|01.06.10 at 8:25 pm ET|
One further update regarding Adrian Beltre’s contract and its implications for the luxury tax.
Beltre’s one-year $9 million deal with a $5 million player option is treated, for purposes of determining the luxury tax, as a two-year deal with a $7 million average annual value (AAV), since player options are always treated as guaranteed money. There is every reason to believe that Beltre will not exercise his $5 million option, given that he is looking to increase his value by a year in a ballpark that is friendly to right-handed hitters before going back on the market in 2011.
That being the case, it is fair to ask: what are the luxury tax implications if Beltre declines his player option?
The Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that “[i]f a Player fails to exercise or chooses to nullify a Player Option Year that is deemed a Guaranteed Year … the difference between the amount paid to the Player under his Contract (including any Option Buyout payment) and the amount that has been attributed to Actual Club Payroll of a Club under that Contract shall be added to (or subtracted from) Actual Club Payroll in the Contract Year in which the Player Option Year falls.”
Translation: if Beltre declines his option, then the $2 million difference between what Beltre will be paid in 2010 ($9 million) and his Competitive Balance Tax number in 2010 ($7 million) will be assessed in the luxury tax calculations of the 2011 payroll.
So, based on the Sox’ efforts to minimize the luxury tax number associated with Beltre in 2010, assuming that he declines his player option, he would count for approximately $2 million against the Competitive Balance Tax in both 2010 and 2011.
|01.06.10 at 6:24 pm ET|
The Red Sox named Amiel Sawdaye the new director of amateur scouting, promoting him from the position of assistant director of amateur scouting, a capacity in which he served next to former director of amateur scouting Jason McLeod for the past five seasons. Sawdaye was originally hired by the Sox in June 2002, just before that draft.
When McLeod left Boston to become Assistant GM of the Padres last month, the Sox made clear that they wanted to find an internal replacement. Sawdaye, who helped McLeod to administer the draft during a period of tremendous success, was a natural candidate. Sawdaye suggests that his goal for the amateur scouting department is to continue to follow the formula that has proved tremendously successful under McLeod.
“We’re not changing much. We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Sawdaye said. “We have a really good system. We have really good processes in place. That’s why we’ve been successful, because of the processes and scouts we have out in the field. … It’s actually been a pretty seamless transition because of my relationship with all the scouts. Their understanding of what we do hasn’t changed.”
McLeod similarly suggested that Sawdaye understands the finer details of how the Sox approach to the draft, which is part of the reason why he will be able to continue what the department does.
“He was my assistant there for the last five years, so he has a very good understanding of the system that was put in place because he helped implement it. He knows all the processes. He has relationships with all the scouts,” said McLeod. “As far as the running of the department, I think it will be a pretty seamless transition with him stepping into the role.”
Sawdaye has already left a mark on one of the key changes in the Sox’ process of signing draftees, as it was his idea to create a Fenway invitational for the team’s draft picks, in which the Sox invite players whom they take in the draft to play against one another in Boston. In its two years, the invitational has been viewed by the organization as a significant success. It has given the Sox a chance to evaluate amateurs against comparable prospects (rather than against overmatched high-school opponents), and has also given the team a chance to meet draftees and their families.
“It’s been very successful, not only for the evaluative aspects of it. That first year we ran it in ’08, we didn’t get to see Pete Hissey or Derrik Gibson face much good pitching or much velocity. For us to see those kids, who we evaluated a lot, that was our chance to see them facing upper-80s and occasionally low-90s velocity. From an evaluative standpoint it helped,” said McLeod. “From a relationship-building standpoint and from an informative standpoint, to inform the families that this is what we’re about, this is what being a professional is about, those are hard to measure but they were truly helpful in the process of signing guys.”
Though he was hired initially as an administrator, Sawdaye has also been involved in evaluating several top draft picks in recent years. He was, first instance, involved in the evaluation of 2009 first-rounder Reymond Fuentes, helping to convince the organization that the outfielder could have more power potential than initially believed.
