Move over Michael Jordan and Tim Tebow, Lebron James is joining the pro baseball ranks with the Boston Red Sox. No, not as a player but as a part owner. It was just reported before this writing that he and his agent Maverick Carter have bought in at 75 million dollars. They also will be part of the whole Fenway group that owns Liverpool F.C. Soccer and Roush Fenway Racing. This process will take several weeks pending approval from MLB.
Active Athletes In Current Ownership
Lebron isn’t alone as being an active player in a major sport to own a small percentage of another pro sports franchise. Green Bay Packers legend QB Aaron Rodgers owns a 1% share in the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks that he purchased back in January of 2019. As these two age, they are lining up business deals to take them into retirement. Former NBA greats Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan are in ownership with pro sports teams, but that didn’t happen until after their retirements. Both Rodgers and James are setting a new precedent for other current athletes to look into.
What Does This Mean For The Red Sox?
Nothing in the immediate future as this is a long term outlook. It will supply them with star power for future Fenway appearances. They will hope to draw out fans both in the park and to boost NESN TV ratings. It also pumps more cash into a large portfolio for a group that is worth about 3 billion per Forbes. Will Lebron take on a larger role if John Henry or Tom Werner decide to retire in the future? Only time will tell what the next storyline will be. In the meanwhile, Lebron is hoping to stay in the NBA long enough to play with his 16 year old son, Bronny. Let’s also hope Lebron loses the Yankees hat he has previously worn.
Prospect Josh Winckowski made his big league debut on March 7th against the Atlanta Braves. He quietly pitched a scoreless inning in relief. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and just 22 years old, there have reports from camp that Winckowski has some really good pitches. He was an acquisition from the New York Mets as part of a three-team trade. Furthermore, this is an example of Chaim Bloom’s ability to find undiscovered talent and more stars. Coming from the Tampa Rays, they do that all of the time. He was second in command there and looks to have a good start on this rebuild for the Sox.
Who is Josh Winckowski?
One thing Bloom recognizes is that you have to have a good bullpen. The reason rests on starters on strict pitch counts and the advent of the opener. Guys like Josh Winckowski are very valuable, as was reflected in how quickly he was plucked in the draft. The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Winckowski in the 15th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He came out of Estero High School in Florida. Winckowksi pitched three years in the minors before being traded on 1/28/21 to the New York Mets. He was part of a prospect package to free up financial space for the Mets to try to sign Trevor Bauer. As a result the Mets were part of a three team trade that the Red Sox made for Andrew Benintendi.
The Sox just reassigned 12 players to the minors. Winckowski was one of those names. He leaves with the scoreless inning under his belt as a lasting impression. With a little seasoning and getting more familiar with the Red Sox organization, he should get the call to Fenway soon. He will benefit with all of the others who will be assigned to Worcester this year. Worcester is the new home of AAA baseball with brand new Polar Park to open this year. The Sox players will have access to a state of the art facility to help them in their development.
The recent news of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s signing with the Milwaukee Brewers was hard. It reminded fans of when Jacoby Ellsbury left before him. It is never easy to see your favorite players go away. There is reason for optimism though as new kid, Jarren Duran, is knocking on the door looking to be the team’s future center fielder. Duran is rated the fastest runner in the Red Sox prospect list. He has been compared by Red Sox Manager Alex Cora to a Grady Sizemore-like player. The Sizemore Cleveland prime years of course, not the end of his career Boston days.
His Baseball Background
The 2018 MLB draft saw the Red Sox draft Jarren Duran in the 7th round. He played collegiately at California State University out of Long Beach, CA. Standing 6’2 and 212 lbs along with batting left and throwing right, the 24-year-old Duran is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He played second base in college and didn’t start playing the outfield regularly until the age of 21. Sounds like a similar story to Mookie Betts who played second base before making the majors in the outfield, doesn’t it? That will be as far as the comparisons go so far as Duran still has some seasoning to do. It may benefit him to go play some at the new AAA site in Worcester at beautiful new Polar Park.
