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No-trade clause? No problem (usually)

08.24.10 at 1:53 pm ET
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Johnny Damon is mulling whether to return to the Red Sox after his former club claimed him on waivers on Monday. (AP)The question of whether Johnny Damon will return to the Red Sox likely hinges on whether or not he elects to exercise his power to veto a deal to Boston. The Sox are one of the eight teams to which Damon can veto a deal.

Damon, of course, has his reasons for having sought the opportunity to veto a deal to Boston. On Monday, he dredged the memories of his acrimonious departure from Boston, and his uncertainty about whether he would want to go back to the Red Sox.

But more often than not, no-trade protection ends up being less a means of avoiding going to a team than a bargaining tool should a trade occur. As one former general manager once explained:

“(The clauses) started out legitimately enough. There were certain places that players did not want to be assigned. … As time marched on, they became a hybrid between not wanting to go somewhere and wanting to leverage a potential deal.

“It’s gone full circle. … Where we are now, a ‘no trade’ doesn’t always mean you don’t want to go to that club. In many cases, it means exactly the opposite.”

Often, players simply use no-trade clauses to get some kind of bonus if they are sent to a team. The Red Sox’ recent history of deals (and near-deals) for players who had the right to veto a deal to Boston suggests as much:

Billy Wagner (2009): The Sox acquired the left-hander from the Mets a year ago. Wagner had a full no-trade clause in the deal he’d signed with the Mets, and as he continued his rehab from Tommy John surgery, he considered using his power to veto a deal, feeling that the pressure of a pennant race might be a less-than-ideal scenario in his efforts to recuperate.

But Wagner ended up agreeing to go to Boston after the Sox guaranteed that they would not exercise his option for the 2010 season. The deal was consummated, and Wagner ended up being a contributor not only over the duration of the 2009 season, but, perhaps more importantly, for the long haul, when he declined the Sox’ arbitration offer and signed with the Braves as a Type A free agent, giving the Sox a pair of compensation picks (No. 20, which turned into first rounder Kolbrin Vitek, and No. 36, which the Sox used for Bryce Brentz) in this year’s draft.

Alex Gonzalez (2009): The Sox made a waiver deal with the Reds for shortstop Gonzalez last August. Gonzalez had the power to nix a deal, armed with a no-trade clause, but he didn’t want to do anything to impede the deal.

“I didn’t ask for money,” Gonzalez said last year. “I didn’t ask for anything.”

Brian Giles and Mark Kotsay (2008): The Sox were scrambling to add outfield depth in August of 2008 (sound familiar?) as a result of an injury that sidelined J.D. Drew for most of the final six weeks of the season.

The team made a move to acquire Brian Giles from the Padres, but the veteran outfielder elected to exercise his no-trade clause to block the deal, citing his desire to stay close to his family on the West Coast. Undeterred, the Sox kept exploring outfield options, and near the end of August, they made a deal with the Braves for outfielder Mark Kotsay. But Kotsay was also armed with a limited no-trade clause that included the right to veto a deal with the Sox. In exchange for not exercising that power, Kotsay received $325,000 from the Sox.

Eric Gagne (2007): Gagne represented the evolution of no-trade protection. Prior to the ’07 season, the Sox did not have a closer (Jonathan Papelbon was being converted to the rotation), and the Sox had talked to the free-agent about signing to join their bullpen. Gagne had been interested, but had a better offer from the Rangers. Afforded the opportunity to pick a list of clubs to whom he could not be traded without his consent, he included the Sox — a team he said he was thrilled to join after being dealt at the 2007 trade deadline.

“(The clause) is not really where you want to go or not go,” Gagne conceded in the summer of 2007. “I think it was more leverage than anything else.”

The power of that clause proved significant. Gagne leveraged his veto power to have the Sox guarantee $2.5 million in potential bonus money.

Alex Rodriguez (2003): Rodriguez had a full no-trade clause from the Rangers in his landmark 10-year, $252 million deal. But he was more than willing to waive it in order to join the Sox following the 2003 season. In fact, the deal that would have brought him to Boston fell apart not because Rodriguez was seeking concessions, but instead because the MLB Players’ Association felt that he was giving up too much (approximately $28 million) in order to go to Boston.

The no-trade clause was not the hang-up in this failed deal.

