|12.11.09 at 4:25 pm ET|
Peter Gammons joined the boys on the Big Show this afternoon to talk about his return to the New England baseball market after 20 years at ESPN and discuss what is happening with the Red Sox. Check out the full transcript below.
So, you will actually start at NESN and the MLB Network today?
No, I mean, we are sort of working it out. I am actually going over to NESN today to do something but most of the activity will start after the first of the year but give me time to figure out exactly what I am doing.
Well, welcome back home.
Thank you. It is fun to be home, it does mean something as you know very well since I have been with you for a lot of years and it does matter to me. I grew up here and I covered that team for a lot of time and the market is tremendous. People get so emotional. I was reading Dan Shaughnessy yesterday and I was actually laughing because people are taking one word [bridge] and making such a big deal. But that is the way we are, I mean, the Red Sox are lucky that fans care that much. You could be in some markets where people just go, huh, who cares? The New York Mets have made themselves that way. The Mets are running around announcing that they have made offers to Jason Bay and now Joel Sherman is saying that it is to make sure that people believe that they are actually trying. That is not what people want to hear.
Is the Red Sox reaction to the Yankees having just won a championship?
I think so, to a certain degree. They see where the Yankees are right now and they are, again, going to be $80 million above anybody else in the American League East and, you know, that is a lot of money that is different. They did such a great job last winter with Teixeira, Sebathia, Burnett that they are in a tremendous position right now. They are going to be, Theo always says, at worst you expect them to win 95 games and at best you expect them to win 105. That is what you are dealing with and I think that Red Sox fans are discouraged about that but they should also look at it and say that the Yankees did a good job rebuilding on the fly, albeit with a lot of money. And the other thing that I think is really frustrating to Red Sox fans is that when you look at the Yankees veteran players that have been there for 14, 15 years, they don’t seem to be getting older where a lot of Red Sox players have been getting older.
When you look at Mariano Rivera, he has been doing it forever. It may be the most remarkable thing that we have seen in the last 15 years that he has been able to be at the top of the game and he does it with one pitch.
I wrote a column about that during the playoffs and this is not hyperbole, I really believe this – in the last 15 years in Major League Baseball he is the Most Valuable Player and he is the Cy Young Award winner yet he has never won an award. It is just astounding. Despite that incredible pitch he has tremendous fitness, he has a great body but the makeup. I remember I had breakfast with him on the first day of Spring Training 2002 and he had just given up the lead to Arizona in Game 7 of the World Series the previous October and I said to him “ are you ready for when pitchers and catchers reporting that you are going to get a thousand questions about it, are you ready for it?” And he said, “ oh yeah, I was over it when the plane landed in Newark.” He said ”I broke three bats, it is the nature of the game. He said there are games where I didn’t pitch as well and got the save so, now, believe me, I didn’t lose any sleep.” Most of the rest of us cannot relate to what makes great athletes great, Steve can, but most of us can’t relate.
What is your take on the Lowell trade?
I think they just decided it was best for everybody, for him and for everybody to just move him. They have to make a change at third base and I don’t think that Mike was very happy about it, but they said OK, we’ll clear the deck and move on. I know, I read all the defensive metrics and it was one of the worst seasons for a third baseman in like the last 10 years or something. But this time he has five months to rehab where last year he told me in January that he wasn’t sure what he was going to do in Spring Training. I hope he comes back but they just clearly decided to move on, he is not going to be happy and that is it. The guy they are getting may be leading the Venezuelan League in home runs but he is also leading the Venezuelan League in chickens consumed.
It all brings us back to Jason Bay. Do you buy that the Sox are hesitant to give him a fifth year that another team will?
I think there is a good chance about that. I know the Giants would go to a fifth year but I know that Jason does not want to play in San Francisco, pure and simple. If there was a mistake made here is that the Red Sox made him such a huge offer in July that it gave Joe Urbon the confidence that they will go for $3 million and another year. I am not sure that is going to happen. Would the Mets go to five years and $17 million? I think the Angels are going to end up resigning John Lackey so I think Bay is out of it there so I think it would be San Francisco, the Mets or the Red Sox and the first two are not exactly attractive alternatives. Though, it is a lot easier for a right hander to pull the ball in the new ballpark in New York than it is to go to right-center.
I assume that you do not think that Seattle is a player for Bay but people say the Adrian Beltre thing is not cut and dry in terms of him just walking to the Red Sox no questions asked and that Seattle will offer him a contract and they have some money to spend. Do you agree with that?
