|12.14.10 at 7:02 pm ET|
With Lee now heading to Philadelphia with a five-year, $120 million deal, the Phillies have an abundance of starting pitching at a high price. Sports Illustrated reported on Tuesday that the Red Sox and Phillies had a deal in place for Joe Blanton. Stark was asked if Blanton would make sense for the Red Sox.
“Not particularly,” said Stark of Blanton, who has two years and $17 million left on his contract. “I think the Red Sox were willing yesterday to do anything to help the Phillies make this [Lee] deal happen. They would have been a very accommodating trade partner. Joe Blanton doesn’t fit for them. Think about the last time Joe Blanton set foot in Fenway Park. Daniel Nava can tell you all about it. I don’t see Joe Blanton as an AL East kind of guy.”
What is the next move for the Yankees, who now appear to be reeling after missing on Lee? Stark suggests that the Yankees are still trying to figure out what the next step should be, but a move made on Tuesday could lead to a bigger deal down the line.
“The Yankees really haven’t even formulated Plan B,” said Stark. “They were so obsessed, so fixated on Cliff Lee that they were willing to basically put all their resources into him and worry about what happens if they don’t get him later. There’s no doubt that the Russell Martin deal gives them ammunition to make a trade later. Catching is the strongest, deepest part of their system and now they have catching to deal. So I don’t think these deals are disconnected ‘¦ I think it’s more likely than ever that they’ll make a big deal before the deadline.”
In contrast to the Yankees, the Red Sox have had an extraordinarily productive off-season, adding Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Stark was asked if the Sox could make another high-impact move.
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot more for the Red Sox to do,” Stark said. “They’re in the tweaking stage right now. I think they are going to listen on Mike Cameron. I don’t think they’re likely to trade him because if you start to look at that outfield and start thinking about how likely it is that Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew play 140 games each, you’ll see that it’s not that likely. So Mike Cameron still fits for them but he’s an interesting chip. But they’ve spent their money well and they’ve thought and looked over the horizon as they always do and it really showed.”
Is there any chance that the addition of Crawford means a possible deal involving Jacoby Ellsbury? Stark believes the Red Sox are happy with the team they have but won’t shut the door on a potential Ellsbury trade.
“I think it opens that possibility,” said Stark. “No doubt about it. The sense I get is that they are very content with how their team and outfield shapes up right now. But they’ve got four everyday outfielders and an everyday DH, so any time you are sitting in that spot it’s a great place to be. They’re in the driver’s seat now, they can totally call their own shots here and control where their off-season goes from here. Anything they do now, they do from strength. That’s not the case with the Yankees.”
To hear the entire interview, check out the Dale and Holley audio on demand page.
|12.14.10 at 4:37 pm ET|
It would not be unprecedented. The Red Sox have done it before — once. But while there is no formal club policy against offering three-year contracts to relievers, according to a source familiar with the club’s thinking, the Sox would only go to such lengths to sign a pitcher whom the club deemed to be one of the best in the game.
While there are several strong options on the relief market right now, only one — Rafael Soriano — could be considered one of the top relievers in the game, and since he is virtually certain to seek a job as a closer (a job that the Sox have filled both for 2011 by Jonathan Papelbon and likely beyond by Daniel Bard), the Sox are unlikely to make a play for him. And so, even though a pair of relievers (Joaquin Benoit and Scott Downs) have set the upper end of the market for middle relievers this winter by signing three-year deals, the likelihood is extremely small that the Sox would offer a three-year deal to a bullpen arm this winter.
The Sox gave out their only three-year relief deal under GM Theo Epstein to closer Keith Foulke following the 2003 season. That paid off in 2004, when Foulke proved a crucial contributor to the Sox’ World Series, but offered a case study in the perils of long-term relief deals in 2005 and 2006, when Foulke missed substantial time with injuries and performed poorly, ultimately losing his job to Papelbon.
The Sox have signed relievers to two-year deals that included vesting options. Both Alan Embree and Julian Tavarez were signed to such deals. Embree made enough appearances for his option to vest, while Tavarez did not, but had his option picked up after emerging as a valuable swingman in 2006 and 2007. Both pitchers ended up being designated for assignment in the third year of their deals.
That history may have informed the Sox’ approach with Downs, the free-agent left-hander whom they aggressively tried to acquire both at the trade deadline and again in free agency.
Downs represented a potentially good fit for the Sox as a southpaw with an outstanding track record (he had a 2.36 ERA over the last four years) and a proven ability to succeed in the AL East. According to multiple major league sources, the Sox had significant interest in Downs, especially after signing Crawford.
