Red Sox

Who could replace Alex Cora as Red Sox manager in 2020?

Who could replace Alex Cora as Red Sox manager in 2020?

The Boston Red Sox will need a new manager in 2020.

Alex Cora is out after two seasons in Boston thanks to MLB investigations into sign-stealing in both Houston and Boston.

Astros owner Jim Crane fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch on Monday after Major League Baseball suspended them one year each for their role in a 2017 sign-stealing operation.

Cora is expected to receive a harsher penalty from MLB, as he played a central role in Houston's operation and also is under investigation for his involvement in a 2018 sign-stealing scandal with the Boston Red Sox.

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And while he'll find out his discipline from the league office in the coming days and/or weeks, his time in Boston is already over.

So, who could replace him? Here's a look at some of the internal candidates who could take over for Cora this season:

Ron Roenicke, Red Sox bench coach

Roenicke is second in command to Cora and is the most qualified candidate to take his place. The 63-year-old has 20 years of major league coaching experience and spent five years as the Milwaukee Brewers' manager, compiling a .508 winning percentage in that span.

Roenicke is entering just his third year as Boston's bench coach but has worked with four different MLB teams (the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels included) is the only coach on staff with MLB managerial experience.

Jason Varitek, Red Sox special assistant to the general manager

A fan favorite during his 15-year tenure in Boston, the former Red Sox catcher would be the clear "people's choice" to replace Cora. He has zero managerial experience, but that didn't stop the New York Yankees from hiring Aaron Boone.

The question would be whether Varitek wants to leave his cushy gig as a general contributor in the Red Sox' front office.

Tim Hyers, Red Sox hitting coach

Hyers is entering his third season as Boston's hitting coach and has some MLB coaching experience; he came up in the Red Sox' system as an area scout from 2009 to 2012 and worked as the Los Angeles Dodgers' assistant hitting coach from 2016 to 2017 before returning to the Red Sox in 2018.

Dave Bush, Red Sox pitching coach

The Red Sox just hired Bush as their pitching coach in October after he finished his playing career, so it's unlikely they would promote him to manager. If Boston took this route, it would promote assistant pitching coach Kevin Walker to pitching coach.

Carlos Febles, Red Sox third base coach

Febles could be a dark horse candidate, considering he's been in the Red Sox' organization since 2007. He served as manager of the Single-A Salem Red Sox and Double-A Portland Sea Dogs before becoming Boston's third base coach in 2017.

Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox second baseman

Pedroia has always been a leader in Boston's clubhouse. He's also played in just nine games over the past two seasons and turns 37 in August. Like Varitek, the scrappy second baseman would be a popular choice to transition from player to a manager who would have the direct pulse of his players.

Was Mark Teixeira's call-out of David Ortiz also a shot at Red Sox?

Was Mark Teixeira's call-out of David Ortiz also a shot at Red Sox?

Who said the Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees rivalry is dead?

Red Sox legend David Ortiz had some harsh remarks for Mike Fiers on Thursday, calling the former Astros pitcher a "snitch" for blowing the whistle on Houston's illegal sign-stealing operation after winning the 2017 World Series with the club.

Not everyone agreed with Ortiz's take, though -- including former Yankees slugger and current ESPN analyst Mark Teixera, who sounded off on Big Papi during Monday's episode of "Get Up!"

“Players that are clean, whether it was during the steroid era or anybody that wasn’t on the Astros -- they want these guys outed. They want the Astros punished," Teixeira said. 

"So, for David Ortiz or Pedro Martinez or anybody — interesting that it’s two Boston players and Boston is actually a part of this investigation, as well — so I think there’s some meaning behind that it’s two Red Sox players saying it."

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That's an eye-opening line from Teixeira, who seems to be implying that Ortiz and Martinez are trying to deflect from Major League Baseball's investigation into the 2018 Red Sox, that the Boston legends don't have a leg to stand on given their own club's alleged cheating.

Teixeira also wasn't a fan of Ortiz's word choice.

"There are very few people out there that really even use the word ‘snitch’ and ‘rat’ anymore, anyway," Teixeira said. "This isn’t Goodfellas. This is the real world. In the real world, you want bad things brought to light."

Ortiz and Martinez had more of an issue with when Fiers blew the whistle, suggesting that he should have went public earlier to nip Houston's cheating in the bud.

Teixeira wasn't buying that argument, though, suggesting Fiers would have been powerless to stop the Astros' sign-stealing operation even if he had spoken up at the time.

"He could’ve said something every single day," Teixeira said. " ... That’s what all the Astros pitchers are basically saying: 'Hey, I didn’t like it, but I had no control over it.' "

Projecting Red Sox 26-man Opening Day roster includes many questions

Projecting Red Sox 26-man Opening Day roster includes many questions

Usually, the exercise of predicting the Red Sox opening day roster isn't particularly taxing. We could normally name about 24 spots in December.

Welcome to 2020, however, a most abnormal year. With the opener in Toronto barely a month away, we still have to answer some basic questions, like whether the team will employ a fifth starter, who'll be starting at second base, and how the outfield will align.

With Mookie Betts and David Price gone, and San Diego's Wil Myers possibly joining the fold this spring, the Red Sox remain in flux. It may just be their state of being all year.

