Could Clay Buchholz Be A Bullpen Solution for Red Sox?

Clay BuchholzThe primary need the Red Sox have to address this offseason is obviously the hole in the bullpen left after Joe Kelly signed with the Dodgers. They’ve been rumored to be in the mix for big name relievers like David Robertson, but going after one of the pitchers not on the national radar could be a potential option. While it’d come with some extra risk, going after Clay Buchholz might be the solution for the Red Sox.

His season unfortunately ended in the middle of September after he was diagnosed with a flexor strain in his forearm, but Buchholz had a bounce back season in 2018 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He threw for a 2.01 ERA and 1.032 WHIP while striking out 81 over 98.1 innings. Not only were his stats improved, but Richard Morin of the Arizona Republic wrote an article saying the 34 year old was a lot more consistent and appeared to be stronger mentally.

With that being said, Buchholz has definitely struggled with inconsistency over the years. Back in June of 2016, for instance, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald wrote that “so far out of relief, Buchholz has been good, solid, and disappointing, all within in his first two appearances.” These comments came right after he had given up four runs to the Orioles during a 3.1 inning out.

But it’s not like he was consistently bad. He hadn’t given up any runs during the first two innings of the aforementioned appearance and had blanked the Blue Jays during an inning long outing a few days before. The right hander simply seemed to implode after Dustin Pedroia made an error on what should have been a routine double play ball.

That ability to implode after what should have been a relatively minor setback is what people remember about Buchholz’s time with Boston. Even after a successful season with Arizona, people have claimed he “can’t pitch for large markets” like Boston or “handle the pressure of a heavy sports town.” This might be the truth, but it might be worth taking a risk on him since he’s not one of the big names being heavily targeted and could therefore be signed for less money.

The strong and consistent comeback season should make the Red Sox strongly consider bringing Buchholz back to Boston. Since the righty seemed to prove himself last year, the main source of concern shouldn’t be his consistency but his history of injury. As mentioned before, his season ended early last year due to a partial flexor tare in his right forearm and he also missed most of 2017 after needing surgery to address a similar injury.

Perhaps the other thing worth noting is that Buchholz spent most of last year as a starter and that might have played a role in why he was more consistent. He does have a fair amount of experience working out of the bullpen, however, and could be a good contender for a long relief spot.

In the end, pursuing Buchholz could also play into Boston’s overall strategy. Some of the higher ups in the Red Sox organization have expressed an interest in not making any big moves until everybody knows where Craig Kimbrel will be spending 2019 (and potentially beyond). Unlike some of the big names being discussed this offseason, the former Red Sox might still be available after that potentially late point in the offseason. So while it might not be the most obvious path to take, bringing in Buchholz might be the right move for Boston.

Red Sox Still in the Mix for David Robertson

As most of Red Sox Nation is waiting for Boston to sure up their bullpen for next year, people like Mark Feinsand are reporting “the Red Sox are still in the mix for free-agent reliever David Robertson.” Jason Veritek’s wife, Catherine, even sent out a tweet suggesting the right handed reliever is coming to Boston and the Red Sox vs. Yankees rivalry will have a little extra spice to it next year.

This can only be interpreted as positive news as Boston’s been showing a strong interest in him since early on in the offseason, but they’ll have to make a big push soon if they want to sign him. If they sit back and wait to see what Craig Kimbrel does like some executives have been saying they might, they could easily see Robertson go elsewhere.

Despite dispatches from Yankee territory suggesting the Red Sox didn’t think Robertson wanted to come to Boston, most pundits agree the interest is mutual but there are several teams remain in the mix. It shouldn’t be surprising other clubs are interest because the Phillies have shown interest in bringing him to town and the Yankees might bring him back as they could use some help filling in their bullpen for next year. With at least three teams in the mix, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Robertson is simply trying to ensure he gets the best deal possible.

The major hang up for the 33 year old is that he’s looking for a three year contract, but most teams are only willing to give him two (reports suggest the Red Sox fall into this category). Based on a successful 2018 season where he ended up with a 1.03 WHIP and 3.23 ERA while striking out 91 and giving up 30 runs (25 of them earned) over the course of 69.2 innings, however, three years isn’t too much to ask if teams can get him to commit to a reasonable salary (he made $13 million in 2018 and has averaged $11.5 million per season since 2015).

