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Looking Back: The Red Sox at the Trade Deadline

12.30.09 at 7:11 am ET
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(WEEI.com is counting down the ‘€œTop 10 Things We Couldn’€™t Shut Up About In 2009,’€ with the trade deadline deal for Victor Martinez — and efforts to acquire Roy Halladay, Adrian Gonzalez and Felix Hernandez — checking in at No. 6. Here is a written, visual and audio look at a frenzied midsummer trade market that resulted in the Sox acquiring an All-Star catcher/first baseman.)

No. 10: Bruins getting bounced by the Hurricanes

No. 9: Garnett’€™s knee injury alters Celtics’€™ fate

No. 8: The drama between Crowley and Gates Jr. and No. 7: The downfall of Steve Phillips

No. 6: The Red Sox reshape at the trade deadline

The names that surfaced in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline were enough to leave the heads of Red Sox players and followers alike spinning. The Sox proved singularly ambitious in the trade market, exploring deals for seemingly every star-caliber player in the majors.

That was a reflection, in part, of the fact that the Sox commenced the second half of the season with a thud. The team went 4-8 at the start of the second half, with culprits to be found all over the field. The pitching rotation was a mess, thanks to the injury to Tim Wakefield, the banishment of Daisuke Matsuzaka to Fort Myers to work his way back into shape, and the completely ineffectual performances of John Smoltz and Brad Penny. The offense, meanwhile, was in a miserable state, with Jason Varitek, Jason Bay and J.D. Drew all amidst dreadful slumps, Mike Lowell playing irregularly while recovering from a D.L. stint for hip maintenance, David Ortiz amidst a season of both struggle and suspicion thanks to the revelation about his positive test for use of a performance-enhancing substance… The wheels were coming off the season at a startling pace, resulting in the Sox going from three games up in the A.L. East at the All-Star break to 3.5 games back of the Yankees less than two weeks into the start of the second half.

The Red Sox front office made no effort to hide from its struggles. And so, the team pursued answers on any number of fronts.

The Sox pushed hard to acquire 2003 Cy Young winner Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays. They tried to convince the Padres to relinquish slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The team made an empty-the-pantry effort to acquire starter Felix Hernandez from the Mariners.

In order to acquire any of those three players, the Sox were prepared to part with the cream of their prospect crop. A deal for any of those three players would have required the inclusion of right-hander Clay Buchholz, along with several other top minor-league arms. The Sox were willing to engage in such franchise-altering moves in order to salvage a season for a team that had shown immense promise before sinking into immense struggle.

But ultimately, the Sox could not wrangle any of those top players from those clubs. Instead, hours before the trade deadline, Boston consummated a deal that represented an apparent fallback plan, acquiring Cleveland catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez in exchange for swing-man Justin Masterson and minor-league pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. In many respects, it ended up being the perfect deal for the Sox.

The Sox needed insurance both at catcher (in case Varitek never emerged from his injury-riddled slump) and at a corner infield spot (given the uncertainty of Lowell’s health). Martinez’ versatility addressed both concerns.

Moreover, because the Sox were able to part with very good pitching prospects who nonetheless ranked in their second tier (or, in the case of Price, perhaps a bit lower) of developing hurlers, they were also able to upgrade their rotation significantly thanks to the breakout second-half performance by Clay Buchholz, whom the Sox were able to retain (something that would have been impossible had the Sox dealt for Halladay, Hernandez or Gonzalez).

Martinez not only performed brilliantly down the stretch — hitting .336 with a .405 OBP, .507 slugging mark and .912 OPS with the Sox — but he also remains a critical (and inexpensive) part of the 2010 team thanks to the contract that he signed with the Indians. (Martinez will receive a base salary of $7.7 million in 2010.) In his short time in Boston, he emerged as a team leader, clutch contributor and undeniable presence. He has already been declared the everyday Red Sox catcher for next season, and Martinez has made no secret of his interest in staying with the Sox beyond next season.

Victor Martinez, Red Sox Pregame: Joe Castiglione talks with the new Sox C/1B http://audio.weei.com/m/25588250/victor-martinez-red-sox-pregame.htm

Victor Martinez, Postgame Guest: Joe & Dave talk to the new Sox slugger http://audio.weei.com/m/25599050/victor-martinez-postgame-guest.htm

Victor Martinez: Victor Martinez joins The Big Show to discuss playing time and the big series with the Yankees. http://audio.weei.com/m/25990910/victor-martinez.htm

Youkilis sheds light on Bay, offseason, corner spots

12.29.09 at 9:30 pm ET
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LOWELL — On the same day that news broke of Jason Bay’s departure to New York, reporters caught up with an unsurprised Kevin Youkilis prior to his receiving the Dick Berardino Distinguished Alumni Award at the Lowell Spinners Alumni Dinner.

Asked whether he had previously thought Bay would return to the Sox, Youkilis said he “didn’t” and added that he had a better idea of the negotiations from staying in contact with the left fielder.

“I knew what was going on just by talking to him,” Youkilis said. “You’re never surprised in this game.”

