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Things we learned from the Carl Crawford press conference

12.11.10 at 12:41 pm ET
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The Red Sox formally announced the signing of Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million deal Saturday, with the raspy-voiced outfielder (he was under the weather) joining Sox general manager Theo Epstein at the podium.

Here are some of the things we learned over the course of Crawford’s first visit to Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox:

– The Nov. 30 meeting between Epstein, Red Sox manager Terry Francona and Crawford in Texas went a long way.

“Throughout the course of the conversation that you could see a synergy developing, that the things that were important to him were also important to us,” Epstein said.

“We talked about the hitters in the lineup that might complement him really well, we kind of hinted that we might be making another acquisition for a good left-handed first baseman,” added Epstein, referencing the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez. “We got the sense that he kind of sat up in his chair as the meeting went on. We sensed some genuine excitement. We had a good feeling coming out of that meeting, but we also knew he had some attraction to other organizations as well.”

“[Epstein] came to Houston and made me feel like he really wanted me, and that was big for me to feel like I was going to go somewhere where the people actually wanted to have me,” Crawford said.

– Things gained steam in a hurry just before the deal was finalized late Wednesday night. According a major league source, the Angels had set a deadline for Crawford to accept their offer by 11 p.m. Wednesday. The Red Sox received a call from the agents shortly after 8 p.m. that night relaying what it would take to get a deal done. While the Red Sox’ part of the deal that included the money increased as the deadline approached, the team had always been offering the seven years.

“We’ve been working on it for a while,” Epstein said. “We really liked where we were. As far as our position in the negotiations, we felt we had made a connection with Carl at the meeting, and that he was really intrigued by being part of our lineup, especially after we traded for Adrian, that kind of piqued his interest even more. We thought we were well positioned and we were prepared to under the radar grind it out a little bit, stay involved. We felt like, in the end, he would want to stay here. Then another club put a deadline on him and we had just a couple of hours to make a decisive move.

In the end, contrary to initial reports immediately after the deal was done that the Angels’ offer was for $108 million, it is believed that the Los Angeles proposal was comparable to the one presented by the Red Sox.

“There were very competitive, if not identical, financial offers at the end,” Epstein said. “His agents asked if everybody is at the end, ultimately at the end, where do you want to be, and he said Boston. It came to quickly on another team’s deadline, so we were able to act quickly.”

– The Red Sox feel Crawford has come a long way as a hitter, especially since the outfielder introduced Epstein to the world of general managing in the big leagues with a walk-off home run in the Sox’ GM first game in his position with the Sox in 2003. (That home run came off of reliever Chad Fox on a low-inside slider.)

“He really has evolved as a player, and a hitter particularly,” Epstein said.

“At that time (in 2003), you really wanted to stay away from one spot, you wanted to stay away from down and inside to him because it wasn’t that he couldn’t handle pitches in other zones, like up and away, but there were just so much you could do with those pitches. You could sort of limit your damage by throwing those pitches in the strike zone. It was a tough, but appropriate, start to my general managing career.”

Epstein noted that Crawford, whose power throughout his career has primarily been to right field, will be working on driving the ball the other way to take advantage of Fenway’s left field wall.

“As a hitter he covers so much more of the zone that he used to,” the GM said. “That pitch away from him, he’s really comfortable hitting that ball to left field. At times, and I think this is what I think he’s going to work on this winter, really driving the ball the other way, not just slapping it the other way, but driving it.

“I do see sustainable power for him. Right field is a little bit deeper than parts of Tropicana. But when he hits them they’re no-doubters.”

– As Epstein said, the Red Sox “are not going to apologize” for the size of the contract.

“We also have to look at our situation where we’re competing within a division, especially with a team, that has significant resources, so we have to do the best to compete,” Epstein said. “I know this is a significant long contract, I don’t think this is an irresponsible spend at all. If you look at it, our discipline over the years, our reliance on young players, the acquisition of someone like Adrian Gonzalez making $6.3 million, puts us in a position to do this.

