Two years ago, Michael Chavis entered Spring Training as the No. 1 prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, as rated by MLB Pipeline. And when Chavis got his first chance to live up to that ranking, he did not disappoint.
In his first month in the Major Leagues, from April 20-May 20, 2019, Chavis slashed .296/.389./.592 with nine homers in 113 plate appearances.
However, in the 427 plate appearances Chavis has had since then, his slash line has slipped to .228/.281/.382 with 14 homers and 147 strikeouts.
That slippage leaves Chavis fighting for a roster spot this spring. The right-handed hitter still has Minor League options, which gives the Red Sox flexibility if he doesn’t make a strong impression in Spring Training.
“There’s nothing guaranteed on this roster. Of course, there are certain guys who are here to get ready for the season, but in his case, he needs to prove to us that he’s made adjustments throughout the offseason,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “And although Spring Training is Spring Training, I would love to see him making hard contact, cutting the chase rate, and if he does that, he’ll put himself in a good position.”
Opponents adjusted to Chavis by throwing him a steady diet of high heaters, and thus far, the right-handed hitter hasn’t been able to make the adjustment.
“Michael, he had a great start in 2019. He did an outstanding job hitting the ball up the middle,” said Cora. “Obviously, the home runs, we know he can do that. But then the league [made adjustments]. That series against the Astros -- I think it was back-to-back weekends -- I think he faced the best pitchers in the league and they exposed him. He needs to make adjustments.”
Though it seems unlikely Chavis can earn a spot in the starting lineup, he can serve a purpose with the versatility he has to play first base, second base, third base and left field.
“The thing with him [is] we like the swing, we like the power, but he needs to make adjustments,” said Cora. “He needs to make contact. He needs to hit lefties, that’s very important.”
With the Red Sox likely to carry only 12 position players at the start of the season, Chavis could be in a battle for the final roster spot with utility infielder Christian Arroyo.
Bloom keeping tabs on JBJ
For whatever reason, the market has been slow to develop for center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., and he remains a free agent.
While it seems unlikely the Red Sox can sign Bradley and stay below the CBT threshold of $210 million, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom continues to monitor the situation. Bradley has spent his entire career with the Red Sox, having been drafted by the club in 2011.
“We continue to stay in touch and make sure we’re in touch with [agent] Scott [Boras] about his situation. We’re going to do that until it resolves,” said Bloom. “Obviously, as the winter has gone on, we haven’t let that prevent us from making other moves when we’ve seen opportunity to add good players that fit us and that can bolster this roster, but we love Jackie and we’ve stayed in touch with Scott on him throughout the entire winter.”
Cora opened some eyes in his Sunday Zoom session when he made a Kevin Brown comparison with free-agent acquisition Garrett Richards. The power righty threw live batting practice during Sunday’s workout at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Fla.
“You see Richards warming up today and I pulled [first-base coach Tom Goodwin] aside and said, ‘Look at this guy. He reminds you of Kevin Brown,'” Cora said. “And Garrett so far, he's had a lot of injuries. We talk about his stuff, and we're comparing him to one of the best that we've seen.”
Brown won 211 games over a fine career that included six All-Star appearances. What similarity does Cora see with Richards?
“Sinker. Just the sinker,” said Cora. "Just uncomfortable [for hitters]. You can see him in his windup, the way he strides, it's different. It just came up. I'm not comparing him with Kevin. But stuff-wise, that's where we're at, like Nate [Eovaldi’s] stuff, and Richards, it's different. It's actually fun to watch. I saw that live BP and was like, ‘OK, this might be cool.’”
Could the Red Sox visit some contract extensions during Spring Training? If so, Rafael Devers and Eduardo Rodriguez could be top candidates. Devers has three more years of club control, while Rodriguez is eligible for free agency after this season.
“We’ve talked about it internally some. I expect as we get into the spring, those conversations will pick up. Don’t know what it will lead to, obviously,” Bloom said. “If and when they do pick up, it’s not something we’re going to speak publicly about unless there’s something to report. But this is the time when a lot of those things often happen, so I would expect we’ll at least have some conversations about it with some guys.”
You can’t wipe the smile off Cora’s face when the subject comes up of shortened Grapefruit League games. Per new rules this spring, exhibition games through March 13 are scheduled for seven innings. The managers of each team have the option of agreeing to extend the game to nine innings or shorten it to five. One exception is that nationally televised contests during that window will go nine innings.
“We will play seven-inning games. We’re not playing five, we’re covered as far as the pitching,” said Cora. “Now you don’t need backups. I do like it. I think seven innings is good for everybody, including the position players, so that’s where we’re going to go.”
Monday is the first full-squad workout, which is when the Red Sox always hold a company-wide meeting that includes ownership, the front office, managers, coaches and players.
This year’s meeting will be a little different due to COVID-19 in that it will be outdoors in the seats of JetBlue Park instead of in the players' cafeteria.
“I think tomorrow is an important one, having the whole group and talk about what we’re planning on doing and how we’re trying to accomplish that,” said Cora.
Pitchers and catchers will work out prior to the meeting, and position players will work out after.