Curt Schilling (2003): Schilling’s full no-trade clause created tremendous leverage in his negotiations with the Sox. He used his veto power to get a two-year, $25.5 million extension from the Sox (which became a three-year, $40.5 million deal once Boston won the World Series). The clause did not stop a deal; it just made it more expensive for the Sox.

Read More: Alex Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, billy wagner, Curt Schilling

Olney on D&H: Expect Damon back in Boston

08.24.10 at 12:53 pm ET
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Buster Olney

ESPN.com senior writer Buster Olney appeared on the Dale & Holley Show on Tuesday to discuss what player movement might occur between now and the Aug. 31 deadline for waiver deals. In particular, he addressed the immediate futures of two former Red Sox outfielders: Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.

Olney said that he expects that, despite Damon’s initial misgivings about returning to the Red Sox (who were awarded a waiver claim of the outfielder on Monday), he will be convinced to return to the team for whom he became an icon from 2002-05 and then a villain while a member of the Yankees from 2006-09.

“Knowing what kind of a teammate he is, knowing that he’s a good guy, a genial guy, once he starts getting the text messages and phone calls from the people he played with in Boston, I think he’ll be sold on the idea eventually of going back to Boston,” said Olney. “It’s fairly clear he has some hurt feelings about how it ended when he signed with the Yankees. I think the one thing those guys are probably going to tell him is, look, if you come back, the first time he gets in the batter’s box, let’s say on Friday night in Tampa Bay and all those Red Sox fans are at the Trop, they’re going to give him an ovation. They’re not going to boo him.

“And we know this, too: No matter when he comes back, a reunion in 2014, fans in Boston are always going to love him for how important he was to that team in 2004. So, I think he’s going to be talked into it. I might be completely wrong, but that’s my gut feeling.”

While Olney said that part of the incentive for the Sox in claiming Damon was to keep him away from the Rays and Yankees, he also would have value to the Sox. Olney described the Sox’ motivation in claiming the outfielder as a 60-40 split between the idea that he could help and the opportunity to block their rivals from acquiring him.

As for Ramirez, Olney anticipates that the mercurial slugger will be put on waivers, and that the White Sox might claim him. That said, if he is not claimed by Chicago (a team on the fringes of the pennant race), he thinks there is a good chance that Ramirez will return to the AL East as a member of the Rays.

“If he gets through waivers — and I don’t think the Yankees are going to claim him, just guessing, I don’t think the Red Sox will put in a claim — if he gets through waivers, I think he’ll finish August in a uniform with the Tampa Bay Rays, because I think they would be aggressive so long as they didn’t have to take on that whole salary,” said Olney. “The Dodgers are clearly frustrated with him. You talk to people in that organization, they’re fed up in the same way and for the same reasons as you heard from the Red Sox organization in 2008. They’re ready to move him out. But there’s no question that when he plays, he hits. … He’s still a threat. You know that if he were to walk up to the plate in the postseason, opposing managers, opposing pitchers would absolutely fear him. I don’t think there’s any question that he would make the Tampa Bay Rays better.”

Other items of note:

–Olney believes the Sox remain in contention for a postseason berth, but that their hopes of the playoffs are “hanging by a thread.” He suggested that the Sox need to make up ground in every remaining series they have against the Rays and Yankees.

–Olney suggested that Ramirez, right now, might be looking at a deal in the vicinity of $800,000 with performance incentives for the 2011 season, but that with a strong final month for a contender, he could get something along the lines of a $4-5 million guarantee. That line of thinking, he suggested, will play into the decision-making of any team that considers a deal for him.

–His understanding is that both Damon and Ramirez have contract language that would prevent them from being assigned to a new team via a waiver claim (in the absence of an actual trade).

–Olney believes the Sox are unlikely to move Jacoby Ellsbury in a trade in the coming offseason, since to move him now would represent a sell-low proposition.

“I kind of liken his situation to what the Rays have gone through the last couple years with B.J. Upton,” said Olney. “The Red Sox, better than anybody, understand what Jacoby Ellsbury is capable of. … If they were to put him out on the market, they probably wouldn’t get anything close to what they perceive to be fair value in return.”