“If you look at the biggest contracts in the history of the game, you have to go really far down the list to find one that we’ve done. This is the first contract of this nature that we’ve done since I took over as GM and since this ownership has been here. We’ve tried to do others in the past and we’ve walked away because of limits, and we would have walked away because of limits on this one as well. But one contract like this one in eight or nine offseasons I don’t think irresponsible. I think it’s the aggressiveness that complements the framework of discipline of value and reliance of young players that we have.

“I’ve worked in a small market where you can’t even consider acquisitions like this, and that’s part of the equation down there. This is part of the equations for teams and and markets like ours and given that we’ve been really selective over the years in showing restraint over the years. This one made a lot of sense because of how we were positioned, adding the players of the caliber of Gonzalez and Crawford, who are 28 and 29 years old, respectively, and in their prime years. It makes a ton of sense for me. We’re not going to apologize for this.”

The breakdown for Crawford’s contract is as follows: ’11: $14 million; ’12: $19.5 million; ’13: $20 million; ’14: $20.25 million; ’15: $20.5 million; ’16: $20.75 million; ’17: $21 million.

– While Crawford said he will hit anywhere in the order the Red Sox put him, Red Sox manager Terry Francona noted that the lefty hitter will almost certainly hit somewhere near the top of the lineup, perhaps second or third.

– The Red Sox viewed Crawford as a significantly better player than Jayson Werth.

Jason Varitek back with Red Sox: ‘Physically’ ready for a few more years

12.11.10 at 12:35 pm ET
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Sporting the World Series championship ring from 2007, Jason Varitek sat comfortably Saturday in his seat at the end of a conference table in room off the EMC Club at Fenway Park, declaring that he’s is more than ready to return for the 2011 season.

‘€œIt’€™s awesome, it’€™s awesome,” said Varitek, who signed a one-year deal for $2 million, plus incentives. “Did I hope for it? Yes, I hoped for it and wished that it would happen. Did I necessarily this go-around, they may go in other directions? Yeah. I was excited I didn’€™t have to make that final decision.’€

What Varitek returns to is one of the best scenarios he could have hoped for with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez on board.

“It’s like a tale of two different [scenarios],” Varitek said. “The [Red Sox] Nation wasn’t as happy as they are now with what’s gone on. To expect it, no. To expect us to win, yes and how much that takes to do that, you have to be in the right places. That gives us a chance but we still have big steps to take for this team to be good.”

But he admitted that between the end of the season and Saturday, this was the off-season he actually thought he might not return as captain as the Red Sox.

‘€œThis, more than any time in my career, I had probably the most interest from other teams and it was probably in the same regards that they have a need for the same and have a same type thing and it might not be here [in Boston],” said Varitek, who did not disclose the teams or how far along he was in the process.

‘€œYou don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen. You never know what’€™s going to happen with injuries, etcetera. So I have to prepare like I know how to prepare everyday to physically and mentally be ready to play every day. That’€™s not necessarily the case but physically that’€™s what I have to do.’€

A broken right foot limited Varitek to just 39 games in 2010, when he hit .232 and belted seven homers for the Red Sox as a back-up to Victor Martinez. He comes back in 2010 and actually could have a more prominent role on the team as he helps Jarrod Saltalamacchia learn the pitching staff.

‘€œGoing into this last one, I figured a few more years but I don’€™t know,” Varitek said. “At this point of my career it’€™s almost a year to year basis of seeing where I’€™m at but physically, I think it’€™s a few more years.’€

‘€œI’€™m excited,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “I think ‘€˜Tek did an amazing job on the transition. That’€™s not an easy thing to do, to be like a stalwart. For many, many years be the captain, and then be asked to handle a reduced role, I think what Tek did, his role didn’€™t get reduced. He didn’€™t allow it to be.

“He picked it up in other areas, whether it was helping out the other catchers or his teammates, and as much as we appreciated, that’€™s why we appreciate it, because it’€™s not easy. He handled it with a lot of class and dignity. We’€™re actually thrilled he’€™s back. I think it’€™s easy to lose sight, because he got injured last year. but he was having a really productive year. this isn’€™t all about helping salty. This is about helping us win games. he’€™s going to catch.’€

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, carl crawford, jarrod saltalamacchia

Source: Red Sox beat Angels deadline for Carl Crawford

12.11.10 at 11:23 am ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox finalized the seven-year, $140 million deal for Carl Crawford 10 minutes before an 11 p.m. Wednesday deadline set the Angels. Momentum in the negotiations gained steam shortly after 8 p.m. when the agents for Crawford informed both teams of the parameters it would take to get a contract done. While the Red Sox did increase the monetary portion of their offer as the Angels’ deadline approached, they had consistently been at seven years. For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Reports: Angels sign Scott Downs

12.10.10 at 7:39 pm ET
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According to multiple reports, the Angels have signed free agent relief left-handed pitcher Scott Downs to a three-year deal worth $15 million.

