|11.24.09 at 1:29 pm ET|
Tim Bogar is heading into his new lot in life — as third base coach of the Red Sox — with his eyes open.
For one, he has seen how well life can be when calling the third base coaching box at Fenway Park your home, having witnessed the quality of DeMarlo Hale (now the team’s bench coach) throughout the 2009 season. But Bogar also understands the slings and arrows that can potentially await coaches in his new position, a reality discovered by the likes of some of his predecessors, such as Dale Sveum, Mike Cubbage, Gene Lamont, and Wendell Kim.
“Obviously any type of coaching in Boston there’s a little more of a magnifying glass because there’s a lot of expectations, and you have to be on top of your game. The way I look at it is that it is a great challenge, it makes you concentrate on every pitch, and you can’t get lazy,” Bogar said from his Illinois home. “To be honest I have one of the best third base coaches that have been there to lean on. If I have questions or need some guidance I can just go to DeMarlo and he can lead me in the right direction. He did a great job in the years he was over there, so I couldn’t ask for a better teacher. As for coaching third base in Boston I think it’s one of those things where you do well there and the fans appreciate a good effort, and that’s why they love DeMarlo.”
Even well before Bogar arrived with the Red Sox to be their first base coach prior to the ’09 season, he came to understand what the guy on the other side of the Fenway Park diamond dealt with when it came to waving in runners. That was thanks to his relationship with Cubbage, who was the third base coach for the Sox during the 2002 and ’03 seasons after previously serving as Bogar’s third base coach in eight of the former infielders’ nine major league seasons.
“I thought he did a great job. Obviously I don’t know how he did in Boston, but I really thought he thought the game through,” Bogar said of Cubbage. “I think a good third base coach has to be an extension of the manager and be able to think along with him. I thought Cubby did that really well with all three of the managers that I played for.”
What shouldn’t also be dismissed is that Bogar has put himself in a unique position to succeed in the new position. Not only was there his playing experience, and exposure to Hale and Cubbage, but also coached third in each of his four years a minor league manager, in the Cleveland and Houston organizations.
He will the first to admit that manning the position in the Appalachian League is a dramatic difference from doing so down the line from Fenway’s left field wall, but the opportunities allowed for a baseline for what Bogar could expect.
“Each level you have to advance as a third base coach because of the skill level of the players you’re trying to run on,” Bogar said. “I remember in rookie ball I had a shortstop, Wladimir Sutil, and I used to get him to score from second base on a ground ball from second. The first time he did I was holding him up and he ran right through it. I was yelling, ‘No, no, no’ and then he scored and I was like ‘Yes, yes yes’. That was different.”
Another stop on Bogar’s path that should pay off when it comes to finding his way over at third base was his stop in Tampa Bay, where he was the major league club’s quality control coach. (It is a position similar to what the Red Sox will be asking Rob Leary to man in ’10). The job with the Rays allowed Bogar to observe the game from a unique perspective, one which he says will help shape his approach as a third base coach.
“When you’re watching the game from the press box, like I did that whole year, you get a chance to see the game develop,” the 43-year-old explained. “I paid attention to third base coaches and see if they were going to send them, or if they didn’t, and try and factor in what went into them making their decisions. It gives you a really good idea of what’s going to take place when watching it from that high up.”
Yet, when asked what will be the biggest advantage he might have when preparing for the position, for Bogar it always comes back to Hale’s presence, along with simply working 81 regular season games at Fenway Park over the course of an entire season.
“DeMarlo would talk about that kind of stuff almost every day,” said Bogar in reference to his discussions about the ins and out sof coaching third at Fenway. “First and foremost, DeMarlo is a very open guy. He’s willing to share and tries to teach what he’s trying to do. We learned from each other last year. People forget too that it’s not the easiest place to coach first base either just because of that left field wall. When a guy hits it down there sometimes you can’t see where it’s hitting or how a guy is playing it. I think having a year at first base prepares you for a consistency of playing at place like Fenway, which gives you some unique obstacles.
“When I talked to Tito about it, he said, ‘Would you feel comfortble over there?’ I told him I definitely did. The way I look at it is the more things I can do the more it keeps me involved and helps me learn more. It’s a great challenge. But to have a guy like DeMarlo behind you that you can come back into the dugout to ask what he thinks, or rehash it with him in the locker room after, is a great thing to have.”
Who was the best Red Sox Third Base Coach this decade?