–He described Clay Buchholz as a legitimate Cy Young contender, noting the tremendous confidence with which the pitcher now seems to be performing. On the other end of the spectrum, Olney has heard from talent evaluators who suggest that the five-year, $82.5 million deal for John Lackey and the four-year, $68 million extension signed by Josh Beckett — both deals will run through 2014 — could become an issue for the Sox, based on what both pitchers have done this year.

“I’ve heard from people with other organizations that they think the back end of those contracts have a chance to be ugly,” said Olney. “Investing $17 million a year for the foreseeable future, it’s kind of hanging in the balance, whether these deals work for Boston or against them.”

To listen to the complete interview, click here.

Read More: buster olney, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, john lackey

McCann on D&C: Upcoming trial ‘could be really bad for Clemens’

08.24.10 at 12:22 pm ET
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Michael McCann (UVM)

Noted Sports Illustrated columnist and University of Vermont professor on sports law, Michael McCann called into the Dennis & Callahan show Tuesday to discuss the upcoming Roger Clemens perjury trial. Clemens had previously been offered a plea deal that had offered him the chance to get off from serving time in jail, but he refused to accept it.

“He’ll be offered [another plea deal] as soon as the government wants to do it, conceivably up until throughout the trial … I have a feeling the government, the further this gets along, the less willing they’ll be to do that and Clemens’ personality is one that we all agree does not lend itself to settling,” said McCann. “I think he wants to keep fighting this. He just believes what he’s doing is right and he could end up going to prison because of this.”

Below are highlights of the interview. To listen to the full interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On what will be the biggest piece of evidence going into the Clemens trial:

I think it’s going to be [Andy] Pettitte’s testimony. I think [Brian] McNamee’s testimony will be attacked on a number of grounds by Clemens’ lawyers as unreliable, as based on being handled by somebody who isn’t trustworthy. Andy Pettitte won’t have any of that baggage. Andy Pettitte will be seen as credible; he has no reason to lie. Roger Clemens is going to have a tough time saying, if Pettitte gets up there and says in essence, Clemens told me he was using HGH, why would Pettitte be lying? I think that could be a real issue for Clemens.

On how the jury could believe that McNamee supplied HGH to Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Debbie Clemens, but not Roger Clemens:

I don’t think it could [work], although his lawyers could say, in essence, Clemens just happens to be a coincidental actor here. Also, maybe McNamee used a variety of drugs, including vitamin B12 in addition to steroids and HGH, so I think Clemens is going to say, “You know, fine. Other people are using it, but that doesn’t mean beyond a reasonable doubt that I used it. And also, look at McNamee, is he a trustworthy guy? Is he reliable?”

[The fact that he allowed McNamee to inject his wife with HGH] is going to be an issue for Clemens to overcome. Clemens is going to say, ‘I don’t know what McNamee injected me with. He told me it was vitamin B12.” It’s worked so far for Barry Bonds.

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Read More: Michael McCann, Roger Clemens,

Three Quick Nuggets

08.24.10 at 9:37 am ET
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* – Entering last night, Marco Scutaro had batted with 255 runners on base this season and had 40 RBI. That’s .157 RBI for every runner, the 4th lowest mark in the AL (min. 220 runners on base; thru Sunday):

.127 – Chone Figgins, SEA
.154 – Johnny Damon, DET
.156 – Jose Lopez, SEA
.157 – Marco Scutaro, BOS

Then on Monday, Scutaro batted with 5 runners on base and drove in 4 of them. Oh look, there’s Johnny Damon!

Here are the AL leaders in RBI per runner (same minimums; thru Sunday):

.336 – Carlos Quentin, CHW
.335 – Paul Konerko, CHW
.329 – Miguel Cabrera, DET
.326 – Alex Rodriguez, NYY

And the rest of the Red Sox:

.282 – Kevin Youkilis
.270 – David Ortiz
.266 – JD Drew
.261 – Adrian Beltre
.255 – Bill Hall
.240 – Dustin Pedroia
.217 – Mike Lowell
.211 – Victor Martinez
.211 – Jed Lowrie (only 38 runners)
.209 – Darnell McDonald
.178 – Ryan Kalish (only 50 runners)

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* – Over the last three games, Red Sox pitchers have gotten into 3-2 counts on a total of 10 batters and those batters have gone 0-6 with 4 walks. Clay Buchholz did not face a 3-2 count on Sunday. Even counting those somewhat encouraging results, Boston pitchers have allowed a .932 OPS on full counts this season, which would be the highest ever allowed by a Red Sox pitching staff in the 23 seasons that they’ve tracked the stat.

