Red Sox

Greg Bird once looked like future of Yankees, but now he might fit with Red Sox

Greg Bird once looked like future of Yankees, but now he might fit with Red Sox

He's the original Baby Bomber, and he briefly appeared as indispensable as Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge. Then injuries intervened, and so now we're left to wonder: could Greg Bird be a buy-low target of the Red Sox?

The former Yankees first baseman cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent on Thanksgiving eve rather than accept a demotion to Triple A.

Four years after taking New York by storm, Bird is now a man without a team, but there are reasons to give him a look.

He arrived with a bang in 2015 at the tender age of 22, slamming 11 homers in just 46 games in relief of Mark Teixeira, beating Sanchez and Judge to the big leagues in the process. Yankees fans daydreamed about his sweet left-handed swing assaulting the short porch in right for a decade.

Then came injuries — lots of injuries. A torn labrum sidelined him for 2016, and foot and ankle maladies have limited him to 142 games since. He has barely produced above a whimper in that time, hitting just .194, including 10 worthless games last season.

And yet . . . when Bird got healthy at the end of 2017, he produced in the postseason. His solo homer off Andrew Miller accounted for the only run in Game 3 of the Division Series, propelling the Yankees from a 2-0 deficit and into the ALCS, where two more Bird homers helped push the eventual champion Astros to seven games.

During that series, the New York Post noted, the Astros considered Bird as dangerous as anyone in the Yankees lineup, and he ended up walking eight times. When healthy, there's a reason Bird drew comparisons to former Yankees first baseman Nick Johnson, because he combined some power with a high on base percentage from the left side. Former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein was enamored with Johnson, who could never stay healthy, either.

There was an exception, however, as the Post also noted. In Johnson's age 27 season, he finally put it all together for the Nationals in 2006, hitting .290 with 23 homers and a .948 OPS in a career-high 147 games. He'd miss the entire 2007 season and spend the rest of his career bouncing on and off the disabled list, but for that one prime year, he delivered the goods.

Bird just turned 27 and has the minor-league track record (.396 OBP) to suggest that if he ever overcomes his injuries, he could pay off as a low-cost, low-risk flier. With the Red Sox looking to slash payroll and openings existing all over the diamond, they're going to have to hit on players like Bird to contend while cutting costs.

As of now, the depth chart at first base isn't particularly deep. Slugging Michael Chavis is one option, but he could also end up playing second base, and he won't be a viable full-timer anywhere until he addresses the hole in his swing above the belt. Youngster Sam Travis is another, but he has done nothing to distinguish himself in parts of three seasons. Then there's prospect Bobby Dalbec, who has appeared in just 30 games at Triple A and still represents an unknown.

A high on-base player with durability issues excelling at age 27 wouldn't be unprecedented. Cleveland's Travis Hafner began a run of four straight 100-RBI seasons at that age before breaking down. Rangers utilityman Frank Catalanotto nearly won a batting title in 2001. Old friend Dave Magadan hit a career-high .328 and earned MVP votes with the Mets in 1990.

The odds may be low, but so is the risk. And those are the kind of players the Red Sox are going to have to target this winter.

MLB's Top free agent infielders this offseason>>>>>

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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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