Addressing the offense as is currently constituted, the corner infielder expressed that while it will be different with the loss of their RBI leader, there is still potential for the “thunder” of previous seasons.

“I think [the offense] will be fine,” Youkilis said. “We’re definitely [going to miss] Jason Bay driving in all those runs, but the luxury we have with our team is if you hit in the seventh hole, like Mike Lowell was last year, he was hitting seventh a bunch and he was at the top of the RBIs most of the year until the injuries.

“I think in this lineup it doesn’t matter where you hit,” added Youkilis. “If you have guys like Mike Cameron down at the bottom of the order,  you can drive in just as many runs as the guys hitting three and four. It just depends on how all the guys adapt to it, but I still think there’s a lot of thunder there.”

Bay’s replacement, Mike Cameron, had an average 17 points lower (.250) than Bay’s in 2009 and hit 24 homers to Bay’s 36, but Youkilis applauded the team’s direction in free agency and noted that a stronger pitching staff puts less pressure on an offense that has been considered a weakness since the Red Sox were swept by the Angels in the ALDS.

“I think we’ve got a great team,” Youkilis said. “Signing Mike Cameron was a good addition to the team. I don’t know who’s going to play where right now– I’m not the manager– but I think we have a good offense.”

“Picking up John Lackey was huge, where you don’t allow as many runs,” Youkilis added. “The offense doesn’t have to be as great when you have great pitching. Great pitching always wins championships. We’ve got six starting pitchers again, so if they all can stay healthy, who knows what’s going to happen?”

As for the looming possibility of Mike Lowell being out of the picture come April, Youkilis noted that players are commonly shopped in the final year of the contract and that he would be ready to enter 2010 as  either the team’s regular first or third baseman.

“Going into spring training, I get in shape just to play baseball,” Youkilis said. “I don’t get in shape for a position. I just take ground balls once I get there. There’s nothing I can do in the weight room that would be more beneficial for third or first, so I just go and do all the running and training and all the lifting that I can do just to try to be healthy all year.”

Youkilis, a third baseman by trade, started a career-high 56 games at the hot corner and 77 games at first base in 2009. Considering that he started 110 games at first a year prior, Youkilis felt the effects of constantly swtiching sides of the infield and expressed a desire to have a primary position in 2010.

“You definitely get a little more aches and pains moving back and forth,” Youkilis said. “For me last year, it worked out fine and I had a good season. I don’t think that’s the plan for me to switch back and forth like I did towards the end of the year.”

“For me, sticking at one spot would be nice,” Youkilis added. “That would be a cool thing. It probably won’t happen– I might have to play a little bit of first, I might have to play a little bit of third– but wherever they want me to play, we’ll see.”

The 2007 Gold Glove winner attributed much of his success to the fact that his natural position was occupied in 2006, his first full year in the majors. Now that the position may be freed, Youkilis is prepared to return to third.

“I got moved to first base when because Mike Lowell got traded over here, [Boston] got a Gold Glove third baseman,” Youkilis said. “I’ve always said I’m a third baseman playing first base, so I never lost that feeling of playing third base.”

The 30-year old had a fielding percentage of .974 at third base in the 2009, which would have led the American League had he qualified.

Source: Bay to sign with Mets

12.29.09 at 2:24 pm ET
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WEEI.com’s Alex Speier has confirmed via a major league baseball source that free agent outfielder Jason Bay has agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Mets worth $66 million. The deal also includes a vesting option for a fifth year that could bring the worth of the package over $80 million. According to the source, the fifth-year option was part of the original proposal presented by the Mets. The deal won’t be finalized until early next week, as Bay still has to pass the physical administered by the Mets.

WFAN’s Mike Francesa was first to report the agreement. Although the Red Sox were talking internally about adjusting their organizational budget to potentially make another run at Bay, it has been believed that the Mets were the only team with an offer in vicinity of what Bay was looking for.

If Bay does land with the Mets, the Red Sox will receive New York’s second-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft along with a supplemental pick as NY’s first-round pick (No. 7 overall) is protected since no team with a pick within the draft’s top 15 selections is subject to losing it via the signing of a Type A free agent.

To listen to the audio of Francesa’s report click here.

Check back later for more …

Jeff Bailey Signs With Arizona

12.28.09 at 11:21 pm ET
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Jeff Bailey, who spent the last six years in the Red Sox organization, signed a minor-league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks,according to MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert ( via Twitter). Bailey, 31, had spent most of the past five years in Triple A Pawtucket, and was named 2008 International League Player of the Year when he hit .301 with a .405 OBP, .562 slugging and .967 OPS while clubbing 25 homers.

Bailey played in 56 games in the majors for the Sox, hitting .228/.340/.434/.773 with six homers as a first baseman and outfielder. Bailey had been a catcher in his early career, but throwing issues sabotaged his work there, and he stopped catching during the 2005 season. Sox manager Terry Francona would often lament Bailey’s inability to stay behind the plate, since his bat likely would have ensured a sustained big-league career at that position, at least as a backup.

Now, Bailey will try to forge a big-league spot with the Diamondbacks, who, according to Gilbert, have offered him an invitation to major-league camp.

