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What now for the Sox? Theo Epstein outlines remaining priorities

12.06.10 at 7:10 pm ET
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With the arrival of a superstar first baseman who is an impact hitter and defender now complete, Red Sox GM Theo Epstein discussed the Red Sox’ remaining goals in building their 2011 roster. He said that the team wanted to complete the Gonzalez deal prior to the winter meetings both to avoid an intensified bidding war for his services and so that the Sox’ roster could have enough definition to permit the team to make all needed subsequent moves.

Epstein mentioned the bullpen, a right-handed lineup member and potentially an outfielder as the team’s remaining priorities.

“We wanted to be able to focus on building the rest of the roster down in Orlando. That begins later today,” Epstein said at the Fenway Park press conference. “We’€™re going to continue to focus on the bullpen. That’€™s an area that we want to shore up on the club. Now that we have Adrian in the fold, we can focus on maybe bolstering the lineup some more, adding perhaps a right-handed hitter, if we can find one that’€™s the right fit. We can add an outfielder, if we find the right fit. We’€™re also confident that if we break with the current outfield group that we have that we’€™ll be in good position. I look at it as going down there with less needs than we had 24 hours ago, but with more opportunities to map out the rest of the club in a way that leads to a productive 2011.”

Read More: Hot Stove, Theo Epstein,

Andrew Miller open to deal with Red Sox

12.06.10 at 4:18 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Red Sox acquired Andrew Miller from the Marlins in November, viewing the former first-rounder as an interesting buy-low candidate. But after that acquisition, the two sides could not come to terms on a 2011 contract before the deadline to tender contracts on Dec. 3. Had Miller (who had a salary of approximately $1.8 million in 2010) received a contract tender, he likely would have been in line for a deal of approximately $2 million. The Sox were interested in Miller, but at a lower figure, and so the team decided to non-tender him, with the idea that it could negotiate with the pitcher while he examined the market for his services as a free agent.

“We all kind of decided that we’d let this process run its course,” said Darek Braunecker, one of the pitcher’s representatives. “There’s a lot of teams interested: 6-foot-6 left-hander, still can throw up to 97. There’s a ton of upside.”

But at this point, Miller’s marketability is based on his potential rather than his performance. He was rushed to the big leagues in 2006, the same year he was drafted out of the University of North Carolina, and he has struggled badly with his command and mechanics. He has a career 15-26 record and 5.84 ERA, and while he has struck out 7.3 batters per nine innings, he has walked 5.3 per nine innings. Last year, in nine appearances for the Marlins, he went 1-5 with an 8.54 ERA.

The struggles were significant enough that money will not be the sole consideration for Miller’s next contract. He will also be looking for the right place to work on establishing himself as a pitcher. While Braunecker would not say if Miller — who will be dropping by the Winter Meetings to meet with officials and pitching coaches of interested clubs — would consider a minor league deal, he did not dismiss the possibility.

“We’ve got to find the right developmental situation for him, whether settling in at the big leagues or back in the minor leagues. … It’s going to be a really methodical and diligent process,” said Braunecker. “This guy still has a chance to be a front-of-the-rotation starter.

“I think it’s fair to say we will give consideration to everything that we deem to be in Andrew Miller’s best interests to ensure that he becomes the major league player we all think he can be.”

Read More: andrew miller, darek braunecker, Hot Stove,

Sources: Sox not considering Kevin Youkilis for left field

12.06.10 at 3:34 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — According to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox have not given consideration to the idea of moving Kevin Youkilis to left field with an eye towards re-signing third baseman Adrian Beltre. Instead, it appears that Beltre’s days as a Red Sox are over after the Sox made their move to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres. Gonzalez will play first, while Youkilis will move back across the diamond to play third.

Youkilis continues to work out at third this offseason, the position that he prefers and where he feels most comfortable. Youkilis last played the outfield for the Sox in a game in Yankee Stadium in 2009, and struggled with routes on a couple fly balls in left. Since that contest, he has said on several occasions that he has no interest in playing the outfield again, and the Sox would, of course, prefer someone who is a more natural fit for the position.

It is worth noting that the Sox discussed the possibility of converting Youkilis to catcher near the start of his professional career, believing that his hands could make him a good candidate to move behind the plate. But, the team ended up developing him as a third baseman in the minors, and the Sox continue to view him as a player who can handle the position well. That, in turn, would give the Sox a pair of All-Star caliber producers at the corner infield spots in Youkilis and Gonzalez, with Beltre — following his tremendous 2010 campaign — looking for a new residence.

Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein discussed the matter with Youkilis at season’s end, saying that a potential re-signing of Beltre was the only scenario in which Youkilis would play first.

“Right after the  season, I told Youk that he’d be moving to third base unless we had Adrian,” Epstein said, laughing as he noted that he should have specified which Adrian he was speaking of.

DJ Bean contributed to this report.

Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, Hot Stove, Kevin Youkilis

Hot Stove roundup, 2 p.m.: Pat Gillick elected to HOF, Marvin Miller, George Steinbrenner miss

12.06.10 at 2:14 pm ET
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Longtime general manager Pat Gillick was elected to the Hall of Fame on Monday by the Veterans Committee, while former players’ association boss Marvin Miller missed election by one vote. Dave Concepcion, who starred at shortstop for the Reds in the 1970s, finished third in the balloting, while the late George Steinbrenner was among the candidates who received fewer than eight votes.

Gillick, who served as GM of the Blue Jays, Orioles, Mariners and Phillies over 27 seasons, guided his teams to three World Series titles: the Jays in 1992 and ’93, and the Phillies in 2008.