Sawdaye will have the opportunity to make his mark in his first draft. The free-agent departures of Billy Wagner and Jason Bay have left the Sox with the No. 20 overall pick (from the Braves for Wagner), the team’s highest since selecting David Murphy in the first-round in 2003, and with four high draft choices.
“There’s excitement not only in that, but for the fact that we’re going to get four picks in the top 60,” said Sawdaye. “We really have a chance to do some damage with that many picks so early.”
National cross-checker David Finley was also considered for the position, but he was instead promoted to the job of Special Assistant to GM Theo Epstein. Mike Rikard was promoted from East Coast cross-checker to National cross-checker. The Sox announced several baseball operations staff changes. Here is the complete release with details:
The Boston Red Sox today announced a series of personnel moves in the organization’s baseball operations department.
The announcements were made by Executive Vice President/General Manager Theo Epstein.
Major League Medical Staff
Mike Reinold has been promoted to Head Athletic Trainer and Assistant Director, Medical Services under Medical Director Dr. Thomas Gill. Reinold has served as the club’s Assistant Athletic Trainer for the past four seasons, adding the title of Rehab Coordinator prior to the 2008 campaign. Before joining the Red Sox, he spent six years as the Director of Rehab and Clinical Education at the American Sports Medicine Institute run by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL. Reinold earned a degree in physical therapy from Northeastern University and holds a doctorate in physical therapy from the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions. He is a certified Athletic Trainer and certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
Additional changes within the Major League medical department include the promotion of Greg Barajas to Assistant Athletic Trainer. Barajas has spent the last five seasons as athletic trainer for Boston’s Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate, earning International League Athletic Trainer of the Year honors in 2007. He previously served as an athletic trainer in the Milwaukee Brewers organization from 1998-2004. Barajas is a certified Athletic Trainer from the National Athletic Trainers Association and a certified Performance Enhancement Specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.
Mitsugi Ito joins the Red Sox as a team Massage Therapist. He previously served as Assistant Massage Therapist for the Seibu Lions.
Amiel Sawdaye has been promoted to Director, Amateur Scouting. He served as Boston’s Assistant Director, Amateur Scouting for the last five years after being named to the post in December of 2004. A 1999 graduate of the University of Maryland, Sawdaye joined the Red Sox organization in 2002 as an intern in the scouting department and spent 2004 as the club’s scouting assistant.
David Finley has been promoted to Special Assistant to the General Manager after spending the past five years as the Red Sox National Crosschecker. Finley joined the Boston organization as the West Coast Crosschecker prior to the 2002 season. He has previously worked for the Padres and Marlins.
Mark Wasinger has been promoted to Special Assignment Scout. Wasinger was the club’s West Crosschecker in 2009 and has spent six years overall as a regional crosschecker and one year as a professional scout with Boston. He came to the Red Sox in November of 2002 after seven years as an area scout with San Diego. A former Major League infielder, he played parts of three seasons with the Padres (1986) and Giants (1987-88).
Mike Rikard has been promoted to National Crosschecker. He has spent the past five years as a regional crosschecker with the Red Sox and previously was a scout in the Padres organization.
Dan Madsen has been promoted to West Coast Crosschecker. The former minor league outfielder spent the previous seven years as an area scout for the Red Sox in the Southern California/San Diego area.
Tom Battista joins the organization as an Area Scout in Southern California after serving as an area scout and West Coast Crosschecker for the Atlanta Braves for seven years.
Pat Portugal has been hired as an Area Scout in the Northwest. Prior to joining the Red Sox he spent five years as an area scout with the Giants and four years as an area scout with the Cubs.
Sam Ray has been named an Area Scout in the Ohio Valley after spending the previous two seasons as an intern in the baseball operations department.