It’s worth noting that a cursory scan of his stats from last year appear to be better than those put up by Joe Kelly, who the Dodgers signed to a three year deal with an option for a fourth earlier this month. Kelly is guaranteed $25 million over those three years and could receive upwards of $33 million if he hits all the incentives included, so Robertson’s demands are reasonable and should definitely be considered by the Red Sox.

As all these discussions are taking place, Boston’s geographic location might come into play. Robertson currently makes his offseason home with his family in Rhode Island and is rumored to want to sign with a team located close by. Rhode Island obviously isn’t far away from Boston and, for what it’s worth, is even home to the Red Sox’s triple-A affiliate. This could prove to be an advantage if it becomes clear nobody’s willing to sign him to more than two years.

With all that being said, the major factor still seems to be whether or not Boston will move forward with a big signing before they know what Craig Kimbrel will do.

Manny Machado Wanted to Play for Red Sox or Yankees

Although Manny Machado said he won’t announce who he’s signing with until after the new year, there’s still a lot of chatter about where he’ll end up. The latest development comes as Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported a few days ago that a baseball executive claims the superstar wants to return to the AL East — preferably to the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.

“I think he ends up in New York,” one rival exec says. “He wanted to be with the Yankees or Red Sox. We’ve known that for a while. And it’s not going to be Boston.”

This isn’t completely out of the blue as the Red Sox were reportedly in discussions with the Baltimore Orioles last offseason about a trade that would bring Machado to Boston. The discussions could have taken place in part because Boston’s Dave Dombrowski and Dan Duquette (who was Baltimore’s GM at the time) have a relationship that dates back to their time with the Montreal Expos three decades ago, but even that relationship didn’t allow them to amount to anything in the long run.

With that being said, it’s fairly obvious that Machado can scratch Boston off his list of potential destinations. Not only have the Red Sox shown little interest in him this offseason and weren’t among the three finalists he met with, but he’s had some public spats with Boston’s players and fans.

He got a lot of heat, for instance, for sliding hard into Dustin Pedroia at second base during a game down in Baltimore back in April of 2017. Pedroia brushed it off and said “it’s baseball, man” in a postgame interview, but folks like manager John Farrell had a much stronger reaction to the move. The situation didn’t get any better when he went off on the Red Sox the next month during a postgame interview with a media scrum that had to be bleeped several times when it aired on TV and the radio.

Machado further added to the feud when he spiked first baseman Steve Pearce during the bottom of the ninth in game four of the 2018 World Series (this was one of the few times he decided to be “Johnny Hustle” and run down the first baseline). He claimed it was unintentional and that he’s “almost best friends” with Pearce, but the move definitely stirred up a lot of emotion among both fans and players.

On the other side of things, the Yankees appear to be a real possibility for Machado. They had a 90 minute meeting with him on Wednesday (and reportedly took his family out to dinner that night), can afford to pay the huge contract he’ll demand, and have consistently been among the teams wanting to sign him. On top of that, Machado grew up a Yankees fan and managing partner Hal Steinbrenner was quick to say questions about his attitude could be easily be settled with a simple conversation during the interview process.

A lot of pundits were already saying Machado was leaning towards going to New York and this new tidbit of information seems to lend credibility to those claims. As Robert Bradford of WEEI recently pointed out, him going to New York would have the benefit of giving Red Sox fans someone to hate on the Yankees. So with all that in mind, smart money is on him joining the Evil Empire and Red Sox fans should be perfectly content with it.

Red Sox Avoid Arbitration With Heath Hembree

With so much attention being given to who the Red Sox might pursue for late inning help in their bullpen, it appears as though they’re quietly making some moves to ensure they have some depth among their relief corps. The latest example of this came as the organization avoided arbitration with Heath Hembree today by signing him to a one year deal worth $1.3 million.

