Major League Baseball and the Players Association have not met since the lockout went into effect in the early hours of Dec. 2, and it’s doubtful any progress will be made before Jan. 1.
Spring training does not start until mid-February so there’s time to come to an agreement without interrupting the usual rhythms of the season.
Meanwhile, dozens of free agents are unmoored, unable to negotiate with teams until the lockout is lifted. Depending on how long the sides take to reach an agreement, moves could come at a frenzied pace before camps open.
Here’s a look at the most notable players remaining on the market.
Starting pitchers: The most prominent starters signed early, as did many on the second tier. Carlos Rodón is the most intriguing option left.
The lefthander had a dominant first half before a shoulder injury limited his use in the final two months, although he did pitch well when he was on the mound. That the White Sox let Rodón go without a qualifying offer suggests they had concerns.
Agent Scott Boras is seeking a multiyear deal. But at 29, Rodón may be well-served to take a one-year deal (albeit at a high salary) and rebuild his value. That worked for Robbie Ray.
Clayton Kershaw pitched only 19⅓ innings after June 27 but didn’t require elbow surgery. A return to the Dodgers is likely unless the Rangers can convince him to finish his career at home in Texas.
Zack Greinke is 38. But he gave the Astros 171 innings last season and suggested during the playoffs he wants to keep pitching. Michael Pineda hasn’t gotten through an entire season since 2016 but had a 3.62 ERA for the Twins in 21 starts last season.
Other possibilities include Tyler Anderson, Johnny Cueto, and Danny Duffy.
Relief pitchers: This group was picked over, too. Kenley Jansen, a career Dodger, may not be positioned to make $20 million again. But there’s probably a deal to be made to stay in Los Angeles.
Joe Kelly, who ended the season with a biceps strain, was cut loose when the Dodgers gave him a $4 million buyout. Kelly has been a little better than a league-average pitcher for his career but did maintain his velocity last season.
From there, Andrew Chafin, Collin McHugh, and Ryan Tepera are the best choices. Japanese veteran Tomoyuki Sugano was posted by the Yomiuri Giants.
Infielders: Carlos Correa is going to get paid by somebody, maybe the Yankees. Trevor Story could replace Correa in Houston unless the Phillies make an aggressive move.
It seems strange that the Braves and Freddie Freeman didn’t make a deal before the lockout. Anthony Rizzo’s landing spot isn’t obvious. Maybe he’s Plan B for the Braves.
It drops off fast after that. Kyle Seager is 34 and has hit .224 with a .729 OPS the last four seasons. Veterans Josh Harrison, Brad Miller, Tommy Pham, and Jonathan Villar are second base/utility options.
Outfielders: Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Soler helped the Braves win a World Series but probably aren’t going back to Atlanta. The defensively challenged Soler will be helped if baseball goes to a universal DH.
The same is true for Kyle Schwarber. Red Sox fans want him back, but making the lineup work with J.D. Martinez was awkward for two months, never mind six. Nick Castellanos will mash for somebody, that’s what he does. Maybe Seattle?
Japanese star Seiya Suzuki, a righthanded hitter, would be a nice fit for the Red Sox. Suzuki has been posted by the Hiroshima Carp and would require a significant financial commitment.
Michael Conforto had a poor walk year with the Mets and could be a bargain considering his .843 OPS the five seasons before that.
Designated hitters: Nelson Cruz (41) and Albert Pujols (42 in January) aren’t retiring. But only a few teams would want to carry a full-time or platoon DH. Better to sign Castellanos, Schwarber, or Soler.
Catchers: It’s mostly aging backups at this point. Those available include 37-year-old Robinson Chirinos, 38-year-old Kurt Suzuki, 34-year-old Wilson Ramos, and 33-year-old Austin Romine.
Grayson Greiner, a relative youngster at 29, has been adequate defensively in his career but struggled at times last season and the Tigers non-tendered him.
Red Sox add pitching depth
The lockout has limited baseball news to a trickle. But the Red Sox made some moves this past week, selecting lefthander Austin Lambright from the Royals and righthander Brian Keller from the Yankees in the Triple A phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
The Rays have used every avenue possible to improve their pitching staff over the years, creating what seems like a torrent of useful arms. Chaim Bloom brought that “never be satisfied” ethos to the Sox.
