Nick Yorke, the youngest player at Red Sox camp, makes solid first impression in spring debut

Red Sox infield prospect Nick Yorke was in the midst of his senior year at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose at this time one year ago.

On Monday afternoon, the 18-year-old made his spring training debut for the Sox as a defensive replacement at second base for Marwin Gonzalez in the fifth inning of a Grapefruit League contest against the Braves.

Playing the final three innings of Monday’s eventual 5-3 loss to Atlanta, Yorke got the chance to step up to the plate for the first time with one out in the bottom half of the fifth.

His opposition? Only Braves right-hander A.J. Minter, who is coming off a 2020 season in which he allowed just two earned runs over 22 relief appearances and 21 2/3 innings pitched.

Going up against that caliber of competition is no easy task, especially for a teenager who had not gotten a legitimate, in-game at-bat in well over a year.

Having said that, Yorke held his own, and after looking at and fouling off a handful of pitches, golfed a single to right-center field that found a nice patch of grass to land on.

Fast forward to the seventh, and the California native again showed discipline at the plate by drawing a walk to cap off what was an impressive 2021 debut.

“That was the highlight of the day, having that kid play,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Yorke during his postgame media availability. “It’s funny because I told him before the game, ‘Hey, you’re playing second base.’ He’s like, ‘Ok, cool.’ I asked him, ‘Are you nervous?’ He’s like, ‘Nope.’ I said, ‘Ok, good for you.’ I was probably more nervous for him, so that’s a good sign.”

Boston selected Yorke with the 17th overall pick in the 2020 amateur draft last June, which at the time was viewed as a somewhat surprising selection considering the notion he was not projected to go that early.

Since then, though, the right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing second baseman has been turning heads on a consistent basis — whether it be at the Red Sox’ alternate training site or fall instructional league — to the point where he is entering the 2021 season as Boston’s ninth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America.

He’s also entering the 2021 season in better shape than he was in the fall, as he explained when speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon.

“In Pawtucket (alternate site) and instructs I wasn’t in the greatest shape,” Yorke explained. “Going into my first offseason, we made a goal to lose 10-15 pounds before I came back, and just focusing on that I came back and lost 25 (pounds).”

Yorke, who turns 19 in just over a month, is far and away the youngest player at Red Sox camp. While he may not be playing for a spot on the club’s Opening Day roster this spring, he is using this time to learn as much as possible by following around the likes of Enrique Hernandez and Xander Bogaerts.

“I’m working out with all the big-league infielders and just trying to be a sponge,” he said. “They’ve been in this game a lot longer than me, so I’m just trying to take what I can from them and piece this thing together.”

Cora himself echoed this same sentiment as well in regards when detailing why Yorke is at major-league spring training in the first place.

“He’s here to learn,” said the Sox skipper. “He’s here to be around big-leaguers and learn how to act in the clubhouse and be a professional, but you can see. He controlled the strike zone, controlled his at-bats.”

One thing that aided Yorke in his ability to control the strike zone and his at-bats on Monday was the fact that he did not let his nerves get to him, which is something the Red Sox coaching staff helped him with in getting him ready for in-game action.

“Once they said, ‘Play ball,’ I was ready to go,” Yorke said. “We haven’t been able to play on the field a lot the last year, so to get on the field, it’s just exciting. You get to go do what you love. I didn’t have a lot of nerves. It’s baseball at the end of the day. It’s just a game. I was just trying to go and have some fun.”

Listed at 6-foot and 200 pounds, Yorke is projected to begin the 2021 minor-league season with Low-A Salem, whose season is slated to begin on May 4.

For the time being, though, Yorke is looking forward to continuing to show what he’s got under the watchful eyes of Red Sox management these next few weeks in southwest Florida.

“Any opportunity they give me to touch a baseball field, I’m going to try to run away with it,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity and just trying to get better.”

(Picture of Nick Yorke: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts dealing with shoulder soreness, Alex Cora says

Xander Bogaerts is “a little bit banged up” and dealing with some right shoulder soreness, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Monday.

The 28-year-old shortstop arrived to camp in Fort Myers on time a little more than a week ago, but had been shut down from throwing at one point on account of that aforementioned soreness.

That said, it sounds like he is starting to make some progress towards a full recovery.

As for the reason why Bogaerts has been hindered by a sore shoulder, that has something to do with the fact that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected his offseason workouts in his home country of Aruba.