Yeah, I do. I don’t know how they would do it. I mean, maybe they would play Figgins at second base but Figgins thought he was playing third base so, it will be interesting to see. I also don’t know Beltre’s frame of mind. I know he likes being on the West Coast but he hates that ballpark. I haven’t had time to do all the work on it but Scott Boras’s mathematics. I know he told the Red Sox that you can have Matt Holliday right now, just duplicate the Mark Teixeira contract. But, you know, Boras is great at what he does but his numbers will show that Beltre is a better hitter on the road than better, but, you know, we’ll see. Beltre is a very good player and a tough guy but he does have, like Jason, have a lot of injuries in his past.
I credit the Red Sox, it was phenomenal of them. Dana Levangie may be the best advanced scout in the game the way they prepare. Breaking ball, breaking ball, breaking ball, you worry about that a lot. We saw Jason go through a two month stretch where he got nothing but breaking balls but I am not sure Beltre would ever get a fast ball here.
What do they do in left field without either Bay or Holliday?
I don’t really know yet. Maybe a short term of get Mike Cameron and put him in centerfield and put Ellsbury in left field and sign Xavier Nady? That is a possibility. I think they have four or five alternatives where they go a lot more to defense, because they did have the did have the second worse defense in baseball last year and maybe they can save the pitching with that. Even though I have great respect for David Ortiz when he says they have to get more power they did hit 46 more home runs this year than they did in 2007 when they won the World Series. They scored more runs than they did in 2007, the defense of course will still be a problem but they have to have that balance. I don’t know much how much real power they are going to have. How much better can Kevin Youkilis be than he has been the last two years, I don’t know.
What do you think about the Sox acquisition of pitchers? Do they got low end reclamation projects or try to get in on the Lackeys and Halladays of the world?
I don’t think they go Halladay because I think it would be a disaster to give up Buccholz and Kelly and then try to pay a guy with his medical history $18 million a year through the age of 38. That won’t happen. I do think they are looking toward Lackey, but, there are guys, I know it is expensive for this market but what about Derek Lowe? The Braves have to move him and he didn’t pitch well this last year but he got really messed up mechanically and I know he is expensive but maybe there is a way of moving somebody who has a little bit of money left and do that. It may be that if they lose out on Bay and Holliday and so forth that maybe what they do is just hold on and look at all the teams that don’t start off well and maybe just buy off some of their players and see what they have come July 1st.
Do you see all of this approaching the Sox approach with Beckett? Even if they get a guy like Lowe or Lackey that they cannot have too many highly paid guys at the top of the rotation and that he will have to move on after next year?
I think that is a possibility. Josh had one great year here, but as you know Rob, in the eyes of the manager, the coaches and most of the players they have two captains – one of them is Pedroia and the other one is Beckett. The way he does his between the starts sides in the bullpen, the way goes about things. There is a lot of respect that goes there. I think he has had a tremendous impact on Lester and he is starting to have a tremendous impact on Buccholz and I think they expect Kelly to be ready by late August and I know they would like to have Beckett around for him. So, even though, OK, he has a 4.05 ERA in a Red Sox uniform and yes in the last two postseasons he has four starts, 30 innings and 18 runs, but on the other hand there is something really unusual that if he is your third starter, that is pretty good. And I think that the makeup of leadership on the team that he would make a void that would be pretty difficult to fill.
What do you think of Scutaro and does that end the merry-go-round for the Sox at shortstop?
Yeah, I think for a couple of years. They did a lot of medicals on him because he had the plantar fasciitis the last five or six weeks of the season and it really effected him. As of about July 20th, if you believe all those defensive metrics they use in baseball, he was the best defensive shortstop in baseball and he struggled after that. Allan Baird went and worked him out and they got all the medicals on him and Allan said he was just the way he was early in the season, he is a very smart player. And, because of the nature of being able to vest the third year I think that they see him as a guy who eventually becomes a utility player and eventually becomes the mentor to Jose Iglesias who they and everybody I talk to in baseball thinks is really going to become one of the great defensive shortstops. About that merry-go-round, I am one who really like Jed Lowrie. I think he is an average to above average defensive shortstop who could have 50 extra base hits. But, once he gets those hand injuries he has got to be really afraid. That is one reason that they have been a little bit cautious on Mark DeRosa. He had that wrist injury last year, is he really going to come back from it at the age of 35? It is one of those questions, it becomes a gamble. They are paying for some guys who don’t play here anymore.