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Upcoming Red Sox Events (for Late Gift-Givers?)

12.28.09 at 6:35 pm ET
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A number of major annual Red Sox-related events — featuring current, future and former Red Sox — will take place over the coming weeks. For those looking for belated gift ideas, here are a few:

Lowell Spinners Annual Alumni Dinner – Dec. 29, 2009

The Lowell Spinners, Class-A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, will welcome Red Sox star and 2001 Spinner Kevin Youkilis back to Lowell for the Eighth Annual Lowell Spinners Alumni Dinner, Tuesday, December 29 at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium in downtown Lowell to raise money for the Joann Weber Charitable Fund.

The highlight of the Spinners off-season, the evening will begin at 5:30 with an autograph session and silent auction before dinner, provided by Outback Steakhouse. The dinner debuts this year at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium for the first time after many years at the DoubleTree Hotel.

The still growing guest list is highlighted by Red Sox All-Star infielder Kevin Youkilis, making his return to the Merrimack Valley to be honored as the Dick Berardino Lowell Spinners Alumni Award winner.

The award, named after the former Red Sox coach, instructor and Spinners manager, is given annually to a Lowell Spinners alumnus who has displayed tremendous coachability, dedication, a passionate work ethic, determination and the heart to make it to the Major League level.

Youkilis has been one of the most successful former Spinners at the Major League level, continuing the success he found in Lowell where he reached base in every game he wore a Spinners uniform. A two-time World Champion, two-time All-Star, Gold Glove winner, member of Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and 2008 Hank Aaron Award winner, Youkilis has a full resume at the age of 30.

The evening will also feature several former Spinners: Jeff Natale, a 2005 Lowell Spinner and Trinity ( Conn. ) College alumni; 2001 Lowell Spinner and Youkilis teammate, Dan Generelli; 2005 Lowell Spinners catcher and current head baseball coach of Elms College Mike Leonard; and 1999 Lowell Spinners pitcher Cory Spencer.

Local baseball legends set to attend include: former Spinners manager and Red Sox third base coach Dick Berardino; former Red Sox pitcher Bill Monboquette; and NESN Red Sox post game host Tom Caron.

More guests are expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks.

The dinner will also feature the presentation of the Peter Gammons Lowell Spinners Media Award to 980 WCAP?s Teddy Panos and the first ever Greg Montalbano Award, given to a local baseball ambassador who has gone above and beyond being a leader in the community and in the game of baseball. Montalbano, a guest at the Spinners 2008 Dinner and a former Spinner himself, passed away in August after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer.

The 2009 award winner will be Patrick Mason, currently an assistant coach at Northeastern, who served as Montalbano?s catcher during his tenure at Northeastern.

Serving as special guest emcee is local comedian Dave Rattigan.

There will also be a silent and live auction. The silent auction will run from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the program to follow.

A very limited amount of tickets were recently made available and can be purchased for $55.00 which includes a dinner and autograph session from 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m by calling 978-459-2255 or click here. All tickets must be purchased in advance and will not be available the date of the dinner. Please note Kevin Youkilis will not be signing autographs during the autograph session.

Hot Stove Cool Music – Jan. 9, 2009

The 10th anniversary of this staple January activity will feature a pair of popular events:

–The Hot Stove Cool Music Roundtable: Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons will moderate a candid discussion between fans and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, Tampa Bay Rays First Baseman Carlos Pena, New York Mets General Manager Omar Minaya, Cincinnati Reds Pitcher Bronson Arroyo and other special guests.

–The Hot Stove Cool Music Concert: Music and baseball collide to hit a grand slam for local children’€™s charities with performances and appearances by a host of sports, music and entertainment all-stars including Epstein; Indie rockers State Radio; pop supergroup Tinted Windows (comprised of Hanson’€™s Taylor Hanson, Fountains of Wayne’€™s Adam Schlesinger, Smashing Pumpkin’€™s James Iha and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos); Americana band The Low Anthem; the Hot Stove All-Stars featuring Gammons, Buffalo Tom’€™s Bill Janovitz and former Red Sox star pitcher Bronson Arroyo; Dropkick Murphy’€™s Ken Casey; Letters To Cleo’€™s Kay Hanley; special guest MC actor/comedian Mike O’€™Malley and more.

For details and to purchase tickets, click here.

New Stars for Young Stars – Jan. 9, 2010

Boston Red Sox players and up-and-coming minor leaguers will sign autographs to benefit the Jimmy Fund at the fifth annual ‘€œNew Stars for Young Stars’€ event. New Stars for Young Stars will be held on Saturday, Jan. 9, from 11:15 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Jillian’€™s Boston.

The lineup includes Red Sox players Manny Delcarmen, Jeremy Hermida, Josh Reddick, and minor league players, Ryan Kalish, Casey Kelly, Ryan Westmoreland (ranked # 2 by SoxProspects.com), as well as fan favorite Trot Nixon.