“He rushed himself with his throwing program during the offseason,” Cora said of the star infielder. “With everything that is going on with the virus, there were a few things he wasn’t able to do in Aruba because of lockdowns or whatever they had going on down there for the right reasons. So it wasn’t a regular offseason on that end.”

Despite those limitations, Bogaerts was still able to hit, but he may have overdone things with his throwing program in order to make up for lost time.

“He was able to hit and all that, but his throwing program wasn’t perfect. So he rushed himself,” said Cora. “He was sore for a few days. We shut him down. He should be back to throwing in the next couple of days. He will take groundballs and all that. The hitting part, he’ll be okay in a few days.”

Although Cora did not reveal when Bogaerts would be fit enough to make his Grapefruit League debut this spring, he did not seem all that concerned that the two-time All-Star would miss the start of the 2021 season, which begins on April 1.

“We just got to be patient,” the Sox skipper stated. “We got plenty of days — 30 more days. As of now, we do feel that he should be ready for Opening Day.”

Additionally, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told The Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that Bogaerts had an MRI on his sore shoulder, though said MRI revealed “nothing concerning.”

Bloom, like Cora, expects Bogaerts to be ready for Opening Day.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Alex Cora says team has to be better defensively in 2021: ‘That’s the bottom line’

During his re-introductory press conference back in November, one of the things that Red Sox manager Alex Cora emphasized was that his team needed to catch up to the speed of the game heading into the 2021 season.

“As a manager, as a coaching staff, I think spring training is going to be a lot different than ’18, ’19,” Cora said in the fall. “I do believe we have to catch up with the speed of the game. You look around and you look at the Padres, you look at the Rays, you look at the Dodgers and how athletic they are and how fast the game is. We have to catch up with that.

“It starts in the offseason, obviously, with workouts, and then we get to spring training,” he added. “It’s not going to be what you saw in ’18, ’19, kind of like building up, building up. Yeah, we’re going to build up, of course, so we don’t get hurt. But, at the same time I think the drills are going to be more dynamic. It’s going to be more game-time stuff, and I think they’re going to have fun doing that. And if we do that and we catch up with the speed of the division and the other teams, we’re going to be in a good spot.”

A little more than three months later, and Cora and Co. are already implementing these dynamic changes into their spring training drills at the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers. The Sox skipper said as much when speaking with reporters earlier Friday morning.

“Certain fields are dedicated for defense only,” Cora said via Zoom. “With the guidelines, we have to split them up. So, Fields 1 and 2 are going to be for infielders. Field 1 is going to be only for offense. Field 2 is going to be like a defensive lab. So they’re going to have machines, they’re going to be doing drills, everything is going to be defense. Fields 3 and 4 are going to be for outfielders. Same thing: One of the fields is going to be only for defense, the other one for offense. And for offense, too, they’re going to have cameras and they’re going to have Rapsodo and they’re going to have machines.

“It’s a way to get them up to what I want,” continued Cora. “And at the same time, with everything that is going on, to keep their minds away from the obstacles. Like I said yesterday, we’re lucky to be here. We’re lucky to be working, playing this game. I think we’re going to be more efficient as far as the work. We’re going to have a lot of stuff going on, which is cool.”

Cora added that additional fields will be reserved for pitchers and catchers, while newly-added turf close to the Red Sox clubhouse can be used for catching and infield drills and the batting cages can also be used for defensive work now that some nets have been taken down.

“It’s a pretty cool facility,” he opined. “You have to be open-minded, you have to be creative. We’re doing that and I think that’s going to help us to improve and get better.”

Aside from the COVID-19 protocols put in place by Major League Baseball for spring training facilities in Arizona and Florida, the driving force behind the Sox changing things up at Fenway South is to make defense more of a priority.

That being the case because over the last two seasons, both of which they failed to qualify for the postseason, Boston has put up rather pedestrian numbers.

They rank eighth in the American League in errors (133), seventh in fielding percentage (.984), ninth in defensive runs saved (-26), and sixth in ultimate zone rating (8.3) since 2019, per FanGraphs.

“We have to be better defensively. We have to be better defensively,” Cora said emphatically. “No doubt about it. That’s something championship teams do. I said, we have to be better than ’18 defensively, better than ’19, better than ’20. This is not about range factor or all that stuff that people measure, which is important. As far as first steps and angles going toward the ball, I’m going to challenge them to be better.”

The additions of versatile veterans like Enrique Hernandez and Marwin Gonzalez should aid the Sox on the defensive side of things, but the club will still be banking on players like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, and Christian Vazquez to pick up things on their end as well.