Do you know exactly what you are going to be doing at NESN? On the desk before and after games? Where will we see you?
I will be there, I will be at Spring Training, I will be doing shows in the offseason. I have kind of patterned my career after someone like Dick Schofield Sr. At every position I try to get in more innings than any other infielder in history.
Maybe they will bring you back for some Bruins games? People forget you used to over the Bruins back in the day.
I would love that. I was out in the L.A. Forum when they brought Frank Sinatra out to sing the National Anthem before, I think it was Game 6 of the 1976 playoffs and Wayne Cashman cut the cord. And Sinatra was supposed to sing the National Anthem and you couldn’t hear him because Cashman had already cut the line.
You are going to continue to do that national stuff for the MLB Network. How is that going to work?
I will go down to New Jersey occasionally and I can do some of it from Boston. So, it will work out very well for me.
You will be able to spend much more time at home.
Yes I will. Which I enjoy. I like being home. Not that I didn’t love the Residence Inn in Connecticut.
|12.11.09 at 4:13 pm ET|
The Boston Red Sox just sent out the following press release in regards to ticket information for 2010:
WHAT: Tickets for the 2010 season will go on sale on December 12, 2009 online at RedSox.com and by phone tomorrow morning beginning at 10:00 a.m. Single-game ticket sales will be available online at www.redsox.com and by phone at 888-REDSOX6 beginning at 10:00 a.m. on December 12th. Fans who require ADA accessible seating may also call 877-REDSOX9. Hearing impaired fans may call the Red Sox TTY line at (617) 226-6644.
Tomorrow’s ticket on-sale will be the first opportunity for fans to secure tickets for the 2010 season and use them as presents for loved ones during this holiday season. The wildly popular “Sox Pax” will once again be available and every one of these unique four-game ticket packages includes either a game against the New York Yankees or against the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The list of ten different “Sox Pax” available for sale is attached.
WHEN: Tickets go on sale on www.redsox.com and through 1-888-REDSOX6 at 10:00 a.m. The Boston Red Sox thank fans in advance for their support and patience during the early stages of the sales process both online and over the phone.
ADDITIONAL INFO: The 7th Annual Christmas at Fenway Presented by Stop and Shop will take place at Fenway Park’s EMC Club and State Street Pavilion on Saturday, December 12 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. Players, coaches, alumni and Front Office personnel will be available to answer questions and interact with the fans. Members of the media are invited to attend.
The second Great Fenway Park Yard Sale presented by FW Webb will take place the following day on Sunday, December 13th from 10:00 am to 5:00 p.m. The Yard Sale will give fans the opportunity to purchase Red Sox memorabilia, collectibles and souvenirs that can become their own cherished keepsakes and unique holiday presents. The selection of items will include physical parts of the ballpark such as authentic Fenway Park bricks and signage along with other items such as game-worn paraphernalia, game programs and other miscellaneous items. Members of the media are once again invited to attend.
|12.11.09 at 1:24 pm ET|
Larry Lucchino made an appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show to talk about the Red Sox’ offseason moves — or lack thereof. After Lucchino reminded fans that tickets go on sale Saturday, he engaged in some hot stove talk. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. Highlights are below.
If I said to you, To bridge or not to bridge, do you know what I’m talking about?
I think there’s been a gross overreaction to one word, and that word is bridge. Just look at our track record, don’t listen to what we say. It’s demonstrated that we are a competitive bunch. Theo, John Henry, Tom Wener, myself, the whole organization is animated by a very strong commitment to winning and a personal sense of competition. And if you look at the last seven years, we’ve been in the postseason for six of them. And we don’t intend to shift or change our philosophy. I think that was a terrible overreaction to a word that’s misunderstood.
Does it take some discipline to resist the urge to make a splash just to convince everyone that you’re trying, that you’re not rebuilding?
I don’t think we should have to crow about our commitment to winning. It’s there. Our goal is to play baseball every October. While other teams are going home to play golf, our goal is to play baseball. We’ve done that six out of the last seven years. For those who may have been alarmed by one particular column yesterday, I would say to you if you want some different perspective, look at Nick Cafardo today in the Globe, where he writes about the fact that there’s plenty of time in the shopping and the building season in this offseason for next year’s team. Players are non-tendered beginning tomorrow. [Mark] Texeira, for example, the big signing last year, wasn’t done until Christmas. There’s plenty of activity that remains because the market has actually been rather slow in developing this offseason. The market has a different personality.