Demond Smith has been hired as an Area Scout in Northern California. Prior to joining the Red Sox, the former outfielder played 17 seasons of professional baseball from 1990-2008 and spent time in the Mets (1990-93), Angels (1994-95), Athletics (1995-97), White Sox (1998) and Braves (1999-2000) organizations.
Jared Banner has been named Assistant, Amateur Scouting. Banner joined the Red Sox organization as an intern in baseball operations in 2007 and served as Assistant, Player Development in 2008-09.
Major League Personnel
Alex Ochoa has been named Special Assistant, Baseball Operations. He served as a Staff Assistant under Terry Francona last year, his first season as a professional coach after an eight-year Major League career with the Mets (1995-97), Twins (1998), Brewers (1999, 2002), Reds (2000-01), Rockies (2001) and Angels (2002).
Mike Cather has been promoted to Major League Advance Scout after spending the last four seasons as a pitching coach in the Red Sox organization for Single-A Wilmington (2006) and Double-A Portland (2007-09). Cather played professionally from 1993-99 and appeared in 75 games for the Braves from 1997-99.
Steve Langone has been hired as the Advance Scouting Coordinator after interning in baseball operations in 2009. A pitcher for seven professional seasons in the Dodgers (2000-04), Red Sox (2005) and Phillies (2006) organizations, Langone advanced as high as Triple-A in 2003. He graduated from Boston College in 2000 and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2008.
Ben Crockett has been promoted to Assistant Director, Player Development. He joined the Red Sox organization as an intern in baseball operations in 2007 and served as Advance Scouting Coordinator from 2008-09. Crockett was drafted by Colorado out of Harvard University in 2002 and is a veteran of five professional seasons (2002-06).
Ethan Faggett has been named Assistant Director, Florida Baseball Operations after working as the Assistant Director, Player Development since 2008. Selected by Boston in the 33rd round of the 1992 First-Year Player Draft, he played 11 seasons of professional baseball, including nine in the Red Sox (1992-98) and Padres (1998-2000) chains.
David Howard has been named Field Coordinator after working as Special Assistant to the General Manager since December of 2007. He was a Major League scout in 2007, a professional scout from 2005-06 and a minor league coach in 2004, his first year in the Red Sox organization. The former infielder played nine seasons in the Majors with the Royals (1991-97) and Cardinals (1998-99).
Gary DiSarcina has been promoted to Infield Coordinator. He previously served as the manager for Short-Season A Lowell from 2007-09, leading the Spinners to a 125-99 (.558) record and Stedler Division Championships in each of the last two years. The former shortstop played 12 seasons for the Angels from 1989-2000 and was named an American League All-Star in 1995.
Chad Epperson has been promoted to Catching Coordinator after six seasons as a manager in the Red Sox system. He guided Single-A Salem to a 67-72 (.482) record in 2009, advancing as far as the Carolina League Championship Series. It was the fourth consecutive season that he led his team to the playoffs. A veteran of nine minor league seasons as a player, Epperson was named California League Manager of the Year with Single-A Lancaster in 2007 and 2008.
Jared Porter has been promoted to Assistant Director, Professional Scouting. Porter has been the club’s Coordinator, Professional Scouting since 2008 after serving as Assistant, Player Development in 2006-07. He joined the Red Sox as an intern in 2004 and spent one year in Fort Myers, FL. Porter previously worked for the Brewster Whitecaps of the Cape Cod League in 2002-03 while attending Bowdoin (ME) College where he also played baseball.
Todd Claus returns to the Red Sox as Coordinator of Latin American Scouting/International Crosschecker after coaching Jacksonville (FL) University’s baseball program in 2009. He was also with the Red Sox from 2004-08, spending three seasons as a minor league manager before serving as a Major League Advance Scout from 2007-08. Claus had spent his entire baseball career in the Angels organization before joining the Red Sox.
|01.06.10 at 4:11 pm ET|
Why did the Cardinals pay as much as they did for a guy (Matt Holliday) that nobody else was bidding for?