“We’re looking for these guys to improve their defense,” said Cora. “Raffy, Xander, Bobby at first base, Michael, Christian. We have to be better defensively. That’s the bottom line.”

(Picture of Alex Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Michael Chavis’ chances of making the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster appear slim at the moment

Michael Chavis’ chances of making the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster this year are, at the moment, slim. So slim that MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo wrote earlier Friday that “at present, it would be an upset for Chavis to make the Opening Day roster, even if the Red Sox can carry 26 players.”

The 25-year-old is coming off a dismal 2020 season in which he posted a .212/.259/.377 slash line to go along with five home runs, 19 RBI, and 50 strikeouts over 42 games (158 plate appearances).

Since getting his big-league career off to a roaring start in the spring of 2019, Chavis has cooled down considerably, even while getting the opportunity to play multiple defensive positions.

As noted by Cotillo, the Georgia native split time between first and second base during his rookie season, lost out on the starting job at second base to Jose Peraza last summer, platooned with Mitch Moreland at first base for a time, and ultimately got some playing time in the outfield thanks to the emergences of Christian Arroyo and Bobby Dalbec.

In somewhat of a utility role during the closing stages of the 2020 campaign, Chavis did not do anything to distinguish himself — offensively or defensively — and things have not gotten any easier for him since then.

That being the case because earlier this week, the Red Sox officially signed Enrique Hernandez, another right-handed hitter who can play around the infield and outfield, to a two-year, $14 million contract.

Hernandez, Cotillo writes, “will likely get the lion’s share of work at second while also having the ability to play the outfield or back up at shortstop or third base.”

This would leave Arroyo, who was claimed off waivers from the Indians in August and showed flashes of potential with Boston in September, as “the primary backup” at second base, and perhaps other infield spots as well.

Seeing how Arroyo and Hernandez, as well as Dalbec and Xander Bogaerts all hit from the right side of the field, it would appear that the Sox are set in terms of rostering right-handed hitting infielders.

Taking that, and the fact that the club is still “in the market for a left-handed bench option with the ability to play first base” to complement Dalbec (Mitch Moreland, Marwin Gonzalez) into consideration, Chavis starts to become obsolete in a way.

If that notion holds true heading into the regular season, there are a number of things the Red Sox could do.

For starters, they could entertain the idea of trading Chavis, though as noted by Cotillo, “teams may be hesitant to give up anything of value for an unproven player with clear holes in his game.” Especially at a time when “so many middle-tier veteran free agents are still available.”

Trading Chavis, Cotillo writes, would also “signal that the Red Sox are giving up on their former first-round pick, meaning the team would admit another development failure in a decade in which those have been far too frequent.”

Boston selected the 5-foot-10, 210 lb. infielder/outfielder with its top selection (26th overall) in the 2014 amateur draft out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Ga.

For the steady pace at which he developed, Chavis does only have 113 career Triple-A plate appearances under his belt, which leads to this next point.

That being, the Red Sox can afford to option Chavis to Triple-A Worcester if they so choose since he still has two minor-league options remaining.

Considering the fact that he is a former first-round pick and was at one point one of the organization’s top prospects, Chavis may be someone you do not want to give up quite yet. Especially since he is still under team control through the 2025 season.

Instead, allowing him to get regular playing time in a less stressful environment while “re-tooling his swing and fine-tuning his defense without the pressure of sticking in the majors” could be in the Red Sox’ best interest moving forward, as Cotillo notes.

Then again, in his tenure as Boston’s chief baseball officer thus far, Chaim Bloom has not shied away from reshuffling the club’s 40-man roster. Far from it, in fact.

This offseason alone, the Sox — whether it be by trade or DFA — have jettisoned approximately 19 players off its 40-man roster (not including Dustin Pedroia, who retired on Monday).

That being said, it would not be shocking to see that Bloom and Co. do not value Chavis to the point where they deem him worthy of a 40-man spot moving forward, and instead attempt to trade him for a non-40-man minor-leaguer — as was the case with Yoan Aybar in December — or designate him for assignment with the intention to sneak him through waivers.

Of course, given what Chavis still has going for him (relatively young, under team control, somewhat versatile), another team would likely try to claim him for themselves if he was placed on waivers.

In that scenario, the Red Sox would be losing Chavis for nothing, but that would probably be a risk they were willing to take if they designated him for assignment in the first place.

