Alex Cora is not the only member of the Red Sox organization who is back on the job after a season-long suspension.
J.T. Watkins, whom MLB suspended for the 2020 season for the alleged use of a video replay monitor to decode opposing teams' sign sequences during games in 2018, has returned to work with the Red Sox. The former advance scouting assistant and video replay coordinator has joined the team’s professional scouting staff, according to multiple major league sources.
Watkins is also going to work in the Puerto Rican Winter League with the Caguas Criollos, a team managed by Red Sox coach Ramón Vázquez. Watkins is slated to work with the team’s catchers and also to do advance scouting work.
Watkins, 31, is the son of Red Sox amateur scout Danny Watkins and a West Point graduate who spent parts of three seasons playing in the Red Sox minor league system (2012 and 2015-16), with his playing career wrapped around his military service. In 2017, he was hired as an advance scouting assistant — breaking down video of opponents to help the team develop its game plans — while also assuming replay duties.
A 2017 MLB investigation found that Watkins had been part of an MLB rules violation because he’d texted sign sequence information (which sign in a catcher’s sequence was being used to identify a pitch) to the Fitbit of a Red Sox trainer, which was then conveyed to Red Sox players — potentially positioning a runner on second to steal a catcher’s sign and relay it to a batter. While sign stealing and sign sequence stealing are not legal, the act of texting information to the dugout was deemed a violation of an MLB prohibition on the use of electronic devices in the dugout. The Red Sox were fined for the infraction.
This year, an MLB investigation into sign sequence stealing by the 2018 Red Sox found that Watkins — in his capacity as in-game replay monitor — used the live replay feed to identify opponents' sign sequences and convey them to players. In his conversations with MLB investigators, Watkins — who was part of the legal pregame efforts to decode opponents' sign sequences — vehemently denied the charge that he had used in-game information to revise sign-sequence information from the pregame report.
Nonetheless, the MLB investigation concluded that Watkins had been part of the illegal use of a live replay feed to steal sign sequence information. In addition to penalizing the Red Sox with the loss of a second-round pick, MLB suspended Watkins for the 2020 season. (He was also banned from serving as a replay room operator in the 2021 season.)
But once the World Series concluded, so did Watkins’s suspension, opening the door for him to return to the Red Sox. As a pro scout, Watkins will be part of a staff responsible for evaluating players in other organizations for potential trades, waiver claims, and signings.