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Red Sox sign Jonathan Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury, avoiding arbitration

01.18.11 at 2:02 pm ET
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According to a major league source, the Red Sox agreed to deals with both closer Jonathan Papelbon and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. In so doing, they avoided going to arbitration with their only two arbitration-eligible players, thus keeping intact GM Theo Epstein‘s record of never having gone to an arbitration hearing — a contentious process that pits player against team — in his nine years as general manager.

Papelbon, who is arbitration eligible for the third time, will receive a $12 million salary for the 2011 season, while Ellsbury, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, agreed to a $2.4 million deal. Ellsbury would be eligible for $50,000 bonuses for 600 and 700 plate appearances.

Papelbon, who turned 30 in November, had his worst season in the major leagues in 2010, going 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA. He had 37 saves, but also blew a career-high eight saves, a mark that also was the highest such total in the American League. Even so, Papelbon’s career numbers (188 saves, 2.22 ERA, 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings) rank him among the best closers of all time among pitchers with his service time, thus leading to the significant raise over the $9.35 million he received in 2010. Only three relief pitchers in major league history have ever had deals with an average annual value of more than $12 million: Yankees great Mariano Rivera, who has signed two deals with an AAV of $15 million; Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who is entering the final year of a three-year, $37.5 million deal ($12.5 million AAV); and Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is entering the final season of a three-year, $37 million deal ($12.33 million AAV).

Ellsbury, whose season was effectively lost due to the rib fractures he suffered, hit .192 with a .241 OBP, .244 slugging percentage and .485 OPS in just 18 games in 2010. However, his career marks of .291/.344/.405/.749 with 136 stolen bases, put him in line for a significant raise over his 2010 salary of $496,500.

Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com (via twitter) was the first to report the agreements.

Read More: arbitration, Hot Stove, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon: Bobby Jenks sees the potential of the Red Sox

01.18.11 at 8:34 am ET
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Speaking to the Providence Journal at halftime of the Celtics‘ game against Orlando at TD Garden Monday night, Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said he can understand why Bobby Jenks would want to join up with the Sox to become a set-up man.

“With him, [Jenks] sees the potential that he has to come to the Red Sox and be on a championship ballclub,” Papelbon said. “I don’t really see anything wrong with that. Players want to win, and that’s it.”

Papelbon was effusive in his praise of the Red Sox front office when talking about how the team is constructed heading into spring training.

“I’m excited,” he told the Journal. “I can’t really explain it well because I’m so excited. The offseason acquisitions we’ve made have been above and beyond my expectations, for sure. Theo [Epstein] is putting together a ballclub to where everybody can go out there and do their own job and putting the pieces together to where nobody this year should have to go out there and expect more than what they normally should have to do.

“If everybody goes out there and stays healthy, we definitely should have a title-contending team this year, for sure.”

Papelbon was in town to attend the wedding of manager Terry Francona’s daughter, and has been working out with the participants of the Red Sox’ Rookie Development Program. The reliever said he is anxious to learn from last season, in which he finished with a 3.90 ERA and 37 saves.

“Basically, every season, you take information from it,” he said. “For me, I was able to gain tons of valuable information from last year and take it into my offseason this year and use it to better myself. That’s what I’ve done. This year, especially with the great team we’ll have, that’ll really help me out. That’s what all athletes do.”

For more Red Sox coverage, see the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Picking a winner? A look at the draft picks gained and lost by the Red Sox

01.16.11 at 8:14 am ET
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It was not long ago that teams signed free agents without regard for the draft pick they would have to sacrifice to do so. Clearly, that has changed.

Indeed, the pick that a team must sacrifice to sign a Type A free agent who rejects salary arbitration from his former club has become so significant that it reportedly became the subject of significant contention in the Yankees organization. Earlier this month, New York GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees — after being spurned by Cliff Lee — wouldn’t sign a Type A free agent because they were unwilling to sacrifice their first-round pick. But he was reportedly overruled at the ownership level, resulting in the decision to give up the No. 31 overall selection and sign Rafael Soriano as the most expensive setup man in history.

