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Hot Stove roundup, 11 a.m.: Johnny Damon talks up Tampa

12.08.10 at 11:07 am ET
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Few players generated more rumors last offseason than Johnny Damon, who went back-and-forth with the Yankees before landing a one-year deal with the Tigers. Damon is generating some fodder once again, telling Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that he would like to fill the Rays’ vacancy in left field. The 37-year-old talked with the Rays last spring, but they didn’t have a regular role for him then.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ Right-hander Matt Garza is the latest Rays player to be the subject of trade rumors. Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports Wednesday that the Rangers and Brewers have shown interest in Garza. The 27-year-0ld Garza is arbitration eligible this winter after making $3.35 million in 2010, but he is under club control for two more seasons.

‘™¦ Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweets that the Rangers are fielding offers for infielder Michael Young. Young, 34, hit .284 with 21 home runs in 2010, and he is due $48 million over the next three seasons. Rosenthal added that the Rangers would be willing to pick up a small part of Young’s salary in a trade. The Rockies are reported to have shown interest.

‘™¦ Kerry Wood finished strong after being traded to the Yankees last season, and although Cliff Lee is the club’s first priority, the Yankees still have interest in bringing Wood back to the Bronx, tweeted Rosenthal. But there are a number of other clubs looking for relief pitching, including the White Sox, who may be interested in Wood, although Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times believes Wood will be too expensive.

‘™¦ The Yankees have a lot more than just Wood and Lee to consider in the bullpen for 2011, as there is still no official decision from Andy Pettitte on next season. On Tuesday, a close friend of the left-hander told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark that “if Pettitte had to make a decision today on whether to play in 2011, he would still lean towards retirement,” and then added, “but that can always change.” The Yankees, who are under the impression the 38-year-old will retire, haven’t pressure Pettitte to make a decision but would clearly like to know his plans one way or the other. Pettitte earned $11.75 million last season, and if he isn’t coming back it would both create greater urgency for the Yankees to sign Lee and provide more payroll flexibility for the club to make a run at Lee and Carl Crawford. And a source told ESPN’s Buster Olney that general manager Brian Cashman had a long meeting Tuesday night with representatives of Crawford.

‘™¦ Buster Olney also tweeted that negotiations for catcher Russell Martin have reached the point where teams are making offers to his agent, Matt Colleran. The Yankees and Red Sox are reported to be in the center of the pursuit. Martin could play a prominent role with either team, as Jorge Posada will be the designated hitter for the Yankees next season, and the unproven Jarrod Saltalamacchia is projected to be the starting catcher for the Red Sox.

‘™¦ A judge is pushing back the date for Roger Clemens‘ trial three months to July so attorneys can review “voluminous” evidence. At a hearing Wednesday, prosecutors said the case has produced some 54,000 pages of evidence. Clemens’ attorney, Rusty Hardin, said his team needs more time to go though the information and hire an expert witness to examine the scientific evidence against Clemens. Clemens is facing charges that he lied about using performance-enhancing drugs.

Read More: Cliff Lee, Hot Stove, Johnny Damon, matt garza

Sources: Red Sox not looking to move Daisuke Matsuzaka

12.08.10 at 10:37 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — According to multiple major league sources, the Red Sox have shown no active desire to move starter Daisuke Matsuzaka to this point of the winter meetings.

While the Sox have both Tim Wakefield and Felix Doubront available as potential rotation alternatives, the Sox currently view it as likely that Doubront could contribute to the 2011 team as a reliever. The Sox lack other reliable rotation alternatives in the upper levels of their minor league system, and so if they moved Matsuzaka in a trade, they would likely need to jump into an extremely shallow free agent pool to find further depth. The Sox have typically made a point of having seven solid big league starting options for any season, given the likely attrition of starting depth over the course of the season.

Several talent evaluators believe that it is possible that Matsuzaka — a study in unpredictability as a member of the Red Sox — could thrive if moved to the AL West or the National League, where bigger ballparks and less ferocious lineups would be more forgiving of his flyball tendencies. Even so, Sox manager Terry Francona suggested on Tuesday that the Sox continue to value the right-hander.

“if I sat here and told you I could figure him out, I’d be lying,” said Francona. “But if he’s pitching out of your four or five hole, you have a chance to have a really good staff.”

Matsuzaka also has a complete no-trade clause in his contract that permits him to veto any deal.