While Hembree’s unlikely to ever be a All-Star caliber pitcher, he did appear in 67 games last year while pitching to a 4.20 ERA while striking out 76 batters over the course of 60 innings and having a 1.33 WHIP. Having said that, folks were originally optimistic about Hembree’s chances of being an impact pitcher during 2018 but he never really emerged as a late inning powerhouse and usually appeared in the sixth or seventh inning where he was tasked with maintaining a multi-run lead.

The 29 year old (he’ll turn 30 in January) didn’t even originally make it onto the postseason roster. It was only after knuckleballer Steven Wright suffered a knee injury that Hembree was activated for Boston’s playoff run. Nevertheless, he did pitch 4.2 innings in four games during the 2018 postseason and didn’t give up any hits or runs (though he walked five batters) while striking out three.

In addition to only putting up middle of the road stats, Hembree isn’t exactly a fan favorite online. One person recently took to twitter, for instance, to sarcastically say he can’t wait for him to have “a 5 ERA while we lose Ottavino to the Yankees and he wins the Cy Young and Miller joins the Phillies or something and pitches to a 1.80 ERA.” Ranch Wilder even added that he’s willing “to leave [his] family in order to never see Heath Hembree throw another pitch in a Red Sox uniform.”

A lot of this frustration comes from people being upset that the Red Sox haven’t been more active in the search for a big name reliever on the free agent market. There are some reports saying they’ll wait to see what Craig Kimbrel ends up doing before making a serious move, which is very risky since most pundits agree Kimbrel could be a last minute signing wherever he ends up. Waiting that long could cause Boston to be stuck with a bunch of midlevel relievers like Hembree and few better options to bring to town.

It’s also worth noting that Hembree is out of options, which means the Red Sox won’t be able to send him to Pawtucket without him going through waivers. And while he’s not a superstar, there’d likely be some other teams who try to pick him up off the waiver wire. That could play a role in how executives manage their roster if someone becomes available as time progresses.

All in all, this isn’t a bad move as going through the arbitration process could have ended up costing the Red Sox a fair amount of money and he isn’t a horrible mid-inning reliever. But they certainly cannot use keeping Hembree in Boston as an excuse not to active pursue other relievers.

Red Sox to Build 5,000 Seat Theater Right Near Fenway

While one of the best parts of going to games at Fenway Park is soaking in the history that’s associated with the stadium, the Red Sox are always looking for ways to improve it without damaging the historic atmosphere Fenway’s acquired. Even when they added seats at the top of the Green Monster, for instance, they kept the ladder folks used when home run balls had to be retrieved after getting stuck in the netting that was previously there. With that in mind, it’s very interesting that the Red Sox announced plans to build a “5,000 person capacity performing arts center” located on Lansdowne Street behind the bleachers.

The announcement came in the form of a letter to the Boston Planning and Development Agency discussing projects the Fenway Sports Group will be working on this offseason, including what will be known as the Fenway Theater. The Fenway Sports Group claims the theater will be used for “wide variety of entertainment and civic events on a year-round basis” (a move that will obviously help bring money in for the team’s ownership even during baseball’s offseason).

In addition to the theater, the projects being worked on this offseason “would include a new area connected to the back of the ballpark’s bleachers that will feature concession stands, restrooms and other elements designed to enhance the fan experience in the bleachers.” This addition will make life a little easier for folks sitting in the bleachers who previously had to walk a relatively long way to get to the bathroom or concession stands before having to deal with waiting in line (I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems).

As it stands now, the new development will replace some parking garages and a few other structures in the area. While it’s not exactly clear how this will impact the view fans have, it hopefully won’t impact the view you get of downtown Boston from the top of the bleachers — a view that makes being far away from the action a little easier to deal with (I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems again).

Red Sox Attend Troy Tulowitzki’s Workout

PlayerHeadshotThe obvious focus of the Boston Red Sox this offseason should be finding folks to fill their bullpen, but that hasn’t stopped them from showing interest in some infielders. They were one of several teams who watched Troy Tulowitzki workout after he was cut by the Blue Jays last Tuesday and Pete Abraham reports the organization has “legitimate interest” in bringing him to Boston.

As Abraham points out, the question becomes where Tulowitzki would fit in with the team. Would he play shortstop or would he fill in at second base on days Pedroia needs a rest? Since the Red Sox would only owe him the league minimum since the Blue Jays will be paying off the $38 million remaining on his contract, it could be an interesting gamble to use him as a backup second baseman/utility player.

