Swihart Designated for Assignment: A Confusing Move

When you begin a season 6-12, especially in a large market, fans react impulsively. If certain players get off to bad starts, people call for their heads. It is not necessarily fair, but it is the nature of a place like big-market Boston. With catcher Blake Swihart being let go after just 17 games, it indeed felt impulsive. Considering turmoil across the rotation, lack of bullpen depth, and an anemic offense, it indeed seemed time for a change. With Swihart designated for assignment, the Red Sox tried to solve a litany of issues by moving one role player, and it’ is hard to understand why.

With Swihart designated for assignment, the roster subtracted a versatile, cost-Swihart Designated for Assignmentcontrolled player yet to blossom. As Alex Cora tussled with how to use the former first round pick throughout 2018, the consensus was that he was a valuable trade chip that provided depth off the bench. The Red Sox never moved him, and it seemed to pay off in the second half after Swihart flashed his ability with increased playing time. 2019 was when Swihart was going to get a real shot at becoming the catcher of the future. Christian Vazquez would get his innings, but Swihart was going to get ample time on the diamond. But after just a handful of contests, a sputtering team decided to make a move. It just does not feel like the right one.

Swihart was never really given a clear path to a major role

With Swihart designated for assignment, it might easy to forget his origins. A first round pick, 26th overall out of New Mexico in 2011, he brought with him a Gatorade National Player of the Year award. The Red Sox drooled over his athleticism, seeing him as a steal at 26 in the first round. He surfaced in the bigs in 2015, which at the time felt a tad premature. He was solid across 84 games as a rookie, particularly showing defensive improvement as the season progressed. It was 2016 where the wheels came off. Trying to incorporate Vazquez back into the mix meant moving Swihart around the field to find playing time. After a nasty ankle injury in left field, it took him nearly two entire seasons to return to full health. From there, Swihart played spottily all over the place, and never settled in. Since the beginning of 2018, there has never been a clear spot for him, and that has now shown through with this DFA.

Removing Swihart hurts the team’s versatility

It is tough to make sense of why removing a cheap, young, versatile player was the best move. On a roster that has underwhelmed, Swihart at least provided intrigue. Despite management shifting his focus to catching in 2019, he still managed to appear at other positions. How could the Red Sox justify keeping him all last season, just to DFA him now? In comparison to other players such as Eduardo Nunez, who is relegated to the infield, why remove the guy that can move around the diamond? Sure, Swihart’s .213/.310/.385 slash line through 12 games played is unimpressive. But looking at what other role players have offered so far, it really is odd to make him the (first?) fall guy.

Perhaps there are issues off the field that the fan base does not know about. Maybe Blake Swihart was not a long term solution. Whatever the case, his days in Boston are numbered, and it remains to be seen what baseball holds for his future.

Phillies Acquisitions Will Make for a Tight NL East Finish

The Phillies had already won the off-season before the fateful day of February 28. That’s when news broke that they acquired the transcendent talent known as Bryce Harper. Signing the right fielder to a mega deal (13 years, $330 million) was a bold move by the Philadelphia brass. However, many other Phillies acquisitions have the club in position to take control of what suddenly has become a very competitive division.

Phillies acquisitions: The outfield

Bryce Harper: Despite a down year in 2018, Harper, along with Manny Machado, were the Phillies Acquisitionsprized possessions on the free market this winter. With talk about nine digit baseball contracts, the Las Vegas native had the chance to break the bank. It didn’t come until Spring training began, but it was worth waiting for. Harper, temporarily, was awarded the largest free agent contract in American sports history. If he can give the Phillies close to his 2015 MVP season production, the deal will pay for itself. If he is pedestrian (if .249/.393/.496 is pedestrian), then it’ll take more than Harper to vaunt the Phillies into first place.

Andrew McCutchen: Once one of the game’s brightest stars, McCutchen’s value has diminshed in recent seasons. However, despite a drop off in runs batted in, the former Pirate posted close to his career averages across many categories in 2018. Standing out among them was a .792 OPS, 30 doubles, and a near-career high 95 walks. However, his strikeout numbers are soaring, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and is relegated to the corner outfield positions. But there’s no doubt his value as a veteran presence around a relatively young Philadelphia team is a welcomed sight.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Infield

J.T. Realmuto: The Phillies acquired arguably the game’s best catcher in 2018, a first-time all-star and silver slugger award winner. Over just 125 games, Realmuto set career highs in runs (74), home runs (21), RBI (74), and OPS (.825). The backstop long ago requested a trade from the Miami Marlins, after team president Derek Jeter decided to fire sale most of the talent off the club. Without Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna, Realmuto was stuck on a hopeless squad. Now, he’s in position to contend.

Jean Segura: Widely considered one of the game’s most underrated talents, Segura, 29, is already on the fifth different team of his career. He previously had time with the Angels, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and most recently, the Mariners. The Dominican-born product has seen success everywhere he has played, and has two all-star appearances under his belt (2013, 2018). While a .766 OPS over the last two seasons is nothing spectacular, he has consistently been above-league average offensively. According to Fangraphs, only four shortstops have posted a higher wRC+ than Segura’s 117 over the past three seasons, and only six have produced more WAR.