Lambright will be a good story if he ever helps the Sox. The 27-year-old lefty had a 6.88 ERA in three seasons at Abilene Christian before transferring to Division 2 Central Oklahoma and pitching his way into the 10th round of the 2018 draft.
His twin brother Brandon, a righthander, went in the 27th round of the 2017 draft to the Rockies. He was released in 2020.
Austin Lambright has a chance. He’s back on a throwing program after a shoulder injury caused him to miss last season. He has 105 strikeouts over 69⅔ innings in the minors. There were 52 walks, too, which is why the Royals left him unprotected. The hope for the Sox is that their coaching staff can solve the command issues.
“We like his power potential when healthy,” Sox pro scouting director Gus Quattlebaum said.
The Sox see Keller as a multi-inning reliever. The 27-year-old, who made it to Triple A last season, has been primarily a starter in his career.
Minor league Rule 5 picks cost $24,500 and there are no requirements in terms of what roster they land on. There’s little risk in trying.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ Bench coach Will Venable is a candidate to become the next manager in Oakland. Athletics coaches Darren Bush, Marcus Jensen, and Mark Kotsay are also in the mix along with Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Venable, who joined the Red Sox coaching staff prior to last season, seems sure to be a manager at some point. He has all the skills team value, particularly being able to merge his playing experience with an appreciation for how to use analytics in game planning.
▪ The Sox had 34 players on the 40-man roster when Bloom took over after the 2019 season. Only 10 of them remain.
Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and Christian Vázquez are it for position players. The pitchers are Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Nate Eovaldi, Darwinzon Hernandez, Chris Sale, and Josh Taylor.
▪ When David Ortiz was honored at The Tradition this past week, what was perhaps most notable was who presented him with the award.
It was Red Sox senior vice president of community, alumni, and player relations Pam Kenn. The Burlington native and UMass graduate has been with the Sox since 2000 and moved into the upper echelon of influential women in baseball.
Ortiz trusts her implicitly, as did Terry Francona, John Farrell, and now Alex Cora. Kenn was media relations director before moving into her current role and walked the fine line of serving both the team and those who cover it without losing her balance.
Plus, she got Ortiz to an event on time, which is an achievement few can claim. Kenn wore leather pants and a sequined jacket on stage and joked that she was worried Big Papi would have the same outfit.
▪ Triple A Worcester’s wildly successful first season won awards. The WooSox were Minor League Baseball’s community champion winner in recognition of their outreach into Worcester and neighboring towns.
MiLB also selected Worcester as the winner of the Copa de la Diversión (Fun Cup) for connecting with the Hispanic community.
The “Los Wepas” hosted a series of games highlighting different Spanish-speaking countries. Community leaders were honored, food vendors were invited to Polar Park, and the national anthem of the featured country was performed.
New Hall of Famer had local connection
Bud Fowler, who was elected to the Hall of Fame via the Early Baseball committee, started his career on the ball fields of New England.
Fowler was born in Fort Plain, N.Y., in 1858 and spent at least 10 years growing up in Cooperstown. Historians believe he was the first Black professional player and that his career started in Chelsea in approximately 1878.
A pitcher and infielder, Fowler pitched for a local amateur team against the Boston Red Stockings, then of the National League.
The Globe had a story on the game, a 2-1 victory by the Stockings, that included Fowler giving up only three hits on a muddy field.
Fowler also played for the Lynn Live Oaks, a minor league team. He’s credited with integrating the minor league ranks.
In time, Lynn merged with a team in Worcester. Fowler also played for a club in Malden in what was known as the Eastern Massachusetts League. Fowler then played for a team in Portland and another in Montpelier.
There are several accounts of Fowler impressing fans across Massachusetts with his curveball. His career lasted until 1895 with teams around the country.
Fowler was one of six candidates elected to the Hall this past week. He and Negro Leagues icon Buck O’Neil emerged from the Early Baseball committee.
The Golden Days committee elected Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, and Tony Oliva. Dick Allen missed by one vote.
Those six would join any players elected via the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. That had to come as a relief to the Hall given the chance no player will be elected by the BBWAA.
Kaat and Oliva, both 83, were teammates in Minnesota from 1962-73.
“A great day for the Twins,” said Kaat, who played 25 years and has been a broadcaster since 1984, the year after he retired.