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* – So far in August, opposing cleanup hitters have no HR in 96 plate appearances. Boston, Florida, and the Chicago Cubs are the only teams that have not allowed a HR to a #4 hitter this month. However, #3 hitters have blasted a whopping 10 HR in 99 plate appearances against the Sox this month.  They’ve allowed more HR in a month to #3 hitters only twice since 1974:  June, 2000 (12) and April, 1997 (11).

Damon: Gut says stay with the Tigers

08.23.10 at 10:50 pm ET
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Johnny Damon is mulling whether to return to the Red Sox after his former club claimed him on waivers on Monday. (AP)Johnny Damon told reporters in Detroit following his team’s 12-3 victory over the Royals that he is still leaning towards exercising his right to veto a deal that would send him to the Red Sox.

“My gut and everything else tells me Detroit’s the place for me,” Damon told reporters, though he did allow that he might rethink that stance if he was told by the Tigers that they wanted to play younger players.

Still, Damon made clear that after talking with his Tigers teammates, who told him that they want him to stay with their club, that he is “definitely leaning” towards staying. The outfielder said that he wanted to hear from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski about what might be in the long-term interest of Detroit. If he can help to mentor young Tigers players, then he would welcome the opportunity to do so. But, Damon said, if Detroit felt that his presence might be an impediment to playing time for prospects who need time in major league games, that could factor into his decision.

The Sox were awarded a waiver claim on the 37-year-old on Monday. According to the outfielder, the Tigers, Red Sox and Damon have until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday to decide whether a) Detroit will let Damon go to the Sox, either simply letting the Sox take him on waivers or by working out a deal and b) Damon will accept a deal that would send him back to Boston.

Damon suggested that the possibility of playing again for the Sox had some intrigue, given the team’s place in the standings and the upcoming string of games against AL East opponents.

“Obviously they claimed me to go out there and play left field and lead off for them. They have a lot of big games with Tampa Bay coming up. They have six more games with New York coming up. That’s why they’re trying,” Damon told reporters. “What a scene that would be, playing for the Red Sox while the Yankees go there, and everybody there hates me. That’s the craziness that’s involved. I’m just going to try not to think about it tonight.”

Damon played with the Red Sox from 2002-05, and recalls his time in Boston fondly. Yet he also suggested that his fond memories of playing with the Red Sox were tempered by both the changes to the team following the 2004 season and the acrimony surrounding his departure.

“What we had in Boston — I stress had, from 2002 to 2005 — we had a special bunch of guys. And after the 2004 season, guys started leaving, the [Pedro Martinezes] and Derek Lowes. And in 2005, how Mark Bellhorn left, how Alan Embree left, how Kevin Millar was being treated there. That’s something that sticks with you. It was a totally new team,” said Damon. “I know they have a very good team, possibly the best rotation around. They inched a game closer today.

“Varitek knows what I brought to the table night in and night out. Ortiz does. And Wakefield. So obviously I know they want me. But I love it here in Detroit, and I love my teammates here. I hope this can work out to something that I can be back here in Detroit. I’m kind of weighing all my options, seeing if I could help improve this team for next year. That’s ultimately what I want is to grow together with the Tigers and help develop their young Tigers and see where it takes us.”

Damon went 2-for-4 as Detroit’s DH on Monday and is now hitting .272 with a .768 OPS for the year.

Read More: Johnny Damon, tigers,

Closing Time: Red Sox 6, Mariners 3

08.23.10 at 9:34 pm ET
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Until signing with the Red Sox this offseason, John Lackey had spent his entire career as a member of the Angels in the American League West. Though he is now a member of the AL East, the right-hander still looks very much like a pitcher who is at home against opponents from his old division.

Lackey overpowered the Mariners in a 6-3 victory on Monday night. In the process, he improved to 5-0 with a 2.86 ERA against the AL West, as compared to a 5-6 record and 5.23 ERA against the rest of the American League.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

John Lackey had some of his most impressive stuff of the season. He was getting swings and misses on his fastball, cutter, curve, changeup and slider, with predictably overpowering results for most of the night. He struck out a season-high 10 while allowing three runs (two earned) and matching a season-high by working eight innings.