In part, that represented the fact that the cost of Downs ‘ a Type A free agent for whom the Sox would have to give up a draft pick ‘ would not be quite as steep. The Sox had already signed Crawford as a Type A who would cost them their first-round draft pick; Downs, ranked lower among Type A free agents by the Elias rankings system, would have thus cost a second-round pick.
Even so, while the team would have been interested in him for two years, the Sox made the decision to back off of Downs. The team decided that a three-year deal was more than it wanted to invest in a reliever, particularly given Downs’ age (34) and the fact that he would cost a pick.
A case can be made that Downs was the best setup man on the market this offseason. That being the case, even while the Sox have interest in other available relievers such as (according to multiple industry sources) Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain as well as (according to ESPN.com) Kevin Gregg, among others, none is likely to receive a deal with three guaranteed seasons.
|12.14.10 at 3:28 pm ET|
The Red Sox announced on Tuesday that they sold 238,818 tickets this weekend at their annual “Christmas at Fenway” event and online. The event, which marks the beginning of regular-season ticket sales, had its second-best showing since its inception. The team sold 243,024 tickets in their first weekend of sales in 2008.
‘We are incredibly grateful for the support our fans continue to show year after year,’ Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Sam Kennedy said in a statement released by the team. ‘The enthusiasm for the 2011 season was palpable Saturday at Fenway Park with the introduction of Carl Crawford to Red Sox Nation and appearances by other members of our organization during Christmas at Fenway. We continue to work hard throughout this off-season to bring our fans a team and a ballpark experience worthy of their support, and look forward to welcoming Red Sox Nation home on Opening Day, April 8, 2011.’
The signing of Crawford and the acquisition of Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez likely played a role in the spike in ticket sales.
|12.14.10 at 3:27 pm ET|
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.com offered an interesting piece today, comparing this year’s free agent market to the profligacy evident in the offseason of 2006-07. Over the past couple offseasons, huge long-term deals had been few; this winter, however, the signing of Cliff Lee by the Phillies will mark the fourth $100 million deal of the offseason, following those signed by Troy Tulowitzki, Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford.
Things didn’t work out so well for the baseball world the last time that nine-figure contracts and/or contracts of four-plus years were dished out like Halloween candy. To wit, Cameron notes that of the 14 players signed in the winter of ’06/’07, just one has earned his keep.
The player who has been worth his deal? J.D. Drew.
According to FanGraphs, Drew — because of his plate discipline, power and defense — has been worth $57.2 million over the first four years of his deal, during which time he has been paid $56 million.
The other free agent outfielders signed that winter have been disasters, and received longer-term deals than Drew. Carlos Lee — a glorified DH who is forced to play a position in the NL — has been a $38.9 million player; he has been paid $63 million with another $37 million due over the next two years.
Alfonso Soriano has been paid $64 million over his first four seasons with the Cubs, and is still owed $72 million over the next four years. FanGraphs values his performance at $59.3 million.
A year ago, Sox GM Theo Epstein suggested that he didn’t regret the Drew deal, and suggested that the right fielder had earned his keep. One year later, at least by one measurement system, the outfielder continues to do so. Of course, he will have to recover next year from his struggles of 2010 in order to be worth the money for the full life of his contract. All the same, given some of the other signings that winter (Lee, Soriano, Barry Zito, Gary Matthews, etc.), the oft-criticized deal for Drew could be judged in a different light.
|12.14.10 at 11:20 am ET|
According to multiple reports, the Yankees have reached an agreement to sign catcher Russell Martin. Martin hit .248/.347/.322 with five homers in 2010 before a hip injury ended his season with the Dodgers in mid-August. The Dodgers did not tender him a contract earlier this month, fearing they would have to give the arbitration-eligible catcher a raise on the $5.05 million he earned last year.
The Red Sox were also interested in Martin, but their discussions with him were primarily as a depth option in case either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Jason Varitek was injured in spring training. A source familiar with the discussions suggested that the Sox discussed a deal that featured little guaranteed money with the 28-year-old.
Martin’s batting average and OPS has gone down in each of the last three years. But he is also a two-time All-Star who as recently as two seasons ago was regarded as one of the best all-around catchers in the game, and at 28, he remains young enough that there could be upside.
|12.14.10 at 11:11 am ET|
On Friday, the Justice Department announced that the government will not contest a court of appeals ruling that investigators illegally seized a list of 104 MLB players who allegedly tested positive for steroids. The list was seized in an April 2004 drug lab raid from Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. and Quest Diagnostics Inc. Although the test results were supposed to remain anonymous the identity of four players were leaked to the media: David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez.