- DeMarlo Hale: 2006-Present (80%)
- Dale Sveum: 2004-2005 (9%)
- Wendell Kim: 1997-2000 (6%)
- Mike Cubbage: 2002-2003 (5%)
- Gene Lamont: 2001 (1%)
|11.24.09 at 3:04 am ET|
For the most part, the Red Sox‘ announcement of their 2010 coaching staff featured few surprises. The hiring of former Sox bench coach Brad Mills as the manager of the Astros created the opportunity to give some loyal members of the organization well-deserved promotions, as DeMarlo Hale was promoted from third base coach to bench coach, Tim Bogar went from first to third base coach and Ron Johnson — the man who, as the manager of Triple-A Pawtucket, has delivered word to dozens of Sox prospects in recent years of their promotions to the majors — got his own call-up, getting appointed to the Sox’ big league coaching staff as a first base coach.
But buried at the bottom of the press release was one unusual position. Rob Leary, the longtime field coordinator of the Red Sox minor league system, was named Major League coaching staff assistant. The job is a new one on the Sox staff, and requires some explanation.
Leary’s duties include the organization of spring training workouts, assistance with pregame on-field activities, assistance in advance scouting and in-game assignments from Sox manager Terry Francona. In many ways, Leary will play something of a hybrid role: He will be a coach who works with players prior to games, and he will be an organizer who handles planning and administrative activities so that the rest of the dugout coaching staff can continue to work more directly with the players.
“We wanted to keep our coaches as coaches as much as possible,” Francona explained. “[Leary] is somebody we’re trying to find a way to get him to the major leagues and this seemed like a perfect time to do it. We could use his organizational skills and also get him acclimated to the big leagues. While he doesn’t know the American League yet, that won’t get in the way because he’s not getting asked to sit in the dugout during the game. He’ll get a chance to learn the league and learn our team and we can use his strengths in the meantime, which are plenty. He’ll help us prepare our scouting, he’ll run our spring training and he has a chance to really help our staff round into shape.”
During games, Leary will be either in the clubhouse or in the stands. In that fashion, his role will be unusual though not unprecedented. Leary’s job was created in part based on the experience of Bogar while he was the “quality assurance coach” for Tampa Bay in 2008.
Bogar was a sort of eye-in-the-sky for the Rays during games, primarily sitting in the stands to observe his own club from the perspective of a scout. He would then take what he had seen back into the clubhouse after games and communicate with Rays skipper Joe Maddon and the rest of the Tampa coaching staff about matters such as defensive positioning and baserunning. Bogar also acted as a point of contact between a number of departments for the Rays, including the advance scouting, player development and major league coaching staffs.
Bogar had no doubts about the merits of his role with the Rays.
“Is it surprising that it hadn’t happened till ? Yeah, I think so,” Bogar said in spring training. “I think it’s one of those things that a lot of teams are going to start doing. Having an extra coach on the field to interact between all those departments is nothing but a bonus. It gives you an advantage. It really does.”
Francona acknowledged that Leary’s role was “very much” based on the one that Bogar served with the Rays — offering a reminder that the Sox, despite being a big-market club, are constantly examining other teams’ best practices regardless of market size in an effort to improve their operations.
Leary, thanks to his years of work across the Red Sox organization with virtually every minor leaguer currently in the farm system, is perfectly positioned to communicate with several different departments. The Sox view the highly regarded instructor as someone who can make an impact as a big league coach while he trains for what could become a larger role in the future.
“Lear is a guy who has had a big impact on our organization,” Francona said. “It’s a great way to get him in a major league atmosphere. The lack of experience doesn’t hurt our staff because he doesn’t have to know the league right now because he’s not going to be in the dugout during the game. But it’s a great way for him to get to know the league and use his strengths to help us and while he’s doing that, he can use the experience of being with our major league team.’
As for Hale, who has been interviewed for managerial vacancies in the past, including the Red Sox job that was ultimately filled by Francona following the 2003 season and the Mariners vacancy after the 2008 campaign, the Sox’ only hesitation to make him the bench coach was concern that they would be losing a very fine third base coach.
Hale managed to avoid the infamy associated with the thankless job of Red Sox third base coach (Dale Sveum and Wendell Kim both became punchlines at various points in Boston) because he was quite good at the job and thus rarely the subject of controversy. Nonetheless, while Francona hesitated to remove Hale from a role in which he performed well, he ultimately decided that he wanted someone who would approach the bench coach position with the same meticulousness.
