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January 6, 2022 at 5:00 PM

Minor Notes: Roster begins to take shape before lockout

We welcome you to our new and (hopefully improved) regular notes column. Running monthly in the offseason and weekly once spring training begins, this space will serve mostly as a catch-up for anything you may have missed. In the past, this space has served as sort of a compendium of links about news and articles. The readership showed that perhaps folks were finding this news organically, through social media and other outlets. So, going forward, we're going to try to provide you with a bit more direct analysis--of transactions, who is playing well, what is happening around the organization, and so forth. Of course, we value your feedback. If you have ideas, look us up on our forums, hit us up on social media, or shoot us an email. We want to write about what you want to read about. 

The pending lockout on December 2 led to a flurry of moves right at the end of November and beginning of December. The Red Sox made three major moves, trading their starting right fielder and signing two starters just before the break. There was also movement on the coaching staff and some standout performances in the winter leagues to report.


Acquired Jackie Bradley (pictured), Alex Binelas, and David Hamilton from Milwaukee in exchange for Hunter Renfroe
The biggest move of the offseason  was notable both on the surface as well as a clear representation of how differently the front-office is run from the Dombrowski years. Renfroe, signed a year ago after being non-tendered by Tampa, gave the team a year of solid right-field play and unleashed some highlight-reel throws. He finished third on the team with a .501 slugging percentage, but supplemented that with just a .315 OBP and struggled badly in the ALCS, going 1 for 16 with eight strikeouts. Value re-established the Red Sox flipped him to Milwaukee for two prospects who slotted straight into the system's top 30, and veteran defensive specialist with some familiarity to Red Sox fans. 

As a value move, the deal seems like a solid one for the team. Renfroe entered 2021 with just a .290 career OBP, a mark that would make him a much bigger liability at the plate even if he manages to match his 30-homer output. We published an in-depth look at Binelas and Hamilton soon after the trade. The Cliff's Notes version: Binelas is a high-risk/high-reward type who was seen as a potential first-round talent but struggled some with Louisville as a Junior and fell into the third round, and he went on to mash with Low-A Carolina, hitting .314/.379/.636 in 29 games. Scouts are divided on his ability to stick at third base, but his arm and athleticism may get him a look in the outfield. Hamilton lacks Binelas's ceiling but his more advanced approach and defensive profile give him a much better chance of reaching the majors. He hit .258/.341/.419 between High-A and Double-A and followed that with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Hamilton also has graded well for his defense in the middle infield, giving him a solid shot as sticking as a utility type. 

While the prospect haul was solid, the team now has a pretty clear hole on the major league roster. Bradley still brings solid defense, but his notoriously streaky bat went totally dead for the Brewers with a paltry .163/.236/.261 in 428 plate appearances. Another move to acquire a corner outfielder seems all but certain. Bringing back Kyle Schwarber is one strong possibility, as is Seiya Suzuki, the 27-year-old four-time NPB All-Star looking to come to MLB. Such a move would move Bradley to a backup and defensive substitution role for which his skills seem best suited at this point.

Signed Rich Hill
(pictured) to a one-year contract. Signed James Paxton to a one-year contract with a two-year club option and one-year conditional player option
Hill, the oldest player in affiliated baseball unless Joe Beimel hooks on somewhere, began his pro career five months before Marcelo Mayer was born. He rejoins the Sox for a fourth stint. The left-hander was effective as a reliever in 2012 and did not pitch during his 2014 time on the roster due to injury. In 2015, the last-place Sox helped Hill revitalize his career, honoring his request to be used as a starter. The then-35-year-old was dominant in four starts, allowing five runs in 29 innings (a 1.55 ERA), striking out 36 against just five walks. In the six years since, Hill has a 3.22 ERA in 634 2/3 innings, good for a bWAR of 11.4. At 41, he threw 158 2/3 innings, the second-highest total of his career and most since tossing 195 back in 2007. 