Just how valuable is the No. 31 overall pick? The answer varies significantly by year.

In 46 June drafts, just 15 players taken at the No. 31 spot have reached the majors. (For the complete list, click here.) Only two of them emerged as above-average players. One was Jarrod Washburn, who won 107 games after being taken by the Angels in 1995. The other? Greg Maddux, whose 355 career wins are the most by a right-hander whose career started after the World War…World War I, that is.

The Red Sox‘ free-agent activity resulted in their losing their own first-round pick (No. 24 overall) while gaining two (Nos. 19 and 26). Under GM Theo Epstein, the Sox have used compensation draft picks to acquire a number of their key prospects. (For details, click here.)

But historically, what kind of players have been selected with the first-round picks gained and sacrificed by the Sox this winter? Here is a look at the history of the three first-round draft picks that were affected by the Red Sox’ free agent activity this offseason:

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 MLB Draft, Adrian Beltre, carl crawford, draft pick compensation

Epstein: Scutaro the Sox shortstop ‘until something changes’

01.14.11 at 10:52 pm ET
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Speaking after the Hot Stove Cool Music roundtable, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said that, as things currently stand, Marco Scutaro will be the shortstop for the 2011 Red Sox. That said, he also suggested that Jed Lowrie will be an important contributor, and that his performance will help to dictate his role and how much he plays at short.

“We have two really talented shortstops on the roster at different phases of their career, and they’€™ll both end up helping this club win,” Epstein said. “How it shakes out in terms of playing time will be up to [manager Terry Francona] ‘€” and, ultimately, the players will determine their own roles. If we’re a better team with one guy playing two-thirds of the time and the other guy playing one-third of the time and moving around, that’s what we’ll be. If it looks like we’ll be a better team with a more traditional arrangement or a time share, that’s what we’ll do. Players, ultimately, make those decisions for you.”

Scutaro played in 150 games last year, 132 at short (he was relegated to second base at the end of last season by a neck injury that affected his ability to throw). In the first season of his two-year, $12.5 million deal, he hit .275/.333./.388/.721 with 11 homers. Lowrie missed the first half of 2010 while recovering from mono, but in 55 second-half games, he hit .287/.381/.526/.907 with nine homers.

Based on Lowrie’s strong performance down the stretch, the Sox do view him as an important part of the 2011 roster, though Epstein did say that Scutaro is currently slated to be the primary shortstop.

“Scutaro signed here to be the shortstop,” Epstein said. “He should be healthy when he comes to camp, and he’€™s going to play a lot of shortstop. But we’re not good enough that we can’t use every available resource that we have. Jed Lowrie is someone who can play a good shortstop, can play a number of positions, and can help this team win. He’s going to see some time at shortstop. But Marco was our shortstop last year, and, until something changes, that’s how it’€™s going to be.”

Read More: Hot Stove, Jed Lowrie, marco scutaro,

Was Brian Cashman on board with Yankees signing Rafael Soriano?

01.14.11 at 3:49 pm ET
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Buster Olney of ESPN.com suggested (via twitter) that the Yankees‘ decision to sign reliever Rafael Soriano to a three-year, $35 million was driven more by ownership than by New York’s baseball operations department. And based on what Brian Cashman has said about his beliefs in bullpen construction in the past, it is not hard to fathom that he might have been uncomfortable with the idea of handing out the fifth-largest average annual value ($11.67 million) ever conferred upon a reliever — and for a pitcher who will not even be asked to handle the ninth inning for the Yankees, who have a certain Mariano Rivera on the roster (at $15 million per year for the 2011 and 2012 seasons) as a closer.

In spring training, Cashman talked about the first long-term deal to which the Yankees signed Rivera. After having gone to arbitration in 2000 (with Rivera “losing” when an arbitrator sided with the Yankees in granting the closer a $7.25 million salary), the two sides avoided a repeat of that forum in Feb. 2001. Rivera and the Yankees agreed to a four-year, $39.99 million deal, the first of four multi-year deals to which Cashman has now signed the future Hall of Famer.