“It’s the toughest market to be at third base and the toughest field and you never heard people talk about him so that was a huge compliment to him,” Francona said. “Part of the reason, a big reason you never heard about him, was because he did such a good job. He will take that and do the same thing as a bench coach.’
“It is rewarding,” Hale added. “This is a great opportunity for me, no question.”
Johnson, who has known Francona since the two were with the Expos in 1984 — in large part because a devastating knee injury to Francona created a roster spot for Johnson to play five games — was thrilled at the prospect of becoming an official part of the big league coaching staff. He and Francona have been in regular contact in recent years thanks to the steady flow of prospects from Triple A to the majors, and so Johnson already described himself as the sort of “sixth man” of the Boston coaching staff.
All the same, the idea that he was getting a big league call-up on a full-time basis reflected a milestone for Johnson’s career. He did not make any effort to conceal his glee.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about it,” he said. “I think it means more to me because it is the Boston Red Sox. To have an opportunity after all these years, to get an opportunity to go to the big leagues with one of the premier clubs in all of baseball, to me makes me even more proud.”
|11.23.09 at 6:34 pm ET|
The Red Sox issued the following press release announcing their major-league coaching staff for next season. As expected, DeMarlo Hale will be bench coach, Tim Bogar will move from first to third base coach and Ron Johnson will move from managing Triple A Pawtucket to serving as first-base coach. In addition, minor-league field coordinator Rob Leary will be added as a Major League coaching staff assistant.
Here is the release:
The Boston Red Sox today announced their 2010 Major League coaching staff. DeMarlo Hale has been named bench coach, Tim Bogar will serve as third base coach, Ron Johnson joins the staff as the first base coach and Rob Leary has been appointed Major League coaching staff assistant.
Additionally, Pitching Coach John Farrell, Hitting Coach Dave Magadan and Bullpen Coach Gary Tuck will all return in the same roles they held in 2009.
Hale, 48, has served as Boston’s third base coach for the last four seasons. He was previously the first base and outfield coach for the Texas Rangers from 2002-05 and managed Texas’ Triple-A Oklahoma club during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Hale began his coaching career in the Red Sox organization in 1992 and spent seven seasons as a minor league manager in the Boston system from 1993-99, compiling a 491-471 record. Selected by the Red Sox in the 17th round of the 1983 June Draft, he played five minor league seasons as a first baseman/outfielder in the Boston (1983-86) and Oakland Athletics (1988) organizations.
The 43-year-old Bogar will enter his second year with the Red Sox after joining the club as first base coach prior to the 2009 campaign. He served as the quality assurance coach for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 and previously managed in the Houston Astros (2004-05) and Cleveland Indians (2006-07) minor league systems, leading his clubs to a 289-200 mark and three postseason appearances. A former infielder selected by the New York Mets in the eighth round of the 1987 draft, Bogar played 701 Major League games over nine seasons with the Mets (1993-96), Astros (1997-2000) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2001).
Johnson, 53, will enter his 11th season in the Red Sox organization in 2010, his first on the Major League staff. He was most recently at the helm of Boston’s Triple-A Pawtucket club from 2005-09. A minor league manager for the past 18 seasons, Johnson has posted a 1,261-1,262 career record. He joined the Boston system in 2000 as manager of Single-A Sarasota (2000-01) and also led the Red Sox Double-A affiliates in Trenton (2002) and Portland (2003-04). Johnson began his coaching career in the Kansas City Royals chain, including eight seasons as a minor league manager from 1992-99. A 24th-round selection by Kansas City in 1978, Johnson hit .261 (12-for-46) in 22 Major League games over parts of three seasons with the Royals (1982-83) and Montreal Expos (1984).
