Red Sox

Projecting the Red Sox' 2020 Opening Day roster

Projecting the Red Sox' 2020 Opening Day roster

The Boston Red Sox begin their offseason with a number of question marks. We could be looking at a familiar roster in 2020, but the hiring of Chaim Bloom as Chief Baseball Officer all but confirms significant changes are about to be made.

It's still too early to get a read on which way the wind is blowing for the impactful decisions Bloom will be faced with this winter, the most important of which will be the future of superstar right fielder Mookie Betts. But as we look forward to what's sure to be an eventful offseason, we can at least take a shot at what the 25-man roster could look like come Opening Day.

Here's a look at the potential roster before free agency gains some steam in the coming weeks:

Catcher: Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon OR free agent/trade

Vazquez is locked in as Boston's starting catcher after producing the best offensive season of his career and earning a Gold Glove award nomination. The real question is who will back him up.

Leon could be non-tendered if the Red Sox ultimately decide they want more offensive production behind Vazquez on the depth chart. If Leon isn't brought back for 2020, expect Boston to sign a cheap alternative in free agency.

(Update: Leon was traded to the Cleveland Indians on December 2.)

First Base: Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, Sam Travis, free agent/trade

Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce both are unrestricted free agents with the latter pondering retirement. It's a possibility Boston re-signs Moreland on a reasonable one-year deal, but there are some interesting alternatives.

Chavis could see a lot of playing time at first depending on how the second base situation plays out. This also could be the year we see minor league slugger Dalbec get some big-league at-bats. We should expect to see Travis in the mix too following a 2019 season in which he appeared in 59 games.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic recently noted one player the Red Sox could pursue to replace Moreland and Pearce is free agent Justin Smoak, who spent the last five seasons with the Blue Jays.

Second Base: Michael Chavis, Dustin Pedroia, free agent/trade

It's safe to say we probably shouldn't enter 2020 with an optimistic outlook on Pedroia, but he's on this list as a formality.

Don't rule out Brock Holt returning in free agency. Though if he doesn't, we could be looking at another year of Chavis as the team's primary second baseman.

Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts

Barring some ridiculous trade this offseason, Bogaerts is locked in as the starting shortstop for 2020 and years to come.

Third Base: Rafael Devers

Devers ain't going anywhere.

Left Field: Andrew Benintendi

We'll see what happens with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, who we'll discuss momentarily, but for now it looks like Benintendi will again be the starting left fielder for the Red Sox as he looks to improve in 2020.

Center Field: Jackie Bradley Jr. OR free agent/trade

Here's where it starts to get interesting. Ken Rosenthal reported the Red Sox trading Bradley this offseason "seems all but certain." Bradley is set to make $11 million before he hits free agency in 2020.

For what it's worth, Rosenthal mentions Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick as a potential replacement if Bradley is moved. Of course, if Bradley isn't traded before Opening Day, he'll resume his role as the Sox' starting center fielder.

Right Field: Mookie Betts OR free agent/trade

To trade Mookie or to not trade Mookie? That is the most glaring question Bloom is faced with as he begins his Red Sox tenure.

Betts will become an unrestricted free agent after the 2019 season if he and the Red Sox cannot come to terms on a contract extension. If Betts is adamant about testing the free-agent market, Boston could opt to move the 2018 American League MVP for a haul. That would have to be a last resort as obviously the Red Sox would prefer to keep the homegrown 27-year-old.

This will be the most compelling storyline of the offseason. For now, mark Betts down as the starting right fielder.

Designated Hitter: J.D. Martinez

Martinez decided to not opt out of his contract, so he'll be back as the Red Sox' stud DH next season unless they decide to trade him, which doesn't seem likely. The 32-year-old can block trades to three teams.

Starting Pitchers: Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, free agent/trade

The Red Sox are looking to shed payroll this offseason. One way of doing that would be to part ways with the expensive contracts of Price and/or Eovaldi. In fact, rumor has it Boston has already discussed such a deal with the Texas Rangers.

Sale, assuming he's healthy, is the clear-cut ace with Rodriguez looking to build off an impressive 2019 campaign. Rick Porcello is a free agent, so unless the Red Sox bring him back on a cheaper contract, they'll need to sign or trade for someone to replace him in the rotation.

Bullpen: Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez, Ryan Brasier, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Brian Johnson, Travis Lakins, Heath Hembree, free agent/trade

Workman likely earned the closer role after being one of the bright spots in an otherwise bleak 2019 season. Barnes and Brasier should resume their roles as the set-up men and "spot-closers." Left-handers Hernandez and Taylor were effective down the stretch and provide hope for a more stable bullpen in 2020. There's some uncertainty in the rest of this group, including Hembree, who could be non-tendered.

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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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