Two types of tickets are available. An MVP ticket at $250 includes an official MLB jersey, plus one of the first 30 spots in line. Regular admission tickets are $150 each. All ticket holders can bring one guest, but only the ticket holder may receive autographs. A buffet lunch will be served and sports memorabilia will be on sale. In addition, there will be an opportunity drawing, silent auction and bowling to help strike out cancer.

New Stars for Young Stars is hosted by the Jimmy Fund Council of Greater Boston and has quickly become a popular event for Red Sox fans, already having raised nearly $100,000 since its inception in 2006.

Founded in 1948, the Jimmy Fund is an official charity of the Boston Red Sox. It supports the fight against cancer at Boston’€™s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which is a leading cancer research and care center for adults and children, and a National Cancer Institute designated comprehensive cancer center.

For more information and to buy tickets go to www.jimmyfund.org/new-stars or call 617-632-3613.

Boston Baseball Writers Dinner – Jan. 14, 2010

Terry Francona, Theo Epstein, Nick Green, John Farrell, Lou Merloni, Bill James and Jim Tracy will be at the Boston BBWAA awards dinner. Tickets are still available for the 71st annual Boston Chapter of the BBWAA’s Awards Dinner, to be held on Thursday, January 14, 2010 at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston.

Among the award recipients announced so far:

* Boston Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis ‘€” Thomas A. Yawkey Memorial Award
* Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester ‘€” Red Sox Pitcher of the Year
* Boston Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon ‘€” Red Sox Fireman of the Year
* Boston Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard ‘€” Red Sox Rookie of the Year
* Boston Red Sox infielder Nick Green ‘€” Jackie Jensen Award
* Boston Red Sox senior advisor/baseball operations Bill James ‘€” Judge Emil Fuchs Memorial Award
* Boston Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell ‘€” Good Guy Award
* Boston Red Sox pitcher Casey Kelly ‘€” Greg Montalbano Award
* Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena ‘€” New England Player of the Year
* Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer ‘€” Ted Williams Award
* New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman ‘€” Major League Executive of the Year
* Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy ‘€” Manager of the Year
* Lou Merloni ‘€” Former Boston Red Sox Award
* Boston Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson ‘€” Unsung Hero
* Providence Journal Red Sox beat writer Steve Krasner ‘€” Dave O’Hara Award

Tickets are available by sending a check to Boston Chapter BBWAA, PO Box 7346, Nashua, NH 03060. The price per ticket is $150.

Each ticket includes admittance to:

* A cocktail hour beginning at 6 PM
* Silent memoriabilia auction presented by the Ted Williams Museum
* Autograph session with former Red Sox players (open to all)
* Full dinner beginning at 7 PM
* Autograph session with awards winners (for children age 16 and under only)

For more information and updates, click here.

Portland Sea Dogs Annual Hot Stove Dinner – Jan. 15, 2010

Jed Lowrie and Josh Reddick are among the players scheduled to take part in the Sea Dogs Annual Hot Stove Dinner and Silent Auction on Friday, January 15th at 5:30 PM at the Wyndham Hotel in South Portland. All proceeds from the dinner and silent auction will benefit the Strike Out Cancer in Kids Program.

Tickets for the event are now on sale. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Hadlock Field Ticket Office, by phone at 207-879-9500 or online at www.seadogs.com. Only 300 tickets are available for this event, tickets cost $50 each. Everyone who attends will receive a signed 8 X 10 photo of Jed Lowrie.

Additional guests include Sea Dogs’ pitcher Ryne Lawson, Sea Dogs’ Manager Arnie Beyeler, Red Sox Director of Player Development Mike Hazen, and other Red Sox minor league prospects (personalities will be announced at a later date). Reddick and the other minor league prospects in attendance will be available for autographs.

Read More: hot stove cool music, lowell spinners, Portland Sea Dogs,

A Look at the Lackey and Burnett Deals

12.28.09 at 12:26 pm ET
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There is little question that the five-year, $82.5 million deal signed a year ago by A.J. Burnett was used as the basis of comparison for the deal of the same guaranteed length and dollar figure signed earlier this month between John Lackey and the Boston Red Sox. Burnett’€™s contract made clear to the market that a deal for Lackey likewise meant a commitment of five years, and set the rough parameters for the new Sox pitcher’€™s discussions with clubs as a free agent.

Given some of the similarities between the pitchers, that comparison comes as little surprise. At the time that he signed with the Yankees, Burnett owned an 87-76 record and 3.81 career ERA. Lackey, who is almost a year younger than was Burnett at the time he signed his deal, likewise owns a 3.81 career ERA, along with a superior 102-71 record.

In negotiations between Lackey and Boston, the Sox made clear that they would not go past five years and $82.5 million ‘€“ precisely the length and dollars given to Burnett. But, there were relevant structural differences in Lackey’€™s contract and Burnett’€™s.

Foremost was the potential for a conditional club option, which was reported by the Boston Globe. According to the report, if Lackey ‘€“ who missed time at the start of 2008 with a strained triceps, and who likewise missed the first month of 2009 with an elbow strain ‘€“ misses significant time due to surgery on a pre-existing elbow condition, the Sox would have a team option on Lackey for the major-league minimum in 2015. That gives the Sox a possibility of recouping their investment in case of a significant injury, something that the Yankees did not receive with Burnett.