That was the question that people around baseball were asking last night, because we know that the Yankees weren’t involved. The Mets weren’t involved because they signed Jason Bay. The Red Sox weren’t involved because they offered Holliday that five-year deal at the beginning of the off-season then they moved off to John Lackey. The Angels weren’t involved, the Dodgers weren’t involved, the Phillies weren’t involved. So who pushed the number to that point?
I really think it probably comes down to this. The Cardinals had a fear that Holliday might decide, look, I’m just going to sign a one-year deal, go back out on the market next fall. If I’m the Cardinals, then I go with that rather than now putting themselves in a position with Albert Pujols set to become a free agent in two years, in order to re-sign him.
As one GM said last night, [Pujols] probably would be justified to ask for $30 million a year. The Cardinals have set themselves up for either A, not re-sign Albert Pujols because he’s going to become so expensive, or B, become committed to two players, ages 32-37, somewhere in the range of 42-48 million dollars a year. Those are the type of decisions that you see less and less of in baseball where there’s greater concern for flexibility, but the Cardinals obviously decided to go in a different direction.
Before I ask you about the Red Sox, I want to follow up on Holliday. Who do you think had the most influence there? Do you think that was Tony LaRussa, or was that a management call?
I think Tony certainly has a voice, it’s an important one in that organization. My guess is they felt some pressure with their fan base to try to put a winning team on the field. I don’t know, it surprised me that they would up giving in in a way that even the New York Mets didn’t in their negotiations with Jason Bay. Because if you really look at it, if they stood on an $85 million offer or a $90 million offer to [Holliday], who was going to challenge that? Why would they feel compelled to go to $120 million?
I don’t know if you saw the quote, I’m sure you did, from Joe Maddon, where he said Adrian Beltre is the best third baseman he’s ever seen with his own eyes. How do you see Beltre as a player defensively and what you think he’ll do for the Red Sox? Read the rest of this entry »
|01.06.10 at 2:58 pm ET|
Once the Red Sox completed the deals for Marco Scutaro (2 years, $12.5 million), John Lackey (5 years, $82.5 million) and Mike Cameron (2 years, $15.5 million), their budget for 2010 appeared just about tapped. When the team suggested that it was prepared to enter the season with Casey Kotchman as its starting first baseman, it was more than idle chatter – with the team scraping against the luxury tax threshold of $170 million for next year, and with a record payroll under contract, the team seemed to have almost no room to maneuver, barring a budget stretch for an affordable superstar like Adrian Gonzalez.
Yet a harmonic convergence of sorts occurred in order to bring Adrian Beltre to Boston. Over the holidays, the Sox positioned themselves to add another Gold Glove-caliber defender (when healthy) while barely making a mark against the salary cap.
The third baseman volunteered to come to Boston on what one talent evaluator described as a “perfect contract,” a deal that was both affordable and short-term in nature as well as structured in a way to minimize the luxury tax hit. The one-year, $9 million framework represented a relative bargain — a contract that was millions less than what Beltre would have earned had he accepted Seattle’s offer of salary arbitration, and the sort of short-term arrangement that will minimize the Sox’ risk.
The $5 million player option for 2011, meanwhile, is in all likelihood cosmetic. Barring a career-threatening injury, there’s almost no way that the player exercises it, given that Beltre just came off of a season in which a) his offensive productivity was the worst of his career thanks to bone spurs in his shoulder that required surgery; b) he played in the fewest games of his career as a result both of that surgery and an injury to his testicle; and c) he still had the chance to choose between the one-year, $9 million deal with the Sox and, according to FoxSports.com, multiple three-year, $24 million offers. Put simply, the chances that he exercises the player option are virtually nil.
The impact of the player option, however, is that it depresses the average annual value (AAV) of the contract, which determines the value of a contract in calculating luxury tax. So, the Beltre contract is viewed as being worth $7 million, rather than $9 million, in calculating the Sox’ 2010 payroll for luxury tax purposes.