Having him start at shortstop, however, would be extremely risky. Not only would it likely mean trading Xander Bogaerts, but he’s been so injury prone that he missed all of 2018 and only played in 66 games during the 2017 season. He also saw limited playing time due to injuries in both 2012 and 2014. Combine this with the worries about how Dustin Pedroia will stand up for the entire 2019 campaign and the two veterans don’t exactly scream physical reliability despite their talents (and I say this as someone who loves Pedroia). This really wouldn’t be the ideal situation for the middle infield while the Red Sox try to defend their World Series championship.

That being said, Tulowitzki’s a good player when he’s healthy. He’s made the All-Star team five times over the course of his career and received two gold gloves. The last real standout season came in 2015 when he made the All-Star team and ended up with a .287/.337/.440 slashline while driving in 70 runs and hitting 17 home runs. But he also had relatively low 33% walk/strikeout ratio that season (you want this to be much higher) and he put up middle of the road numbers during 2016.

What this all means is Boston was probably right to go watch Tulowitzki’s workout, but they absolutely should not be considering him for a starting gig at short. Nonetheless, having him as a utility player that they only have to pay the league minimum is relatively low risk and worth considering — especially since they carried three catchers who took up bench space last year and are rumored to be on the trading block. The big question would be whether or not Tulowitzki actually wants to come into a situation where he’s clearly going to be the backup.

Red Sox Agree to Minor League Deal With Zach Putnam

With all the talk about the Red Sox’s need to address the bullpen, especially now that Joe Kelly’s gone and Craig Kimbrel might be on his way out, folks have been closely watching how the organization approaches the free agent market. While we haven’t seen them sign a big name yet, Boston did just make a step in towards providing some potential relief support by signing Zach Putnam to a minor league deal.

The plain and simple fact that it’s a minor league deal shows Putnam isn’t ready for prime time right now, but he does have a history that shows he might be able to make a difference in the big leagues after proving he’s recovered from injuries. He missed the 2018 season and most of 2017 after having Tommy John surgery, but had some success with the Chicago White Sox before that. From 2014 to 2017 he pitched 139.1 innings with a halfway decent ground ball rate of 47.6 and 149 strikeouts while giving up 46 runs (42 of which were earned), 108 hits (11 of which were homers), and 56 walks. Perhaps his best stat was that he kept batters to a 27.2 percent hard-hit rate, which is well below the league average.

Since the Red Sox had to pay a $12 million luxury tax for their 2018 salaries and are likely to do so again in 2019, it’s also worth noting that they’ll have control of Putnam until at least 2020 through arbitration. Putnam already has four years of big league service, so he’ll hit the five year mark if he spends a good chunk of time in Boston this year. But that could be delayed if he doesn’t find much success and therefore only spends a limited amount of time in the big leagues.

Kevin Youkilis and Derek Lowe on 2019 Hall of Fame Ballot

Kevin Youkilis and Derek Lowe will always hold a special place in the heart of Red Sox fans for the role they played in winning the 2004 World Series. While they were inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame earlier this year, it was also great to see they’re on the 2019 ballot for being inducted into Cooperstown.

After the ballot was released on Monday, Youkilis took to twitter to express his gratitude for simply being on the ballot. “Don’t let anyone stop you from pursuing your dreams in life,” he wrote. “Never would I have ever dreamed about making this list but hard work, drive and a love for the game allowed me to be included with so many amazing MLB⁩ peers.”

Over the course of a 10 year career (eight of which were with the Red Sox), Youkilis made the All-Star team three times and won a Gold Glove award in 2007. He had a .281/.382/.478 batting line with 1053 hits (150 of which were homers) and 681 RBI’s. In other words, he had solid numbers that make him worthy of being on the ballot once but I have a feeling he won’t receive the 75 percent of votes needed to make it to Cooperstown. Unfortunately, I think the more compelling drama will be whether he even receives the five percent needed to stay on the ballot.