The payroll has gone down the last two years, will it go down again?
Our payroll has not gone down the last two years. The newspapers may report that our payroll has gone down the last two years, but that is just not accurate. And our payroll will be higher this year. We don’t discuss publicly what are payroll is because we think there’s a competitive disadvantage in telling the other teams in our division and our league what we’re going to spend and not spend because they may be able to do some guesses and calculations about how active we’ll be in the market. We’re always pleased when other teams announce that they’re payroll will be X or Y, and we just sit quietly and don’t say anything. But it is inaccurate to say our payroll has gone down, and our payroll will go up this year.
You can talk about any [free agent] you want.
We try to live with a certain kind of discipline about this. Premature publicity and speculation about free agents — where they may go, what they may do — can tip a hand, can inform your opponents of what you’re thinking. I think that makes common sense, guys. I know you have a job, and that’s to get as much news and information as you can possibly get — or, in your case, opinions. The fact is we don’t have a similar obligation to inform you guys because that same information can be disseminated to people who are waiting to see what our plans, what are perspectives are on many of these players. Just look back at the last few years and tell me which teams have been very active the last several years. We’ve been quite active in the offseason and among the most active teams in baseball year-in and year-out. And I think at the end of this offseason we’ll fall into that same pattern again.
If I can say a word about the word “bridge,” what we’re talking about is a bridge to young players that will be available. That means we’ve got to find other ways to be competitive in the next couple of years. And that can mean trades, that can mean free agents. What we don’t have a is a set of reinforcements at Triple A ready to jump in to the big league team next year, in 2010. We have some that we’re already planning for in 2011, 2012 more likely. So the word could have been “alternatives” — we’re looking for alternatives to the influx of young players. But I can tell you definitively that John Henry, Tom Werner, Theo Epstein, people in our organization, our entire partnership wants to win, we’re committed to winning. And we’re doing everything possible to field a team that’s worthy of fan support year-in and year-out.
Does commenting on the chronology of left fielders offend your sense and sensibilities?
I just don’t know what’s going to happen. When one guy’s represented by [Scott] Boras, you can guess that that’s going to be a longer and more protracted negotiation.
And more expensive, too.
Potentially, but free agents, many of them are expensive. And other agents do a good job of driving the price up as well. I think if you look at our track record, you guys can reach your own conclusions at the scenario. … It’s just speculation on our part because the schedule is more dictated by the agent than the player when you’re in the free agent period than by the clubs or the market.
Have the Sabremetricians re-thought their rules of engagement, and defense is much more at a premium than it was a year or two ago?
Well, there have been more efforts in recent years, as you probably know, to quantify defense, to find a metric or a set of metrics that will help quantify defense. Because it has always been fundamentally important. Traditional people have always been talking about pitching and defense. And even the Sabremetricians recognize that defense is an important component, and I think they’re a little frustrated in their inability to define it and to quantify it as they would like. I think there has been some effort to do that. But in our case, we recognize that one of our deficiencies we had last year, and Theo talked about this with some regularity, is our defense. We had a very good offense despite it being less good than years before, still it was one of the top two or three offenses in the league. We had very good pitching for most of the season. But we had some defensive issues, and I think that’s something that any team does in the offseason— assess your strength and your weaknesses and you try to address your weaknesses.
So the first thing you did was get rid of Alex Gonzalez. That’s going to shore up the defense [sarcastic].
Well, you have your opinion about Gonzalez vs. Scutaro. And we’re talking about 2010, we’re not talking about 2005 in terms of players’ evolution or the changes that take place. It takes a while for the facts to catch up to reputation.
What’s your opinion in general of Adrian Beltre? Have you always been a fan?
I’ve heard and seen how outstanding a defensive player he is. But to say I’ve always been a fan is overstating it.
Is the Mike Lowell deal done?
No. I’m not going to comment on that. If we have some announcement to make, we’ll make it.
Will [the Padres] trade Adrian Gonzalez? Will they have to?
There’s an example of a team that has identified where it’s payroll will be. They have said their payroll will be at $40 million, That’s very nice for us to hear that. We see now from published reports that their payroll currently is at about $36 million. So, we can calculate how severe the economic pressure may be on them to move players one way or another. Now, I’m giving you published numbers because I don’t have the internal calculations that we have right in hand. That’s a reason why we don’t crow about that the fact that our payroll in 2010 will be higher than our payroll in 2009, and we don’t issue specific comments about what that number will be. There’s a method to analyze other teams’ payrolls to determine whether there are some compelling economic reasons why they may want to make a certain move or not make a certain move.