Paxton has long been a "good when he's healthy" wild-card. He has a career 3.59 ERA (114 ERA+), but has thrown just 754 total innings since debuting in 2013. He's surpassed 100 innings just four times and has never reached the 162 inning mark to qualify for rate-stat leaderboards. Paxton made just one start in 2021 before undergoing Tommy John Surgery on April 28th. A mid-season return is likely. Those health concerns are the reasons for Paxton's atypical contract. He will be paid $10 million for the 2022 season, and the team holds a two-year club option that would pay him an additional $25 million if it exercised. If the Red Sox decline, Paxton also has the option of exercising a $4 million player option for 2023. While the departure of Rodriguez leaves the team with multiple durability questions, a rotation where Hill and later Paxton join a healthy Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi has a ceiling of one of the best in the game.

Agreed to a one-year contract with Kevin Plawecki
The Red Sox avoided arbitration with their backup catcher, signing him to a one-year, $2.25 million deal. Plawcki fell about two weeks of major league service time short of qualifying for free agency.

Signed Rob Refsnyder, Christin Stewart, and Michael Feliz to minor league contracts
Feliz appeared in four games out of the Red Sox bullpen in 2021, allowing two runs in 5 1/3 innings. He was claimed by Oakland when the Sox tried to pass him through waivers in September, but Boston has picked him back up on a minor league deal. He has appeared in 227 games over parts of seven major league seasons, striking out an impressive 29.9% of batters faced. The strikeouts have not translated into consistent major league success: the 28-year-old righty has a 5.33 career ERA. Refsnyder, who will turn 31 around opening day, has appeared in 232 major league games. Most of his major league playing time has come with the Yankees from 2016 to 2018. He spent 2021 in the Twins, organization, including a .245/.325/.338 in 57 major league games. He brings some defensive versatility, playing all three outfield positions as well as second base. Stewart was a first-round pick (34th overall) of the Tigers in 2015 and had spent his entire professional career in the organization. He showed promising power in the minor leagues, blasting 30 homers in 2016 and 28 the following season, but that pop has not translated to the majors. In 157 major league games, he has a .225/.300/.376 slash line.

Selected Austin Lambright (Kansas City) and Brian Keller (New York (AL)) in the Minor League Phase of the Rule 5 Draft
The major league portion of the Rule 5 draft was postponed (and may yet be canceled), but the minor league version went about as scheduled. Lambright, a left-handed reliever, was solid in 2019 with Low-A Lexington and High-A Wilmington, and he was totally dominant against lefty batters. Same-siders were just 3 for 46 with 25 strikeouts that year. His development has hit a number of roadblocks: 2015 Tommy John Surgery knocked him out of the 2016 season. He struggled in 2017 before rebounding as a senior transfer. An older draft pick for the 2018 class, Lambright then lost the 2020 campaign when COVID shut down the minor league season, and he missed all of 2021 with an injury. 

Keller is yet another Rule 5 pick from the Yankees system. The 27-year-old righty was a senior sign after being taken in the 2016 draft. He spent the 2021 season in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, striking out 65 batters in 55 1/3 innings but struggling badly with his control, walking 46. With a fastball that reaches 95 and a history of better control than he showed last season, the Red Sox took a flyer. 

Jhonny Pereda (San Francisco), Enmanuel De Jesus (San Francisco), Stephen Gonsalves (Chicago (NL)), Matt Kent (Miami), and Yacksel Rios (Chicago (AL)) departed via minor league free agency.
De Jesus and Kent had become fixtures in the system over the past several years. De Jesus was one of a number of solid arms the Red Sox signed out of Venezuela in the mid-'10s, joining Darwinzon Hernandez, Bryan Mata, Anderson Espinoza, Eduard Bazardo, and Jhonathan Diaz. The left-hander appeared in 124 games, including 98 starts, for the organization dating back to his 2014 debut. Long a solid contributor, his best season was in 2019 when he posted a 3.58 ERA in 130 2/3 innings, striking out 122 and walking 42. Kent was a 13th-round pick in the 2015 draft out of Texas A&M. He threw 753 2/3 innings across 153 appearances, and was honored with a Minor League Gold Glove in 2019. Kent was something of a fixture at Portland, appearing in 73 games between 2018 and 2021 and posting a 3.78 ERA. He struggled in brief Triple-A opportunities. 

