Walker, Hazen emphasized the starting pitching depth his team already has, as in Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, Mike Leake, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.

“I think if (Walker) comes into camp and he ends up in the pen, through competition, I don’t know that that was an outcome for us that was an ideal solution – probably for either side,” Hazen said Monday. “We think he’s a starting pitcher.”

You know which team could use some major league-ready starting pitching for next season? The Red Sox.

With a projected rotation of Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, and Nathan Eovaldi, a fifth spot will be needed. Not to mention that the statuses of Sale, Price, and Eovaldi, both in terms of health and trade rumors, are up in the air at the moment.

In Walker, Boston would get someone who owns a career 3.95 ERA and 4.21 FIP over 97 appearances (94 starts) and 528 1/3 innings pitched. Neither of those first two numbers are particularly elite, but an elite pitcher is not what the Red Sox are looking for.

Sure, there are health concerns, but across baseball, it seems like Walker was viewed as a bounce back candidate for 2020. That is someone that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and co. should be willing to take a risk on.

 

Red Sox Trade Sandy Leon to Cleveland Indians

The Red Sox have made their first of what will most likely be many trades under chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, as the club announced on Monday that catcher Sandy Leon had been dealt to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for minor-league right-hander Adenys Bautista.

Leon, who turns 31 in March, was projected to earn $2.8 million in his final season of arbitration in 2020, hence the move to trade him away on Monday, hours ahead of the deadline to tender arbitration-eligible players for the coming year.

After being outrighted off the Sox’ 40-man roster in March and brought back in April, Leon slashed .192/.251/.297 to go along with five homers and 19 RBI over 65 games for Boston in 2019.

Originally acquired from the Washington Nationals in exchange for cash considerations in March 2015, the Venezuela native’s best year in the majors came in 2016, when upon being called up on June 5th, Leon went on to post an .845 OPS over 78 games that year.

On the other side of this move, the Red Sox acquired 21-year-old right-handed pitching prospect Adenys Bautista, who signed with Cleveland out of the Dominican Republic in June 2018 and posted an ERA of 7.79 over 14 relief appearances and 17 1/3 innings of work between the Dominican Summer League and Arizona League this past season.

By trading Leon, the Sox have created an additional spot on their 40-man roster, which now stands at 37 players.

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez Says He Wants to Stay in Boston

Red Sox left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez wants to stay in Boston. He said that much to MLB.com’s Nathalie Alonso at the 12th annual David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic in Miami on Sunday.

“I would love to stay with Boston,” said Rodríguez, in Spanish. “If they offer me an extension, and we come to an agreement, I would love that.”

Rodriguez, who turns 27 in April, still has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining, hence the talks of a possible extension. He is projected to earn $9.5 million in 2020.

Coming off a 2019 campaign in which he finished sixth in American League Cy Young Award Voting thanks to posting a career-best 3.81 ERA and 213 strikeouts over 34 starts and 203 1/3 innings of work, Rodriguez has found himself in an intriguing spot this winter.

“It was a very important step for me, because for the first time I was able to pitch an entire season,” the Venezuela native said of his 2019 season Sunday. “That was my goal when the season started, 30 starts and throw more than 200 innings, and I was able to do it. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

The Red Sox originally acquired Rodriguez, then a 21-year-old prospect, from the Baltimore Orioles in July 2014 in exchange for left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, who went on to sign a four-year, $36 million deal with the New York Yankees that offseason.

Because of the fact he started his professional career in the Orioles organization, I was quite surprised when I read that Rodriguez said that Boston is where he began his career and that he, “would love to finish it there.”

Perhaps Rodriguez is speaking in regard to just his major-league career, but an interesting, and perhaps heartfelt, comment nonetheless.

As we all know, the Red Sox want to cut payroll while still remaining competitive in 2020, so it might be in new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom’s best interest to try and buy out Rodriguez’s last two years of arbitration while also locking down the lefty for a number of years at a decent rate after that.

A similar situation took place in Chicago last March, when the Cubs and right-hander Kyle Hendricks agreed to terms on a four-year, $55 million extension that does not take effect until 2020 and has a team option for 2023 attached to it.

Granted, Hendricks had one, not two years of arbitration remaining, but an extension for Rodriguez with an average annual value in the range of $13-$15 million does not seem too far-fetched.

With the Winter Meetings set to take place in San Diego next month, that may be a good time to see whether talks between the Red Sox and Rodriguez’s camp ramp up at all. If not then, perhaps spring training in February or March.

Rival Executives Remain ‘Skeptical’ Red Sox Will Receive Acceptable Trade Offer for Mookie Betts, per Ken Rosenthal

In his latest notes column for The Athletic, MLB insider Ken Rosenthal pointed out that rival executives across baseball believe that if the Red Sox were to trade Mookie Betts this offseason, they would fail to get a significant package of prospects or major-league ready players in return due to the fact that the star outfielder only has one year of team control left.

Betts, who turned 27 last month, is projected to earn around $28 million in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent for the first time in 2020.

This fact has led many to believe that the Sox, under the leadership of new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, will deal Betts if the two sides are unable to agree to a long-term contract extension, which seems next to impossible at this point since Betts seems locked in on testing the open market next winter.

As Rosenthal opines, “teams still should be tempted to give up top prospects for Betts, even if only for one year.” However, if opposing clubs are not willing to part ways with their valuable assets, the Red Sox may be better off waiting until the trade deadline to decide on trading Betts or not.