At the same time, other parts of the contract will result in Lackey getting more guaranteed money than Burnett, whose contract called for five annual salaries of $16.5 million each. Burnett received no signing bonus. Moreover, his contract offered no opportunities to earn awards-based bonuses.

Lackey, on the other hand, received a $3.5 million signing bonus and will have an $18 million salary in the first year, followed by annual salaries of $15.25 million in the next four seasons. The front-loaded structure of Lackey’s contract is interpreted by the Players Association, according to a baseball source, as being worth more than $500,000.

Lackey has the chance to earn awards-based bonuses for a number of accomplishments, including making the All-Star team, finishing in the top five for Cy Young voting, regular and postseason MVP awards and Gold Gloves.

He also received the right to the best available no-trade protection afforded under team policy (in Lackey’€™s case, that would give him the right to veto deals to three teams; Daisuke Matsuzaka‘€™s blanket no-trade protection was tailored very specifically to avoid implicating the status of any other member of the roster). Should Lackey be dealt, he would receive an assignment bonus of $500,000. Burnett did not receive an assignment bonus in case of a trade, though he did receive more extensive no-trade protection (according to Cot’s Contracts, Burnett can block a trade to up to 10 teams).

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Is Bay Mets’ backup plan?

12.27.09 at 8:13 pm ET
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Speaking at the ninth annual “21 Days of Clemente” in New York, honoring the late Roberto Clemente, Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya told NY Sports Day that his team is, indeed, still interested in free agent outfielder Matt Holliday, as well as Jason Bay.

“We are pursuing Matt Holliday,” Minaya said. “It seems to be easier to make a deal for Jason Bay.”

It appears the St. Louis Cardinals have made the biggest push to sign Holliday, although according to ESPN.com if that plan falls through the Cards would turn their attention to pitching rather than make a run at Bay.

In other Hot Stove news, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Yankees may have interest in free agent outfielder Jermaine Dye.

Peter Gammons on Dale & Holley

12.25.09 at 1:42 am ET
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Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons appeared in studio on WEEI on Wednesday to discuss the state of the offseason and to discuss the upcoming Hot Stove, Cool Music events (on Jan. 9, 2010).

Gammons discussed several offseason topics, among them:

–There’€™s almost no way that the Red Sox can bring back Jason Bay. The offer that Bay received from the Sox is the best one he’€™s received, just as the Sox made the best offer (five years, $82.5 million) that Matt Holliday had received before they moved on to sign John Lackey.

–The Sox and Padres haven’€™t exchanged any names regarding a potential Adrian Gonzalez deal. It will be virtually impossible for the Padres to even think about trading Gonzalez before July.

–The availability of Miguel Cabrera in a trade will likely depend on the Tigers’€™ performance in the early stages of the season. If he does become available, the Sox would be interested, despite the inherent concerns about Cabrera off the field.

Jacoby Ellsbury could see the majority of his playing time in left field, which would help preserve his legs for offense.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is in ‘€œunbelievable shape.’€

–It remains to be seen how the Mike Lowell situation develops following the failed trade to the Rangers. Lowell could become an important contributor as a first baseman/third baseman/DH and right-handed bat. At the same time, the team believes in Casey Kotchman‘€™s offensive potential.

To listen to complete audio of the session, click here. A transcript of highlights is below. For details of the Hot Stove, Cool Music events, click here.

Any chance Jason Bay ends up back with the Red Sox as opposed to in Queens?

I think he’€™d rather be playing in Beirut than Queens. The sad part of this is that sometimes there’€™s so much competition between agents that the players become pawns. I think in Jason’€™s case, it would have been really easy to take 4 x 15 [million dollars] in July, which I thought, actually, at the time was a little bit high as an offer. It was clear that the Red Sox just wanted to get him signed and get him out of the way. While the Mets offer is four [years] for 65 [million], it’€™s so backloaded that I’€™ve been told by Mets people that it’€™s far less than what the Red Sox were offering in present-day value. And he obviously doesn’€™t want to play there. And they’€™re scared of having him play left field there for four years. It’€™s really a shame it’€™s worked out this way. I don’€™t see any way they’€™re going to add anybody else here. They’€™re not going to go above the luxury tax. They’€™re going to hold some money back to acquire a contract in July for whatever they need. It’€™s too bad. I know he wanted to go the free-agent route. But at the same time, he really found a home here. It’€™s really too bad.

It’€™s the same way with Matt Holliday. Scott Boras is brilliant. But I’€™m not sure Matt Holliday has anything comparable to the five [years] times 16.5 [million] that the Red Sox offered him at the winter meetings. I don’€™t think he’€™s going to get a Mark Teixeira contract.

Were you surprised that the Sox moved so quickly to sign Mike Cameron, with Bay and Holliday still out there?

I think they basically had spent five months with Jason Bay and Joe Urbon and just said, ‘€˜Okay, you’€™re not going to move? It’€™s been five months. We’€™re going to move on.’€™ The night before they did Cameron, they went to Boras, they had the five times 16.5, and he said it had to be a Mark Teixeira contract, so they moved on.