“It all goes back to the players they have on the field,” Gillick, 73, said in a news conference at the winter meetings in Orlando. “I could stand in the middle of the field and 4 million people aren’t going to show up.”

Miller, now 93, was disappointed to fall short for the fifth time. “Many years ago those who control the Hall decided to rewrite history instead of recording it,” he said in a statement. “The aim was to eradicate the history of the tremendous impact of the players’ union on the progress and development of the game as a competitive sport, as entertainment, and as an industry.”

Quick hits:

Read More: Adrian Beltre, adrian gonzalez, Hot Stove, James Loney

Cliff Lee’s agent says regarding the Red Sox’ interest, ‘We’ve talked’

12.06.10 at 2:10 pm ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Darek Braunecker, the agent for free agent pitcher Cliff Lee, said he has discussed his client with the Red Sox, although he wouldn’t offer any sort of timetable as to when the two sides had communicated. “We’ve talked, that’s all I can say,” Braunecker told WEEI.com.

Braunecker also told a group of reporters that he is in the process of setting up meetings with respective clubs. It is believed the Rangers and Yankees remain the front-runners for the services of the lefty ace. “It’s good to be Cliff Lee,” he said.

Also in the lobby was former Red Sox reliever Joe Nelson, who said he is done pitching but was looking forward to meeting with teams regarding possible future front office employment.

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Terry Francona on D&H: Adrian Gonzalez ‘one of the best hitters in baseball’

12.06.10 at 1:52 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona checked in with the Dale & Holley show Monday afternoon from the winter meetings in Orlando and gushed about the team’s new acquisition, Adrian Gonzalez. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

“This is one of the best hitters in baseball,” Francona said. “This is a big move for us. We’re getting a middle-of-the-order bat, a guy that’s won a couple of Gold Gloves. His age is still young. This is exciting. And again, we gave up some good players to get him, but that’s the only way you can get a guy of this caliber.”

Added Francona: “It’s amazing when you get a hitter of his caliber how it affects the lineup. Everybody gets better. All of a sudden, [Kevin] Youkilis, [David] Ortiz, [Dustin] Pedroia ‘€” it’s the same way when we got Victor [Martinez], that’s how we felt. This guy is a genuine run-producer, and I think playing in Fenway is just going to enhance that. So, this is obviously very exciting.”

Francona said he was not privy to all the inside maneuverings that got the deal done, but he was aware when the Sox were close, as general manager Theo Epstein filled him in. Said Francona: “I knew how much [Epstein] thought of Adrian Gonzalez as a player. We were talking about it the other night, and I just encouraged him to keep after it. Because I know when he feels that strongly, he’s going to be right. … I could tell that Theo was really digging his heels in on this one, and I’m glad he did. Because when he feels that strongly, it’s got a chance to really be good for us.”

Gonzalez has been winning over people in Boston with his personality, and Francona is one of those who has been impressed. “I was doing everything in my power to get a hold of him, and he called me,” Francona said. “So, that was really pretty neat. He’s a very polite kid. ‘€¦ He seems like a genuine kid that really wants to win. And he’s got a beautiful swing that will look even prettier in Fenway.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Terry Francona,

Theo Epstein on dealings with Jed Hoyer: Knowledge of the farm was key

12.06.10 at 1:47 pm ET
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The Red Sox had long been enamored with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. A former top overall pick of the Marlins, the Sox had an eye on the slugger from his days as a Ranger to his five years with the Padres. In fact, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Monday that the team came close to acquiring Gonzalez at the 2009 trade deadline.

To finally get Gonzalez, Epstein had to go through an old friend in Padres GM Jed Hoyer, who had formerly served the Red Sox as assistant general manager prior to taking the San Diego job.

“Negotiating with Jed was great. I trust him because I know him, and he’s a very honest guy. He has knowledge of our farm system, so it wasn’t a situation where either side was looking to pull a fast one on the other,” Epstein said. “This was a case of a trade with all known commodities. We know Adrian really well. We know what he’s capable of as one of the best players in the game.”

The Sox saw an opportunity to get the coveted power-hitting Gold-Glover this offseason when Hoyer made public comments that Gonzalez’ long-term status with the team could be in question. It seemed Gonzalez would likely command more than San Diego could afford, and the Red Sox swooped in. The two sides spent a couple of weeks negotiating a package that could get the deal done, and it soon became a reality as the Sox agreed to send highly touted prospects Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes to San Diego.

“Last weekend, things started to heat up,” Epstein said. “We made some strong proposals, and I had a good feeling that by the middle of the week, we’d get something done. Early afternoon Thursday we were able to get it done.”

In acquiring Gonzalez, of course, the Sox had to pay a steep price. Kelly and Fuentes were both first-round picks and Rizzo was the organization’s top power-hitting prospect, having belted 20 homers last season at Double-A Portland.

Rizzo is also a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in May of 2008. He underwent chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free in November of that year.

“[Rizzo] made the organization really proud through the whole process,” Epstein said.

With Rizzo, Kelly and Fuentes now property of the Padres, the Sox’ farm has taken a sizable hit, something Epstein understands. With one of the best players in the game coming to Boston, though, it’s simply the going rate.

“He got three great prospects,” Epstein said of Hoyer. “This is a win-win-win situation. For me, the only part of the deal that I have any regrets about whatsoever is losing those prospects, because they’re great kids. We had personal connections with all three of them.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Anthony Rizzo, casey kelly,
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