MLB.com/NESN’s Peter Gammons and Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal both reported the deal, with Rosenthal noting that Downs can make up an extra $1 million based on games finished. The Blue Jays will receive a first-round compensation pick and a second-rounder from the Angels in next year’s draft for the Type A free agent.

Over his last four years, Downs has posted a 2.36 earned run average for the Blue Jays.

Read More: Hot Stove,

John Kruk on The Big Show: It is now ‘imperative’ that Yankees sign Cliff Lee

12.09.10 at 2:59 pm ET
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ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk joined The Big Show on Thursday, praising the Red Sox for the signing of Carl Crawford and noting that it is now crucial for the Yankees to sign free-agent starter Cliff Lee.

“It’s imperative,” Kruk said. “Not just because he’s left handed, but because Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia are the only to starters that are dependable. They need another one if they want to compete.”

Kruk pointed out that Crawford was likely drawn to the Red Sox because of the stability in the lineup and that “they can win two or three championships by the time” his deal expires.

Even if the Yankees were to sign Lee, Kruk felt that the Red Sox would still the best team in the league.

“They’re younger they’re more athletic,” Kruk said of the Sox. “Better starting pitching. Besides Mariano [Rivera] [vs. Jonathan] Papelbon, which is relatively close, the Yankees have no bullpen.”

While he applauded the move to get Crawford, Kruk saw the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez as the Sox’ biggest move, saying that “they just got an MVP” by trading for the slugging first baseman.

“He might be the best hitter in baseball in that ball park,” Kruk said of Gonzalez. “‘€¦ It’s not going to shock me if he’s a 50-50 guy with 50 homers and 50 doubles in that ballpark. ‘€¦ His average is going to go up at least 30 points just because he’s hitting in Fenway.”

Red Sox winter meetings leftovers

12.09.10 at 1:56 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It is easy to forget that the Red Sox still have more to do this winter.

The signings of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are what will define the team’s offseason, but the Sox are quick to acknowledge that their work is incomplete. Indeed, insofar as GM Theo Epstein said at the start of the meetings that the team’s top two priorities were “bullpen, bullpen,” it is clear that more activity lies ahead for the Sox.

In sum:

–Yes, the Sox are still looking to fill out a bullpen whose only certain members for next season are Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard, Scott Atchison and Tim Wakefield (albeit with a strong internal candidate for a relief job in Felix Doubront).

“The bullpen remains a priority,” said Epstein. “That market has seemed like it was on the verge of really moving for the past two or three days and I think we all thought it would break at the meetings. It hasn’t quite yet, so we’re still involved with a number of relievers through free agency and a couple through trade. It remains a priority.”

–Epstein said that, if the club loses its first-round draft pick (No. 24 overall) for signing a Type A free agent (Crawford), it would not necessarily provide an incentive or disincentive with regards to signing another Type A free agent.

If a club were to lose its first rounder, then going forward, you might say it might not want to sign another compensation free agent because it would also lose its second rounder,” said Epstein. “But you could make the argument that the second rounder isn’t as valuable as the first rounder so it allows the club to be more aggressive. It doesn’t rule anything like that out or doesn’t rule anything like that in.”

The Sox, according to sources, have not ruled out giving up a draft pick for left-handed reliever Scott Downs. At this point, the Sox would have to give up a second-round pick to sign him. With the team not expected to pursue either Grant Balfour or Rafael Soriano (the only other Type A relievers on the market), none of the other free-agent bullpen options are expected to cost the Sox a pick.

–Epstein said that the Sox could still be in the market for complementary bench players.