In any event, here's our best guess at the expanded 26-man roster.

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Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Jonathan Lucroy

Vazquez emerged as a legit power threat, blasting a career-high 23 homers while compiling a .798 OPS. His defense was spotty, with too much emphasis on throwing out base stealers, and not enough on actually receiving the ball. He's in the middle of an affordable three-year, $13.5 million extension, but there's no guarantee new baseball boss Chaim Bloom will be as loyal to him as predecessor Dave Dombrowski was.

The backup spot looked like Kevin Plawecki's when camp opened, but the arrival of Lucroy, a two-time All-Star recovering from neck surgery, could change things. Lucroy played for interim manager Ron Roenicke in Milwaukee, and it's worth noting that on his first day in camp, he was catching ace Chris Sale.

Infielders (7): Mitch Moreland, Jose Peraza, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Michael Chavis, Jonathan Arauz, Bobby Dalbec

The infield includes two rocks and then varying pebbles. The left side isn't going anywhere, with Bogaerts and Devers anchoring what should be a strength of the team. The former is coming off an all-MLB season, while the latter was only a slow April away from making his first All-Star team. The Red Sox are counting on both to be at least as good as they were last year.

First baseman Mitch Moreland remained unsigned for most of the offseason before returning to Boston, and if the team is judicious with his usage, the oft-injured left-handed slugger could have some value. He may end up in a platoon with Chavis, who's unlikely to win a second base job that the team has pretty clearly earmarked for Peraza, a Reds non-tender with a decent pedigree as a former prospect.

In a perfect world, Peraza would probably play a little bit of everywhere, but with Dustin Pedroia effectively finished and Chavis more suited to a corner, he'll get a chance to win the job at second. That leaves the utility job for Arauz, a 21-year-old Rule 5 pick from the Astros with the ability to play second, third, and short.

We'll give the final spot to Dalbec, a slugging first baseman with an outstanding glove who could earn the call while outfielder Alex Verdugo rehabs a back injury.

Outfielders (3): Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar

Eventually, this group will number four, once Verdugo joins the mix. The only question is who starts where. Roenicke has suggested that he's intrigued by the idea of Bradley in right field, where his arm plays and the unique configuration of Fenway Park calls for a defensive whiz like Betts. Normally, the club wouldn't consider moving the Gold Glover out of center field, but Roenicke has options, because Pillar is human highlight reel of his own. The newcomer has already vowed to play right, but Roenicke may have other ideas.

This will be a big season for Benintendi in left. He came to camp both leaner and stronger than last year, and he's the player most capable of picking up some of the slack left by Betts' departure. He needs to break through at age 25, because a repeat of last year's meh production (.266-13-68-.774) won't cut it, especially if he's batting leadoff.

Verdugo is the wild card. The stress fracture in his back is expected to heal, eventually, and the 23-year-old should become the starting right fielder with the potential to hit over .300 once he returns.

DH (1): J.D. Martinez

The best DH in baseball surprised a lot of us by opting in to his contract, but it turns out he had nowhere to go.

This will almost certainly be his last season in a Red Sox uniform, especially if the NL adds the DH in 2021. The slugger might be the most important player in the lineup, because he welcomes the pressure of being the focus of rival pitchers, and he allows everyone else to slot into their roles.

Starting pitchers (4): Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez

It's quite the statement on the state of the staff that there's not a (5) in that heading. The Red Sox are almost certainly headed towards an opener for their fifth spot, a result not just of the trade of David Price to the Dodgers, but also a lack of organizational depth that Bloom will need more time to address.

Even the settled spots contain question marks. Sale is coming off the worst season of his career, but arrived at spring training in a positive frame of mind following an elbow injury that cost him the final two months. Rodriguez is already battling a knee injury after slipping during a bullpen session -- though at least it's to his good knee and not the surgically repaired one -- and we still don't know if Eovaldi can last an entire season.

That leaves Perez and maybe an opener, though Roenicke has singled out junk-balling right-hander Ryan Weber as a potential fifth starter.

Relievers (9): Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Darwinzon Hernandez, Josh Taylor, Marcus Walden, Josh Osich, Ryan Weber, Chris Mazza

The Red Sox ended 2019 with a pretty good bullpen, particularly once rookie left-handers Hernandez and Taylor emerged as legit late-inning power arms. Given the year-over-year variance in reliever performance, it's hard to say if either will duplicate their success, but let's give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

Workman projects to close, based on an otherworldly 2019, even if some of the underlying numbers suggest a regression is in order. He'll be followed by Barnes, who pitches best when he's not being asked to go every other day, as he was last June. Hembree is healthy and has been surprisingly effective when relying on his 95 mph fastball, and Walden was a workhorse last year.

The rest of the pen is wide open. Weber could get a nod as the multi-inning guy who piggybacks off the opener, while Osich was the first signing of the Bloom era following an up-and-down season with the White Sox. Mazza could be a dark horse candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation after eight years in the minors.

That leaves Ryan Brasier, Austin Brice, Brian Johnson, Colten Brewer, Jeff Springs, and Matt Hall among the group fighting it out for a spot at the back of the pen.