Red Sox

Here's Michael Chavis's chief competition in the AL Rookie of the Year race

Here's Michael Chavis's chief competition in the AL Rookie of the Year race

Far be it from a fan of Boston sports to overreact to a handful of games, but Red Sox infielder Michael Chavis is already making a case for Rookie of the Year.

This is pretty wild, because Chavis isn't even a year removed from serving an 80-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and also because he opened the season at Triple A Pawtucket. The Red Sox only summoned him on April 20 after a rash of injuries felled infielders Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez, and Brock Holt.

Hitting only .250 with the PawSox but exhibiting tremendous power with four homers in 12 games, Chavis has made the most of what could've been a cameo.

He owns six home runs and a .309 average in 16 games, and the shots he's hitting are absolute bombs. His average home run has traveled 429 feet. As a means of comparison, when Mookie Betts finished second in the 2016 MVP voting while slamming 31 homers, the longest ball he hit covered only 428 feet.

Chavis is the poster boy for launch angle, with a scything swing that Alex Rodriguez might refer to as a Ferris wheel. He has actually put more balls in play to center and right field than on the dead pull, but half the balls he hits in the air to left leave the park.

He is particularly adept at jumping hanging offspeed pitches, with four of his homers coming on sliders and the other two on fastballs. His moonshot into the monster seats against Detroit's Jordan Zimmermann is his only sub-400-foot homer, traveling 374 feet. The other five just appear progressively more absurd: 419 feet, 438, 441 (twice), and 459 feet on a hanging slider from Chicago's Reynaldo Lopez that Chavis ripped just inside the foul pole and practically onto the left field pavilion.

So who might challenge him for the Rookie of the Year hardware that no Red Sox player has won since Pedroia in 2007? Here are some candidates, with an assist to MLB Trade Rumors.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

Vlad the Destroyer saw the start of his big-league career delayed not by the inevitable service time manipulation, but a spring training oblique injury. Summoned on April 25, the consensus best prospect in baseball boasts insane power -- he hit a home run into the parking lot well beyond left field at Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium earlier this year off former big leaguer Bobby Poyner -- but also a patient eye that's rare for a 20-year-old. He's hitting only .152 and has yet to homer, but that could change with one swing.

2. Brandon Lowe, Rays

Lowe hit .233 over the final two months last year in his big league debut, retaining rookie eligibility by one at-bat. The Rays then aggressively signed him to a six-year, $24 million extension with options to buy out his first two years of free agency, as well. The super-utility has already played first, second, and right field, and could perhaps one day assume the mantle of versatile former Rays standout Ben Zobrist. Lowe raced to a .309-7-19 start with three steals in three chances for good measure.

3. Rowdy Tellez, Blue Jays

The burly slugger blasted six homers in his first 30 games, including a mammoth two-run shot off of Nathan Eovaldi on April 11 that was briefly (and incorrectly) measured at 505 feet. Tellez is putting up Mitch Moreland numbers -- low average, lots of power -- and the Blue Jays will take it. The former 30th round pick out of Sacramento rose to prominence in 2016 when he smashed 23 home runs at age 21 in his Double A debut and now he's trying to stick in Toronto.

4. Ty Buttrey, Angels

Here's one the Red Sox may already regret. They sent Buttrey to Anaheim last summer for second baseman Ian Kinsler, who promptly pulled a hamstring and then didn't prove especially useful. Kinsler's most memorable moment in a Red Sox uniform was throwing away what would've been the final out of Game 3 of the World Series in the 13th inning before Max Muncy walked it off in the 18th. Buttrey, meanwhile, has harnessed his 100 mph fastball with the Angels to strike out 21 in 17 innings with a 1.06 ERA and only three walks. He is a closer in waiting.

5. Spencer Turnbull, Tigers

Turnbull impressed the Red Sox during the second game of a doubleheader last month, shutting them out for five innings in Detroit's 4-2 victory. He's 2-2 with a 2.31 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 39 innings, with a power sinker and nasty slider. Unheralded entering the season thanks to injuries throughout his minor league career, Turnbull was only rated the 19th-best prospect in the Detroit system prior to being summoned, but given an opportunity, he has made the most of it.

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MLB Rumors: Ex-Red GM Ben Cherington accepts Pirates general manager job

MLB Rumors: Ex-Red GM Ben Cherington accepts Pirates general manager job

Ben Cherington has moved on from the American League East.

The former Boston Red Sox general manager has accepted the Pittsburgh Pirates' offer to be their next GM, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Friday.

Cherington takes over for former Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who was fired in October.

The New Hampshire native and Amherst College alum rose to prominence in Boston, taking the Red Sox GM job in 2011 and helping the club win a World Series title in 2013.

Cherington resigned amid Boston's second consecutive losing season in August 2015, shortly after the team hired Dave Dombrowski to run its baseball operations.

The 45-year-old executive spent the last two seasons as the Toronto Blue Jays' vice president of baseball operations, and now will be tasked with rebuilding a Pirates team that won just 69 games in 2019.

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Three teams, 7 players, 1 home run: What complicated trade tells us about Red Sox's Chaim Bloom

Three teams, 7 players, 1 home run: What complicated trade tells us about Red Sox's Chaim Bloom

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Chaim Bloom impressed Red Sox ownership during his interview by dissecting a handful of deals with the Rays that revealed the kind of creativity John Henry wanted to add to Boston's front office.

One was the pursuit of Charlie Morton, Houston's All-Star right-hander, who received one of the biggest pitching contracts in Tampa history at a modest two years and $30 million. The 35-year-old rewarded Tampa's faith with a third place finish in the Cy Young Award voting.