Even then, however, the Sox would not have been able to afford to sign Beltre while remaining in their budget. The team still needed to free more payroll in order to minimize its luxury tax hit, since the Sox must pay 22.5 percent on every payroll dollar they spend over $170 million next year.
That being the case, the Sox sought salary relief by moving Kotchman. Without Beltre, the Sox wouldn’t have moved the 26-year-old first baseman; at the same time, without being able to move Kotchman, Sox sources say that the club could not have signed Beltre.
The arbitration eligible first baseman, after making $2.885 million in 2009, was likely to earn roughly $3.5 million for 2010. By moving him to the Mariners, the net impact of signing Beltre — from a luxury tax standpoint — dropped to about $3.5 million.
But the Sox also structured their deal with the Mariners both to address a need for a bench player and to offer further relief against the luxury tax. The inclusion of the versatile Bill Hall and millions of dollars in cash (along with a player to be named from a list of minor leaguers) will offer the Sox further relief.
Hall is in the last guaranteed year of a four-year, $24 million deal that will pay him $8.4 million next season. The Mariners, according to a major-league source, will pay $7.5-8 million of his salary — essentially sending the Sox the same money that was given to Seattle by the Brewers when the M’s acquired Hall last summer.
Hall’s contract is evaluated for luxury tax purposes as being worth $6 million in 2010, based on its AAV. But the full amount of the cash transfer — call it $7.5 million — will be deducted from the Sox’ payroll as determined for luxury tax purposes. That being the case, Hall will actually reduce the Sox’ payroll in calculating the competitive balance tax by roughly $1.5 million dollars. Overall, then, the Sox were able to sign Beltre and add Hall and a player to be named at a cost (for CBT purposes) of roughly $2 million in 2010.
$7 million (AAV of Beltre’s contract)
-$3.5 million (AAV of Kotchman’s likely contract)
+$6 million (AAV of Hall’s contract)
-$7.5 million (cash transfer from Seattle to Boston)
That math explains how the final shaping of the Red Sox roster took place without blowing out the team’s payroll projections.
|01.06.10 at 2:35 pm ET|
Outfielder Andre Dawson was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America to the Hall of Fame after being named on 77.9 percent of ballots. “The Hawk” played for parts of 21 seasons, hitting 438 homers and stealing 314 bases. Dawson is one of just three players with at least 400 career homers and 300 career steals, joining Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. He had a career average of .279 with a .323 OBP, .482 slugging percentage and .806 OPS.
Though Dawson’s best years were with the Expos and Cubs, he also spent a pair of years with the Red Sox in 1993-94, hitting .260/.297/.441/.738 with 29 homers in 196 games.
Dawson was the only player elected by the BBWAA, as Bert Blyleven (74.2 percent in his 13th year of eligibility) and Roberto Alomar (73.7 percent in his first year of eligibility) fell just short of enshrinement.
For complete voting totals, click here.
|01.05.10 at 6:20 pm ET|
A baseball source said that Bill Hall would be going from the Mariners to the Red Sox in the Casey Kotchman deal, describing his inclusion in the agreement between the clubs as “a done deal.” Hall will be sent to the Sox along with a player to be named and cash for Kotchman.
Hall would be a useful role player for the Sox given his ability to play multiple infield (short and third) and outfield positions. And, as a right-handed hitter with pull power, he would be a good complement to a Sox team that features three left-handed outfielders (starters J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, and backup Jeremy Hermida) along with the right-handed Mike Cameron.
In 2009, Hall had six homers and 24 RBI with a .201 batting average over 76 games before finishing the season in Seattle. With the Mariners, he had two homers and 12 RBI to go along with a .200 average over the final 34 games of the year. Over the course of his eight-year career, Hall has a .251 batting average, along with 104 homers and 379 RBI.
