Red Sox

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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Is now the right time to trade Mookie Betts? Red Sox have all the evidence they need

Is now the right time to trade Mookie Betts? Red Sox have all the evidence they need

If Mookie Betts and the Red Sox are really $100 million apart, then the Red Sox should stop pretending he has a future in Boston and trade him right now.

WEEI's Lou Merloni reported on Wednesday that last year the Red Sox made Betts an offer in the 10-year, $300 million range, and he countered with 12 years and $420 million. That gulf is so sizable that meeting in the middle at $360 million might be considered unacceptable by both sides.

When the Red Sox infamously lowballed ace Jon Lester before the 2014 season, after all, their four-year, $70 million offer was probably only one year and $30 million less than Lester would've considered a legitimate starting point. And he still shut down negotiations before being traded and then joined the Cubs in free agency.

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At this point, the Red Sox have as much information as they need to discern Betts' intentions.

He wants to be paid closer to Mike Trout's $426.5 million than Manny Machado's $300 million, and he plans to do so in free agency. Keeping him in the hope that he suddenly agrees to an extension when he has never been closer to hitting the open market feels like a denial of reality.

That's why the chatter of Betts heading west to either San Diego or Los Angeles has suddenly intensified. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom should play the division rivals against each other to secure the best deal and move on.

Personally, I'd be focused on unloading both Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, paying enough of their combined $59 million in 2020 to land a package built around a promising young player like outfielder Alex Verdugo, and getting a jump on life in a post-Mookie world.

The alternative is keeping him until the trade deadline, letting this story hang over both player and organization through July, and then being unable to pull the trigger because the team clings to the periphery of the postseason race, at which point the Red Sox are left with basically nothing.

Trading Betts now doesn't even preclude the possibility of him signing long-term, because if the Red Sox decide they simply can't live without their former MVP, his desire to reach the market could actually cut back in their favor. Nothing would stop them from making a massive offer next winter and trying to bring him back, à la the Yankees after trading closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for three months in 2016.

That said, if the Red Sox trade Betts, I suspect it would be forever, and there's a case to be made for that, too. Ten- or 12-year deals are generally bad business, no matter how talented the player, because there are too many ways they can sour.

The Angels have been riding out Albert Pujols' decline almost from the day he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract in 2012 at age 32, and even if he had signed at 28 before winning back-to-back MVP awards, it would still be money poorly spent. The same goes for Robinson Cano (10 years, $228 million), Miguel Cabrera (effectively 10 years, $292 million), and unfortunately, Dustin Pedroia, who's not going to see the finish of his eight-year, $110 million extension in 2021, thanks to a degenerative knee injury.

Betts is younger than all of them (27), which works in his favor, but we have not made nearly a big enough issue of his size when calculating the risk of a lengthy deal. He stands only 5-foot-9, and that's not a stature that yields longevity.

Since 1980, only three players that height have delivered a .900 OPS in at least 100 games after age 30 — Matt Stairs (twice), Lonnie Smith, and Kirby Puckett. For $35 million a year, .900 feels like a reasonable floor, but for players Betts' size it's actually a pretty hard ceiling, with his most promising comps being Puckett — who saw an eye injury end his career at age 35 — and former Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada, who made five All-Star teams between ages 30 and 35.

Otherwise, we're talking about players such as Chuck Knoblauch, Marcus Giles, Brian Roberts, Pedroia, and Jimmy Rollins — undersized stars who peaked in their 20s before experiencing precipitous declines in their 30s. Cleveland's Jose Ramirez could join that group, which might even include Hall of Famer Tim Raines, whose case became borderline based on his 30s.

In any event, there's now more than enough evidence for the Red Sox to experience clarity on their most pressing offseason issue: it's time to trade Mookie Betts.

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in Mark Kotsay for managerial opening

MLB Rumors: Red Sox interested in Mark Kotsay for managerial opening

The Boston Red Sox's search for their new manager has been rather slow, but a new candidate may be emerging.

The Red Sox reportedly have an interest in Oakland Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay, according to MassLive.com's Chris Cotillo.

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Although Kotsay, 44, a former outfielder who played for the Red Sox in 2008 and '09 in a major league playing career spanning more than 16 years, has no MLB managerial experience, he has worked in the San Diego Padres' front office as well as serving on the Padres and Athletics coaching staffs since retiring in 2013.

After firing Alex Cora earlier this month, the Red Sox have been linked to multiple managerial candidates, including Ron Roenicke, Jason Varitek, Dino Ebel and Joe McEwing. Although Boston is still in the thick of the managerial hunt with spring training approaching in two weeks, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported that the Red Sox are unlikely to make a hire before next week.