2021 Camp Production So Far
Duran got off to a nice start with a homer against the Baltimore Orioles back on March 4, 2021. As of this writing, Duran has been wearing #93 in camp so far. He has been to the plate 11 times where he has hit a whopping .455 with two home runs and three RBI’s. His OPS has been a staggering 1.682. The expectations to replace Bradley are lofty, so I feel a stint in AAA would help ease some of the pressure. Also service time plays a factor sending a young player down for a couple of weeks to gain an extra year of team control over his contract. Another factor will be the delay of the minor league season until May. That means he would have to have alternate camp like experience for a month like last season’s experience in Pawtucket.
The Red Sox have played about a half baker’s dozen of spring training games so far. One player swinging a hot bat is Bobby Dalbec. He hit two homers a game against the Minnesota Twins on March 3rd. He looks poised and comfortable at the plate so far. The Red Sox will count on him to anchor first base and be a key cog in the lineup to go along with Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts. Having Alex Cora as his new manager should help him with his fielding as well.
Who Is This Guy
Bobby Dalbec hit .263 with eight home runs and had 16 RBIs last year during a 60 game shortened pandemic 2020 season. Dalbec played collegiately at the Univeristy of Arizona and also played in the Cape Cod Baseball League during the 2014 season. As Boston’s 4th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Dalbec showed versatility in college playing third base, first base and also threw relief pitching. Added to the big league roster on August 30th following a trade of Mitch Moreland, Dalbec made his MLB debut that day and hit his first major league hit as a three run homer.
Baseball America rated Dalbec Boston’s number three prospect in 2020. He will hopefully be part of a new nucleus of players going forward that Chaim Bloom will build around. Boston is definitely looking for more leaders since the retirement of Dustin Pedroia. Only time will determine how Alex Verdugo and other youngsters pan out. Two other new key pieces that should help are Marwin Gonzalez and Kike Hernandez. Both have been in postseason play with their previous teams. Players like them should help with young Dalbec’s development. Although it is early in camp so far, Dalbec has looked the part of a major leaguer.
Last year brought dismal results for the Red Sox as we all know. We embark on a new year with an old/new leader back in the dugout. Alex Cora is back after a year long suspension and vibes have been positive so far. Despite his wrongdoings of past, he is great with the players, media, and front office. He said he learned from his mistakes and the Red Sox definitely need his spark to help this crop of new Red Sox players to learn to win again. The players all speak glowingly of him and that is the bottom line when trying to run a clubhouse.
Another key piece is Chaim Bloom, the Chief Baseball Officer himself who was open to a reunion with Cora. This move shows that he doesn’t have an ego and and is open to collaborating on what is best for the team to win. Bloom is a very smart baseball individual and his time in Tampa brings him great experience. He also made the best of the situation last year in having to trade Mookie Betts. Yes, baseball is a business. As one of the old sayings goes, don’t hate the player, hate the game.
One of the key moves Bloom made this offseason is the one with his old team Tampa. The Red Sox announced on February 17th 2021 that theytraded pitchers Jeffrey Springs and Chris Mazza — both who were designated for assignment by the Red Sox to open spots on the 40-man roster — to Tampa Bay in exchange for minor league catcher Ronaldo Hernández and another prospect. They key piece here was Hernandez who is considered a top level prospect. Did the student pull one over on the teacher? Another move wasn’t player related, but involved the hiring of a minor league coach. The Red Sox brought in Bianca Smith, the first black woman to be a coach in major league history. Another brilliant move to bring in another voice and different perspective on things that others may have missed. She has a collegiate softball background as well as modern baseball technology and analytical awareness. She was an intern an intern with the Cincinnatti Reds and Texas Rangers prior to this post.
The Outlook Ahead
No one will expect the Red Sox to be contenders this season. The key focus will be on development and taking strides to get better. Rebuilding a core nucleus around Rafeal Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Chris Sale will be needed. Cora and company will be the people to help this process forward. Here’s hoping to a better baseball season and to better health to all so we can finally have some baseball fun again in our lives.