As Cotillo writes, Chavis’ “future will be one of the storylines to follow throughout spring training.” Personally, I do not think it would be a bad thing if he started out the season in Worcester, but we will have to wait and see on that.

(Picture of Michael Chavis: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts named third-best shortstop in baseball by MLB Network

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was ranked by MLB Network as the No. 3 shortstop in baseball headed into the 2021 season on Tuesday night.

Finishing behind the likes of Rockies star Trevor Story and Padres sensation Fernando Tatis Jr., Bogaerts is coming off yet another quality campaign in 2020.

Across 56 games played last year, the 28-year-old posted a .300/.364/.502 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 28 RBI over 225 total plate appearances.

2020 marked the third consecutive season in which Bogaerts finished with an on-base percentage north of .360, a slugging percentage north of .500, and an OPS+ exceeding 130. He finished in the top-20 in American League MVP voting in each of those three seasons.

Going back to Opening Day 2018, the Aruban infielder has accrued 13.6 fWAR in 347 total games played, the second-highest fWAR total among qualified major-league shortstops behind only Francisco Lindor, who accrued 14.0 fWAR in 361 games played with the Indians over that same stretch.

Bogaerts would likely be at the top of FanGraphs’ WAR leaderboards if the defensive metrics fell in line with what he did on the field.

As MLB Network’s Brian Kenny put it Tuesday night, “the defensive metrics do not like [Bogaerts]. Maybe it’s accurate, maybe not quite. But otherwise he would be a WAR leader as well.”

Last year alone, Bogaerts posted negative-5 defensive runs saved and an ultimate zone rating of just 0.3 over 438 innings at shortstop. He also registered negative-2 outs above average at the position, per Baseball Savant.

With spring training set to begin in just a few short weeks, the two-time All-Star is certainly not at risk of losing his starting job, but that doesn’t mean lofty expectations will be placed upon him heading into the new season.

Just ask Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

“Xander, for instance, when you talk about about the shortstops around the league and now you add [Corey] Seager to that equation, he’s up there with them,” Cora said of Bogaerts back in November. “Maybe the next step for us is to push Xander to be a better defender — and he’s not a bad defender — but to become an elite defender.”

Bogaerts, who does not turn 29 until October, is entering the second year of the six-year, $120 million contract extension he signed with Boston shortly after the start of the 2019 season.

He also has the option to opt out of his contract and become a free-agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

New Mets star Francisco Lindor grew up watching Red Sox ‘a lot’ in Puerto Rico; Could Boston be in play for shortstop’s services next winter?

Growing up in Puerto Rico, new Mets star shortstop Francisco Lindor did not have too many options when it came to watching specific Major League Baseball teams on television.

Star players from the island — such as Roberto Alomar and Carlos Delgado –took precedence, but among the 30 major-league clubs out there, Lindor’s options were really whittled down to just a handful of teams: the Braves, Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Marlins, and last but not least, the Red Sox.

Surrounded by fans infatuated with the Bronx Bombers, the young Lindor opted to follow their biggest rivals at the time in the Red Sox.

“In Puerto Rico, back in the day, they weren’t showing every team,” the27-year-old explained on SNY following his introductory press conference earlier Monday. “They were showing the Atlanta Braves, they would show the Dodgers, they would show the Yankees, Boston, the Marlins when they had Ivan Rodriguez, the Mets when they started getting players from Puerto Rico.

“So, Boston was a team that I watched a lot,” he continued. “Because everybody was [for the] Yankees in Puerto Rico, so it was like ‘All right, I got to pick something to have the rebuttal. So, that was one of the teams that I watched.”

In addition to the Red Sox, Lindor also watched quite a bit of the Mets, the organization he now plays for. However, in citing the players from old Mets teams he enjoyed to watch, the four-time All-Star mentioned former big-league infielder and current Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

Cora, about to embark upon his second stint as Sox skipper, served as Lindor’s general manager for Team Puerto Rico during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The pair of Puerto Ricans share a very close bond, as evidenced by the former Indians star likening Cora to his “big brother” in 2019.

Even with that close bond in mind, the Red Sox were never really close to trading for Lindor before Cleveland dealt the star infielder to the Mets in a blockbuster, six-player trade last week.

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported back in November that Boston wouldn’t “prioritize” a trade for the two-time Silver Slugger given their need to allocate resources towards pitching.

The reason Lindor was a trade candidate in the first place is because he is entering his third and final season of arbitration eligibility, meaning he can become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2021 campaign.