Here is the press release from the MLPBA:
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department announced on Friday, December 10, that the Government would not ask the United States Supreme Court to reverse a court of appeals ruling that the Government had illegally seized records regarding Major League Baseball‘s 2003 survey-drug testing. The deadline for asking the Supreme Court to review the case ‘ by filing a petition for certiorari ‘ was Monday, December 13.
The decision by the Justice Department to drop the appeal means that the court of appeals ruling is now final, and that the records regarding the 2003 testing must remain confidential.
‘We are pleased that the Government has decided not to pursue this case any further and to let this long legal battle end,’ said Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. ‘Pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players were promised that these 2003 test results would be anonymous and confidential. We have always believed that the seizures were improper and violated the rights of the players and the MLBPA. The courts have agreed. This is a significant victory for our members and for our collectively bargained Joint Drug Program.”
In 2004, with search warrants that named just 10 players, the Government seized records regarding the 2003 MLB drug-testing for all Major League players. The MLBPA immediately contested the seizures, and later in 2004 three different federal district judges ruled in favor of the MLBPA and ordered the Government to return the materials.
The lengthy appellate process followed. Last September an eleven-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, by a vote of 9-2, issued a revised opinion confirming its previous ruling that the seizures were illegal and violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.
|12.14.10 at 10:26 am ET|
Be-Lee-ve it or not, ace Cliff Lee has passed up monster deals with both the Yankees and Rangers to return to the Phillies – a team that he helped take to the World Series in 2009 and where his post-season dominance was first truly recognized. The free agent left-hander reached a preliminary agreement on a contract with the Phillies late Monday nigh a deal reportedly worth $120 million over five years, with a sixth-year option for another $27.5 million. The Yankees offered Lee around $150 million for seven years, and the Rangers offered around $120 million for six years.
Here is a look at how the multiple cities involved in the race for Lee are reacting to the decision:
Lee decided to return to the Phillies because he sincerely enjoyed playing there, so much so, that he was willing to pass on an extra few million dollars to do it. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that while this decision “is a nice narrative, even a noble impulse,” it is “fraught with risk and potential disappointment.” Martino points out how the Phillies lineup has changed since Lee was with the team in 2009, as well as the possibility for more shakeups after the first year of his deal is complete. “The Yankees would have given Lee not just more money, but the security of knowing he would not ever be stuck for long on an irrelevant team,” Martino said.
While Philadelphia is ecstatic over a 2011 rotation that will include Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, the club is, at the same time, slightly concerned with payroll issues. Details of how the Phillies will make things work are “sketchy,” writes Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News, but some scenarios include shopping right-hander Joe Blanton, outfielder Raul Ibanez and right-hander Kyle Kendrick.
General manager Brian Cashman disputed the idea that the Yankees were desperate for Lee, saying they have a “pretty good one-two punch to start the season” behind C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to get someone,” Cashman said, “but it means we’re not desperate.” Tyler Kepner and Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times attempt to sort through the Yankees prospects and some of the remaining free agents to figure out where the club should to turn its attention to now.
The Yankees really have no plan B for healing their rotation since losing out on Lee, and must now “move forward without having filled the most obvious need for next season,” Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Sherman says that while the Yankees might benefit more in the long run from not having another high-paid, aging player such as Lee on their roster, the 2011 season could be a painful one in his absence.
In the Philadelphia Inquirer, Phil Sheridan debates which Philadelphia Lee story is more shocking -the deal that sent Lee to the Mariners last December, or the deal that brought him back to the Phillies in the middle of Monday night.
With the Lee era over in Texas, Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News writes that the Rangers will have to look for new and creative ways to upgrade their rotation before the 2011 season begins. One of Cowlishaw’s ideas includes “finding a way to get Matt Garza from the cash-strapped Tampa Bay franchise.”
|12.14.10 at 9:54 am ET|
Maybe it started in August.
It was when word started circulating throughout the Red Sox clubhouse that Carl Crawford had told friends he wanted to play in Boston, not New York.
Perhaps that was the beginning of this run for the Sox.
Whatever the origin of the front office’s good fortune, it is hard to argue that the Red Sox decision-makers are on a roll, with the news that Cliff Lee would be headed to the Phillies serving as the latest example.