Is the rationalization [to paying contracts of players that have been traded] that’s just the cost of doing business? Are there rankings as to which teams in Major League Baseball are spending more money with other teams with [traded] players that you are?
Actually, there was a ranking that came out recently from the league regarding just what you’re talking about. Part of it had to do with the efficiency of contracts, the length of contracts entered into and whether there were dead years at the end of them. And despite the reference you make to the [Boston Globe chart] today, the Red Sox came out at the very high end of that, and were cited as being particularly efficient with respect to contracts. I think that’s a testimony to Theo and the way he has managed and negotiated contracts in recent years. We have certainly made some mistakes, we would certainly admit to that. What we are able to do because of the intensity and loyalty of our fan base — 550 consecutive sellouts, tremendously high ratings on NESN — what we are able to do is make up for those mistakes when we have them, and they don’t require us to dramatically cut the payroll in some major way for years and years in order to make up for a bad year or a set of bad contracts. We have the financial wherewithal and we use it. We don’t take money out of this team. The money that’s generated we put into major league payroll, we put into amateur signings. We’re about the most active teams when it comes to boldness in amateur signings. We’re at the top of the league when it comes to international signings. We spend the money to field a team worthy of the fans’ support.
Hypothetically, if a slugging first baseman with a checkered past was available, would be there an extreme hesitancy on the team’s part to pursue this said slugging first baseman.
Hypothetically, that is? I hate to overuse a phrase that I’ve used twice already in this conversation. But our obligation, in terms of our fundamental obligation as the ownership of this team, is to field a team that’s worthy of the fans’ support, and that means a team that is competitive year-in and year-out on the playing field, but it also means fielding a team that has players that has players that our children, our community can be proud of, that are not likely to cause problems off the field, or do to embarrass the name and the reputation of the Boston Red Sox. So, we scrutinize very carefully players who are available to us, to a — I want to good citizenship test — but to do a sort of personality assessment to see if they’re going to be troublesome or helpful in the clubhouse, and if they’re going to be players whose behavior would cause us some sleepless nights.
|12.11.09 at 12:58 pm ET|
A baseball source confirmed that the Mets have made a four-year offer to free-agent outfielder Jason Bay. The proposal, according to the source, was for more than the $60 million that the Red Sox are believed to have on the table, but for less than the $65 million figure that was reported yesterday.
The Mets view Bay’s well-above-average pull power as playing well at New York’s Citi Field, where New York struggled to score runs while hitting just 49 homers. Bay hit 22 of his 36 homers to left, a dozen more to center and just two to the opposite field.
While the Mets view Bay as being a slightly below average defender in left, they do not believe that he is significantly worse than Matt Holliday at the position, and certainly they do not think that the dropoff in defense would be sufficient to justify a significant difference in years and dollars between Bay and Holliday. Neither player is likely an ideal defender for Citi Field, but both are viewed as adequate for the position. (It is worth noting that multiple American League talent evaluators at the Winter Meetings shared the conclusion that Bay and Holliday are comparable defenders, with perhaps a slight — though not significant — advantage going to Holliday.)
The Mets feel that they have a good shot to land one of the three biggest targets on the free-agent market: Bay, Holliday or John Lackey. Their preference would appear to be Bay, based on the fact that he was the player to receive a contract offer, based on production, Bay’s durability, and the years and dollars that it would appear to take to acquire the 31-year-old.
Bay could represent a potentially significant improvement to a lineup that had modest production (.276/.352/.421/.772 with 12 homers) from its left fielders in 2009. He would, in essence, replace Carlos Delgado (who earned $12 million in the final year of his Mets contract, but missed most of the season following hip surgery and an oblique injury while rehabbing) with a credible middle-of-the-order threat for a team that lacked one last year.
|12.11.09 at 12:35 pm ET|
The Red Sox plan on inviting 11 players to their Rookie Development Program this January. The program offers Sox minor leaguers a chance to meet with major-league personnel (Sox coaches, front-office members and players), acclimate to Boston, familiarize themselves with Fenway Park and work out in a structured environment. Many players have credited the program with having eased their transitions to the major leagues once they are called up. Typically, the Sox try to invite players whom they consider candidates for the major leagues in a 12- to 18-month window.