Oliva described Miñoso as the Jackie Robinson of Cuba for how he helped pave the way for other players to follow. Miñoso was far from being the first Cuban major leaguer. But he was quickly successful, becoming an All-Star in his first full season in the majors. Oliva took a similar path, leading the American League in hitting his first two full seasons.
Oliva is a frequent visitor to spring training with the Twins, as is Luis Tiant with the Red Sox. When they get together in Fort Myers before a game, it’s a living history lesson listening to them talk.
“I’m so glad for him,” said Tiant, who deserves election when the Modern Baseball committee meets in 2023. “Tony was a great hitter and he had everybody’s respect.”
The Hall also will honor Jack Graney with the Ford Frick Award for broadcasting. Graney, who died 43 years ago, was on a ballot of old-time broadcasters.
The Frick Award will consider team-specific announcers next year with national announcers considered in 2023. Then it goes back to pioneer broadcasters.
The Hall should consider honoring the pioneers every seven years and inducting more current or recently retired broadcasters while they are here to enjoy the acclaim.
Joe Castiglione and Suzyn Waldman are among those worthy of the honor.
Ran into Bill Lee at The Tradition. The Spaceman, who turns 75 this month, is recovering from a calf strain and is eager to get back to pitching in the amateur and semi-pro games he still frequents. As Lee was telling stories, he mentioned his success against Hank Aaron. Off the top of his head, he said Aaron was 2 for 12 against him and homered once at Fenway Park in 1975. Lee was almost exactly right. Aaron was 3 for 12 and did indeed homer at Fenway in ‘75. Lee also talked about his college days at Southern Cal. He won 29 games for Trojans from 1966-68 and is tied for second in program history with a 1.92 ERA. Lee also won two games in the ‘68 College World Series and was on the All-Tournament team as USC won the championship. “I’d be in their Hall of Fame except I’m a socialist,” he proclaimed … As the Mets narrow their field of managerial candidates, Buck Showalter is emerging as a favorite. That’s no surprise given his experience as a manager and familiarity with New York. The Mets are a win-now team, not a training ground. Brad Ausmus, Clayton McCullough, Joe Espada, Bob Geren, Don Kelly, and Matt Quatraro also have interviewed. All are among the usual suspects in managerial searches outside of McCullough, a 41-year-old former minor league catcher who managed seven seasons in the Toronto organization before joining the Dodgers’ player development staff in 2015 and becoming their first base coach last season. If Showalter is the choice, that could lead to a position for Brian Butterfield, the former Red Sox coach who was let go by the Angels after the season. They worked together with the Diamondbacks from 1996-2000. The Mets also could consider former Pirates and White Sox coach Joey Cora for a spot on their staff … The Dodgers made an interesting pick in the minor league Rule 5 Draft, taking Carson Fulmer from the Reds. Fulmer, 27, was the eighth overall pick of the 2015 draft. He’s 6-9 with a 6.41 ERA in 74 major league games with the White Sox, Tigers, Orioles, and Reds. Being a high pick means you’ll always get a second, third, and fourth chance … Clint Frazier, who hit .186 last season, took a few shots at the Yankees after signing with the Cubs. He poked fun at their hair policy and his supposedly asking for Mickey Mantle’s retired No. 7 after being traded to New York. CC Sabathia has had enough. “If I see another Clint Frazier story, I’m gonna punch somebody in the [expletive] face,” he said on his podcast. “[Expletive] ridiculous. That kid played 15 games in the [expletive] big leagues.” Sabathia is exaggerating, but the point stands. Frazier was the fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft and to this point seems more concerned with publicity than performance … Mets owner Steve Cohen’s large art collection includes a piece called “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” created by Damien Hirst in 1991. It’s a 14-foot tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde in a display case. Cohen purchased the piece in 2004 for $8 million-$12 million, according to various reports. Cohen then paid to replace the shark in 2006 after it started to deteriorate. Cohen also owns a Picasso he paid $150 million for and a Jeff Koons sculpture he dropped $91.1 million on. So Max Scherzer for three years and $130 million wasn’t much of a stretch … Happy birthday to Steve Farr, who is 65. The righthander played in the majors from 1984-94 with the last 11 games of his career coming with the Red Sox. Farr and lefthander Chris Nabholz were acquired from Cleveland for righthander John Russell on July 1. Farr allowed nine runs on 24 hits over 13 innings before the players went on strike on Aug. 12.