There’s been a lot of Red Sox news in the last few weeks and, with that, many notebook pages filled with scrawls. Let’s empty that out:
▪ It was Chaim Bloom who signed Matt Barnes to a two-year, $18.75 million extension July 11, 2021. Then it was Bloom who designated Barnes for assignment 18 months later.
What changed? Barnes.
From the start of the 2016 season until he agreed to the extension, Barnes had a 3.74 ERA, 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 1.27 WHIP. He was one of the best setup men in the game.
In the time since, he has a 4.87 ERA, 8.79 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 1.50 WHIP.
Pre-contract, opponents had a .651 OPS against Barnes. It has been .739 since.
Was that a product of how heavily Barnes was used from 2016-20, the shoulder injury he tried to pitch through last season before going on the injured list, or being used as a closer?
Probably all of the above in some percentage. But the Sox lost faith in Barnes and decided they preferred their projections on guys such as Ryan Brasier, Kaleb Ort, and Wyatt Mills.
“It gets to be forward-looking with everybody else that we have on our roster,” Bloom said.
The Sox are on the hook for $7.5 million. Any team that signs Barnes will be responsible only for the MLB minimum of $720,000.
Barnes leaves the Red Sox third in team history with 429 appearances and with a World Series ring. The Sox likely wouldn’t have won the 2018 World Series without him. Barnes appeared in 10 of the 14 games that postseason and allowed one run on three hits over 8⅔ innings.
▪ Whether he likes it or not, his new contract makes Rafael Devers the face of the Sox and a team leader.
He’s the only position player remaining with a 2018 World Series and one of only three overall, along with Brasier and Chris Sale.
“They want me to be a leader and I get it. I still feel like I’m really young to be that leader,” Devers said. “We have a lot of veteran players on our team and you have to give them their respect, as well. The leadership title makes me feel a little old.”
At 26, it’s time to step up.
That quote from Devers came via a translation from Daveson Perez, a team employee. Devers has improved his English significantly in the last year but prefers to conduct on-the-record interviews with a translator to make sure his words won’t be misconstrued.
That’s understandable. But Alex Cora is prodding Devers to speak English with the media and that will happen over time. It has to because he’s one of the few players left who can speak credibly about playing in Boston and what it takes to win.
“I hope [reporters] get to know him better, that he opens up a little bit more,” Cora said.
▪ Adam Duvall said something a bit unusual this past week. He plans to watch video of other center fielders making plays at Fenway Park to get a better feel for playing there.
What’s Duvall looking for?
“How I can learn to play the ball off the wall and the ball in the gap,” he said. “Those things before I even step foot in the stadium. I’m thinking of ways I can try and familiarize myself with the park and the dimensions and how to play certain balls before I even get there.
“There will be a small learning curve there because it’s a very unique park.”
Duvall has played four games at Fenway in his career, all in right field.
The 34-year-old Duvall didn’t play center field at any level until 2020 and has only 68 starts there. His defensive metrics are much better in the corners and just a bit above average in center.
The Sox believe Duvall can handle the position. He’ll likely get some help from Kiké Hernández depending how often the Sox are comfortable playing Christian Arroyo and Adalberto Mondesi at the same time. Which brings us to another topic . . .
▪ That the Sox are counting on Arroyo and Mondesi to play regularly is worrisome.
Arroyo has been on the injured list six times in the last five years, missing what amounts to a full season.
Arroyo lost weight this offseason and worked on flexibility. The Sox are hopeful that will keep him on the field, but can they count on that?
Mondesi has been on the IL seven times in the last five years and missed two seasons in all. Both players had distinct injuries each time.
The Sox still seem to have a bench spot open and another infielder would make sense.
▪ The six-year, $140 million contract Trevor Story agreed to last March isn’t anything to be upset about. But in the time since, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, and Trea Turner averaged $239.5 million in their contracts after becoming free agents.
Story was a year too early. He laughed when that was pointed out.
“You see that. But things happen for a reason and I’m happy where I’m at,” he said.
Story has his elbow in a brace after undergoing surgery earlier this month. He will join the team for spring training and continue his rehab work. Still undecided is whether he will stay with the Sox during the regular season or remain at Fenway South.