This year’s invitees are:
RHP Casey Kelly – Fresh off his decision to become a full-time pitcher, Kelly’s involvement further underscores how close the Sox believe he could be to the big leagues
RHP Randor Bierd – Acquired last offseason from the Orioles in exchange for David Pauley, Bierd represents a potential bullpen depth option for the 2010 season. He had a 4.55 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 61 innings for Pawtucket in 2010.
RHP Kyle Weiland – A third-round selection out of Notre Dame in 2008, Weiland had a stunning turnaround during the 2009 season with High-A Salem. He started the year with a 1-5 record and 6.91 ERA in his first 10 starts, yet managed to finish 2009 with a 7-9 record and 3.46 ERA. He has a powerful fastball/slider combination from a three-quarters arm slot that makes him tremendously challenging for right-handed hitters, and could allow him to move quickly as a reliever.
RHP Junichi Tazawa – The 23-year-old Tazawa had a remarkably smooth transition to professional baseball and the United States in 2009, forging a 9-7 record and 2.55 ERA with Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket before going 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA in the majors at the end of last year.
RHP Ryne Miller – Miller took advantage of a late-season spell in the rotation. After an excellent season out of the bullpen for both High-A Salem and Double A Portland, he made three year-ending starts, including two shutout outings, while forging a 3.45 ERA and striking out 18 in 15.2 innings. The Sox now want to give him a shot to develop as a starter. Miller’s combined 10-4 record and 2.76 ERA, 97 strikeouts in 94.2 innings represented something of an organizational surprise for an undrafted free-agent.
LHP Felix Doubront – The 22-year-old Doubront is a participant in the Rookie Development Program for the second straight year. He enjoyed a strong 2009 campaign, in which strength gains resulted in a velocity boost. The left-hander touched 94 mph on occasion in 2009, while working comfortably in the low-90s, and he shows a good changeup that can get swings and misses with the potential for a useful curveball. He went 8-6 with a 3.35 ERA in Portland in 2009.
C Luis Exposito – One of the top catching prospects in the Red Sox system, the 22-year-old Exposito enjoyed a strong year in three different stops: High-A Salem (.271/.329/.424/.753), Double-A Portland (.337/.371/.489/.860) and the Arizona Fall League (.314/.364/.431) while demonstrating strong work behind the plate.
SS Jose Iglesias – Iglesias, the 19-year-old defector from Cuba who signed a four-year, $8.25 million deal with the Sox, hit .275 with a .324 OBP and .420 slugging mark in his pro debut in the Arizona Fall League. Some scouts describe his defense as major-league ready right now, though there remain questions about his offense. That said, he is 19, he shows flashes of pop and he is being viewed as a potential Red Sox starting shortstop of the future within the next couple of years.
SS Yamaico Navarro – After a phenomenal 2008 season, Navarro suffered through a broken hamate in April that derailed his year. After surgery, he did quite well in Salem (.319/.373/.543/.916) before struggling upon his promotion to Double-A Portland (.185/.270/.304/.573). Still, the Sox are hopeful that, much as Ryan Kalish did in 2009, Navarro can resume his very promising career path after time to heal and gain strength.
OF Che Hsuan Lin – The 2009 All-Star Futures Game MVP, Lin spent the 2009 season in Salem, hitting .265/.355/.365/.720. He is a tremendous outfielder and one of the fastest baserunners (26 steals in ’09) in the Sox system. Though his year-end numbers were relatively modest, he enjoyed a strong season after a horrific April.
OF Ryan Kalish – The Red Sox Minor League Position Player of the Year in 2009, Kalish had a big season after seeing his power get sapped in 2008 following his hamate surgery. Kalish hit .304/.434/.504/.938 in Salem, and recovered from a month-long struggle upon his promotion to Portland to hit .271/.341/.440/.781. He bashed a total of 18 homers on the year, including 13 in Portland. The 21-year-old complements a sound plate approach with good outfield defense and baserunning skills (21-for-27 in steal attempts at two levels).
|12.11.09 at 12:18 pm ET|
While there had been some speculation that the Red Sox might choose not to tender a contract to Casey Kotchman by Saturday’s deadline to do so, multiple major-league sources say that the Red Sox have absolutely no plans to part ways with the first baseman. Kotchman, who earned $2.885 million in 2009 and became a backup option at first base for the Red Sox after they acquired him from the Braves for Adam LaRoche at the trade deadline, hit .218 with a .284 OBP, .287 slugging mark and .572 OPS in 39 games (many as a defensive replacement) for the Sox. On the year, he hit .268/.339/.382/.721 with his two teams.