Leary, who turns 46 on December 3, will enter his ninth season in the Red Sox organization in 2010. As the club’s Major League coaching staff assistant, his duties will include organizing Spring Training workouts, helping the coaching staff in all pre-game on-field preparations, assisting in the advance scouting effort, as well as completing special in-game assignments as delegated by Manager Terry Francona. Leary joined the Boston system as a roving minor league catching instructor in 2002 and has served as the minor league field coordinator for the last seven seasons. He spent seven years with the Florida Marlins from 1995-2001, during which he held the positions of advance scout, director of field operations, minor league field coordinator and catching instructor. Drafted by the Expos in the 12th round in 1986, Leary played five minor league seasons and served as a player/coach with Single-A Rockford in 1990. He managed Rockford from 1991-92 and also was at the helm of Single-A West Palm Beach in 1993-94.
|11.23.09 at 2:54 pm ET|
Twins catcher Joe Mauer was a landslide winner of the American League Most Valuable Player award, claiming 27 of 28 first-place votes to take home the honor. Mauer became the first catcher to lead his league in hitting (.365), OBP (.444) and slugging (.587), and he added career highs in homers (28) and RBI (96) despite missing the first month of the season with a back injury.
A pair of Yankees finished second and third, with Mark Teixeira (.292, .383, .565, 39 HR, 122 RBI) finishing as the runner-up in his first year in New York, and shortstop Derek Jeter (.334, .406, .465, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 30 steals) taking third. The only player aside from Mauer to receive a first-place vote was Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who finished fourth.
Kevin Youkilis had two second-place votes, appeared on 25 of 28 ballots and finished sixth overall. This marked the second straight season in which Youkilis (.305, .413 OBP (second in AL), .548 SLG (fifth in AL), 27 HR, 94 RBI) finished in the top 10 for the award. He finished third in the 2008 AL MVP race. Youkilis’ two-second place votes were from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports and Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star.
Youkilis was one spot ahead of teammate Jason Bay (.267, .384, .537, 36 HR, 119 RBI). Bay finished seventh in MVP balloting and was ranked in the top 10 on 21 of 28 MVP ballots. It was Bay’s first career finish in the top 10. Bay had one third-place vote, from Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun.
The Sox had a pair of top-10 finishers in MVP balloting for the third straight year. Youkilis and Bay followed the pairing of Dustin Pedroia (first) and Youkilis (third) in 2008, while David Ortiz (fourth) and Mike Lowell (fifth) accomplished the feat in 2007.
Catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez, whom the Sox acquired from the Indians at the trading deadline, finished in 23rd place in the balloting. Martinez ‘ who hit .303 with a .381 OBP, .480 slugging mark, 23 HR and 108 RBIsoverall, and .336/.405/.507 with eight HR and 41 RBI with the Sox ‘ collected two ninth-place votes. Complete voting results are available at BBWAA.com.
|11.23.09 at 6:43 am ET|
J.D. Drew’s initial reaction when asked about having surgery on his left shoulder last Thursday?
But then, after a brief explanation that word had come out regarding the procedure, Drew relented. The Red Sox‘ outfielder hadn’t wanted any red flags to be raised regarding the surgery, but now that the news had been made public he had no problem explaining the details of the operation, along with what led to the pain which wouldn’t go away.
“I got that (cortisone) injection right before the playoffs, which helped a little bit but didn’t help a whole lot,” Drew said from his Georgia home. “Then I went into the offseason and the last couple of weeks it’s just been wearing me out. Nagging, achy, and every time I reach across t grab something it was really weak. So I flew into Boston Wednesday to get an MRI to see what was going on.”
What was going on was some bone-on-bone irritation, causing bone spurs that ended up pinching his AC joint (acromioclavicular joint). Since no amount of rest or rehabilitation would heal the ailment, Drew was forced to get the bone trimmed off.
While the immediate results of the surgery has offered a great deal of discomfort (“Coming out of it pain wise was a lot worse. My arm is so sore,” he said), the prognosis is that Drew will be able to begin some light rehab work next week and lose perhaps just one week of his offseason workouts when it’s all said and done. (“The turnaround time on it isn’t hardly anything. Once the swelling and the soreness goes away you’re right back to being pain free. But you can imagine that if you cut something off the bone it will take a little time to heal back up,” he added).
As Drew pointed out, he had already discovered that getting shots was not the answer to this problem. And when executing simple things like reaching across the kitchen table for a salt shaker had increasingly become a chore, he knew a trip to Boston was a necessity.
“I got to the point a couple of times where it was really painful during the season but got the shot and it took the edge off,” Drew explained. “When you’re doing baseball every day I think your body is loosened up and more accepting to those motions you do. But when you come home for the offseason and everything starts healing up that’s when a lot of time you start noticing scar tissue build-up in that area and that’s when I was like, ‘Golly man, this is not not normal’. I didn’t know if it was rotator cuff affecting my AC joint, or a labrum issue. I knew it hurt like heck on top of my AC joint but I wasn’t sure if it was coming from somewhere else. That’s when we went in to get a picture of it and get some scans and all it was was a pretty simple bone spur right on top of my AC joint. I think it’s been building up being a left-handed hitter who doesn’t release my top hand and kind of rolls around, those two bones rub together ever since I’ve been playing the game of baseball. It finally got to a point where a shot wasn’t gong to fix it.”