That being said, the Mets could very well lock up their new superstar to a lucrative contract extension before that happens. They certainly dealt for him with the intention to do that. Sandy Alderson, New York’s head of baseball operations, even said last week that he expected to talk to Lindor’s representatives about a potential long-term deal relatively soon.

Lindor himself said Monday that he’s open to signing an extension with the Mets to remain in the Big Apple for the foreseeable future, but only if an agreement that makes sense for both sides can be reached before the start of the season.

“I have never negotiated a contract during the season,” he told reporters. “Never. I’ve always said either before spring training, but once it gets to a point in spring training, it’s time to enjoy the ride and focus on winning. That’s the only thing I should be focused on — not how much money do I get, how much money do I need to get for my family. No, it’s about focusing on every day, my task.”

Given his willingness to potentially sign an extension, Lindor is not exactly locked in on hitting the open market this winter. But then again, free agency is definitely something that has been on his mind recently.

“I have never said, ‘I can’t wait to get to free agency,'” stated Lindor. “That was always so far ahead for me… When the negotiations with the Indians weren’t going how we were planning, then it was like, ‘Okay, this at some point might become a reality.’ Either I go to free agency or I get traded. But, if I told you I didn’t think about [free agency] this offseason, I would be lying. Yes, it was on my mind, but I’m happy to be where I am today and we’ll see what happens.”

When it comes down to it, Lindor’s situation resembles that of former Red Sox sensation Mookie Betts from over the summer.

Having just been traded from the Sox to the Dodgers in February, Betts opted to sign a record-breaking 12-year, $365 million extension with Los Angeles in July before even playing a game for the team.

Betts agreeing to that extension came at a time when the 28-year-old had already publicly stated he was intent on reaching free agency, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic likely changed his mind.

Taking into account the financial constraints that have been placed on clubs as a result of said pandemic, Lindor may opt to follow Betts and agree to a deal with the Mets before suiting up for them.

New York, with owner Steve Cohen now at the helm, has shown a willingness to spend after all, and re-upping a bona fide talent such as Lindor would certainly be money well spent.

Having written all this, I did think it was interesting that Lindor brought up the Red Sox in his presser earlier Monday.

Given the connection to Cora, as well as the fact that Boston’s current shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, can opt out of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the 2022 season, I feel like the Sox can’t be ruled out on Lindor as long as he doesn’t commit to the Mets for the long-term.

In other words, under the assumption that Lindor heads into next winter as a free agent, which I should add is unlikely, I have to assume that the Red Sox will to some extent be in play for his services next winter.

Even as I type that out, whatever is in store for the Red Sox all depends on what chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have in mind for the time being. I will leave it at that.

(Picture of Francisco Lindor and Alex Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox manager Alex Cora hoping Xander Bogaerts can become ‘elite defender’ at shortstop

Xander Bogaerts has proven to be one of the best shortstops in all of baseball in recent years, but that’s not stopping Red Sox manager Alex Cora from wanting more out of the 28-year-old moving forward.

Bogaerts just wrapped up a 2020 campaign in which he finished 17th in American League MVP voting thanks to putting up a .300/.364/.502 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 28 RBI over 56 games played.

Impressive offensive production, per usual. However, the Aruban-born infielder put up rather unimpressive defensive numbers, as has been the trend since he made his first career Opening Day roster back in 2014.

Among 20 qualified major-league shortstops this past season, Bogaerts ranked 19th in Defensive Runs Saved (-5), which essentially means he cost the Red Sox five runs, and 13th in Ultimate Zone Rating (0.3).

Going back to 2014, the two-time All-Star has posted negative DRS totals in each of his last seven seasons with Boston, per FanGraphs.

The Red Sox, with Cora back at the helm, would like to see Bogaerts put it all together and become just as adequate with the glove as he is with the bat in his hands.

“Xander, for instance, when you talk about about the shortstops around the league and now you add [Corey] Seager to that equation, he’s up there with them,” Cora said of Bogaerts when speaking with NESN’s Tom Caron earlier this week. “Maybe the next step for us is to push Xander to be a better defender — and he’s not a bad defender — but to become an elite defender.”

This isn’t the first time Cora has brought up Bogaerts’ need to improve defensively, either. The Sox skipper said something along these same lines at least year’s winter meetings in San Diego.

Now that he is back, perhaps Cora will get on his shortstop in a similar fashion to the way he got on Rafael Devers in 2019. Of course, Devers has his own defensive kinks to work out, and Cora spoke about that process with Caron, too.