Derek Lowe also appears to be in the same situation. Lowe had a long career in which he pitched in parts of 17 MLB seasons (eight of which were with the Red Sox), was the AL saves leader while with the Red Sox in 2000, and led the NL in wins during his time with the Dodgers in 2006. He also amassed a 34.4 WAR, 1722 strikeouts, a 1.330 WHIP, and 86 saves (though it should be noted he alternated between a starting and working out of the bullpen). Perhaps most importantly to Red Sox fans, he had a 3-0 record with a 1.86 ERA during four appearances (three of them starts) in the 2004 playoffs.

Even with Youkilis and Lowe unlikely to receive the votes needed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, it’s good to see them on the ballot as it gives fans like me a chance to think back on the Sox winning their first World Series in 86 years.

Red Sox Show Interest in Adam Ottavino

493603As the news broke that Joe Kelly signed with the Dodgers and the Red Sox would need to fill a spot in the bullpen, Adam Ottavino’s name almost immediately came onto the radar as a potential new reliever. As the Winter Meetings have passed and nobody’s signed him, there have been several reports suggesting Boston is indeed actively pursuing the 33 year old.

Jon Morosi from the MLB Network, for instance, tweeted out that the Red Sox are “showing continued interest” in Ottavino and Jon Heyman says he and David Robertson are “high on Red Sox list of back-end relief targets.”

While Ottavino’s gained a lot of attention the last few days for saying he “would strike Babe Ruth out every time,” he’s put up some decent numbers to back up his confidence and the interest in signing him. He had 112 strike outs over the course of 77.2 innings (1.44 per inning) while only giving up 25 runs (21 earned) and having a .991 WHIP during the 2018 campaign. Plus, Ottavino has had a great slider for years but recently added a sinker which greatly increased the percentage of grounders hitters get off him and limited the number of homeruns he’s given up (he only allowed five in 2018 compared to the eight he allowed in 2017 despite pitching 24 less innings).

With all that being said, there’s no guarantee Ottavino will end up in Boston. Not only are the Red Sox considering other bullpen options, but other teams are actively looking at him as well.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post, for instance, reports Brian Cashman from the Yankees has met with Ottavino’s rep and David Zurisin claims the White Sox were “nearing [a] deal” — though last week Zurisin said the “deal should be announced this weekend;” something that clearly didn’t happen.

No matter what happens with Ottavino, the Red Sox are smart to be in the discussion for one of the top relief pitching free agents. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

CBS Sports Ranks Red Sox Number 1 in MLB Power Rankings

One of the main reasons I was able to look past the Red Sox having to pay the luxury tax is the organization’s executives seemed to think last season was worth the cost and remained committed to largely keeping the team together. It appears as though baseball pundits agree with those tactics as Matt Synder over at CBS Sports put the Red Sox on top of his MLB power rankings list for the 2019 season.

Now there were some caveats that went along with the list, mainly that there are still big name free agents out there (like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado) who could change things around depending on where they sign. This is significant since the Yankees and Dodgers are ranked number two and three on the list respectively and both are heavily rumored to be in the mix for Harper and Machado.

Furthermore, you can’t ignore Boston’s bullpen situation. They definitely have to replace Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel could potentially be leaving as well — though there’s discussion about how this might result in Kimbrel signing with Boston late in the offseason after he’s forced to realize his contract demands are too high (kinda like J.D. Martinez last season). With that in mind, Synder wrote that if the Red Sox “don’t add anything to the bullpen, they probably don’t stay here to start next season.”

After the Yankees and Dodgers, the top 10 on the list is rounded out by the Astros, Cubs, Indians, Braves, Nationals, Cardinals, and Rays. It’s worth noting that this means three teams from the AL East (Red Sox, Yankees, Rays) are in the top 10 and could make the pennant race there very interesting. Synder also left the Brewers and Rockies out of the top 10, which means he thinks they’ll fall short of their 2018 playoff runs next year.

Of course, all of this should be taken with a grain of salt as power rankings lists are fun to watch and take a lot of information into account but are no substitute for how the season actually plays out. Just ask any Washington fan, for instance, as prominent pundits have projected the Nationals as World Series champs several times but they’ve yet to make it out of the first round (when they even make it to the playoffs). Even considering that, I still prefer seeing Boston at the top of the list instead of the bottom.