Hall is due $8.4M, the last of a four-year, $24M deal. Were the Mariners to pick up most of his salary ‘ something they could do with the $7-8M received from the Brewers when they dealt for Hall last summer ‘ Hall could help the Sox’ luxury tax numbers quite a bit. He would represent a savings of about $1.5 for the purposes of luxury tax calculations. That, along with the roughly $3.5M saved by dealing Casey Kotchman, is what allowed the Sox to sign Adrian Beltre with a minimal luxury tax hit.
The minor-league player to be named in the deal will be just that — the Sox will evaluate a group of Mariners prospects in spring training before selecting one as a player in return.
|01.05.10 at 5:03 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona confirmed that Jacoby Ellsbury will play left field for the Red Sox in 2010 and two-time Gold Glove winner Mike Cameron will play centerfield. The news was first reported by The Providence Journal.
Cameron has played only centerfield since the 2005 season, when he and Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran had a frightful collision while Cameron — who signed a two-year, $15.5 million deal with the Sox earlier this offseason — was in right field. Cameron made clear that he was more than happy to play any outfield position for the Red Sox, but Francona, in concert with bench coach DeMarlo Hale and G.M. Theo Epstein, decided that having Ellsbury in left, Cameron in center and J.D. Drew in right made for the optimal defensive team.
“With [Cameron’s] long strides and him being a centerfielder, and Jacoby’s first-step quickness, I think this sets us up better where we can get, I think the word is, dynamic out in the outfield,” said Francona. “I can’t tell you how many times Carl Crawford’s come across in left field and taken away a hit and I’ve thought, ‘Damn.’ Any time you have the ability to put a centerfielder in left field, you’re going to be better. That’s what we’re doing.”
Ellsbury played the corner outfield positions for the Sox at times in 2007 and 2008, in place of Manny Ramirez. In those instances, when paired with Coco Crisp and Drew, he helped the Sox to have tremendous outfield coverage. The Sox, clearly, are hoping that he might have a similar impact in 2010.
“It came down to the fact that Cameron’s experience is almost exclusively in center and Jacoby demonstrated in 2007 and 2008 that he can be an impact corner outfielder defensively,” Epstein said via email. “We are more than comfortable with Jacoby in center. We just feel that — for now — this alignment puts us in the best position to win games. Both Mike and Jacoby were great about it and said they would do whatever was best for the team. Jacoby knows he’ll still be a centerfielder in the long run, and Mike looks forward to helping Jacoby any way he can.”
The idea of developing Ellsbury as a centerfielder will no doubt be more challenging, particularly the reads of the ball off the bat. Nonetheless, the Sox are hopeful that he will continue to improve at the position. If that happens, then in the long run, it is possible that at some point during Cameron’s time in Boston, the Sox could revisit the question of which outfielder is better suited for a corner and which one is superior in center.
Francona and Hale informed Ellsbury and Cameron of the decision by phone just before Christmas.
|01.05.10 at 4:13 pm ET|
The Red Sox and Mariners are close to an agreement that would send first baseman Casey Kotchman to the Mariners in exchange for a minor-league player to be named later, a major-league role player and cash, according to a major-league source. The deal is not yet finalized. News of the general agreement was first reported by ESPN.com.
Kotchman, who is eligible for salary arbitration after having earned $2.885 million in 2009, became expendable with the Sox’ acquisition of free-agent Adrian Beltre. Though the Sox had spent part of the offseason suggesting that the 26-year-old could be their starting first baseman, Beltre’s signing will allow the Sox to keep Kevin Youkilis at first base.
The cash component of the deal has significant implications for the Red Sox, since any cash transferred to them from another club is deducted from a team’s payroll as calculated for CBT purposes. Thus, in moving Kotchman and his 2010 contract (which will be of more than $3 million) and receiving the cash back, the Sox will save more than $5 million off their CBT payroll.
