Happy Sunday everyone. The Red Sox are just a few days away from starting up real spring training baseball, but as they train down in Florida there have been some bits of news and notes to come out of camp in recent days. Here’s a quick roundup of three stories that jumped out to me.
Steven Wright to be limited to relief in 2019
Alex Cora made this announcement to the media on Friday, saying that due to the knuckleballer’s knee issues that apparently will never feel quite right again, the Red Sox will limit him to a relief role. This is, honestly, something that I probably should have seen coming after Wright’s comments about his injury from earlier this week. There are some substantial ripple effects to this, too. One is that we might actually see Steven Wright: Closer at some point this year. Coaches and front office personnel have been consistent in bringing his name up whenever the closer question is asked, and while Wright is going to get off to a later start than Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier he’ll have a chance to pitch himself into the role. Wright has been more than fine in relief roles over his career, but something about the knuckleball in high-leverage scares the crap out of me.
On top of that, the other rotation depth options become a lot more safe. If healthy, Wright was always going to be the top guy on the depth chart outside the top five, but now without him Brian Johnson takes the mantle. I wrote about him shortly before this news came out, and he’s certainly the biggest winner here. It also gives more of a chance to Hector Velazquez of sticking in the bullpen as a long man if Johnson is starting, and it makes Mike Shawaryn a better chance at making an impact as rotation depth rather than bullpen depth.
Xander Bogaerts talks about his upcoming free agency
One of the biggest stories around the Red Sox this season is going to be the trio of star-level players set to hit (potentially) free agency after this year in Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale and J.D. Martinez. That doesn’t include role players like Mitch Moreland, Brock Holt and Steve Pearce, among others, either. Bogaerts met with the media this week and unsurprisingly his contract situation was a major topic of conversation. Said conversation also took the natural path to this year’s free agency that has seen 26-year-old superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned. Those players will help set the market for someone like Bogaerts, particularly if he can repeat his 2018, as the shortstop will be 27 as a free agent. Red Sox fans will be happy to hear that the idea of an extension now has certainly crossed his mind, too. Extensions have been coming quickly lately with Aaron Nola, Luis Severino and a pair of Twins players, but Bogaerts is a tough situation to read. I have no doubt a deal could get done if both sides were motivated, but he is a player coming off a huge year that backed up scouting reports we’ve had for years while also someone who has only had one big year like that. It wouldn’t be hard to see the two sides differing by a lot right now. The 2019 season will be huge for his value. I expect the Red Sox to keep him around, but I don’t think it’ll be before the season. I’d love to be wrong.
Dustin Pedroia talks comeback
The Red Sox’ veteran second baseman is going to be one of the biggest storylines of March and April, and he got his comeback from injury kicked off last week. There has been grainy video of him hitting and fielding, but we won’t really know what to think until we see him in game action. Still, he had some interesting things to say because he’s Dustin Pedroia and that’s what he does. The biggest thing was that, if he could, he wouldn’t have that knee surgery that caused him to miss so much time. Considering Wright had the same surgery and has had all of his issues, probably a smart call. Obviously there’s nothing that can be done about that now. There’s a lot of pessimism around Pedroia right now, and while it’s hard to blame anyone for not feeling confident it’s also important to note we really have no idea how he’s going to look. Some projections are confident in a bounce back, for whatever that’s worth. If the Red Sox can get solid numbers from him, the improvement at second base from last year would be substantial.