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Red Sox join Yankees in getting hit with a luxury tax bill

12.21.10 at 6:01 pm ET
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According to the Associated Press, the Red Sox joined the Yankees as the only two teams to pay Major League Baseball’s luxury tax for the 2010 season. The Yankees, according to The AP, paid $18 million in luxury taxes, while the Sox will be billed for just under $1.5 million in luxury taxes.

The Yankees, who have paid MLB’s competitive balance tax in all eight seasons of its existence, are taxed at a rate of 40 percent above the CBT threshold, which was $170 million in 2010. That means that New York’s payroll, for the purposes of calculating the luxury tax, was approximately $215 million. The Sox, who had been under the luxury tax threshold in the last two seasons, were taxed at a rate of 22.5 percent, meaning that their payroll was roughly $176 million. That would mean that the 2010 Sox had the highest payroll of all time for any non-Yankees club, eclipsing the $163.1 million by the 2007 Red Sox.

Next year, the Red Sox would have to pay a 30 percent premium on any payroll expenditures above the 2011 luxury tax threshold of $178 million. As things stand right now, the Sox already appear poised to exceed the threshold. For more on the Sox’ luxury tax situation for next season, click here. For complete Red Sox coverage, visit weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Hot Stove, luxury tax,

The world according to Jenks: Reliever ready to set up Papelbon

12.21.10 at 4:58 pm ET
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Speaking on a conference call to introduce Bobby Jenks as the Red Sox‘€™ newest reliever, Sox general manager Theo Epstein made it clear that the plan is for the 29-year-old former White Sox closer to set up Jonathan Papelbon in 2011.

‘€œWe feel really lucky that Bobby wanted to pitch here and we were able to get someone of his caliber to join our bullpen and help Dan Bard set up for Pap,’€ Epstein said.

‘€œIt’s not everyday you can bring someone of this caliber without a closer opening. We felt lucky that it happened. Bobby is someone that has great stuff, but we see him as more than just a thrower. He really knows how to pitch, as well. He goes right at guys and throws strikes. He brings the kind of fearlessness to the mound we look for in a market like Boston. We think that he’s going to fit in great and hopefully be part of a pen that’s going to be one of the best ones we have around here in a long time.’€

Epstein said that he had been in constant communication with Papelbon’€™s agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, throughout the negotiations with Jenks, and that the GM had left a voicemail for the Sox’€™ closer once the deal (reportedly worth two years, $12 million) had been completed.

‘€œPap, I’m sure, is fine with this,’€ Epstein said. ‘€œWho wouldn’t want guys like this pitching along side him in the bullpen. Pap kind of disappears in the offseason, does his whole thing, and then shows up ready to go in spring training in great shape like always. Every time we add someone of quality to the bullpen he’s excited about it, and I believe that should certainly be the case again this time.’€

Jenks, who has been the White Sox’€™ full-time closer since 2006, said he understood the dynamic that will present itself with the Red Sox, and that he relishes the chance to join Daniel Bard in setting up Papelbon.

‘€œI was just excited to just get the opportunity to come here,’€ Jenks said. ‘€œObviously with the team they’re putting together this year, it’s very exciting, very appetizing. I’ve always wanted to play in Boston. A few years back when I came back here me and [Josh] Beckett were hanging out I told him this was one of the places I’ve always wanted to play. When it became available I jumped on it.’€

Asked about the adjustment he will have to make in primarily pitching prior to the ninth inning, Jenks said, ‘€œIt’s all mental. You just have to go out there and stay more focused and approach it the same.’€

Jenks said that the elbow tendonitis that forced him to miss most of the final month of the 2010 season was no longer a problem.

‘€œI feel 100 percent right now,’€ he said. ‘€œThe whole elbow thing going on last year, I think it was more of a scare for everyone than something that was actually wrong. Going into the offseason I knew I was 100 percent healthy. It was frustrating for me not being able to finish off the season to at least show people I was healthy. ‘€œMedically I was cleared to go and I was throwing off the mound at the end of the year, throwing bullpens at 100 percent. Going into the spring I’m going to be 100 percent healthy and ready to go.’€

Asked about whether or the not the Red Sox might be adding another lefty to their roster, Epstein suggested there are a variety of different approaches the team could take.