That, in turn, proved crucial for the Sox in providing the Sox with the payroll flexibility to reach an agreement with third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Kotchman, acquired by the Sox last year at the trade deadline in exchange for Adam LaRoche, hit .218 with a .284 OBP, .287 slugging and .572 OPS in 39 games with the Sox. He is a career .269/.337/.406/.742 hitter.
|01.05.10 at 1:35 pm ET|
“It’s the nature of the beast. Nobody owes you any favors,” Bay said. “It’s a business and ultimately you go in one direction. I understand that. I liked it (in Boston). It was familiar to me, which was big. But I think being there helped prepare me to be here. I had a good time there. I see it as a good background for my time here.”
Bay also was asked what he thought of the offseason acquistiions made by his former team and responded, “They’re always going to make moves. They have to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. They have a braintrust of people up there that do a number of things. They know what they’re doing. They have a good idea of what’s going on and they know they have to do things to compete, especially in that division.”
Bay went on to explain that another facto that played into his decision was the intensity of the Mets’ interest.
“Right from the get go, they were very interested,” Bay said. “Not that the Red Sox didn’t, but ultimately it worked out for here.”
|01.05.10 at 11:48 am ET|
NEW YORK — Jason Bay was introduced as a member of the Mets on Tuesday morning. Mets G.M. Omar Minaya presented him with a No. 44 jersey, and hockey Hall of Famer Rod Gilbert also gave the native of Trail, British Columbia, a Rangers jersey. Bay pronounced his excitement to join the Mets, a team that he said interested him from the beginning of the free-agency process, and his bemusement about the sort of rumors that made the rounds — both about his interest in going to New York and his health — over the course of the free-agency process.
Asked about leaving the Sox, Bay said that he was open to the idea of returning to Boston at season’s end.
“What it boiled down to, I just think the Mets wanted me more,” he said.
Here are some of the highlights from Bay’s press conference.
I just want to say thank you to Jeff [Wilpon] and Omar [Minaya] and everyone else that made this possible. It’s obviously a big deal, a big day for me. I’m very, very excited to be here. We were talking about it before and I told my agent when the season ended last year, when you looked around and looked at some of the voids teams had and what I could provide, there was a short list of teams I wanted to go to. The New York Mets were on that list. To be able to be here, to be with a team and in a place I want to be at, in this city and this market and everything, you only get a chance to do this once or twice in your career, and I’m very grateful and very honored to be here.
Why were the Mets on the short list?
First of all, the chance to win. Regardless of what happened last year, you look at the players on this team and it’s a very good team. I think coming in, I offer a little bit of a fresh perspective as an outsider. I don’t really know what went on last year. I know a lot of guys got hurt. But from a straight talent standpoint, it’s a very good team. That was big — a chance to win. I was in a situation in Pittsburgh where I enjoyed my time, but we didn’t win. Then I went to Boston, and really found that winning was a big part of that. And the market and meaningful games, being in Boston, kind of feeling that, having that . . . the window for me to play is very short. If you don’t take advantage of it now, you may never get that. New York is one of those places that, regardless of what sport you play or what you do, it’s the center of everything. Like I said, there were a lot of reasons [why I signed].
Any concerns about power or defense in Citi Field?
For those of you who don’t know, and I’m sure most of you do, Pittsburgh is very spacious as well, and you play half your games on the road. I’m not really concerned. It’s something that’s there, but you go out and I’m confident in the type of player I am. Ballpark or not, I’m still going to do what I do. So that had zero factor in anything in my decision. Defensively, in Pittsburgh it was big there as well. The first few years there, I felt like I was a good outfielder. I got banged up a little bit in ’07, then I went to Boston. There ain’t a lot of room to run around. It’s a challenge to go out there and prove to everyone that I can play pretty good defense. I’ve said before, I’m by no means Torii Hunter out there. I know that. But I still think I’m pretty good. It will be a chance to show everyone that I can be.
You replaced Manny Ramirez in Boston. Does that help you with what you’ll see in New York?