I know that defense has been the focus of this offseason. If you go to Baseball Prospectus and believe those defensive [efficiency] ratings, they were the second worst defensive team in baseball. Watching them, I would say that they were. However they configure the outfield, it’€™s going to be very good. I know they’€™d like to find one more right-handed hitting outfielder. And the left side of the infield will theoretically be better. It will be very interesting to see.

My theory is they want to play Ellsbury in left field as much as possible. I thought his improvement, getting to balls inside, I thought he started to make a quantum leap as an offensive player ‘€“ not Grady Sizemore, but not far removed. I think he’€™ll be a better offensive player than Curtis Granderson, for instance ‘€“ quite a bit better of an offensive player than Granderson.

I remember in ‘€™84 or ‘€™85, when the Yankees got Rickey Henderson in a trade with the A’€™s, I was doing a story on him in beautiful downtown Winter Haven. He said to me, ‘€˜The beating you take when you steal 70 to 100 bases a year is incredible.’€™ Now, with Rickey, he went into the bag so hard, head first, he was beating up his hands and legs. He said, ‘€˜It’€™s really hard to play centerfield and run 100 times a year.’€™ Barry Bonds has told me the same thing. That’€™s why he wasn’€™t playing centerfield in Pittsburgh. He was playing left field.

I think Ellsbury really wants to be a great offensive player. Boras is smart enough to know that a Gold Glove is not going to go to arbitration the same way that hitting .300 and stealing 80 bases will. So I think he’€™ll be open to it. He played left field in the Cape League. They’€™ll play Ellsbury in left field 80-100 games a year, rest his legs a little bit, and maybe it will keep him fresher over the course of the season.

One of the things, people all have their opinion about Boras, and he’€™s a tough agent, but he will work with teams if he thinks it’€™s right. Most farm directors will tell you that he’€™s the best agent because it’€™s in his interest and the club’€™s best interest to have his client succeed. So he’€™ll cooperate when it comes to that stuff. Like this year with Oliver Perez, he made Oliver Perez go to Arizona, get the work and lose weight to get in shape. I think he’€™ll understand that with Ellsbury. I think he’€™ll see, ‘€˜Oh boy ‘€“ he might make $7 million next year in arbitration.’€™

Boras told Alex Cora after he signed his two-year deal with the Red Sox to work out to set up for his next contract.

He’€™s very interested in that. More and more agents are realizing that part of their responsibilities back to teams is to get guys in facilities and get them in shape. I know that Vernon Wells is doing it, Carl Crawford, at a training center in Houston. A lot of guys go to Athletes’€™ Performance. My old friend Mike Roberts, who runs the baseball part of API, says that Daisuke [Matsuzaka] is in unbelievable shape and really working hard. He said, ‘€˜Do you think he was embarrassed last summer?’€™ I said, ‘€˜His criticizing the Red Sox was like his way of saving face in Japan.’€™ But he’€™s in tremendous shape.

Before Cameron, they offered the Holliday deal. Did they want Holliday or Lackey more?

I think they looked at it and said it’€™s going to be harder to get a big-time front-line [pitcher], once they knew that the Holliday thing was going to drag out into the middle of January, I think they said, it’€™s going to be easier to find a hitter on the market in June or July than it is to get a frontline pitcher.

I don’€™t think they ever thought he was that interested in coming to Boston. I didn’€™t know the whole thing about his wife going to the University of New Hampshire.

What is the situation with Mike Lowell?

I think Mike got frustrated and it’€™s my understanding he did say, or [agent] Sam Levinson said, it’€™s probably best if he got traded. Okay, that’€™s understandable. But at the same time, Mike wants to play full time. I understand that entirely. I talked to Mike Reinold after he had been down there to see him.

You have to believe a full offseason of rehab will help him. I remember calling Mike after the first of the year last year. He was really worried about being ready for spring training. One of Terry Francona‘€™s great lines was, ‘€˜Tell him we don’€™t need him to be ready for the Boston College game.’€™ I don’€™t know how this all works out. I really don’€™t. They’€™ve been looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder. They may not do that now, if he’€™s coming back.

They want to give Casey Kotchman every chance. I must say, a year ago in spring training, I did a thing on ESPN.com about the five guys I thought would have breakout seasons. Kotchman was one of them.

One of my favorite statistics in looking at young players as they come up, do they have more walks and more extra-base hits than strikeouts? On the major-league level, in the last 50 years, there are only 11 of them ‘€“ Pedroia and Pujols are two of them, by the way ‘€“ that have that. Kotchman’€™s numbers were unbelievable in the minor leagues. It’€™s such a good predictor of guys being really good hitters. Actually, he’€™s not that far from it on the major-league level. Except for the time, he was hitting .330-something in Anaheim in 2008 and got beaned. He struggled after that. Then, he didn’€™t play much here.

He’€™s a great first baseman. I get the impression Tito really wants to play him. I can see him, I talked to [Angels hitting coach] Mickey Hatcher about it a lot during the playoffs, he said if he can just relax, this ballpark was made for him. He’€™s Nick Johnson with defensive skills. So it will be interesting to see what happens with him.