As for the overall structure of his shoulder, Drew said that the MRI reaffirmed that there were no other problems other than the bone spurs. And, according to the outfielder (who just turned 34 last Friday), that injury was a byproduct of nothing more than continuous wear and tear that stemmed from the manner in which he has swung a bat all these years.
“The shoulder looks great,” he said. “Actually the radiologist was like ‘Man, the shoulder looks great, but did he fall on his shoulder because his AC joint is lit up like a Christmas tree’. That’s just how much inflammation and chronic irritation that was going on.
“I didn’t want to go in with this thing nagging me here and there next year, having to take a day here and there, and getting cortisone shots. Dr. [Thomas] Gill said he was glad we did it because he said I probably wouldn’t have made it through the year fighting that thing. Now we’re good to go.”
|11.23.09 at 3:44 am ET|
According to FoxSports.com, the Red Sox are offering Mike Lowell to other clubs and offering to pick up $6 million of his $12 million salary in 2010. Even so, the report cited a rival executive who suggested that other teams would not be inclined to pick up that much of the third baseman’s salary for next year.
Lowell is entering the final season of a three-year, $37.5 million deal he signed after the 2007 World Series. The 35-year-old hit .290 with a .337 OBP, .474 slugging percentage and .811 OPS in 2009 while hitting 17 homers and driving in 75 runs. He was limited to 119 games in his first season following surgery on his right hip labrum after the 2008 campaign.
That said, for much of the year, his overall offensive numbers suggested a highly productive member of the lineup. He hit at least .300 in four of the six full calendar months of the season; his OPS also exceeded .800 in four months, and was actually .900 or better in three months. The only two months in which his numbers dipped — June (.206 average, .595 OPS) and Sept./Oct. (.239, .633) — coincided with periods when his recovery from hip surgery required him to have fluid drained and the lubricant Synvisc to be injected to ease the discomfort in his hip.
By and large, he was a productive member of the lineup. Even so, since the time of GM Theo Epstein‘s press conference analyzing the state of the Sox following the 2009 season, Lowell’s place and role on the 2010 club has seemed uncertain. Asked to identify what the Sox could improve upon for 2010, Epstein suggested the following:
“There are a lot of different ways to get better,” said Epstein. “Probably start by looking at our weaknesses because there is the greatest room for improvement there. If you look back at this year’s club, we weren’t as great a defensive club as we wanted to be. So look at overall team defense and defensive efficiency. Then offense on the road. We didn’t really hit at all on the road this season.”
Lowell was part of both of those shortcomings. His defense was obviously impaired by his recovery from surgery. He went from being a well above-average third baseman (as measured by UZR and John Dewan’s plus-minus ratings) throughout his career from being one of the worst in the majors, particularly on balls hit to his left (an unsurprising result of the weakness in his right hip).
As for his home/road splits, Lowell was a monster at Fenway, hitting .307/.344/.588/.932, but on the road, he hit .276/.331/.382/.713. Of Boston’s everyday players, only Jason Varitek had a more dramatic disparity in his home/road numbers. (Though Lowell is a right-handed pull-hitter, it is worth noting that he’s alternated between being a better home and road hitter in his four seasons with the Sox.)
Both Lowell and the Sox have said that they expect that his hip will be in better shape for the 2010 season than it was in 2009. Last offseason, Lowell could do nothing but worry about the recovery of his hip. As he said on multiple occasions, he would not be able to strengthen the joint until this winter.
Even so, Lowell will be 36 in 2010. Even if he is able to improve from his surgery, the Sox have been non-committal about what to expect from him next season.
“He will grind it out everyday but at what point does that become a hindrance to his performance?” manager Terry Francona mused last month. “I think we saw that happen this year too. I think we all feel, including Mike, the medical people and us that he will be better situated next year. Now, stating the obvious, as guys get older, where do you balance the surgery, guy becoming a certain age and another year of wear and tear.”