“With Raffy, we know what we have to work with,” he said. Expect both Bogaerts and Devers to be a focal point at the start of spring training in February.

Red Sox’ Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts finish 12th and 17th in American League MVP voting

Red Sox teammates Alex Verdugo and Xander Bogaerts received one vote each in this year’s installment of American League Most Valuable Player Award voting, as announced by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Thursday night.

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu took home AL MVP honors.

Verdugo, 24, finished in 12th place thanks to one fifth-place vote, while Bogaerts, 28, finished in 17th place thanks to one 10th-place vote. Both votes came courtesy of The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams, who was the only BBWAA member to include a Red Sox player on his ballot.

This marks the first time Verdugo has received an MVP vote in his four-year career. Bogaerts, meanwhile, was coming off a 2019 campaign in which he finished fifth in AL MVP voting, which followed up a 2018 campaign in which he finished 13th.

Offensively speaking, Bogaerts and Verdugo were the Red Sox’ best players throughout the course of the 2020 season. The former led the way by posting a wRC+ of 130 over 56 games, and the latter was right behind him with a 126 wRC+ over 53 contests.

Earlier this week, Sox manager Alex Cora tabbed Verdugo as Boston’s MVP this year, which is commendable when considering it was his first season with the club after coming over from the Dodgers in February.

Speaking of the Dodgers, former Red Sox star outfielder Mookie Betts, who was involved in the same trade as Verdugo last winter, finished second in National League MVP voting behind Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman.

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).

Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Reflects on Emotional Final Day of 2020 Regular Season

The Red Sox wrapped up their 2020 regular season with a 9-1 victory over the Braves on Sunday afternoon to finish the year with a record of 24-36.

Before Sunday’s series finale against Atlanta had even started, though, the club announced that Ron Roenicke would not return as manager in 2021, which was the catalyst for an emotional day all around among Red Sox players and staff alike.

For one, Xander Bogaerts, who by all accounts is one of this team’s emotional leaders, did not find out about the news of Roenicke’s dismissal until he arrived at Truist Park.

“It was tough. Coming to the ballpark, no one really expected that, but that’s the way stuff goes in life sometimes,” Bogaerts said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “He was a huge influence for me personally, in my life and also my baseball career. And I know for sure he’s meant a lot to the other guys… I feel like he was just the perfect guy for the situation with this tough year. It was tough coming to the ballpark, especially losing a lot, and he just found a good way to communicate with us and try to make you feel good and important.

“He’s definitely someone that we will miss,” Bogaerts continued. “It was a tough year, and I remember before the game I was like ‘If I hit a homer today, I’m going to go up to him and give him a big hug before I go into the dugout, before I go to all the other guys.'”

Bogaerts did crush his 11th homer of the season in the top half of the fifth Sunday to put his side up 3-1, but he incidentally forget to give Roenicke that hug as he made his way back towards the Boston dugout after touching home plate.

“Everything just happened so quick and I kind of just forgot,” the 27-year-old recounted. “But I told myself that I would try to hit one for him and try to win this game for him. Obviously, it’s been a tough year, and it was some rough news for sure.”

On top of playing his final game with Roenicke as his manager, Bogaerts may have also played his final game with Jackie Bradley Jr. as his teammate.

Bradley Jr., who went 3-for-6 with a solo shot out of the leadoff spot and dazzled in the outfield on Sunday, is set to become a free agent for the first time in his big-league career this winter. A reunion between the 30-year-old Gold Glover and the Sox does not seem imminent at this point in time.

“He’s been through a lot here,” Bogaerts said of his teammate for parts of the last seven seasons. “We all know how good he is with the glove, we don’t need to speak about that anymore because he is obviously one of the best in the game to do that.”

While providing his typical, superb defensive prowess, which as mentioned was on full display Sunday, Bradley Jr. also enjoyed great success at the plate in 2020, as he finished the 60-game campaign boasting a .283/.364/.540 slash line, much to the delight of his teammates.

“For [Bradley Jr.] to be consistent with the bat this year, I think that was really nice,” said Bogaerts. “I know that’s something he’ll be very proud of going back and looking at the season that he had. He finished on a real strong note and I hope that he can stay here. I wish him nothing but the best for him and his family, because he’s also one of those guys who is a truly great person. He’s a good baseball player, but he’s an even better person and those guys deserve a lot. As I said, he’s been through some rough stretches here, but in the end I think with the season that he had, it was a nice season for him.”

Here’s to hoping that Bogaerts and Bradley Jr. will once again share the same field together in 2021.