Red Sox

Drellich: Can Red Sox go all year without even a stumble?

Drellich: Can Red Sox go all year without even a stumble?

BOSTON — Winners of 22 of their last 27, the Red Sox are defying the laws of baseball. 

There are supposed to be ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys in the course of a 162-game season. Genuine ruts, as opposed to minor hurdles.

“We’re just running through a little bit of a stretch that we got to fight our way of,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters after the Sox won 4-1 on Saturday afternoon.

The Red Sox wouldn't know what that's like.

The premise here, as the Sox sit on the cusp of a four-game sweep of the Yankees, is not your mother’s sense of Boston fatalism. Nothing related to the outdated idea that Sox teams are bound to stumble. 

Nor is the thought that the Sox are somehow a weaker team than you’ve seen. Who at this point in the year could challenge their all-around competence (minor inflation, like a 1.65 ERA from their starters since the All-Star Break, aside)? No, this column is not made from tomato cans.

The point is about the nature of baseball. Yanks general manager Brian Cashman’s little dig prior to this series, when he suggested no other teams have given the Sox a challenge, actually has a shred of truth in it.

Even good teams are supposed to lose sometimes.

Now the Yanks, whom Cashman implied were the only ones who could rough up the Sox, are looking pretty feeble these days too.

The Sox are outrageously good. The list of statistics the Sox media relations staff updates on a daily basis to show their historical excellence is long. Here’s one: the Sox are just the fifth team in the Expansion Era, from 1961 on, to win as many as 78 of their first 112 games. 

What is hard to fathom is how the Sox just don’t run into some consecutive down nights. A bad week, even. Because, as with a few other things in life, everyone does occasionally.

“Look there’s no question they’ve established themselves right now as the best team in this league,” Boone said. “That’s indicative of their record and how consistent they’ve been. 

“That said, I think if you walk thorough our room out there, to a man, we know we can absolutely play with them. We know when we’re at our best, we can beat them. We acknowledge who they are right now, and there’s no denying the season they’re having.”

The use of the words "right now" by Boone is interesting. It suggests that he wonders, too, if it will change.

Nothing yet has stung long. The credit for such consistency goes in every direction. A bushel goes to manager Alex Cora, but the talent is first and foremost, and Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his group assembled it.

So as the Sox roll into August and look to crush the Yankees in Sunday night’s final meeting between the teams until September, there’s a lingering question. Will the other shoe really never drop? Forget a tailspin, or a collapse or any of the histrionics. We're talking about a regular, human slump.

Maybe at some point the Sox will lose four games in a row, because that’s what baseball teams do. The most they've lost consecutively is three, and that was in April. Maybe at some point, when Craig Kimbrel’s on the brink of blowing a game, the Sox actually suffer for it. 

There is precedent for this kind of play, even though the Sox haven’t had a 100-win team since 1946. Occasionally, there are teams that come along and just blow through a regular season. The 2001 Mariners and the 1998 Yankees are the best recent examples, with 116 and 114 wins. The Sox, potentially, could finish the year this way, walking on water from start to finish in the regular season.

“Keep focus,” Giancarlo Stanton told reporters when asked what the Yanks need to do now. “Understand it’s just a bad stretch.”

The Sox really don’t. And maybe they won't.

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MLB rumors: Red Sox, free agent Jose Peraza agree to one-year contract

MLB rumors: Red Sox, free agent Jose Peraza agree to one-year contract

The Boston Red Sox bolstered their infield depth Thursday by agreeing to sign Jose Peraza to a one-year contract worth about $3 million plus incentives, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.

Peraza made his Major League debut in 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers but spent the last four years with the Cincinnati Reds. He batted .239 with six home runs, 33 RBI and a .285 on-base percentage in 141 games during the 2019 season.

His best season came in 2018 when he batted .288 with 14 homers, 58 RBI and a .326 on-base percentage in 157 games for the Reds. All things considered, Peraza is a good buy-low candidate for the Red Sox, who also could help Boston replace Brock Holt if he departs in free agency.

The 25-year-old infielder brings plenty of positional versatility to the Red Sox. Peraza mostly played second base for Cincinnati this past season, but he also saw time at third base, left field and center field.

Peraza drew interest from at least four teams, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

Report: Sox have had David Price trade talks 'with at least five clubs'>>>

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Red Sox select possible Brock Holt replacement in Rule 5 draft from Astros

Red Sox select possible Brock Holt replacement in Rule 5 draft from Astros

The Red Sox didn't leave the winter meetings empty-handed after all.

On Thursday, they selected infielder Jonathan Arauz from the Astros in the Rule 5 draft. The switch-hitting infielder must spend the season on the big league roster or be offered back to the Astros for $50,000. He will compete for a roster spot as a utilityman, with the Red Sox likely moving on from free agent Brock Holt.

"He came to us highly recommended from our scouts and our analysts," VP of pro scouting Gus Quattlebaum told reporters in San Diego. "Younger guy, switch hitter, versatile glove, we think we can bounce him all around the infield. Has some work to do physically to get stronger, but we like his bat-to-ball skills, can use the field, so we're excited to give him an opportunity to compete for a utility infield position."

Arauz, 21, is a lifetime .243 hitter in the minors. Signed by the Phillies in 2014 out of Panama, he went to the Astros in the 2015 trade that sent closer Ken Giles to Houston and former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel, among others, to Philadelphia.

He split last season between High A and Double A, hitting .249 with a career-high 11 home runs. He has spent the bulk of his minor league career at shortstop, but he also appeared in 86 games at second and 32 at third.

"We feel he can play short," Quattlebaum told reporters. "Anytime you have a young kid that you're pushing to the big leagues, the fact that he can bounce all over the infield, I think that helps his chances of sticking."

Added Quattlebaum: "We had some questions on the right side of our infield and we're looking for the most versatile athletes we can bring in to the organization. We have other guys internally that we believe in as well, but we think he can come in and compete."

The Red Sox used to be active in the Rule 5 draft in the early days of Theo Epstein, taking players like left-hander Javier Lopez, who went on to have a long career as a specialist, or speedy outfielder Adam Stern. A deep roster and farm system had left them out of the Rule 5 market in recent years, but the combination of a shallow farm system and the 26th man that will be added for the 2020 season made diving back in more palatable.

In the minor league portion of the draft, the Red Sox selected a pair of Double-A right-handers: Raynel Espinal from the Yankees and Jose Espada from the Blue Jays.

"Espinal's an older guy, he's 26 years old out of the Dominican," Quattlebaum said. "He's still recovering from Tommy John surgery, so credit our medical staff, our scouts, our analysts, they've all spoken up on all these guys that we've selected, and we came away comfortable with what we saw in the medical review. We're hopeful that he can get back, I would say sometime mid-summer. Power arm, chance to start. Wouldn't draw it up as the most cosmetic of deliveries, but our scouts and our analysts feel that he has some starter upside."

As for Espada: "Power arm," Quattlebaum said. "Missed some time last year with an elbow sprain, so not all of our scouts were able to lay eyes on him, but it's a big arm, we like the fastball-slider combo and figured it was worth a shot."

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