That way, Betts will still be a part of the Sox’ roster going into next season, which ultimately gives them the best chance to remain competitive. And if it turns out that Boston struggles out of the gate in 2020 and finds themselves in a place where they won’t be competing for a postseason spot come July, they can deal him then, when teams in desperate need of an outfielder and impact bat don’t have the option of turning to free agency to find a viable option.

“Under such a scenario, the Sox could continue their efforts to sign Betts,” says Rosenthal. “Possibly clearing money for 2020 and beyond by trading one of their high-priced starting pitchers.”

In addition to Betts being on the trade block, the likes of Nathan Eovaldi, David Price, and Chris Sale may be made available as well, as the trio or set to earn a combined $73.5 million in 2020.

At the end of the day, this comes down to what Betts wants, and regardless of whether or not you believe he likes playing in Boston or not, the Tennessee native’s top priority does appear to be testing free agency waters.

“Even if they concluded that Betts simply prefers to become a free agent,” Rosenthal said. “The return at the deadline might not be much less than what it would be this offseason.”

If this were to be the route taken, the Red Sox would be able to keep Best, the best corner outfielder in baseball, to at least begin the 2020 campaign as they look to get back to being competitive.

Red Sox Free Agency Targets: Eric Sogard

With All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal signing a four-year, $73 million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, it appears that baseball’s offseason is truly about to begin.

Unlike years past under Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox will more than likely not be pursuing these kind of big splashes this winter. Instead, new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is tasked with trying to trim Boston’s payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, all while keeping the club relatively competitive heading into the 2020 season.

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo composed a list of 46 free agents, three of whom played for the Sox in 2019, that Bloom and co. could go after to fill some holes in their roster.

One player that stuck out to me on that list was utility infielder Eric Sogard. Why? Because as Cotillo indicates, the 33-year-old veteran can play multiple positions, bats left-handed, and spent the last two months of the 2019 season with the Tampa Bay Rays after coming over from the Toronto Blue Jays in late July.

That trade with Toronto took place while Bloom was still serving under general manager Erik Neander with the Rays, so perhaps there is a connection there.

Numbers wise, Sogard slashed .290/.353/.457 with a career-best 13 home runs and 40 RBI over 110 total games between Toronto and Tampa Bay in 2019. He also missed time in September due to a deep bone bruise on his right foot.

The scenario of the Sox signing Sogard probably only takes place if Brock Holt signs elsewhere as a free agent himself this winter, and since Holt put together an impressive 2019 campaign, he more than likely played himself out of the Sox’ price range.

Even if Sogard is considered a fit, the Red Sox also have other internal options to fill the hole at second base alongside Dustin Pedroia in 2020, including C.J. Chatham, Michael Chavis, Marco Hernandez, and Tzu-Wei Lin to name a few.

Also, I failed to mention this earlier, but “Nerd Power” is a pretty good nickname, too.

Red Sox Formally Introduce Chaim Bloom as Their New Chief Baseball Officer

The Red Sox officially named Chaim Bloom as their new chief baseball officer on Monday afternoon through a press conference that featured Bloom himself, principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner, and team president Sam Kennedy. Brian O’Halloran was also formally promoted to general manager, marking the first time Boston has had a GM since 2016.

“We’ve tried to keep up with the change in nature of the baseball operations landscape,” Kennedy said of Bloom’s new title. “We value the collaboration and brainpower and institutional knowledge that our incredible team of baseball operations folks have.”

In his new role with his new organization, Bloom, who is coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays after 15 seasons working various roles, most recently as senior vice president of baseball operations, will have plenty of tough decisions to make right from the jump.

The futures of two Red Sox All-Stars, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, are among those, with Betts having one year remaining in arbitration before reaching free agency for the first time next winter, and Martinez having five days to decide whether or not to opt out of the remaining three years and $62.5 million on his current contract once the World Series comes to a close later this week.

“Our top priority is sustainability and competitiveness over the long term,” Bloom said when asked about Betts and Martinez. “That can take many forms but that’s really going to be the top priority. There’s a lot I don’t know. I’m just coming in here. So I’m looking forward to building relationships with them.”

The theories surrounding what the Sox plan to do with Betts has been a hot topic since the club’s 2019 season ended last month. So much so that Henry discussed it, as well as Martinez’s situation, when describing what the interview process with Bloom was like.

“We talked about that there are a lot of tough decisions to make during this offseason. That’s not uncommon,” Henry said. “We talked about Mookie, J.D. other issues, but we didn’t focus on what should we do.”

As has already been indicated by Red Sox ownership, it is a goal, not a mandate, to get the team’s 2020 payroll under the $208 million luxury tax threshold. Betts, who is projected to earn $27.7 million in his final year of salary arbitration, and Martinez, who would earn $23.75 million next year if he opts in, would account for approximately 24.7% of that $208 million.

“You’re going to look at a number of factors,” said Henry. “Including where Mookie wants to play in the long-term.”

If the Red Sox were to offer Betts a contract extension and the 27-year-old were to turn it down, a trade would not be out of the question. Bloom did discuss how integral a quality farm system is for a team’s long-term success. Even with one year left of team control, Betts still could garner a hefty return in terms of prospects in a potential trade.

How Bloom makes his mark in his tenure with the Red Sox will be something to pay attention to for the foreseeable future. Someone who came up in a club with limited financial resources now has a great deal more to work with. How he utilizes those will be worth monitoring as Boston heads towards an offseason full of uncertainties.