–Lackey’s 10 punchouts marked the 10th time this month that the Red Sox have fanned at least 10 opponents a game. That, according to Gary Marbry, matches a club record previously achieved in June 2001.

Marco Scutaro tied a career high with four runs batted in, the eighth time he has reached that mark and the second time this year. The shortstop delivered a two-run bases-loaded single in the fifth (improving him to 6-for-11 with 16 RBI in bases-loaded situations this year) and another two-run single in the seventh.

J.D. Drew bounced back from a three-strikeout game on Sunday, going 2-for-4 and driving in his first run since Aug. 14.

–With umpiring crew chief Joe West looking on, the Red Sox and Mariners did not embarrass the game, navigating through nine innings in a tidy 2 hours, 21 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The Sox were once again betrayed by their defense. Jed Lowrie kicked a two-out grounder to second after he was screened by Ichiro Suzuki, not only allowing Chone Figgins to reach base (on what was scored a single) but allowing Ryan Langerhans to score from second on the error. Then, in the sixth, Lackey failed to field a one-out comebacker. And so, a potential double-play ball that would have ended the inning instead resulted in a bases-loaded, one-out jam that immediately resulted in a game-tying, two-run single by Casey Kotchman.

–While Mike Lowell has managed to stay in the lineup everyday, his production has dipped in the process. He went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts, marking the first he’d fanned three times in a game since May 31, 2009. Lowell is now 5-for-31 (.161) over his last nine games. His frustration became apparent after the third strikeout, which ended the sixth inning. After warming up his fellow infielders prior to the top of the seventh, Lowell fired the ball over the roof box seats of Fenway Park. But, he did rebound to line a single down the left field line in his fourth and final plate appearance.

Read More: Joe West, john lackey, marco scutaro, Mariners

A primer for the Johnny Damon saga

08.23.10 at 7:00 pm ET
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Johnny Damon has been claimed off trade waivers by the Red Sox. That we know.

So, what does it all mean? Here is a primer for what you should know regarding the Damon saga as it pertains to the outfielder, his current team, the Tigers, and the Red Sox as we live through the next 48 hours:

THE FIRST REASON WHY THE RED SOX CLAIMED DAMON

The impetus for the Sox’ claiming Damon off trade waivers (which is different than regular waivers) is most likely for defensive purposes, and we don’t mean anything to do with a glove. The Red Sox reside just in front of Tampa Bay and the Yankees in the order of getting a crack at players who are passed through waivers, allowing them to implement the kind of tactic they did in the case of Damon.

If the Red Sox didn’t claim Damon, Tampa Bay would have almost undoubtedly put in a claim since its biggest weakness is one of the 36-year-old’s remaining strengths. He can help an offense. While Tampa Bay is third in the majors in runs scored, this month it has the second-worst team batting average for the month of August among American League clubs.

While Damon wouldn’t be expected to carry a club, for a team like Tampa Bay – which has had their designated hitter position total a .238 batting average with the second-fewest runs scored in the American League – he could help.

Regarding the Yankees, there has already been a precedent of how much Damon can serve as a complementary piece to New York’s already powerful lineup. He would certainly seem to be more valuable to the Rays than the Yankees, but it would be an addition that certainly couldn’t hurt the Yanks.

THE SECOND REASON WHY THE RED SOX CLAIMED DAMON

While Damon isn’t nearly the player he was when he last wore a Red Sox uniform, he could provide some value to the current club. His numbers aren’t bad (.270 batting average, .355 on-base percentage), although he is hitting just .219 in August. But the fit in the Red Sox’ lineup would seemingly be a natural one, either manning the No. 2 spot behind Marco Scutaro, or with the pair switching places with Damon taking the top spot. It should be noted, however, that Damon has only hit leadoff six times this season.

Would he better than the likes of Bill Hall, Darnell McDonald, Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava? In some ways, yes. But not enough for the Red Sox to overpay for the outfielder.

Another aspect of Damon’s arrival that might make such a deal worthwhile for the Red Sox is the energy it might supply a team desperate for a boost. That was certainly the vibe relayed by players in the Sox’ clubhouse.

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Read More: Alex Gonzalez, billy wagner, brian giles, Johnny Damon
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