January 16, 2015 at 12:00 PM
As is usually the case in mid-January, the minor league rosters and organizational depth have begun to take shape. The Red Sox were involved in a number of transactions in the first half of the month.
- In what was certainly the most bittersweet move of the month, Boston dealt catcher Dan Butler to the Washington Nationals in exchange for left-handed pitcher Danny Rosenbaum. Of the 12 players who made their major league debut in a Red Sox uniform last season, Butler was by far the most unlikely. The backup catcher at the University of Arizona, Boston signed him as an undrafted free agent shortly after the 2009 draft. Butler ended up playing in over 500 games with the organization, playing his first major league game on August 10 last year. Tim Britton of the Providence Journal gave a wonderful look at Butler's rise back in August. Rosenbaum, a ground-ball inducing starter during his time with the Nats, underwent Tommy John surgery in May and resumed throwing in November. He is not on the 40-man roster and will be a minor league free agent after this season.
- Infielder Jeff Bianchi (pictured) was signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training on December 31. Bianchi appeared in 162 major league games over the last three seasons with Milwaukee, seeing most of his playing time at third base and shortstop. In 402 plate appearances, he has hit .216/.251/.283. The 28-year-old has hit much better during his stints at Triple-A Nashville, with a solid .299/.349/.428 line.
- Mitchell Boggs was also brought in with a spring training invite. A right-hander, Boggs (no relation to Red Sox legend Wade Boggs) played a key role out of the bullpen for the Cardinals World Series-winning squad in 2011, but is coming off two consecutive disastrous seasons. Coming out of spring training in 2013 with the Cards' closer job, Boggs posted an 11.05 ERA in 18 appearances, walking more than a batter per inning. He pitched in nine additional games for Colorado that season, and spent 2014 in the minor leagues with the White Sox and Giants systems posting an 8.29 ERA and walking more batters than he struck out. The upside of the signing comes if Boggs reverts to his 2010-to-2012 form, when he had a 3.08 ERA in 190 appearances.
- Outfielder Blake Tekotte, who signed on January 5, appeared in 50 major league games from 2011 through 2013 with the Padres and White Sox. Originally a third-round pick by San Diego out of the University of Miami in 2008, Tekotte has received recognition for his speed and range in center field. High strikeout rates have limited his effectiveness at the plate. He has struck out in nearly one-quarter of over 1,000 Triple-A plate appearances, with a line of .243/.308/.410.
- Entering the 2010 season, Casey Crosby was rated the 47th-best prospect in the game by Baseball America following a dominant season in the Low A Midwest League. However, he has suffered a string of injuries that have limited his effectiveness since then. Crosby got a cup of coffee in the majors in 2012, making three starts for the Tigers. He shifted to the bullpen in 2014, but made only 11 appearances before getting shut down with an elbow injury in May. Crosby was released by Detroit in August, and signed with Boston on December 16.
- Left-handed pitcher Matt Hoffman, who signed this past Monday, Jan. 11, was also considered a notable prospect in the Detroit system not so long ago, ranking 16th in the Tigers organization by Baseball America heading into 2011. He was off to a strong start with Triple-A Toledo in 2013, with a 1.03 ERA in 30 appearances, when his back started to flare up. He was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis, which, as Mike Bernardino of the Pioneer Press explains, is the forward displacement of his fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae. Hoffman pitched for the Twins and Phillies organization in 2014, posting a 3.75 ERA and striking out 50 in 48 innings.
- Meanwhile, the Red Sox also lost a pair of minor league free agents: third baseman Juan Francisco signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay and right-hander Wilfredo Boscan did the same with Pittsburgh. Francisco never appeared in a game for the Red Sox organization. He was claimed off waivers from Toronto in November, but was designated for assignment after the signing of Pablo Sandoval. Boscan spent most of the 2014 campaign with Double-A Portland, where he had a 3.88 ERA in 62 2/3 innings.
- The Red Sox also released first baseman Matt Gedman, catcher Jayson Hernandez, outfielder Kevin Mager, right-hander Oscar Perez, and left-handers Nate Reed and Rob Smorol. Perez was the longest tenured member of the organization of the six cuts, having signed back in 2008. Originally a catcher, Perez transitioned to the mound before the 2013 season. Gedman is the son of former Red Sox catcher and current coach Rich Gedman, who will be moving from Portland to Pawtucket to become the organization's Triple-A hitting coach this season.
- Luke Montz, whose signing was reported earlier in the offseason, has an invitation to spring training per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
- In her debut piece for SoxProspects.com, Katie Morrison wrote about the Red Sox moves in the front office and scouting department, Highlights included Raquel Ferreira becoming just the third woman to hold the title of Vice President with an MLB franchise, the organization's creation of a Behavioral Health Program that included the return of Bob Tewksbury as one of three mental health coaches, and the hiring of former MLB pitcher Brian Bannister as a professional scout and analyst.
- Down on the field, senior writer Jim Crowell detailed the minor league staffs for the upcoming season. Of note, on the field, ex-Sox minor leaguer Iggy Suarez takes over as hitting coach for Lowell and former PawSox pitcher Randor Bierd comes on as pitching coach in the Dominican Summer League, while the assistant coaches at every level were shuffled and all seven affiliates' managers stayed put.
- The Fall and Winter Leagues are winding down this month, with the major Caribbean Leagues in the middle of their playoffs. Jim Crowell reported the action from the week of December 29 to January 4, and John Gray had the roundup on Monday. Our Fall/Winter League page continues to be updated daily.
- Shaq Thompson, who is still technically under contract with Boston, was named an AP All-American after an outstanding season at the University of Washington as both a linebacker and running back. Thompson has declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, and ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. has him projected to be selected in the middle of the first round in his first mock draft (Insider sub. required). Thompson infamously went 0-for-39 with 37 strikeouts in his one crack at Rookie ball in 2012, signing with the Red Sox out of high school as an extremely raw athlete with little baseball seasoning. His positive attitude during those struggles resonated with teammates and coaches, who certainly must be pleased that Thompson has found success on the field elsewhere.
- In an attempt to speed up the pace of the game, pitch clocks are coming to Double-A and Triple-A this season, The clocks were tested in the Arizona Fall League this past season. The specific details and rules have not been entirely ironed out, but the clocks are expected to be for 20 seconds.
- The Red Sox announced their 2015 Rookie Development Program attendees, highlighted by Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo. Nick Rabasco (a member of our own exciting rookie class) gives the full report, and stay tuned to SoxProspects.com this week for additional updates.
- Meanwhile, Matt Barnes and Garin Cecchini took part in Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development program. MLB and the Players' Association have worked together on this event for over two decades. Jonathan Mayo discussed the program over at MLB.com, and Cecchini was interviewed. Both players participated in the Red Sox program last year.
Photo Credit: Jeff Bianchi from milb.com