Red Sox and Jorge Alfaro agree to minor league deal

Red Sox and Jorge Alfaro agree to minor league deal

Red Sox OK with free agent backstop Jorge Alfaro on a minor league contract, reports MassLive’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). He will receive a base salary of $2 million if he cracks the MLB roster and would have the option to retire and return to free agency on June 1 and July 1 if he has not yet been called up.

Alfaro, 29, has played in each of the last seven major league campaigns. A top prospect in the Rangers and Phillies farm systems, he went from Texas to Philadelphia in the Cole Hamels blockbuster in 2015. Alfaro made his debut for Philadelphia in 2016 and would spend part of the next two seasons as a primary receiver. He showed the power and massive arm strength that had made him such a prized talent in the minor leagues, but he was knocked out in 35.2% of his plate appearances as a Phillie.

After the 2018 season, Philadelphia packed it with sixto sanchez to the Marlins, division rivals, for JT Realmuto. Miami had hoped Alfaro would step in as a big league-ready replacement for its outgoing star receiver. Alfaro served as their primary catcher for the next three seasons, but continued to perform at an inconsistent level, largely due to his strikeout issues.

The Padres fired the Colombian-born player in a minor trade last offseason. Alfaro cracked the opening day roster after massive spring training and went on to appear in just over half of the team’s games. He had 274 plate appearances, hitting .246/.285/.383 with seven homers and a strikeout percentage of 35.8%. At the end of the season, San Diego turned him down rather than retain him for a projected referee salary of $3.6 million.

In just under 500 MLB games, Alfaro is a .256/.305/.396 hitter. He caught 47 homers and made a lot of hard contacts. His on-base numbers were tempered by his below-average takedown and walk profile, as he shot free passes 4.2% of the time while stoking more than 34% of his trips. It’s been a somewhat similar boom or bust profile defensively. Alfaro has a top-tier throwing arm and has reduced base-stealing attempts by 27.5% throughout his career. Yet he’s also considered a below-average coach and wide receiver, according to Statcast and Baseball Prospectus metrics.

While Alfaro’s overall job has had its ups and downs, it represents a low-risk upside game for a Boston club that has an uncertain contagious mix. Reese McGuire and Connor Wang currently looks set for a loose peloton arrangement behind the dish. They are the only backers on the Red Sox’s 40-man roster, and neither has long histories as MLB regulars. Alfaro is an experienced depth option who can fight for a job in spring training and/or start the season at Triple-A Worcester as injury insurance.

Alfaro has over five years of major league service, which means he cannot be opted for the minor leagues. If he cracks the MLB roster at some point, Boston will have to either keep him in the majors or make him available to other clubs through trades or waivers. If Alfaro spends 89 days on MLB’s active roster or injured roster next season, he would exceed the six-year service threshold and qualify for free agency next offseason. If he is on the roster for 88 days or less in total but out of the 40 players at the end of the season, he would be eligible for arbitration for the 2024 campaign.

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