But Kotchman’s defense is well-regarded, and as recently as 2007, he had a .372 OBP and .840 OPS. Assuming that the deal sending Mike Lowell to the Rangers goes through, he is at least a possibility to start at first base, with Kevin Youkilis going to third, should the Sox not make a move to acquire a corner infielder such as Adrian Beltre.
The 26-year-old is eligible for salary arbitration. When tendered a contract for 2010, there is a good likelihood that he would receive a small bump in salary for next year.
While Sox GM Theo Epstein suggested during the Winter Meetings that the Sox have one candidate not to be tendered a contract for the 2010 season, that player is apparently not Kotchman (suggesting that outfielder Brian Anderson is the one on whom a decision must likely be made). Decisions on which players under team control (meaning those without a contract for 2010 but less than six years of major-league service time) must be made by Saturday.
|12.11.09 at 11:41 am ET|
What will Red Sox fans remember most about the 2009 Winter Meetings? That Theo Epstein used the word “bridge”.
It seems silly, but the utterance of “bridge” or “transition”, coupled with the reality of the Yankees scoring a pretty good player in Curtis Granderson, left Sox fans a bit more uneasy than they were before the front office touched down in Indy. Even when the Red Sox did make a move — or set the stage for one — in dealing third baseman Mike Lowell, the fact that they were getting back a minor leaguer and potentially replacing Lowell with a Boras client not named “Holliday” did nothing to relieve anxiety.
And with no real step forward (or back) on the Jason Bay situation, along with the floating of names such as Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley, Red Sox followers are barreling toward Christmas at Fenway (Saturday) holding their breath while trying to decipher exactly what “bridge” meant.
With that in mind, let’s take this opportunity to step back, inhale, exhale, and view exactly where the Red Sox are at a few uncertain positions right now:
THIRD BASE: A source familiar with the negotiations told WEEI.com Thursday night that the parameters for a deal that would send Lowell to Texas in exchange for minor league catcher/first baseman Max Ramirez were in place, but it would take another “2-3 days” before anything was finalized. Both sides need to examine each player’s physical condition, with the Rangers focusing in on Lowell’s surgically-repaired right hip, and the Sox prioritizing Ramirez’ wrists (which he had issues with throughout the ’09 season.)
Now the Red Sox turn to Adrian Beltre.
The sequence of events shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody considering Epstein’s statement immediately after the season in which he said that the team had to A. Get better defensively and, B. Hit better on the road. When looking at the lineup, both issues immediately seem to be pointing toward Lowell (despite his overall offensive production when on the field in ’09 — .290, 17 homers in 119 games). And it has been no secret that Beltre has been on the Sox’ radar for some time.
Beltre hasn’t been close to the offensive player the Red Sox first fell in love with — the one that hit 48 home runs for the Dodgers before dropping to 19 in his first year with the Mariners — but he has hit enough, (despite the fact that Lowell hit nine more homers than Beltre in seven more at-bats in ’09). And then there is that defense. As Alex Speier expertly pointed out, if you’re looking for third base defense, this is your guy. Heck, one Red Sox executive had brought up the notion of playing Beltre at shortstop back in ’05. And you don’t get comments like this everyday:
“[Beltre is] clearly the best [third baseman] I’ve ever seen in person,” said Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. “I think [Evan Longoria] is good, I used to think Scott Brosius was really good. … [Eric] Chavez was good, but Beltre was stupid good. I think Beltre is the best who I’ve ever seen with my two eyes – defender, not just third baseman, but defense.”
Again … “defender, not just third baseman, but defense.” Don’t think for a minute that the image of Marco Scutaro and Beltre on the left side of the infield hasn’t been a dream sequence for the Sox from the time this offseason kicked off. Defensively, it would be a perfect-case-scenario for almost every team.
But Beltre will come at a cost, with some estimating he is looking for five years at $10 million per season. And the one thing Red Sox fans aren’t paying attention to, but should, is the Mariners’ desire to bring back the 30-year-old. Seattle has money and Beltre lives full-time on the West Coast. Then you factor Boras into the equation. It is not a lay-up, by any means.
So what are the alternatives? Mark DeRosa is a possibility, as is Kevin Youkilis, which leads us to …
FIRST BASE: Nick Johnson has been mentioned, with the potential sticking point with teams being his desire for a tw0-year deal while clubs would prefer one with an option. The 30-year-old Johnson has always hit and gotten on base (having had an on-base percentage of over .400 in each of his last four seasons), and he is considered above average defensively. But he consistently breaks down, not having played a full season since 2006.