Let’s look at how the world has neatly unfolded for the Sox of late:
CLIFF LEE SIGNS WITH THE PHILLIES
This is a no-brainer. It was always believed that this one would come down to the Yankees and Rangers. When asked about the Lee situation in front of the Christmas at Fenway crowd Saturday, Sox general manager Theo Epstein said, ‘Texas is a nice place to work.’ But ask again and he will tell you that, in this case, Philadelphia is even better.
No Lee in the American League. No Lee in the American League East. And, most importantly for the Sox, no Lee with the Yankees.
THE RANGERS LOSE OUT ON LEE
While the Red Sox would have gladly viewed Lee going to Texas as a palatable scenario, there may also be a payoff for the pitcher not heading to the Rangers. That would be the case if, like many people think, Texas GM Jon Daniels turns his attention to signing third baseman Adrian Beltre.
If the third baseman did end up with the Rangers, the Red Sox would secure Texas’ first-round selection in next June’s draft, the 26th overall. The only teams currently with unprotected first-round picks slotted lower than Texas are Colorado, Toronto, St. Louis, and San Diego. None figure to be in the market to ink Beltre, the Red Sox’ last-remaining ‘Type A’ free agent.
The two teams most mentioned when it has come to possible landing spots for Beltre ‘ the Angels and Oakland ‘ both have their first-round picks (No. 17 and 18, respectively) protected.
If Beltre does join up with the Rangers, the Red Sox would then have the No. 19 (from the Tigers for Victor Martinez) and No. 26 picks. They lost their own first-round selection (No. 24) to the Rays for signing Carl Crawford.
THE RED SOX SIGN CRAWFORD WHEN THEY DO
Part of the hurry for the Sox to come to an agreement with Crawford last Wednesday night was because the Angels set a deadline of 11 p.m. that evening for the free agent outfielder to make up his mind. But another driving force for the hurried timetable was that the Red Sox knew if they waited until this week, they might be finding themselves in one of baseball’s least desired positions ‘ going head-to-head with the Yankees in bidding for the services of a free agent. When it comes to straight-up money, it is still a contest virtually no team has won.
THE PADRES WERE THE ONES TRADING ADRIAN GONZALEZ
There are few in baseball who don’t think the likes of at least Casey Kelly and Anthony Rizzo won’t be good major leaguers. Still, perhaps nobody valued the pair like both the team that traded the two youngsters, and the team that traded for them.
The Padres’ perception of Kelly, in particular, was key, considering any deal for Gonzalez needed a centerpiece, and San Diego general manager Jed Hoyer, and his assistant, Jason McLeod, both viewed the 21-year-old as just that. They knew Kelly as well as anybody, even as much as the Red Sox themselves, having played key roles in drafting and developing the pitcher before heading to Petco Park.
And while giving up Kelly wasn’t an easy road for the Red Sox to go down (they didn’t include him in any Roy Halladay packages), the prospect’s departure didn’t dent the Sox’ future like a typical centerpiece might.
THE YANKEES DIDN’T GET ANY YOUNGER
New York’s big moves of the offseason to date are re-signing Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Both are good players, but, as good as they are, extending each by four and two years, respectively, could get uncomfortable.
EVEN VICTOR MARTINEZ OFFERED A SILVER LINING
While losing Martinez simply came down to the Red Sox not valuing the catcher has much as Detroit, there was a plus for the Sox. The Tigers owned the first non-protected pick in the draft (No. 19), which is now the property of the Sox.
|12.14.10 at 8:53 am ET|
SI.com previously reported the Red Sox had a deal in place to acquire starting pitcher Blanton from the Phillies. Earlier Tuesday, FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported Phillies ‘were deep in discussions’ about sending pitcher Blanton to the Red Sox.
The 30-year-old Blanton has two years remaining on his current contract, which would pay him $8.5 million in both 2011 and ‘12. The righty went 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 29 appearances for the Phillies in ‘10, while finishing with a 12-8 mark with a 4.05 ERA in ‘09. Blanton did go 6-1 with a 3.48 ERA after the ‘10 All-Star Game.
For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.
|12.14.10 at 8:39 am ET|
According to SI.com, the Red Sox have a deal in place to acquire starting pitcher Joe Blanton from the Phillies. Earlier Tuesday, FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported Phillies “were deep in discussions” about sending pitcher Blanton to the Red Sox.
The 30-year-old Blanton has two years remaining on his current contract, which would pay him $8.5 million in both 2011 and ’12. The righty went 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA in 29 appearances for the Phillies in ’10, while finishing with a 12-8 mark with a 4.05 ERA in ’09. Blanton did go 6-1 with a 3.48 ERA after the ’10 All-Star Game.
For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.
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