He was 9-6 with a 4.69 ERA last year, throwing 153 innings in 25 starts. He struck out 7.8 per nine innings while walking 4.3 batters per nine. But he also had several stretches in which he looked dominant, suggesting that his stuff was better than his numbers (even if the results were an accurate barometer of his performance). Towards that end, it would be possible that the Sox would be selling low if they dealt the right-hander.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hot Stove,

Hot Stove roundup, 9 a.m.: Committee meets on expanded MLB playoffs

12.08.10 at 9:10 am ET
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Commissioner Bud Selig‘s committee of managers and executives met Tuesday, on the second day of the winter meetings in Orlando, and discussed both expanded playoffs and increased use of video review by umpires. No specific recommendations were made yet, but there appeared to be strong sentiment for adding two wild-card teams to create a 10-club postseason, most likely for 2012. A new wild-card round would likely be set up as a best-of-three or single-game elimination. When they met last month, more general managers seemed to favor the best-of-three series. As for replay, it hasn’t been determined whether to increase its use. The group will meet again in conjunction with owners’ meetings scheduled for Jan. 12-13.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder Tuesday, the club announced at the winter meetings. This is his second such procedure on his non-throwing shoulder in a year. The shoulder bothered Sanchez late in the regular season and during the playoffs, when the Giants beat the Rangers to win the World Series. The procedure is essentially to cut the biceps tendon and clean up the back of his shoulder, said athletic trainer Dave Groeschner. The 32-year-old Sanchez also had surgery on the same shoulder last December and began the season on the disabled list. He is expected to be in the Giants’ starting lineup come opening day 2011.

‘™¦ The Diamondbacks continued to build their bullpen by agreeing Tuesday on a two-year, $10 million contract with free agent reliever J.J. Putz. The 33-year-old Putz went 7-5 with three saves and a 2.83 ERA in 60 games for the White Sox last season.

‘™¦ Justin Upton isn’t going anywhere ‘€” at least for now. Trade talks involving the Diamondbacks’ 23-year-old right fielder have “just about died,” a source familiar with the discussions to ESPN.com. While the Diamondbacks will still listen to offers, the club is no longer motivated to trade him because it has begun filling some of the holes it would have plugged by dealing Upton. The Diamondbacks were looking to get anywhere from three to five “can’t-miss” young players for Upton. No team was willing to pay that hefty of a price tag, so the club ultimately decided to move on and try to build around the All-Star.

‘™¦ A “person familiar with the negotiations” told The Associated Press that outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. has reached a preliminary agreement on a one-year, $675,000 contract with the Dodgers. Gwynn, son of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, batted just .204 this year with three home runs and 20 RBIs. The 28-year-old became a free agent last week when the Padres failed to offer a 2011 contract.

‘™¦ Craig Counsell‘s agent asked the Brewers for more time to considered his options, tweeted MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. The Brewers are eager to hear whether or not the veteran infielder will return. McCalvy also tweeted that the Brewers will continue to pursue catching options, even though signing Wil Nieves is nearly a done deal.

‘™¦ Vladimir Guerrero may continue to call the AL West home. Hideki Matsui remains at the top of the A’s lengthy list of possibilities to fill the designated hitter spot, but The San Fransisco Chronicle learned Tuesday that obtaining Guerrero has become a more viable possibility than previously thought. The A’s put in a call about Guerrero early in the process, but indications were that the 35-year-old would only consider a one-year deal to stay with the Rangers and a three-year deal elsewhere. However, Guerrero is now willing to talk to all four AL West teams about a one-year contract with an option.

Read More: Bud Selig, Freddy Sanchez, Hideki Matsui, Hot Stove

Hot Stove roundup, 7 a.m.: Carlos Pena rumored to have one-year deal with Cubs

12.08.10 at 7:04 am ET
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Rays free agent first baseman Carlos Pena reportedly has a one-year, $10 million deal in place with the Cubs, although a team official told MLB.com Tuesday night that it’s too early to categorize the deal as done. Although Pena’s batting average has dropped each of the last four seasons, he has averaged 36 home runs in that time and provides solid defense. He hit .196 with 28 home runs for the Rays last season.

The Cubs traded Gold Glove first baseman Derrek Lee to the Braves in August. They were rumored to have interest in another free agent first baseman, Adam LaRoche.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ A “baseball source” told ESPN.com‘s Jerry Crasnick that the chances of free agent pitcher Cliff Lee signing before Thursday’s end to the winter meetings as “doubtful.” The Angels were reported to be the latest team to express an interest in the left-hander.

‘™¦ SI.com’s Jon Heyman tweets that the Twins are an option for veteran slugger Jim Thome, with the Rangers, Athletics and Orioles also options.

‘™¦ Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com tweets that the Twins had a good meeting with Carl Pavano, and the pitcher met with three other teams as well.