▪ In a fun way, Triston Casas is a quirky dude.
He’s growing a cheesy mustache, posting silly comments on Twitter (”Nothing better than a good piece of watermelon … also nothing worse than a bad piece of watermelon”), and isn’t afraid to show his personality in public.
To his credit, Casas said he’s going to spring training with the goal of winning a job, even though it was essentially given to him when Eric Hosmer was released.
“Contribute every day, that’s my mentality,” Casas said.
Casas faced new left fielder Masataka Yoshida in the Olympics in 2021. He came away impressed.
“I thought he was the most elite hitter in that lineup,” Casas said. “When he stepped to the plate, his stature isn’t imposing but his bat-to-ball skills are elite. His lefthanded swing is really nice and I think it’s going to play great at our stadium.”
▪ In an age where most teams employ two or three hitting coaches, a team’s identity at the plate is still formed by the players and how they share information.
J.D. Martinez, a hitting savant, was at the center of the conversation for five years. Now he’s a Dodger and the Sox’ projected lineup has only three players — Devers, Hernández, and Alex Verdugo — who have been regular starters with the Sox.
“In our job, it’s all about relationships,” hitting coach Pete Fatse said. “It starts with that. I’m excited to do that with the new guys. We’ll learn together, learn from each other.”
Fatse has spent much of the winter watching video and reviewing data to get to know his new hitters.
“It’s a process and you spend a lot of time studying,” he said.
▪ In an appearance on “The Show” podcast with New York Post reporters Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman, Bloom said he talked to “500 fans” at Winter Weekend after getting booed and “had a blast.”
Five hundred fans in a day and a half?
▪ In a sign that we’re all getting older, Fred Lynn posted on Twitter that he’s getting ready for a double partial knee placement.
“Maybe too many run-ins with the Green Monster?” he wrote.
Lynn turns 71 Friday.
Rolen a thoughtful choice for Hall
Part of what makes the Hall of Fame special is that it’s hard to get that plaque. Only two players have gotten in via the BBWAA ballot over the last three seasons. For many players, it’s a frustrating journey as their candidates are vetted over a period of years.
Based on e-mails this past week, some people felt Scott Rolen was undeserving because he had only 10.2 percent of the vote in 2018. But his rise — along with those of Todd Helton and Billy Wagner — is a product of open-mindedness to look beyond traditional statistics and having a greater appreciation of defense.
That the Hall rules allow a player to be on the ballot for 10 years encourages voters to reconsider candidates. That’s not a bad thing.
Whether you agree on Rolen being a Hall of Famer or not, some of the tidbits from his career are interesting:
He was an all-state guard as a senior at Jasper (Ind.) High who averaged 26.9 points. Rolen had a scholarship to play basketball at Georgia and decided instead to sign with the Phillies.
Once Rolen reached the majors in 1996, he only played third base. He never took even one day as a designated hitter. In the expansion era, only fellow Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith (2,511 games at shortstop) and Brooks Robinson (2,870 games at third base) played more games at one position than Rolen (2,023).
Rolen was 0 for 15 in the 2004 World Series against the Red Sox but only struck out once. He had a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning of Game 2 off Mike Timlin but otherwise was not a factor.
Rolen made up for it in 2006 when the Cardinals beat the Tigers in five games. He was 8 of 19 (.421) with three doubles and a homer.
Rolen is only the 18th third baseman in the Hall. He and Chipper Jones are the only two who made their major league debuts in the last 40 years.
Before that you have to go back to Wade Boggs, who debuted in 1982.
Another great third baseman, Adrian Beltré, makes his debut on the ballot next year. He should be an easy choice given his 3,166 hits, 477 home runs, and 5 Gold Gloves.
Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, and David Wright also will be on the ballot for the first time.
The Hall Class of 2024 could be a crowded one. Helton was only 11 votes shy of induction this year and Wagner reached 68.1 percent.
Carlos Beltrán is another one to watch. He received 46.5 percent in his first year on the ballot as many voters held the Astros’ cheating scandal against him.