“We’ll see. We certainly like the non-roster options that we have from the left side with Rich Hill, Andrew Miller and Randy Williams,” the GM noted. “We’re certainly comfortable coming to spring training and looking more closely at that group. There are still some guys out there that we’re talking to. But I think the biggest thing is that we’ve added a lot of depth, a lot of experience, power arms and strike-throwers to our pen. Last year was a struggle all season for us to cobble it together and to give Tito some quality options. We feel like even if we broke camp today we have an abundance of options and different looks with guys who can go through the heart of a team’s order and get to Pap.”

As for Miller, Epstein said that short-term the plan is to give him a chance to make the Sox’ bullpen, although the organization does think the lefty has a future as a starter.

“We’re open to both,” said Epstein in regard to roles for Miller. “I think long-term the goal is to get him back to being a starting pitcher. He’s got a tremendous ceiling as a starter. Short-term it’s probably worth our while to take a look at him out of the pen, especially in spring training. I think some of the adjustments that we plan to make with him, not to go into too much detail, but simplifying some things, lend themselves to a look as a reliever in spring training. I think ultimately there’s still the chance for him to be a starter, and a really good one. But along the way, because the need is more likely to present itself as a reliever for the organization, we’re going to certainly keep that option open as we go.”

Read More: bobby jenks, Theo Epstein,

Bobby Jenks passes physical with Red Sox

12.21.10 at 3:46 pm ET
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The Red Sox announced on Tuesday that right-handed relief pitcher Bobby Jenks has passed his physical, making his signing with the Red Sox official. The Boston Herald was the first to report the story.

The Sox came to terms on a two-year, $12 million deal with the two-time All Star closer last week. Jenks had 27 saves last season for the White Sox, while striking out 61 batters in 52 2/3 innings. He posted a 4.44 earned run average and a 1.36 WHIP.

The team also announced that they have designated infielder Brent Dlugach for assignment. The Sox had acquired the former sixth-round pick from the Tigers on Nov. 4. The 27-year-old spent last season at Triple-A Toledo, where he hit .258 with six homers and 41 RBI.

Sifting for relief bargains

12.21.10 at 11:10 am ET
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The acquisitions of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler have been the headline moves in the reshaping of the Red Sox bullpen. But the Sox have also made a number of less prominent moves that could prove significant in determining how much the team is able to improve a relief corps that ranked among the worst in the American League last year.

A year ago, after all, it was the completely unheralded signing of Scott Atchison that provided the Sox with their most effective bullpen newcomer. Though Atchison spent early stretches of the season in the minors, he eventually emerged as the most trusted relief option behind Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, as the right-hander appeared in 43 games and, despite a 4.50 ERA at the end of the year, enjoyed stretches of significant success. More notably, the best reliever in the American League last year, Joaquin Benoit, produced a 1.34 ERA for the Rays after signing a minor league deal with Tampa Bay last offseason.

“That’s the way bullpens are built,” said one American League executive. “It might not be with headline guys.”

It is entirely possible that this season, the most significant addition to the Sox bullpen will be neither Jenks (who agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal) nor Wheeler (who has a one-year, $3 million deal with a club/vesting option for 2012) but instead one of the players whom they have brought on board in a minor league deal. Such is the nature of the incredibly unpredictable year-to-year performance of relievers. Whether because of injuries or under-performance by expected staple members of the bullpen, others will have a chance to emerge.

That being the case, it is worth taking stock of what a few relievers who signed minor league deals will make should they contribute in the majors:

Andrew Miller, $1.3 million

Jason Bergmann, $700,000

Rich Hill, $580,000

Lenny DiNardo, $500,000

In an offseason where the market for middle relievers has exploded — and in which, a couple years from now, plenty of multi-year deals for middle relievers will be viewed through the prism of regret — if any of those pitchers end up contributing meaningfully at the major league level in 2011, those salaries will seem like bargains. And, in a worst-case scenario for the Sox, such deals represent low-risk propositions. Should any of those players either not contribute or struggle, the Sox can part ways with few regrets.