The Sox probably don’€™t believe as much as Mike Lowell believes that he’€™s going to be a better, more mobile player.

You just never know who gets hurt, what happens. I remember the year he came over from the Marlins, people saying, writing, scouts saying, he’€™s done. He’€™s lost his bat speed. ‘€¦ And of course it turned out that he played great for them. Playing first, third, being a right-handed DH, maybe he ends up being an important part of the team. Who knows?

The thumb injury isn’€™t that dramatic ‘€“ plenty of guys come back from this. So why did Texas blow this up?

I don’€™t think Max Ramirez is any loss to Red Sox Nation.

I guess [the Rangers] got cold feet, having to spend $3 million. I don’€™t see it. I think they’€™re being a little bit silly here.

He has to be a little bit better in terms of the hip. Alex Rodriguez‘€™ operation was really minor. It can’€™t be compared to Lowell’€™s. But Chase Utley‘€™s, I still think he’€™s one of the five best players in the National League, but he was not quite the same defensive player this year after having the hip operation. I’€™m sure he will be this year. He’€™ll be the same guy again.

I think it takes some time. I didn’€™t understand that these operations didn’€™t exist a dozen years ago. It started in Europe and this is a very new technology. Mike’€™s a little bit older and a little different body type than Utley. It’€™s something that’€™s new. I have to believe it will be better.

It was tough at the end. The playoffs, he couldn’€™t move at all. I understand that. But he’€™d also been playing everyday for a full season.

What can be expected of Mike Cameron at this point in his career?

I think a great deal of energy. He is a really good defender. The only thing that worries me is that he’€™s so fearless that with all the things that jut out in Fenway that he’€™ll run into something. But I think he’€™ll hit 25 home runs, he’€™ll steal 20, 25 bases and be a really good outfielder. He is in great shape and he’€™s completely fearless. He will strike out a lot.

To me, he’€™ll probably hit seventh or eighth in the order. He hits left-handed pitching ‘€“ he has in the past ‘€“ pretty well. He’€™s a guy that good teams want him. The Yankees tried to trade Melky Cabrera for him the year before and the Brewers changed their minds on it.

He’€™ll be a good player. It’€™s one of those years, they make the deal with Florida [for Jeremy Hermida], they have Kotchman around, they have a couple of guys who people have loved for years. If all of a sudden one of them breaks out the way David Ortiz did, or even Kevin Millar did really here, then they get one or two pretty good players in terms of depth.

Where do you see the Adrian Gonzalez situation being right now?

I don’€™t think that Jed will even think about trading him until July. One of the things he found when he went out there, he’€™d always said all those years when he was with the Red Sox, they didn’€™t do deals based on how they thought the public would react, as we know ‘€“ trading Nomar, some other things. They did what they thought was in the best interests of the team.

They have to think about selling tickets in San Diego. Adrian Gonzalez is from there, he’€™s Mexican-American, he’€™s the most marketable player they have. This is a new ownership. They can’€™t afford for their first move to be trading their most important player. Now, if they’€™re 25 games out on July 1st, that may be a different story.

Another problem they have in making trades is that they played really well the last two months. I’€™ve always likened it to a college basketball game where a team is down 40 points and they rally to lose by 10, so everybody says, ‘€˜Wow ‘€“ they played great in the last 10 minutes.’€™ But actually, they’€™re going to be back to losing by 30 the next time they play that team. My guess is that’€™s what the Padres will be. They have to get much more athletic in the outfield. They’€™re playing [Kyle] Blanks in left field, which is going to be a problem. I don’€™t think he’€™ll even think about it for a while. I think they’€™ll go into this next season, then see where they’€™re at, and then talk.

I was talking to Jed a couple days ago. He said he was amazed reading some of the names that they supposedly exchanged. Because they hadn’€™t. The Padres now have the Red Sox’€™ assistant general manager and their scouting director. They know the difference between Casey Kotchman and Michael Bowden.

Are you surprised the Sox went five years with John Lackey, and how do you think it affects the Josh Beckett situation?

I was surprised. I understand that one of the things they really felt about Lackey the last year and a half is that he really developed feel ‘€“ changing speeds a lot better than he used to. He used to be a head-on guy. But I think it’€™s going to make it difficult.

I can come up with, okay, Beckett’€™s career ERA in Boston is 4.05. The last two years in the postseason he’€™s allowed 18 runs in 30 innings. Blah, blah. But the staff views Josh Beckett as the captain of the pitching staff. He’€™s a model guy who’€™s a leader, he cares about whether the team wins or loses. I think that’€™s going to be a tough negotiation. I do think they’€™ll make every effort to keep him. I really do.

If he has a normal season, the negotiations will start at five years.

I think that will provide for some interesting negotiations.

For Beckett, it’€™s a win-win ‘€“ Beckett is now clearly the top guy in next year’€™s free-agent market.

My guess is that Cliff Lee goes out on the market, but yeah, [Beckett] should be the No. 1 guy after Lee. If he has a really good year, and in fairness, I understand part of his reputation was that he was a great October pitcher, and he hasn’€™t been a good October pitcher the last two years, but he’€™s also been hurt. Okay, now, like A.J. Burnett, he has a history of some injuries.