I think it is a huge factor, not only for myself but for the Mets. As long as you toil a little bit in anonymity in some smaller places, I think a lot of people have questions as to if so-and-so can do it here, can they do it here, can they do it here? Through no fault of anyone, unless you get a chance to do it, you can’t prove it. I went to Boston. I’m sure a lot of people said the same thing — even myself. I was like, ‘This is the chance to do it.’ I think that has really prepared me, a lot moreso than coming here from a smaller market. That doesn’t seem daunting. For me, it’s just another year. I kind of feel comfortable having that under my belt.
Any concerns about coming to New York?
There were no concerns. Obviously, right when the season ended and you get the free agency [exclusivity] period and all of a sudden that ends, the Mets were the first team, right from the get-go. My agent actually flew to New York and met with them. Very good, positive meeting. They were all along, after the Winter Meetings, there wasn’t probably a 48-hour window or something where we didn’t talk. So right from the get-go, they were very persistent. They wanted me. I really appreciated that. And then, basically, after the Winter Meetings, it probably seems like it took a long time, but after the Winter Meetings it took less than maybe a week or 10 days or something. We actually had agreed in principle before Christmas. There was a myriad of reasons — I don’t think any of us were even in the country; I was just in Canada, so it wasn’t that far — but to try to get this all done. It probably looks like it took a lot longer than it did. But in reality, it didn’t.
How important was it for you to pick a team you thought could win?
It was one of if not the biggest factor. Like I said, my previous situations, I earned a lot about what type of team I want to be on and the type of atmosphere I want to be under. This was the first chance for me to get a choice. I had been traded and just told where I had to go. To kind of sit down and talk about what are the factors, being on a team with a chance to win, as a competitor, that’s huge when you have a choice. Like I said, record-wise, I know what happened here on the surface, with guys getting hurt. I think that I offer a perspective where, if you look from a talent standpoint. The lineup, if you have everyone healthy you have an amazing lineup and arguably you have the best pitcher, fresh perspective, I don’t see how that can’t be good.
After the season ended, how much did you want to go back to the Red Sox?
It was pretty basic. The season ended in Boston. Once the season ended, they were on the short list. They had the criteria that I was looking for. Ultimately, what it boiled down to, I just think the Mets wanted me more. That’s what it felt, and it felt like it fit. Through no fault of anybody’s, I ended up here. This is where I wanted to be and I’m happy about it.
How much of this was about the money? Was anyone else close?
We can leave the second part of that question [out]. I don’t think we need to get into where I ultimately could have been. Ultimately, I’m here. That’s what I’m focusing on. At some levels, people say it’s not always about the money. The money’s nice — don’t get me wrong. But you bust your tail and put yourself in a position to go somewhere. Money aside, you still have to make that choice. You still have to make a decision. Like I said, New York, it was the perfect fit for everything. We hammered out the contract in almost a week. It was pretty easy. Both sides were happy. I wouldn’t have signed the contract if I didn’t want to be here and wasn’t happy. That couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s why I did it. This is one of the biggest days of my life, and I’m excited.
What did you think of Peter Gammons‘ statement that you’d rather play in Beirut than Queens?
I kind of heard about that around the way. It’s funny, maybe to my own detriment a little bit, we kind of cut off all contact until this was done. Basically, if I addressed everything that was false, I’d just be addressing that and not addressing the things that were true. There was a lot written. Where you come up with Beirut, I don’t know. … That’s the funny thing. No one refuted it. I never talked to anybody. No one knew my position on anything except for my family and my agent. People have opinions — that’s fine. To say those were my opinions and that’s the way I felt, that hurts a little bit. But, once again, you can’t control it and it couldn’t be further from the truth.
What is the state of your shoulder and how did you hurt it?
I actually never hurt my shoulder. That was once again me not refuting much. It just kind of took on a life of its own. I had surgery on it in 2003. It’s been great ever since. I saw [Mets doctor Richard] Altchek. Everything was great. It was, again, just one of those things that took on a life of its own. No concerns. I don’t have any concerns whatsoever.
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