–Speaking generally, he also said that the Sox could be in better position to deal players from their big league roster. Presumably, the Sox could have outfield surplus from which to deal, as even before a deal with Crawford becomes final, they have nine outfielders (J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Ryan Kalish, Darnell McDonald, Josh Reddick, Daniel Nava, Eric Patterson and Jordan Parraz) on their 40-man roster.

Read More: Hot Stove,

The Aftershock: Baseball world reacts to the Red Sox signing of Carl Crawford

12.09.10 at 1:03 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The reverberations continue to be felt.

The morning after the news of Carl Crawford‘s agreement to a deal with the Red Sox, it remained the foremost topic of chatter as the Winter Meetings drew to a close. It was not merely that the Sox had delivered a baseball bombshell by acquiring an All-Star player in Crawford. It was the combination of the Sox’ acquisitions of Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, one of the best offensive players in the game who is also a Gold Glove defender, that proved dizzying.

Immediately, the suspicion emerged that the Yankees and Angels would have no choice but to scramble for counter strikes. New York GM Brian Cashman was peppered with questions about whether he felt compelled to sweeten his offer to pitcher Cliff Lee in the aftermath of the Sox’ deal with Crawford. He insisted that he did not feel such a compulsion, even as he acknowledged that the Sox had just delivered a haymaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, alex anthopolous, andy macphail

Hot Stove roundup, noon: Rangers send reps to Arkansas as last-ditch effort to persuade Cliff Lee

12.09.10 at 12:22 pm ET
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted on Thursday that the Rangers are putting up a last-ditch effort to try to sign free agent pitcher Cliff Lee by sending representatives to Little Rock, Ark., to meet with Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker. NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra writes that there isn’t a whole lot of context to the reports about the Rangers meeting with Lee, and that it may just as well be an effort to play head games with the Yankees, who are the favorites in the Lee sweepstakes.

Calcaterra said that with the $300 million the Red Sox have spent in the past few days, it’s hard to imagine that the Yankees won’t counter with an expensive signee of their own. We’ll know more about the meeting between the Rangers, Lee and Braunecker later on Thursday.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ The Astros have agreed to a one-year deal with former Rice pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, the Houston Chronicle’s Zachary Levine reports. Rowland-Smith was taken with the No. 5 pick in the Rule 5 draft, and is pending a physical. The Australian lefty was non-tendered by the Mariners after going 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA in 2010. He played three seasons before 2010, including one and a half as a starter, with ERAs under 4.00 for the Mariners.

‘™¦ The Orioles continue to make news this week, announcing that the team and free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche have mutual interest in each other, but have not yet had any formal talks, and no formal offer has been made, the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly tweeted on Thursday. LaRoche has garnered a lot of interest this offseason, with teams such as the Nationals, Rays and Orioles all showing significant interest.

‘™¦ The Dodgers have shown interest in signing former Red Sox utility man Bill Hall as a left fielder, the L.A. Times reports. The Dodgers are reportedly among several teams that have shown interest in the former Red Sox, who hit 18 home runs in 2010, but struck out 104 times in 119 games played with Boston.

‘™¦ MLB.com reports that Cleveland legend Bob Feller has been transferred from the Cleveland Clinic to hospice care for the terminally ill, according to Bob DiBiaso, the Indians’ vice president of public relations. The 92-year-old Feller is battling leukemia, and was recently admitted to the clinic after suffering from pneumonia. Feller was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in August, which is a form of cancer in which the white blood cells interfere with the production of normal blood cells.

‘™¦ Rob Biertempfel, columnist for Trib Live Sports, tweeted on Thursday that the Pirates seem to be close to reaching a deal with the Braves for starting pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, but money is still an issue. The deal will continue to develop over the course of the day.

Read More: bill Hall, Cliff Lee, Hot Stove,

Red Sox lose a pair of pitchers in Rule 5 draft

12.09.10 at 11:11 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox saw a pair of division rivals snap up pitchers from their minor league system on Thursday, as the Tampa Bay Rays snagged 21-year-old left-hander Cesar Cabral, while the Yankees grabbed right-hander Daniel Turpen.