Given all those factors, it is anything but surprising to hear that Lowell is being made available in a subsidized trade this offseason. After all, the Sox already had shown a willingness to move on from the 2007 World Series MVP last offseason, when they pursued Mark Teixeira.
If the Sox acquire a first baseman such as Adrian Gonzalez this offseason, then Kevin Youkilis could be moved to third, and Lowell would become expendable. But given the role that Lowell played in two of the areas that the Sox hope to improve upon in 2010, he likely will remain in a familiar position of limbo this offseason, regardless of whether the Sox bring back an All-Star like Gonzalez or not.
Then again, Lowell spent this decade as an almost perennial presence in the rumor mill, yet he was dealt just once during that time. So, even though initial signals would suggest that the Sox are open to moving Lowell, it remains to be seen whether that sound and fury will signify anything.
|11.22.09 at 3:54 pm ET|
One point of clarification seems relevant in the wake of J.D. Drew‘s surgery on his left shoulder on Thursday, which was described as minor. There is a clause in Drew’s contract permitting the Sox to void the final two years of his five-year, $70 million deal should he be on the D.L. for at least 35 days in 2009 or 2010, or if he finishes a season on the disabled list and will not be able to play the outfield the following season, due to a pre-existing right shoulder injury at the time he signed his deal. (Details found at the invaluable Cot’s Contracts.)
But none of those would affect Drew’s contract status at this point, for a few reasons: 1) it is his left shoulder that required the surgery in this instance; 2) he finished the year on the active roster; 3) given the characterization of the procedure as minor, there’s no reason to suspect that he will be unable to play outfield in 2010. Indeed, according to some of the advanced defensive measures, Drew was one of the best defensive outfielders in the game in 2009, which is part of the reason why the Sox consider him to have lived up to his considerable contract.
|11.22.09 at 11:01 am ET|
Red Sox right fielder JD Drew underwent a surgical procedure on his left shoulder on Thursday at Mass General, a baseball source confirmed. The surgery was first reported by the Boston Globe. The procedure was described by the source as “minor.”
Drew received pain-relieving cortisone injections in the AC joint of the shoulder in both June and again in the final days of the regular season. Despite the condition, he played in 137 games, and hit .279 with a .392 OBP, .522 slugging mark and .914 OPS that ranked second among A.L. outfielders.
|11.20.09 at 5:37 pm ET|
The Red Sox have claimed right-handed pitcher Robert Manuel off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, putting their 40-man roster at 32 players. The deadline for setting teams’ 40-man rosters is at midnight Friday. The Sox aren’t expected to make any more additions before the deadline.
Manuel, 26, made his Major League debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009, tossing 4.1 innings of scoreless relief over three games. He began the season with Cincinnati’s Triple-A Louisville affiliate, going 3-4 with 10 saves and a 2.70 ERA (14 ER/46.2 IP) in 36 relief outings over two stints with the Bats. Manuel was traded to Seattle on July 29 in exchange for outfielder Wladimir Balentien and finished the season with Triple-A Tacoma, going 1-1 with four saves and a 3.32 ERA (7 ER/19.0 IP) in 15 appearances. His .207 combined opponent batting average between Louisville and Tacoma was eighth-best among all Triple-A relievers.
Originally signed by the New York Mets as a non-drafted free agent on June 17, 2005, Manuel has combined for a 24-17 record with 19 saves and a 2.88 ERA (118 ER/368.1 IP) in 169 minor league games (23 starts) over five seasons in the Mets, Reds and Mariners systems. The right-hander has compiled 339 strikeouts compared to 66 walks.
|11.20.09 at 5:10 pm ET|
Now that the exclusive negotiating period has come and gone for the Red Sox, the reality of who will be bidding for Jason Bay’s services starts to get clearer.
Before we get to those teams who are, and aren’t, interested in entering the fray, one thing that should be noted as this process unfolds is that Bay isn’t entering into free agency tip-toeing on eggshells. All anybody had to do was read a couple of Bay’s comments since the end of the Sox’ season to understand this.
Here’s what he said immediately after the Red Sox’ final game of the 2009 season: ‘I’m actually looking forward to it,’ Bay said of his first foray into free agency. ‘I was looking forward to it after winning a World Series, or at least going further than this, but everybody, I don’t want to say ‘plays to get to this point,’ but it’s something new and something interesting … It’s tough to go out on these terms, but I guess the second part of my season is this offseason and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s out there and seeing how the process goes.’