There are few guarantees with signing a host of pitchers to minor league deals. After all, pitchers such as Joe Nelson, Brian Shouse and Alan Embree who competed for Red Sox bullpen roles after signing minor league deals for the 2010 season ended up contributing little.

But given the risks associated with bigger money deals that include big league guarantees, and given the potential upside of such signings, they represent a potentially important component of bullpen construction.

Read More: andrew miller, bobby jenks, dan wheeler, jason bergmann

Nuggetpalooza looks at Carl Crawford

12.21.10 at 9:36 am ET
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* – Loves to face (min. 20 PA):

Josh Towers: 20-for-47 (.426) with two doubles, a triple, and five HR (1.212 OPS);
John Lackey: 21-for-45 (.467) with three doubles, a triple, and two HR (1.178 OPS)

* – Hates to face (same minimum):

Roger Clemens: 1-for-20 (.050) with six strikeouts;
Miguel Batista: 4-for-24 (.167) with four strikeouts;

Those numbers against Lackey include 10-for-15 (.667) over the last two seasons… Lackey has allowed on OPS of over 1.100 to three opposing batters (min. 30 PA):  Manny Ramirez (1.467), Crawford (1.178), and Jason Giambi (1.105)… Towers is the only pitcher that has allowed more than three HR to Crawford.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Hot Stove,

Yankees may turn to prospects to fill out rotation

12.21.10 at 7:56 am ET
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The Yankees wanted Cliff Lee, but saw him spurn their nine-figure offer to head to Philadelphia instead. The best alternative on the market this winter was 2009 Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, but according to multiple reports, New York decided not to pursue the right-hander over concerns about his fit for the market. They want Andy Pettitte back, but the 38-year-old has informed the club that he is leaning towards retirement, GM Brian Cashman said (according to Jack Curry of the YES Network, via twitter).

The rest of the free-agent market is less than promising. Carl Pavano is the closest thing to an appealing pitcher on the market, and his previous four-year tenure in New York was such a disaster that the Yankees are almost certain not to pursue him. The trade market beyond Greinke does not offer obvious solutions. While there has been speculation that New York could make a run at 2010 AL Cy Young winner Felix HernandezCashman told ESPN.com, ‘€œThat ain’€™t happening.’€

So where do the Yankees turn now? According to the same ESPN.com piece, Cashman feels that he might have little choice but to seek internal answers for his rotation behind returning starters CC SabathiaPhil Hughes andA.J. Burnett.

‘€œI’€™m not saying I want to do it,’€ Cashman told the website, ‘€œbut I may have to do it.’€

It appears that 23-year-old Ivan Nova (who went 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA for the Yankees in seven starts last year) is a virtual lock for the rotation. If Pettitte changes his mind and returns to pitch in 2011, that would round out the Yankees’€™ five. But if he does not, then Cashman said that he was prepared to turn to a prospect without major league experience, with the article citing Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Hector Noesi and left-hander Manny Banuelos as possibilities. None of those pitchers has ever thrown a big league pitch.

While the Yankees might not make a big move this offseason, however, that does not foreclose the possibility of the team adding a starter in the coming months. Cashman suggested to ESPN.com that his team need not make a move before the July 31 deadline for non-waiver trades.

‘€œIn the past, we might have gone out and traded away prospects just to get someone in here,’€ Cashman said. ‘€œBut realistically, I have until July to get this solved.’€

Read More: Hot Stove,

Marlins sign Ricky Nolasco to extension

12.20.10 at 6:37 pm ET
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You can scratch another potential Yankee pitching target off the list as the Marlins have reportedly agreed to terms with Ricky Nolasco on a three-year contract extension worth $26.5 million. The deal locks up the core of the Marlins young staff with Josh Johnson signed for the next three seasons, as well.

There had been speculation that the Marlins might make Nolasco available if they couldn’t come to agreement on an extension.

Read More: Hot Stove, Marlins, ricky nolasco, Yankees
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