This could be a similar case to that of Roberto Alomar, who received 73.7 percent when he debuted in 2010. Voters were clearly mindful of the incident in 1996 when Alomar spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck.
Alomar then zoomed up to 90 percent his second year. Like Alomar, Beltrán has clear Hall of Fame credentials and his Hall fate will depend on how long voters want to punish him.
The only candidate on the ballot who dropped in percentage from last year was Omar Vizquel, who fell 4.4 percent. Vizquel reached 52.6 percent in 2020 but has since dropped to 19.5 percent after domestic violence and sexual harassment allegations.
Might Ohtani be on the move?
The news that Arte Moreno decided not to sell the Angels is good news for potential suitors of Shohei Ohtani, who can be a free agent after the coming season.
An ambitious new owner might have been able to persuade Ohtani to stay. Now he’s likely more determined to leave. The Angels haven’t made the playoffs since 2014 and haven’t won a playoff game since 2009 on Moreno’s watch.
Ohtani, who is a student of baseball history, has made it clear he wants to play in the World Series and has already wasted five years.
The Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, and Padres are well positioned to both afford Ohtani and build a competitive team around him. They were finalists when he was a free agent in 2017, along with the Cubs and Rangers.
The immediate question is whether the Angels will trade their star pitcher and DH if contract negotiations stall out.
New Astros general manager Dana Brown was the center fielder and leadoff hitter of the famed 1987 Seton Hall team that sent Craig Biggio, Kevin Morton, John Valentin, and Mo Vaughn to the majors. Brown’s playing career ended in Double A in 1991 and he became an accomplished scout. First baseman Marteese Robinson was actually the best player on that ‘87 team, hitting .529 with a 1.421 OPS, 16 homers, and 90 RBIs. Robinson was an All-American and the Big East Player of the Year. Like Brown, he reached Double A then went on to a career in scouting. He’s now out of baseball and working in human resources . . . The Rays, who seem to know a thing or two about pitchers, signed lefthander Jeffrey Springs to a four-year extension worth $31 million with a team option for $15 million for 2027. This would be the same Jeffrey Springs who had a 7.08 ERA in 16 relief appearances for the Red Sox in 2020 then was traded to the Rays with righthander Chris Mazza for catcher Ronaldo Hernández and infielder Nick Sogard. Springs is 14-6 since with a 2.70 ERA for Tampa Bay. He was 8-5, 2.66 in 25 starts last season. Hernández was outrighted off the 40-man roster in December and Sogard is an organizational player . . . Cardinals outfielder Lars Nootbaar will play for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. Nootbaar is an American who grew up in California. His mother is Japanese and his father is of Dutch, English, and German descent. Under WBC rules, he’s eligible and Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama needed another outfielder. Nootbaar does not speak Japanese . . . The Rays will play their first spring training home game in Orlando Feb. 28 against the Yankees. Their remaining 12 home games will be 1 p.m. starts at Tropicana Field because their facility in Port Charlotte was badly damaged by Hurricane Ian. Good seats are still available . . . The baseball broadcasting world had some drama this past week. The Cardinals, in need of a television play-by-play announcer, were interested in Aaron Goldsmith, who called Pawtucket Red Sox games in 2012 and has since done television and radio for the Mariners. Goldsmith, a 39-year-old St. Louis native, seemed like a perfect fit for a coveted job. But he elected to stay in Seattle for family reasons. “We have all we need here,” Goldsmith told the Seattle Times. The Cardinals then hired Chip Caray away from the Braves. Caray is the grandson of the legendary Harry Caray and son of longtime Braves announcer Skip Caray. Chip Caray grew up in St. Louis . . . Happy birthday to Morgan Burkhart, who is 51. A burly DH and a first baseman who switch-hit, Burkhart appeared in 36 games for the Red Sox from 2000-01 after being purchased from the independent Richmond Roosters. Burkhart was 18 of 53 with 14 RBI in his first 16 games and was headed for glory before finishing the season 3 for 20. He was released in 2001 and played briefly for the Royals in 2003 before finishing his career in Mexico. Burkhart was with the Padres last season as a batting practice pitcher and instructor.