Gonsalves was a former Top 100 prospect with the Twins who joined the Red Sox organization as a minor league free agent a year ago. He spent most of the year in Triple-A Worcester, getting a brief call and making three appearances with the major league club during the team's COVID outbreak. Pereda joins De Jesus in heading to the Giants organization. Acquired from the Cubs in 2020 for Travis Lakins, he showed a strong arm behind the plate. Rios is likely the most familiar name of this group to followers of the major league team. He appeared in 20 games for the Sox with a 3.70 ERA in 24 innings despite uneven control. He was designated for assignment in late September. 
Cole Milam retired
Milam was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He appeared for Salem and the FCL squad in 2021, posting a 3.67 ERA in 25 appearances, all out of the bullpen. 

Signed international free agent Claudio Simon

Coaching and front office moves

The Red Sox announced a number of staff changes in both the majors and minors
  • Pete Fatse will be Boston's hitting coach after serving as assistant in 2021. Tim Hyers, who served as hitting coach last season, left to take the same job for the Texas Rangers
  • Luis Ortiz will take over as assistant hitting coach and interpreter. Ortiz broke into the majors with the Red Sox as a player in 1993, was ranked the #86 prospect in the game by Baseball America before 1994, and was dealt to Texas as part of the trade to bring Jose Canseco to Boston before the 1995 season. 
  • Ben Rosenthal will also serve as an assistant hitting coach. He was a coach in the Astros organization for the past five seasons, spending 2021 as the hitting coach for Triple-A Sugar Land. Rosenthal played in the Cardinals organization for four seasons from 2003 to 2006.
  • Ramon Vazquez takes over from Tom Goodwin as first base coach. Vazquez was quality control coach in 2021. Vazquez played 27 games for the Red Sox in 2005. He had been acquired as part of the deal that sent Dave Roberts to San Diego and was traded to Cleveland for Alex Cora.
  • Andy Fox joins the major league staff as field coordinator after serving in that position for 11 seasons in the minor leagues. He appeared for five teams during a nine-year major league career, winning a World Series as part of the 2003 Marlins.
  • Mike Brenly moves from bullpen catcher to major league staff assistant.
  • Chad Tracy will become the new manager of the Worcester Red Sox, taking over for Billy McMillon. Tracy previously served as a minor league field coordinator in the Angels system. He is not the longtime Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman of the same name.
  • Jose David Flores is now the Worcester bench coach. He has been coaching in professional baseball for over 20 years, with stints in the majors for the Phillies (2018) and Orioles (2019-2020)
  • Paul Abbott (pitching coach), Rich Gedman (hitting coach), and Mike Montville (assistant hitting coach) will all return

Notable performances

Pedro Castellanos has been outstanding for the Cardenales de Lara of the Venezuelan League. He has split time between first base, right field, and left field while. hitting .313/.361/.550 and eight home runs in 131 at-bats. 

Victor Santos and Franchy Cordero were instrumental in helping lead Escogido to the playoffs in the Dominican. Santos, acquired in 2021 for CJ Chatham, had a 2.70 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. Cordero's pinch-hit solo homer kick-started a ninth-inning rally as the Leones over Cibao in the winner take-all mini-playoff.

Check in on all the Red Sox participating in fall and winter leagues on our page, and catch up our latest weekly recap


Where are they now
Tim Federowicz (pictured) has retired as a player and will become the manager of the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. After going to the Dodgers in 2011 as part of the four-team trade that brought Erik Bedard to the Red Sox, Federowicz reached the majors the following summer. He went on to play in 163 games over parts of eight major league seasons. In addition to his time with the Dodgers, he saw major league action with the Cubs, Giants, Astros, Reds, and Rangers, getting a World Series ring for his 17 games with Chicago in 2016. 

Another member of the 2008 draft class seems to have found a home in the Korean League. Casey Kelly, the former first-round draft pick and top-ranked prospect, resigned with the LG Twins where he has pitched since 2019. Over three seasons, the right-hander is 42-26 with a 2.96 ERA in 525 1/3 innings across 86 starts. 

A special good luck to Jon Meoli. The longtime SoxProspects.com contributor and former co-owner has been working for the last several years as the Orioles beat writer for the Baltimore Sun. He recently departed the Sun to begin his own newsletter, Maximizing Playoff Odds. Check it out.


As always, check out our News Page and our Podcasts Page to stay up to date on everything going on in the system.

Photo Credit: Jackie Bradley Jr., Rich Hill, Tim Federowicz by Kelly O'Connor