‘™¦ The Cubs are said to be shopping left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, according to the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette‘s Dejan Kovacevic. At mlive.com. Steve Kornacki writes that the Tigers have shown an interest.

Read More: carl pavano, Carlos Pena, Cliff Lee, Hot Stove

Epstein: Red Sox have made offers to ‘a number’ of relievers

12.07.10 at 6:30 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said that his team has made “a number” of offers to free-agent relievers of both the right- and left-handed variety, and that while he had suggested some discomfort with the price of free agents in years and dollars, “for the right player, I’ve come to grips with it.”

“We’€™ve had offers out on a few guys for a while now,” said Epstein. “Before we got down here, we had a few instances. Those haven’€™t gone anywhere. We’€™ve made a few other offers here as well.”

Epstein said that the team’s only formal offers to free agents have been relievers, meaning that the team has yet to make an official bid on any of the right-handed hitters and/or outfielders on the market. He also suggested that, while he stated a preference for a right-handed hitter, the team would prefer “a good player,” and that it is a preference rather than a mandate to add a right-handed lineup member.

“I think our lineup as currently constituted has pretty good balance. It’€™s not like we have six or seven left-handed hitters in there. That said, there are a few right-handed hitters out there, a few left, some switch-hitters as well,” he said. “The Gonzalez acquisition has been beneficial to this process here at the winter meetings. It’€™s really allowed us to focus. The big ideas, three-team trades to add impact talent that may be unrealistic, we don’€™t have to spend much time with now, except for the ones that have a chance. Now we can focus on areas of need and really make sure we’€™re thorough and that we take advantage of the opportunities that are real and there for us. We’€™re in on some position players thorugh trade and free agency, and on a lot of relievers, mainly through free agency, but also a couple trade opportunities.”

Epstein did not anticipate any deals getting done tonight, suggesting that the team was not yet “into the final negotiating phase” with any players.

Other items from the GM’s session:

–While manager Terry Francona said earlier on Tuesday that Jacoby Ellsbury is still feeling some discomfort in his back, Epstein said that the outfielder’s recovery is proceeding on schedule, and that he will be healthy for spring training.

“He was deemed asymptomatic a couple of weeks ago. I’€™m sure there are still some things he can do to create soreness, like with rotation and whatnot, but that’€™s normal,” said Epstein. “My understanding is that a fracture of the rib like this will still show up as a slight line on a scan for another couple months, but that’€™s a natural part of the process. Then you’€™re healed before the line will completely disappear on the scan. He’€™s been asymptomatic and very enthused about where he is in the offseason while getting ready for a normal season.”

–Epstein also said that Mike Cameron is recovering well. If he is at full health, Epstein said, the 37-year-old will play regularly. Still, he acknowledged that it is uncertain exactly what Cameron will be ready to do when he arrives in spring training.

“Depends on his health, that’€™s the first hurdle. He’€™s doing well right now,” Epstein said of his role. “If he’€™s able to carry a regular load, I think he’€™ll be out there a lot. If he’€™s limited early, we can limit his role early, then it depends on what we do with the rest of the club the rest of the winter. …

“I think he’€™s gonna be ready to play. It’€™s a question of, are their any limitations, is he full go? Does he need more days off than he has in the past? That’€™s a sensitive area and it takes a while to heal, but he’€™s absolutely on the right path.’€

–Epstein said that Felix Doubront would be stretched out on a starter’s program at the beginning of spring training, but that if he makes the big league team, it will most likely be as a member of the bullpen.

–The Sox are currently set up to have a number of compensation draft picks. The team already will get a pair of picks for Victor Martinez, who signed with Detroit, and they could get two more for Adrian Beltre and another for Felipe Lopez. With that wealth of picks (likely to fall in the first 50 picks), Epstein was asked, would it make it easier for the Sox to sacrifice their own first-round selection by signing a Type A free agent.

“I think it’€™s one factor, out of many, in making that ultimate decision. It depends on the player, the need, the contract, how many extra picks you’€™re getting,” said Epstein. “Just because you have those extra picks doesn’€™t mean you give away your first rounder, but you can’€™t sit here and ignore that fact, either.”

He did make clear that the Sox would not face any draft budget constraints that would create a situation with diminishing returns from the passel of early picks.

“Those are some of the best dollars that we spend, in this industry, is getting talented players in the draft,” he said. “So we budget accordingly when we get extra picks.”