At the same time, if he comes back and is healthy for a whole year, puts up 33 starts, doesn’t have a pull or a shoulder problem or hip problem, whatever different things he’€™s had, then in my mind, there’€™s no reason he won’t win 18-20 games, and as we’ve seen with Lackey and Burnett, that’€™s $16, $17, $18 million a year.

Who won the Halladay trade?

I think Seattle did really well. They’€™ve built that team up. Jack Zduriencik has done a great job with the defense. But I love Halladay pitching in Philadelphia. Jayson Stark, I don’€™t remember the numbers, but he had some great numbers on what the Toronto Blue Jays have been the last two years without Roy Halladay starting. It’€™s incredible. They have been like a .430 winning percentage team. In Philadelphia, with pretty good defense, a team that scores a lot of runs and a team that’€™s a lot of fun to play for ‘€“ that team, it’€™s crazy, they’€™re really fun ‘€“ he’€™s in the National League, I think that helps.

I’€™m a big Javy Vazquez guy. It’€™s hard not to like him. He’€™s one of the most likeable people. I know that Ozzie Guillen felt he was a National League pitcher, he wasn’€™t tough. I think that kind of drove him out of New York, although he did have some shoulder problems that he never talked about that one year with the Yankees. I know the Red Sox really wanted him before the Wagner signing. That will be very interesting to see, too.

One thing I’€™m impressed about by the Yankees is by bringing in Granderson and Vazquez, they’€™ve gone out to add to Rivera and Jeter, they’€™ve added incredible people. There’€™s nothing wrong with that. I think the character of the team has really evolved. To me, Melky Cabrera is a nice fourth outfielder. I understand Liberty Broadcasting, or whoever owns the Braves, in getting rid of Soriano and Vazquez, they’€™ve taken $16 million off their payroll. That deal wasn’€™t about getting players. I read today on MLBtraderumors.com, there was talk about Frank Wren yesterday saying we’€™re going to get a major bat. It turns out to be Troy Glaus.

Will Miguel Cabrera be out there?

I think a lot of it will depend on how the Tigers play for the first couple of months. It’€™s a different situation, because the owner there loves his city and he’€™s watched it die. He doesn’€™t really care about how much money he loses. It’€™s not just the pizzas ‘€“ he’€™s got casinos around Detroit. There was a lot of talk about a fire sale in Detroit this year. Jim Leyland called me [to say], ‘€˜There’€™s not going to be a fire sale. The owner’€™s not going to allow that.’€™

But, if they get off to a bad start, they’€™re not going to be able to move Dontrelle Willis. They’€™re not going to be able to move a couple of other pitchers. If they’€™re 12 games out on June 15, I could see Cabrera getting moved, and I could see the Red Sox being very interested. He’€™s got a huge contract, but he’€™s also a monster bat. Just don’€™t put him at third.

No reservations about bringing him to Boston, on or off the field?

I think there are always going to be issues off the field with Miguel. He’€™s a great kid. He just gets into these issues. But there are a lot of people who were with the Marlins who will tell you Miguel Cabrera was nowhere near the problem that Dontrelle Willis was. Dontrelle is a great guy.

The Marlins, there was a couple times when he was confronted by other players, but they really liked him. They traded him because they got Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Casey Kotchman, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson

Red Sox talking about Bay return

12.23.09 at 7:40 pm ET
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According to a team source, the Red Sox have had internal discussions about extending their organizational budget to potentially allow for another offer for free agent outfielder Jason Bay. The discussed proposal to Bay would be in the vicinity of the four-year, $60 million deal originally offered the outfielder by the Red Sox.

It was thought that the signing of pitcher John Lackey to a five-year, $82.5 million deal, along with the acquisition of outfielder Mike Cameron, would make make such a strategy by the Sox unlikely, with the Sox too close to the $170 million luxury tax threshold to make a run at a free agent the likes of Bay. The New York Mets are thought to be the team currently most interested in the services of Bay, who is seeking a five-year deal.

Youk, Cashman win Boston writer awards

12.23.09 at 12:51 pm ET
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Kevin Youkilis has been selected as the 2009 winner of the Thomas A. Yawkey Memorial Award as Red Sox Most Valuable Player in voting done by the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

The two-time All-Star hit .305 (150-for-491) with 27 homers, 94 RBI and 99 runs scored in 2009 while splitting time in the field between first base and third base. He finished second in the American League in on-base percentage (.413) and OPS (.961) and fifth in slugging (.548).

Youkilis played more than half of his games at first base and becomes the club’€™s first MVP at that position since Mo Vaughn in 1996.

The Boston Chapter, BBWAA also announced Tuesday that Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has been selected as Major League Baseball Executive of the Year.

Tickets for the January 14 dinner, to be held at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston, are available for $150 each by sending a check to Boston Chapter-BBWAA, PO Box 7346, Nashua NH, 03060.

Read More: brian cashman, Kevin Youkilis, MLB, Red Sox
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