Cabral, 21, is a big, physical left-handed reliever whom the Sox signed out of the Dominican in 2005. In 2010, he had a dominant performance to start the year with Single-A Greenville, producing a 0.29 ERA in 17 appearances (31 1/3 innings) while striking out 35 and walking just seven. After a mid-year promotion, however, he struggled to remain consistent. He started well, but finished at High-A Salem with a 5.81 ERA, though he continued to have a solid strikeout-to-walk rate (45-to-14 in 48 innings). He features a solid fastball that is typically in the 93-94 mph vicinity, as well as a slider that produces swings and misses. He has been working on a changeup that is viewed as a work in progress. With the Rays’ bullpen having been pillaged by free agency (the team could lose as many as five big league relievers), Cabral will certainly have an interesting opportunity with Tampa Bay.

Turpen, 24, was the pitcher whom the Sox acquired from the Giants at the July 31 trade deadline in exchange for Ramon Ramirez. He spent all of 2010 in the Eastern League, first with San Francisco’s affiliate in Richmond, then with the Portland Sea Dogs. Between the two teams, he had a 4.30 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 28 walks in 69 innings. He only allowed four homers.

The big, 6-foot-4 right-hander has a power sinker that has produced strong groundball rates throughout his minor league career. He also features a cutter and slider, though the two pitches can sometimes blend together, and his stuff can flatten out at times. While his ability to induce grounders could make for an interesting bullpen weapon, it is difficult to imagine him sticking for a full year with a Yankees team for whom success is defined by championships.

The Red Sox had identified both pitchers as candidates to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, in which a team may take a player who — after a certain amount of service time, depending on how old he was at the time he entered the system — is not protected on the 40-man roster. But the team felt that there was a good chance that if either pitcher was selected, it was unlikely that he would stick on his selecting team’s major league roster for a full season. The Sox receive $50,000 for both players; if they do not stay on the big league roster of their new clubs, both players will be exposed to waivers and then, assuming they clear, offered back to Boston for $25,000.

“We lost, at least for the time being, two players in the Rule 5, and we wish them well with the new organizations,” said Sox GM Theo Epstein. “But hopefully they soon will be their old organizations and we get them back. We’ll see.”

The Sox have not lost a player to the Rule 5 process since the Tigers kept left-hander Wilfredo Ledezma in 2002.

Read More: cesar cabral, daniel turpen, Hot Stove, rule 5

Hot Stove roundup, 11 a.m.: Luke Scott making waves with comments about President Obama

12.09.10 at 10:49 am ET
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Orioles designated hitter Luke Scott made a name for himself more this week with his comments than his career hitting. The 32-year-old, .268 career hitter said in an interview that President Barack Obama is “hiding something” the way he dodges questions. He also is siding with “birthers” ‘€” people who believe that President Obama was not born in the United States, plainly stating his opinion that Obama was not born in the country he now leads.

The Los Angeles Times, among several other news outlets, covered what Scott had to say. The Orioles organization shortly after released a statement, saying that Scott’s opinions were not the views of the team.

Quick hits:

‘™¦ ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted on Thursday morning that the Red Sox are still interested in Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who was tendered for arbitration by the team. ESPN reported on Wednesday that the Dodgers were interested in former Rays catcher Dioner Navarro. The team also signed Rod Barajas several weeks ago.

‘™¦ In light of Carlos Pena‘s signing with the Cubs, the Rays are searching for a replacement first baseman, and are targeting former Blue Jay Lyle Overbay and former Brave Derrek Lee, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The team also has interest in Adam LaRoche, but the Nationals are considered to be the front runners to sign LaRoche. The Times reports that all of the free agent options may be too expensive for the Rays.

‘™¦ According to a tweet by a Pirates insider, the team has acquired relief pitcher Cesar Valdez from the Diamondbacks as the player to be named in the Zach Duke trade. The D-Backs acquired Duke on Nov. 24 from the Pirates for the player to be named. Duke, a 27-year-old starting pitcher, finished the 2010 season with an 8-15 record with a 5.72 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in 29 starts.

‘™¦ The Pirates weren’t done creating news on Thursday morning, signing free agent pitcher Scott Olsen to a one-year, $500,000 deal for 2011, with incentives of up to $3 million, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted. The incentives the Pirates are offering will be performance-based.

Read More: Hot Stove, Luke Scott, Scott Olsen, Zach Duke
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