Phillies Acquisitions: The Bullpen

David Robertson: A stellar 2017 season put Robertson on the upper echelon of late inning relievers. 2018 slowed down that narrative. A 3.23 ERA is a sizable regression from 1.82. But Robertson has been a rock throughout his 11-year career, logging over 60 innings pitched in each of his last 9 seasons. He brings closing experience to a club with a cavalry of veteran arms. He figures to be a key part of the division’s strongest bullpen.

Given the major talent overhaul in the city of brotherly love, do not be surprised to see the Phillies make a big jump in 2019. But they’ll have to get through talented squads in Washington, Atlanta, and New York to do so.

Mookie Betts Contract Extension: What Will it Take?

The last two off-seasons have been sour for many free agents, but a change appears to be on the horizon. Players have been outspoken about the level of talent left on the market well into March, including Mookie Betts. Are fears of failing to find mega deals in free agency causing players to sign extensions? Is a Mookie Betts contract extension next on the docket?

Elite players around the league are starting a trend

In recent weeks some of the top stars in the game such as Mike Trout and Nolan Betts Contract ExtensionArenado have signed massive contract extensions that eliminate them from their impending free agencies. Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago White Sox has not registered a single day of service time, yet just agreed to a six-year, $43 million deal.

Jimenez joins a list of names that also includes Ryan Pressly, Alex Bregman, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Nola, Whit Merrifield, and Carlos Carrasco. Studs like Bregman, Nola, and the aforementioned Severino are signing away arbitration and free agency years to make better money now.

Despite Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually getting the mega deals they so desired, many quality players have been left behind on the free market well into March and beyond. Would a move to get extended before the murky waters of free agency make sense for Betts, too? He does not seem to think so.

Where does a Mookie Betts contract extension come into play?

When asked in a media scrum about his openness to an extension, Betts had this to say: “Why not? You should definitely keep your ears open and see what is said. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree on or take whatever is given. Like I said, I love (Boston). I think this is great place to be to spend your career here. But that doesn’t mean you should sell yourself short.”

While Betts certainly does not close the door on a future deal, his stance has never wavered. As questions mount, with contract totals and AAV records being shattered, many believe the Red Sox outfielder is next in line for a huge pay day.

In terms of trying to set a price, the Red Sox already set the baseline. Betts confirmed a report by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that he was offered an extension last offseason. He turned it down. The verdict? An eight-year, $200 million beast of a deal. But given what has transpired in recent weeks, Mookie Betts seems to be one step ahead.

Trout’s colossal deal of $360 million over 10 years might be a good measuring stick for Betts. In 2018, Betts won the AL MVP award, the AL batting title, a gold glove, silver slugger, and made his third consecutive All-Star team. If Trout can command a deal of that size, then Betts surely can. Betts might even be able to land more.

What might a Mookie Betts contract extension cost?

If Betts continues to level himself with Trout for the rights to be baseball’s alpha dog, he might hit it big. Let’s say Betts puts up comparable numbers to his 2018 MVP season, with some expected drop off. The native Tennessean led the league in average (346), slugging (.640), runs (129) and WAR (10.9). With that in mind, it is not farfetched to think Betts could be MLB’s first $400 million man. It seems likely the Betts will seek a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of Trout’s $360 million. If he continues to produce at this pace, Betts might blow us all out of the water.

Red Sox Breakdown Halfway Through Spring Training

The reigning champs sent postseason Red Sox hero David Price to the mound Tuesday. He made his first start since World Series Game 5 when he pitched seven dominant innings, allowing just three hits and one earned run — en route to being snubbed as World Series MVP (the award went to his teammate Steve Pearce).

spring training schedule

Price pitched 3 innings on Tuesday afternoon, allowing two hits, two earned runs, and two walks. He also struck out four and forced three ground outs in a losing effort.

So far in this edition of the Grapefruit League season, Boston owns a record of 7 wins and 11 losses. Rafael Devers, who many Boston fans expect to be the long-term answer at third base, leads the team with 11 hits in 23 at-bats. He is reportedly making a push for hitting third in the lineup this season. The Sox top prospect, Michael Chavis leads the team in home runs (4) and runs batted in (10) in 11 Grapefruit League contests. He was, nonetheless, demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket yesterday.

Starting rotation

Entering his fifth season as a starter is Eduardo Rodriguez, who leads the club with three Spring starts to date. Along with Rodriguez, locks to begin the regular season in the starting rotation are Rick Porcello, Price, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Sale.

Porcello made his Spring debut over the weekend (Sunday, March 10). He, along with Price, surrendered two runs in three innings. He also allowed two home runs on four hits while striking out one. Sale and Eovaldi have yet to pitch.

Relief struggles

The largest cause for concern is the Boston bullpen. Last season’s closer Craig Kimbrel (42 saves, 0.99 WHIP) is still a free agent and has yet to sign with a ballclub. Team general manager, Dave Dombrowski, has elected to promote 2019’s closer from within the organization. With the season starting on March 28, here is a quick glance at the Spring relief effort so far:

Matt Barnes – 2 innings, 3 earned runs; Tyler Thornburg – 4 innings, 7 earned runs; Brandon Workman – 5 innings, 4 earned runs; Colten Brewer – 5 innings, 5 earned runs; Bobby Poyner – 7 innings, 2 earned runs; Erasmo Ramirez – 8 innings, 6 earned runs.