Read More: draft picks, felix doubront, Hot Stove, Jacoby Ellsbury

Agent: Westmoreland continues ‘amazing’ progress

12.07.10 at 5:22 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — According to Alan Nero, the agent who represents Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland, the 20-year-old continues to make “amazing” strides in his return from March surgery to remove a cavernous malformation in his brain. Nero suggests that it is nearly impossible to keep things in perspective about the progress that the Rhode Island native has made, in part because of how far he has come.

“We’€™re extraordinarily grateful and blessed that he’€™s doing what he’€™s doing. It’€™s just incredible. We put nothing past him. He’€™s determined to make a complete comeback. Who can doubt him? It’€™s amazing that he’€™s done what he’€™s done,” said Nero. “It’€™s hard keeping things in perspective, understanding what he’€™s been through, where he’€™s come from, how far he’€™s come and where he’€™s going. It’€™s really difficult to keep things in perspective.”

The fact that Nero has been watching his client on a baseball field, engaged in baseball activities, represents an incredible developement. Nero recalled visiting Westmoreland in the first month to six weeks after the surgery, when he was working with a physical therapist to resume walking.

“He was still walking with a walker. His therapist probably weighed about 110 pounds. She was holding a harness behind him,” recalled Nero. “She said, ‘€˜Today, we’€™re going to see if you can run.’€™ We’€™re all standing there. She took away the walker, he’€™s walking. He’€™s walking like this.”

To illustrate the point, Nero shuffled his feet somewhat awkwardly from side to side.

“He took off [running] like a bat out of hell. She looked like she was trying to walk a Doberman,” Nero recalled with a laugh. “And we’€™re all [gasping]. We all thought he was going to fall. He slowed down and just started walking again.”

Because Nero saw Westmoreland at that stage of his recovery, he is mindful that it is necessary to manage expectations about what remains to be done. Westmoreland has already achieved a great deal in his return from a potentially life-threatening or life-altering surgery that his progress to date is difficult to overstate. He is, his agent reports, making progress everyday.

The goal that Westmoreland and the team defined was for him to return to games. Everyone around Westmoreland is mindful of managing expectations for his recovery, noting that there is no case history to offer a clear view of what might happen going forward. That being the case, it remains premature to try to say when, exactly, Westmoreland will play again.

But, significantly, based on his progress to date, no one has ruled out anything for the young player, who was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Sox system entering last year before his March surgery. No one can say whether he will be back on the field in the 2011 season; at the same time, no one has dismissed the possibility. In its own right, the fact that so much remains open to Westmoreland gives an indicator of how well his recovery has progressed.

“His aspirations are that he’€™s going to be back as soon as possible,” said Nero. “No one’€™s written [anything] off.”

Read More: alan nero, Hot Stove, ryan westmoreland,

Blue Jays did talk to Jason Varitek before he signed with Red Sox

12.07.10 at 4:43 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For what it’s worth, the Blue Jays did talk to Jason Varitek prior to the catcher re-signing with the Red Sox. The discussions, which never got too serious, shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering the presence of former Sox pitching coach John Farrell as the Jays’ new manager. The Blue Jays currently have J.P. Arencibia and Jose Molina as their catching tandem.

Also, A.J. Pierzynski, who was making the rounds in the lobby of the Dolphin Resort Hotel at the winter meetings, confirmed that he and the Red Sox had some contact prior to the catcher signing up with the White Sox. Pierzynski, who said he wouldn’t even classify the talk with the Sox as “preliminary,” relayed that he was pleased that Varitek returned to the Red Sox. “He deserves it,” the backstop said.

Read More: Hot Stove,

Hot Stove roundup, 4 p.m.: Teams offering more for Greinke?

12.07.10 at 4:43 pm ET
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According to a tweet from AOL Fanhouse’s Ed Price, the suitors for Royals ace Zack Greinke have upped their offers. Greinke, a Cy Young winner two seasons ago, went 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA last season. He’s tossed at least 200 innings and struck out 180 batters in each of the last three seasons. The Nationals are among the teams to inquire on Greinke, according to CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler. The report also names the Blue Jays and Rangers as the teams “most involved” on the starter.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ The Nationals and Cubs are both interested in Carlos Pena at first base, according to SI’s John Heyman. Pena hit .196/.325/.407 with 28 homers and 84 RBI last season for the Rays.

‘™¦ After a report came out Monday that the Mariners were interested in Greg Zaun, it now appears the Athletics are also interested, according to John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse. Hickey adds that the two teams also share an interest in Denny Reyes.

‘™¦ Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun is tweeting that a deal between the Orioles and Braves involving pitcher Kenshin Kawakami “won’t happen.”

‘™¦ Connolly adds that for a Jason Bartlett deal to get done between the Rays and Orioles, Baltimore will have to give up pitcher Alfredo Simon in addition to Nolan Reimold.