Another scenario which might not be considered as sexy for some Red Sox fans, but is a realistic possibility, is playing Casey Kotchman at first and Youkilis at third. The Red Sox will be tendering Kotchman a contract, and fits the defensive model the team is looking for. He is, in fact, considered perhaps the best defensive first baseman in the American League (along with Mark Teixeira).
LEFT FIELD: Jason Bay has his offer from the Mets. Now what.
This from Speier in a recent blog post: Over the course of the winter meetings, according to a baseball source familiar with the team’s thinking, the Mets became increasingly convinced that they had a chance to make a play for the 31-year-old outfielder, for whom the market — at least based on public information — has been slow to develop. Now, it appears that they are taking a shot to acquire one of the two most coveted position players (along with Holliday) on the market.
It is a few million more than the Red Sox’ offer of $60 million (although not quite $65 million) with the same four-year commitment. According to big league sources, if a team comes in at five years it might get the deal done. Nobody has yet, and the Sox’ are still certainly in the hunt.
A few times executives from other teams suggested that word on the street (or in the lobby) was that the Red Sox still had the inside track on Bay, but that was before word of the Mets’ involvement and was also coming off of the statements from Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia saying, “I’ve not reached out personally to him, but he has been in internal discussions we’ve had as an organization. I think there are some more pressing needs we have right now than the talent that Jason could bring. He’s an extraordinary talent, but we definitely have to look for some balance in some areas, and that might not make Jason a great fit for our club. … You try to be balanced and have as deep a club as you can. With some of the things we’re looking at, the opportunity to get deeper, we might not be able to make that one big splash with that one guy that Jason would be right now.”
At the meetings, Epstein said that the time element (i.e., the need to set a deadline) wasn’t yet a factor, and stages were still thought to being set, rather than action taken while the executives were in Indianapolis. (And there was no better stage-setter than Boras.)
One aspect of the Bay negotiations that would suggest a deal could get done is how much the Sox’ ownership group is thought to like the left fielder. It’s not the be-all and end-all, but it certainly helps when looking at what lengths the team is willing to go to sign the 31-year-old.
If they don’t sign Bay … I don’t know if you knew this before Boras told us, but Matt Holliday is unlike any other outfielder … ever! (And he could have played in the NFL.) Even with all of that, he appears to be an expensive Plan B.
PITCHING: The Red Sox picked up two cheap options to serve as bullpen candidates, Scott Atchison and Boof Bonser, and both could legitimately be big league relievers next season. Atchison could have made as much as $3 million in Japan last season after performing the way he did for Hanshin, but wanted to return to the United States, partially due to family reasons. Bonser’s stuff has translated better — before his shoulder injury — in the bullpen.
There were some who thought the Red Sox might be in on high-investment relievers Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano to fill the void left by Billy Wagner. Soriano accepted arbitration and was subsequently dealt to Tampa Bay, where the Rays will seemingly have to pay the reliever around $7 million. That thinking, however, was somewhat negated when Epstein said on the second day of the meetings that the Red Sox would rather build their bullpen with guys which would cost less in terms of money and years, pointing to how few multi-year contracts they have given to relievers.
One other option, Kelvim Escobar, wasn’t trending toward the Red Sox’ direction as the meetings came to a close. Escobar, who is heading into next season with the sole purpose of being a reliever, got a good report from Mets’ doctor Robert Altchek, Tuesday, and was hoping to squeeze in some winter baseball innings. If Escobar isn’t able to pitch in winter ball, he may offer a showcase for interested teams in January, perhaps having to rely on a minor league deal. According to a source familiar with the situation, however, the Red Sox weren’t one of the teams showing the strongest interest in Escobar.
Another pitcher coming off injury with a history of success, Justin Duchscherer, was on the Red Sox’ radar, although he has made it clear he will sign to be a starter, not a reliever. The Red Sox were the first team to request medical information on Duchscherer after he rejected arbitration from the A’s, with the righty having missed time with knee and shoulder injuries, as well as a bout with clinical depression. There would appear to be other teams which could give Duchscherer a clearer path to a spot in a rotation, especially considering he figures to be ready to go once spring training roles around.
One thing to keep an eye on are the contract cases of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon. Both are arbitration-eligible, with Papelbon coming off a historic settlement last season. Talks figure to heat up in January, although both are thought to be unique cases in the industy. Stay tuned …
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