Brian Johnson and Hector Velazquez, both whom remain on the active roster, have each started two games this Spring and have allowed a combined 12 earned runs.

Plenty of depth

The light has shined bright on Darwinzon Hernandez and Marcus Walden.  Both have pitched 8 innings and allowed 1 earned run to this point. However, neither have yet to put together a full big league season in their careers, respectively. Jenrry Mejia has pitched 4 innings this Spring, but has not pitched in a regular season game since 2015 due to a previous lifetime ban from the MLB in 2016.

Two of 2018’s staples in the pen are Heath Hembree and Ryan Brazier. Neither have pitched to date.

There is still much to be sorted out for the Sox. Will starting ace Chris Sale be on a pitch limit this year due to last year’s issues of shoulder soreness and fatigue? Does Dustin Pedroia, who is being casted as the team’s starting second baseman, plate his first 500 at-bat season since 2016 due to his unshakable injury history? Can the 2019 Red Sox make it back to the playoffs, after falling to the bottom of the AL East in the two seasons following their last title in 2013? Good news is, it’s just about time for all of these questions, and many more, to be answered — with Opening Day just sixteen days away in Seattle.

Andrew Benintendi Picked A Great Time to Heat Up

As the Boston Red Sox blazed out of the gate to a 17-2 start this season, the bat of Andrew Benintendi was nowhere to be found. But it didn’t matter. The rest of the offense picked up the slack, and then some. Through the month of April, he batted .274 with 23 hits, 15 runs batted in, a .376 on-base percentage, a .440 slugging percentage, and only managed to hit one home run.

His struggles at the plate were largely overshadowed by the rest of the offense. Namely Andrew BenintendiJ.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, who had much less trouble hitting dingers. The duo captivated Boston. Betts emerged as a surefire MVP candidate and Martinez warmed the hearts of Red Sox Nation as a home run of a free agent signing. Pun intended.

But those struggles were never ignored completely. Between the lines of the Red Sox’ historic start was curiosity as to where the production from Boston’s handsome left fielder had gone. Then the calendar turned to May, and the beautiful swing of Andrew Benintendi started making things happen. And the timing could not have been better.

Andrew Benintendi Back In Form

Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment on May 25th. Mookie Betts was shut down with a left abdominal strain that same week. Later placed on the 10-day disabled list, Betts is still out of the lineup. And all of a sudden the Red Sox lineup was missing some serious offensive firepower. Benintendi’s missing bat finally started to show up, resulting in a drastically more productive month of May. Improving upon his batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.633), hit total (38), RBI total (23), and HR total (6), he finally returned to the form we know and love.

And it gets better. Benintendi’s month of June is off to an even better start. Against the reigning champion Houston Astros on June 2nd, Benintendi launched a ball into the Milky Way to put the Sox ahead for good and secure the team’s 40th victory. He then put another one into orbit the following night en route to a 9-3 win. His power surged helped the Sox salvage a series split against one of the best teams in the nation. Thanks in large part to him, the Boston Red Sox were the first team in the league to win 40 games.

At 41-19, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in Major League Baseball. And while Benintendi may not have contributed early on, he is more than making up for it now.

Red Sox Top Prospect Michael Chavis Suspended 80 Games

MLB has announced that Boston Red Sox top prospect Michael Chavis has suspended for 80 games after testing positive for a prohibited performance-enhancing substance, dehydrochlormethyltestosterone.Michael Chavis

Chavis was coming off a career-high 31 home runs last season split between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. Before 2017, his career total for home runs was 25, which spanned over three seasons.

An oblique injury kept Chavis from showcasing his ability against Major League pitching in spring training. He is still on the disabled list. Once he returns from his suspension, he is expected to start in Portland and finish in Pawtucket.

Michael Chavis Was Expected To Become The Next Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers started last season in Portland and finished at the hot corner for the Red Sox in the ALDS. Since then, wondering eyes have shifted towards the Sea Dogs expecting another prospect to emerge as a rookie phenom. Chavis has positioned himself to be the Devers of this year after hitting more home runs than any other Red Sox minor leaguer.

Chavis can generate a lot of bat speed through his natural strength. What makes him special is he doesn’t have to use his full power to launch balls over the fence. He has also been able to hit for average once he stopped trying to pull everything out for a homer.

With third base blocked by Devers, Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland taking up first base and J.D. Martinez locking up the DH spot, the plan this season might be to move Chavis to second base.  At that position, he could develop into a Jedd Gyorko/Dan Uggla type.

It wouldn’t be a new experience for Chavis, who was a shortstop in high school before making the switch to third base at the beginning of his pro career. As a high school senior in Marietta, GA, Chavis paved his path to the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft with power. by winning the home run derby at the 2013 Perfect Game All-American Classic and by batting .580 with 13 homers in 28 games.