Joe Maddon on Carl Crawford ‘Boston fans will fall in love with him immediately’

12.07.10 at 4:20 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Following his scheduled meeting with the media, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said, that in his opinion, free agent Carl Crawford would have no issues in acclimating himself to a market like Boston.

“No problem,” said Maddon of the 29-year-old Texan. “First of all, they’re going to love him. He’s going to be embraced. There’s going to be a love-fest. He’s going to make all types of play, and do all kind of stuff where the Boston fans will fall in love with him immediately, so I don’t think there will be any type of negative pressure coming his way to perform.”

Asked about Crawford’s perceived mild-mannered personality, Maddon said, “He’ll stay to himself, although Carl has come out of his shell a little bit the last couple of years. Going to the playoffs, World Series, being an All-Star MVP, all that kind of stuff, I think he’s kind of blossomed in that regard. He might surprise you … He’s going to feed off the energy.”

WEEI.com’s Alex Speier reported earlier Tuesday that the Red Sox still have interest in signing Crawford, currently the biggest name on the free-agent market.

Read More: Hot Stove,

Terry Francona’s Red Sox updates: Lowrie, Varitek, Ellsbury, Papelbon, others

12.07.10 at 4:00 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Speaking to reporters at the winter meetings at the Dolphin Resort Hotel, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that catcher Jason Varitek will find his way into the Red Sox lineup a good deal, with the Sox taking advantage of the catcher’s ability to hit left-handed pitching.

“Oh, I’m sure some of it will depend on health and production,” said Francona when asked if Varitek would share time with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. ” I think Tek’s done a enough job where if you take away that broken bone last year, and Tek is having a heck of a year. He kind of a bounced back (saying), ‘Hey, I can do this and keep playing.’ So Tek’s going to play more than probably the average back up catcher, if that’s what you’re asking, sure.”

Francona also touched on a variety of other Red Sox topics:

– The Red Sox currently view Jed Lowrie as someone who can help in a variety of ways, thanks to the fact he hits from both sides of the plate and plays four infield positions. “I think looking at it right now he’d be a super-utility guy with the ability to play third, short, second and first and switch-hit,” Francona said. “That’s a pretty valuable commodity. Saves you a player because he can play first. He’s a switch-hitter, so that would be you a really nice piece on our team. That may not be his ultimate goal, and I respect that. But as far as our team goes, that would be a really nice fit.”

Jacoby Ellsbury’s health (broken ribs) is progressing, but Francona pointed out the outfielder still has a ways to go before being 100 percent. “Jake’s doing pretty well. The last time we had a couple weeks ago, he still was feeling it in the back a little bit, which I think they thought was pretty normal. I think we’re all going to take a deep breath when we see him out there running and not feeling it, but we’re certainly far enough away from spring training where that shouldn’t be an issue. I think also when you’re talking about it being December, going out to test it probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I know he’s been at API and doing his stuff there for a while.”

– Francona said that he isn’t planning on platooning J.D. Drew despite the outfielder’s struggles against left-handers (.208 in 2010), preferring instead to perhaps dropping down Drew in the order against certain lefties. “I think what we’d rather do is have J.D. have a little more success against left-handers. Maybe drop him down the lineup as opposed to not playing him. I think that’s probably a better way to do it. There are certainly certain left-handers that you’re doing him a favor by giving him the day off. But I don’t think you want to have a platoon out there. That seems like a little bit much.”

– The Red Sox’ manager spoke to the notion that David Ortiz might be hit for against left-handers more this season, and the communication that has gone on regarding the subject. “I actually spoke to David a little bit about that. The idea is not to sit him against lefties. I think the idea is to get David to understand if we do want to sit him against a lefty, it’s not that we don’t believe he can play. You know, I think that was more the last April was miserable. You can talk, you can spin it any way you want to, it was miserable. It was hard on David, it was hard on me, it was hard on our team, it was hard on everybody. I think there are times when, like J.D., you give him a break against a tough lefty, and you’re doing him a favor. Some of it depends on how he swings the bat.  If he swings the bat like he can swing it, you don’t want to sit him. I also believe for him to swing the bat like he needs to, he has to face some lefties. I think that’s important. But I think you’ve got to be able to get to a place where whatever is best for the team, you end up doing, and that’s what we always try to do, but you also want players to understand.”

– When asked if he had reached out to Jonathan Papelbon regarding the fact the Red Sox made an effort to sign closer Mariano Rivera, Francona said jokingly, “No, I will. I’d reach out to Pap from time to time, but he may not even know.”

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