And there was this line from the live chat Bay conducted on WEEI.com: “There isn’t one important factor. The funny thing is that everybody has an opinion of what I’m waiting for or what I’m doing and I don’t even have an opinion, and that’s the truth.”
Bay is looking forward to this process, and, as he suggested, is diving in with an open mind. For the 31-year-old who has waited his whole professional life to have this kind of opportunity, the fun has just begun. So, one day, in, this is what we know in regards to some of the teams that are (and aren’t) interested in the free agent outfielder:
Red Sox: They’ve doubled the financial part of their proposal — going from an initial offer of three years, $30 million to four years, $60 million — but didn’t come close to buying out Bay’s right to experiencing the open market. They like him, perhaps as much as anybody, as their willingness to put Bay at the top of the team’s payroll would suggest. But … all together now … all it takes is one team to jump in with the kind of love that the Sox aren’t willing to show. One thing to keep an eye on is if, or when, the Sox decide to slap a deadline on the decision. They did it with Mike Lowell (who signed his deal exactly two years ago, Friday), and with Jason Varitek last year. The thinking is that the Sox need to know which way Bay is going to go because Plan B or Plan C (whatever they might be) won’t be viable options forever.
Angels: Other than the Yankees, this is the team that could present the most problems when it comes to the Red Sox re-signing Bay. Not only do they have the kind of money that would allow for a legitimate run at a top tier free agent (remember, they were also in the Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia bidding until near the end last year), but now their owner has proclaimed that LA will be a player for Bay’s services. Arte Moreno told the Los Angeles Times Thursday that not only is his team interested in Bay, but that the Angels have no interest in the other free agent big ticket item, Matt Holliday. Would anybody be surprised to see Angels approaching $17 million per year in their offer to Bay this offseason? And is that a number the Red Sox are willing to go to?
Mets: You know they have money, and they also fit the model in terms of the type of team that would value what Bay brings to the table. It has been well-documented that Bay’s detractors point to defensive metrics that don’t paint a pretty picture. (Although Bay’s agent, Joe Urbon, not only pointed out the flip-side to that argument when talking to WEEI.com, but said just a few days ago that no team he had talked to has brought up concerns regarding any of the outfielder’s defensive deficiencies.) So why does that concern the perception we might have in regards to the Mets’ interest in Bay? Check out this quote from New York GM Omar Minaya at the general managers meetings last week: ‘Defense is important because it’s a pretty big ballpark. But the bottom line is that if you’re a corner outfielder you’ve got to have slug,’ Minaya said. ‘I would put offense over defense right now in a corner outfielder.’ Interesting …
Giants: Not interested. At least that’s what their GM, Brian Sabean said this week. Sabean told reporters following the Tim Lincecum Cy Young press conference that his team wasn’t about to get in a race it didn’t have a chance at winning. “”We’ve contacted who we think is going to have mutual interest,” Sabean said. “We’re not going to be involved with people that are going to use us on the way to something else. If there’s legitimate mutual interest, we’ll have meaningful talks. Quite frankly, there are a lot of nice opportunities with that second tier. There are some people who are going to help, maybe in some cases just as well as the higher-priced free agents.”
Cardinals: Also reportedly not (that) interested. St. Louis clearly wants to re-sign Holliday, but it doesn’t look like Bay is their primary back-up plan. “”We’ll see how the market develops,” St. Louis general manager Mozeliak told reporters. “Is (Jason Bay) a possibility? Sure. But right now it’s fair to say he’s not one of our top priorities.”
Mariners: This one could be interesting. There is an obvious link considering the Seattle area is where Bay makes his home in the offseason, and the Mariners‘ outfield’s combined OPS was horrific last year. But the flip-side is that Seattle, more than most any other team, has made outfield defense a priority. The combination of Ichiro Suzuki, Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez paid dividends last season. Perhaps, with Gutierrez and Suzuki still in the mix, the Mariners find some middle ground and see a Bay acquisition as a happy medium.
Blue Jays: Yes, Bay is Canadian. (As he points out, full Canadian, and half American after gaining his U.S. citizenship this year.) But when you’re talking about competing in the free agent market with the big boys, the Blue Jays won’t have a chance. This we know: The outfielder will prioritize the certainty of winning of national pride.
Yankees: Stay tuned …
There will be more teams, rumors and reason, but this is what we have for now. Bay’s second season has officially begun.
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