Cashman was asked whether, in 2001, he had any reservations about Rivera’s ability to remain healthy or consistent in his performance given the widely held view that relief performance is extremely volatile on a year-to-year basis. His explanation touched on how he envisioned building bullpens and, indirectly, why a signing such as the reported deal with Soriano might run counter to Cashman’s philosophy.

“Back then, the evolution of the game, the knowledge of the volatility of relievers didn’€™t exist then. There wasn’€™t the evidence of the ups and downs that had been studied to the point that I can remember thinking about it back then. Back then, if you had a good arm, had success, give him a multi-year contract and he should continue doing well,” Cashman explained. “Versus now, you’€™re a lot more hesitant. How I go about building my bullpens, I’€™m essentially pulling guys. You draft guys with good arms, if they fail as a starter you throw them in the ‘€˜pen. You know what? You’€™d be surprised how it can work out for you.”

There was a time when the Yankees invested heavily in middle relievers. They shocked the industry with a four-year, $22.25 million deal for Steve Karsay from 2002-05. They gave Kyle Farnsworth $17 million for three years from 2006-08.

But in recent years, Cashman had made a point of building more economical bullpens, something he mentioned before the 2010 season.

“I’€™ve had a pretty cheap bullpen the last few years to set up Mariano. A couple years ago, we had Edwar Ramirez and [Jose] Veras. [In 2009], we had [Dave] Robertson and [Joba] Chamberlain. We had Phil Hughes,” he said. “We don’€™t have, like we used to, the Karsay, the Farnsworth contracts, the Paul Quantrills where you go out and get them to sign for three- or four-year reliever contracts, because it’€™s volatile.”

Now, however, the Yankees have a new reliever under contract for up to three years — unless, according to reports, Soriano exercises his right to opt-out of the deal after either 2011 or 2012. It is a deal in which the Yankees are getting a pitcher who, over the last two years, has been undeniably one of the best in the game, one who led the A.L. in saves and had a sub-2.00 ERA in 2010 despite pitching in a division of relentless lineups.

Even so, it represents a clear departure from the way in which the Yankees had been building bullpens in the past, and the way in which Cashman suggested he wanted to build bullpens.

Read More: brian cashman, Hot Stove, New York Yankees, rafael soriano

An interview with the Red Sox’ answer to Rafael Soriano: Bobby Jenks

01.13.11 at 10:40 pm ET
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CHANDLER, Ariz. — Just hours before the Yankees locked up Rafael Soriano, I sat down with the Red Sox‘ own closer-turned-set-up-man, Bobby Jenks. Jenks is working out at the Keith Poole’s Training Zone, with Dustin Pedroia, Andre Ethier and Kevin Frandsen (among others) after having always trained in the Chicago area throughout his previous offseasons.

Below is just a snippet of the sit-down. (For the complete column on Jenks, click here):

Read More: bobby jenks,

Yankees lock up Rafael Soriano, guaranteeing Red Sox will get Rangers’ pick

01.13.11 at 9:35 pm ET
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According to SI.com, reliever Rafael Soriano has agreed to a deal with the Yankees, thought to be forthree years, $35 million. Soriano will set-up closer Mariano Rivera, who is signed for the next two seasons. The New York Times reports that Soriano has opt-out clauses, allowing him to make $11.5 million for one year, $21.5 million for two, and the $35 million for all three.

The 31-year-old Soriano saved an American League-best 45 games for Tampa Bay in 2010, compiling a 1.73 ERA while striking out 57 and walking 14 in 62 1/3 innings. In 2009 the righty saved 27 games for the Braves, finishing with a 2.97 ERA.

The move would cost the Yankees their first-round draft pick (31st overall) since Soriano was a Type-A free agent. It comes just days after New York general manager Brian Cashman said the Yanks wouldn’€™t be willing to sacrifice a first-round draft pick in order to sign any free agent. The move also guarantees that the Red Sox will be receiving Texas’€™ first-round pick as compensation for Adrian Beltre agreeing to his deal with the Rangers since Soriano was the last remaining free agent with a higher Elias ranking than Beltre. (If Soriano signed with the Rangers, their pick would have gone to the Rays.)

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