Red Sox

Brad Boxberger could interest Red Sox as low-cost, low-risk relief option after being released by Royals

Brad Boxberger could interest Red Sox as low-cost, low-risk relief option after being released by Royals

A combination of desperation and budgetary constraints has left the Red Sox facing some unpalatable choices in their bullpen, which means they'll be linked to every flawed, low-cost veteran who hits the market.

First up: Brad Boxberger.

The Royals just requested release waivers on the veteran righthander and assuming no one claims him, will be on the hook for the remainder of his $2.2 million salary.

The 31-year-old was a 2015 All-Star with Tampa, when he saved 41 games. That came one year after his breakout 2014, when he struck out 104 in just 64.2 innings as a setup man.

Since then, he has experienced mixed results, particularly from a command standpoint. He's 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in 29 appearances this year, with 27 strikeouts and an unsightly 17 walks in 26.2 innings. His strikeout rate of 9.1 is the second-lowest of his eight-year career, while his 5.7 walks per nine are his third-highest.

That said, Boxberger averaged more than 12 strikeouts per nine in 2017 and 2018, and he saved 32 games for the Diamondbacks last year before being replaced as closer down the stretch. He has never thrown particularly hard, averaging 92-93 mph on his fastball for most of his career, but he has excelled on the strength of a deceptive delivery and outstanding changeup.

The Red Sox have specialized in re-working pitch mixes to turn marginal veterans into effective performers, whether it was encouraging Rich Hill to vary the shape of his curveball, nudging Nathan Eovaldi to feature his cutter, or convincing Heath Hembree to abandon his slider.

Boxberger's fastball velocity has fallen to a career-low 90.69 mph, per Brooks Baseball, and he's throwing it a career-low 47 percent of the time. Whereas once he went almost exclusively fastball-changeup, he is now throwing a slider nearly 20 percent of the time, and opponents are hitting .357 against it, compared to .236 vs. his fastball and .206 vs. his changeup.

Assuming no one claims him -- and it's unlikely anyone would pick up his money, given his struggles -- he'll likely sign a minor league deal and then earn a prorated portion of the veteran minimum ($555,000) if he reaches the majors.

Given the state of the Red Sox bullpen and the inability to patch holes internally, Boxberger may be worth a flyer as they scramble to find bargain solutions.

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In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

In appreciation of Brock Holt, whose job with Red Sox might be gone, but whose legacy is secure

The transactions came in quick succession as the winter meetings wrapped on Thursday in San Diego. First, the Red Sox selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. A couple of hours later, they inked infielder Jose Peraza to a one-year, $3 million deal.

Both are utility infielders, and their arrivals increase the likelihood that we'll be saying goodbye to Brock Holt this winter. 

From a bottom-line perspective, it's hard to argue. Holt turns 32 in June, has battled injuries the past four years and should make more than $3 million annually on a multi-year deal. The Red Sox need to get younger and cheaper, and that includes the bench.

If this is it, though, Holt deserves more of a sendoff than a line in the transaction wire, because his impact on the field, in the clubhouse, and especially in the community far outstripped his modest 5-foot-10 frame.

From high school (where he barely broke 100 pounds as a freshman) to junior college to Rice University to the major leagues, Holt beat long odds each step of the way. That a throw-in acquired with Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan before the 2013 season could earn Rookie of the Year votes and then make an All-Star team defied reason. That the same player would hit for the cycle not once, but twice -- including in the postseason -- while winning two World Series and becoming a gritty heart-and-soul fan favorite, let's just say guys hit that lottery maybe once in a generation.

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"I know and I've kind of gotten a taste of it coming here that certain players just really seem to bond with the fan base," said new baseball boss Chaim Bloom. "He's certainly been one of those. That's not something that's lost on any of us."

Holt brought a fun-loving energy to a clubhouse that needed it in good times and bad. Boston can be a meat grinder even when things are going well, and supporting players who take the edge off are essential. Kevin Millar mastered that role in 2004, while Jonny Gomes followed suit in 2013. That was Holt's job, too, whether he was serving as Andrew Benintendi's All-Star publicist, re-christening the 10th month on the calendar as Brocktober, or wearing a Cobra Kai-inspired headband around the locker room that others soon copied.

Holt had a knack for cracking up his teammates. After Mitch Moreland's three-run homer delivered the team its first win of 2019 in Seattle, Holt sauntered past Moreland in the clubhouse with an ice cream cone, gave it a lick, and said, "Hey Mitch, my mom says, 'Way to go,'" and then just walked out. (His mom later confirmed this account on Twitter).

He famously asked a shorts-wearing Bill Belichick if he was, "going to put some pants on," before facing the Packers on a cold October night in 2018 when the Red Sox were honored by the Patriots as World Series champions.

The night he completed the first cycle in postseason history with a ninth-inning home run to complete a rout of the Yankees, the megawatt smile on Holt's face as he rounded third and returned to the dugout could've powered the sun.

Holt's joyful persona extended to his toddler son, Griff, a glasses-clad Instagram star who developed a cult following for giggling while raiding a box of Life Cereal in the pantry, or pointing at a billboard of David Ortiz and exclaiming, "Big Papi!" or hitting what he called, "Big bomb!" with an oversized whiffle ball bat.

Holt's many viral moments with his son became all the more poignant when viewed through the lens of his tireless devotion to children's causes. He's a four-time Roberto Clemente Award nominee for community service, and he routinely leads the Red Sox in charitable appearances. He served as Jimmy Fund captain for the past five years, and his Brock Stars ticket program brought a Jimmy Fund patient to every Tuesday home game for batting practice. Director of community relations Sarah Narracci has long referred to Holt as her "go-to guy" who never says no.

"He has a great heart," manager Alex Cora said when Holt was nominated for this year's Clemente award, and if this is indeed the end of Holt's Red Sox career, he'll leave an outsized legacy that "5-10, 180" doesn't begin to capture.

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MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

MLB Rumors: These six teams pursued Martin Perez before Red Sox landed him

Martin Perez is no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But the veteran left-hander reportedly drew a good amount of interest in free agency before the Boston Red Sox scooped him up.

A "handful" of MLB teams, including the American League East foe Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, pursued Perez before the Red Sox agreed to terms with him Thursday night, MassLive's Chris Cotillo reported.

Perez's surface-level stats aren't very inspiring: The 28-year-old posted a 5.12 ERA with the Minnesota Twins last season after the worst campaign of his career with the Texas Rangers in 2018 (6.22 ERA, 1.78 WHIP).

But what Perez does provide is durability: He's appeared in at least 32 games in three of the last four seasons, topping 165 innings in each of those campaigns.

Durable left-handers aren't a dime a dozen in MLB, which explains why Perez drew interest from several clubs looking to fill out their rotations entering 2020.

The Venezuela native should be a rotation-filler in Boston, projecting as Boston's fifth starter behind Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Nathan Eovaldi with Rick Porcello leaving to join the New York Mets in free agency.

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