Another was a complicated three-way trade with the A's and Rangers that sent second baseman Jurickson Profar to Oakland, prospects to Texas, and reliever Emilio Pagan to the Rays. A compensatory pick and international bonus money changed hands, too, for good measure.

It is that second deal and its many moving parts that caught the eye of Red Sox chairman Tom Werner.

"We studied decisions that they made and we were impressed," Werner said. "The total decision-making was impressive. They went out in the free agent market and got Charlie Morton. They made a great three-way trade for Pagan. You can just go up and down that roster and say they found talent in very creative ways."

So how did it happen? The four executives primarily involved — Texas GM Jon Daniels, Oakland counterpart David Forst, and the Tampa duo of Bloom and GM Erik Neander — weighed in from the GM meetings this week. Their observations and recollections shed light on the kind of decision-maker Bloom will be in Boston — nimble, inventive, and connected.

"Very smart and very creative," Forst said. "I've always respected Chaim. He has always dealt honestly with us and been up front."

Merely reading the summary of the trade illustrates its complexity. The A's sent Pagan and a competitive balance pick to Tampa, and infielder/outfielder Eli White and international bonus money to the Rangers. The Rangers sent minor league pitcher Rollie Lacy to the Rays and received three prospects in return: left-handers Brock Burke and Kyle Bird, and right-hander Yoel Espinal, which helped Tampa relieve a roster crunch.

Got all that? Good. The first thing worth noting is that most three-way deals are born of failure, and this was no exception.

"Typically, they don't happen overnight," Neander said. "I don't think anyone's seeking that. There's a sincere interest in finding common ground between two clubs. You run the well dry, and then it's like, 'Alright, do we have any other business going on that we could introduce to this negotiation to find a way to get over the finish line?' And that's effectively what happened."

The trade started with Daniels, who played the role of go-between. The A's wanted Profar to be their everyday second baseman, but they lacked the pieces to complete a deal on their own. Because Daniels had maintained regular contact with the Tampa front office — primarily Neander — he knew the Rays wanted Pagan, a hard-throwing reliever who hadn't quite put it together in his first two seasons. And the Rays knew which prospects Daniels valued, primarily Burke.

"Jon Daniels was in the middle," Forst said. "All we knew was there was a team on the other side. Everything went through Jon. We talked to him about Profar and Pagan and the comp pick, and he said, 'Look, to be up front, some of these pieces are going elsewhere.' Anytime you have a three-team deal, sometimes everybody knows, but a lot of times there's kind of a middle manager working both sides. So Jon deserves a lot of credit for working with us and working with Chaim and Erik on that side."

The deal would not have happened without steady communication, a skill Bloom will bring to Boston.

"They've always done a good job of constant dialogue over the year," Daniels said of Bloom and Neander. "Not just trade deadline. Not just winter meetings. Constant dialogue, understanding what your goals are, being up front about their goals. It's where I think they have a lot of information. The way they've built their club, they have a heavy-transactional process, if that's what you want to call it, and more information allows them to make better decisions. Sometimes you'll deal with a club and you'll feel like it's one-way, that they're just pulling information out. I've always felt good dealing with them that it's two-way. They want to know what you're looking at, but they're also happy to share what their goals are."

Added Bloom: "I think a lot of that fell out of our organization having good communication with both organizations, but especially with Texas, who was trying to broker it."

Striking a deal is only half the battle, though. The Rays had to identify the right target, and in Pagan, they hit a home run. Tampa represented his third team in three years, and he was coming off a so-so 2018 that saw him go 3-1 with a 4.35 ERA while flashing intermittent command.

But he blossomed in Tampa. His max velocity jumped from 96 to 99 mph and he ended up posting a career-low 2.31 ERA while saving 20 games and striking out a career-best 12.3 batters per nine.

"He stood out as someone who had a chance to have a little more success than he'd had to date," Bloom said. "We knew towards the end of the season that that harder breaking ball was coming into play more. I don't think any of us, if we're being honest, could have expected that he'd turn in the season that he did. That just speaks to getting a great result from hopefully a good and rigorous process."

The Rays preach organizational humility — it's why they might be the worst team in the league at stealing signs, because it's simply not part of their culture — and they'd be the first to note that they got a little lucky with Pagan, who actually opened the season in Triple-A. But they saw an opportunity for growth if he could reshape his breaking ball, a hard slider that he throws with more of a cutter grip, and the results were tremendous.

"I'm not at all surprised that the Rays got themselves involved," Forst said. "We always felt like we and the Rays see things similarly in how we evaluate players. We didn't like giving up Pagan — I didn't know he was going to be throwing 99 and closing games — but we liked Pagan and obviously there's value in the comp pick. So not surprised at all that Chaim and Erik had their fingers in our business."

The comp pick presented its own challenges, because it cannot be traded more than once and thus had to move as part of one big deal. Awarded to the smallest-market and lowest-revenue teams, this particular pick landed at No. 40 overall, the area of the draft where Tampa had previously nabbed stalwarts like All-Star Carl Crawford and Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. The Rays used the pick on college right-hander Seth Johnson, allowing them to build for the future even as they hoped Pagan would help in the present.

Speaking of which, when Forst discovered Tampa was the third team in the deal, did he pause to question what he and his own evaluators had missed?

"Absolutely," he admitted. "There's a number of teams we feel that way about, where they pick up a player and you go, 'Huh, should we have been involved?' It's not unique to Tampa, but they're a team that we see similar to us in the way they operate."

The Pagan trade is the kind of move the Red Sox will have to make to remain competitive with ownership intent on slashing payroll. Fortunately, they now employ one of its architects.

"Chaim will do really well, because at the end of the day, he's consistent, he communicates well, it's clear," Neander said. "He's trustworthy. There's no agenda. The purpose of the call is whatever's laid out. These relationships are built on trust, and he's someone that can be trusted."

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