|12.10.09 at 10:24 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — The Red Sox had two of their minor leaguers selected by other clubs in the Major League Rule 5 draft on Thursday.
The Astros selected 25-year-old Jorge Jimenez and then sent the third baseman to Florida as part of the Matt Lindstrom deal. Jiminez spent all of 2009 in Double-A, hitting .289 with a .366 OBP, .422 slugging and .787 OPS and 13 homers. He has been a solid performer at every level with a solid plate approach that has yielded solid contact and walk rates, though he projects as no more than a major-league bench player, and given that he has been in Double-A for the last year and a half, there is an expectation that he won’t stick in the majors, and will end up being offered back to the Sox. He does not have the defensive versatility of a utility backup, and lacks the power to profile at third base.
Armando Zerpa, 22, was taken by the Rays and then dealt to the Dodgers. He recorded a 1.20 ERA and struck out 51 batters in 45 innings for Low-A Greenville before seeing his ERA climb to 4.85 in High-A Salem (while maintaining his strikeout-an-inning pace). It may be hard for him to stick with the major-league club, given the presence of left-handers Hong-Chih Kuo and George Sherrill, as well as three other lefties in the system (Scott Elbert, Brent Leach, Eric Stults).
Even so, there is a chance he could stick. His fastball was 89-92 mph last year, and touched 94 mph in the past, and he also features an average breaking ball while also working to develop a changeup. He generates some deception, and so if he can maintain his delivery and throw his fastball for strikes, he could be effective in the majors.
|12.10.09 at 10:03 am ET|
According to reports, the Red Sox have lost two minor league players in the Rule 5 draft: infielder Jorge Jiminez (selected by the Astros and traded to the Marlins) and left-handed reliever Armando Zerpa (Rays).
In a story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Barry Bonds‘ agent said “it’s nearly impossible” that the slugger would return to the majors. “It’s an unfortunate ending to a storied career,” agent Jeff Borris said of the 45-year-old Bonds, who last played in 2007.
FoxSports.com is reporting that the Cubs are having trouble ridding themselves of outfielder Milton Bradley, while the Phillies and Angels have re-emerged as leaders in pursuit of Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay.
|12.10.09 at 9:11 am ET|
According to an Associated Press report, right-hander Rich Harden has agreed to a one-year deal with the Rangers that guarantees him $7.5 million. Harden, in whom the Red Sox were supposedly interested, went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA with the Cubs last season and has battled injuries throughout his career. The Rangers cleared room for Harden by trading Kevin Millwood to the Orioles on Wednesday.
|12.10.09 at 5:46 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — While Scott Boras held court on Wednesday afternoon in the lobby of the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott to discuss the virtues of his clients (such as Matt Holliday and Adrian Beltre), Joe Urbon, the agent for Jason Bay, remained inconspicuous.
The market for Bay has been something of a mystery during the winter meetings. Aside from the reported four-year, $60 million offer made by the Sox to Bay during the season, there have been no other mentions of proposals for the All-Star left-fielder. That said, there remains interest in the player.
The Sox, for one, have reaffirmed their interest over the course of the Winter Meetings. The Angels appeared prepared to jump into the Bay sweepstakes, though on Wednesday, Halos skipper Mike Scioscia tossed water on the notion just when it was heating up.
“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,” said Scioscia. ‘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.’
The Mets have also gotten involved in the conversations, and the Mariners — who have never confirmed or denied publicly an interest in Bay — continue to loom on the periphery. Other teams could lurk below the surface (Cardinals? Giants?), but for now, at least, those four clubs are considered the principles.
Through the meetings, there has been no evidence of formal offers for Bay. One official of a club that has checked in with Urbon believes that the outfielder has yet to receive an offer of more than four years. As such, the official believed that a club that proved willing to extend its offer to a fifth year would win the negotiations for the left fielder. Whether or not a team proves willing to extend that far for the 31-year-old remains to be seen.
For their part, the Sox — who met with Urbon on Monday, but had not met with him again as of Wednesday afternoon — are trying to avoid the temptation to proceed with a bidding strategy premised on what other teams’ interest may or may not be. Because misinformation can be rampant in settings such as the Winter Meetings, Boston GM Theo Epstein prefers to determine a value for a player and stick to that limit, rather than basing bids on information about who is and is not part of the market.
“For any free agent, there can be a significant market or less of a market, but I think it’s hard to read it through press comments,” said Epstein. “If you try to determine exactly what teams might be on a certain player, you can often err and be overconfident, or you can panic and overreact. It’s better just to focus on what makes sense for you. Obviously, there’s a little bit of a supply and demand dynamic that comes into play. But you just try to focus on signing the player at a cost that makes sense for the organization, regardless.”
|12.10.09 at 4:16 am ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — The late-night scene outside Champions at the Indianapolis Marriott early Thursday morning was the epitome of the Winter Meetings.
There were Sam and Seth Levinson, the agents for Mike Lowell, and all of their helpers. Then along came a smattering of members of the Red Sox front office. And, finally, Jon Daniels, the general manager of Texas arrived at the scene after hosting his Sox counterpart, Theo Epstein, in the Rangers general manager’s hotel suite. The get-togethers were hardly planned, instead offering a healthy dose of serendipity.
All of the parties involved represented pieces of what was the most notable Red Sox news of the meetings as they wound down toward their conclusion.
According to a source, the Red Sox and Rangers were “close” to completing a deal that would send Lowell to Texas in exchange for minor league catcher/first baseman Max Ramirez, with the Sox scheduled to pay the majority of Lowell’s $12 million salary for 2010. (FoxSports.com was reporting that the figure was $9 million.)
It was a deal, however, that another source said could “blow up,” with both teams positioned to go their separate ways if the final elements aren’t agreed upon.
The first obstacle that remained in place was getting approval from Red Sox ownership regarding the payment of the money that would go toward making up a good chunk of what was left on Lowell’s three-year, $37.5 million contract. (Major League Baseball also would have to approve the deal since more than $1 million would exchange hands.)
Another issue the teams had to clarify was the health of Lowell, in particular his surgically repaired right hip. As of early Thursday morning the teams hadn’t gotten to the point of exchanging physicals for the potential trade’s participants.
As for why each team would do the deal, here are some reasons:
— The Rangers would be looking at Lowell to serve primarily as a first baseman and designated hitter, although he has only played four professional games at first (coming in Triple A in 1999).
— For the Sox, Ramirez represents a young power bat, although his ability to catch has come into question by some. The 25-year-old native of Venezuela played in 17 major league games in 2009, 13 of which he caught, three at first, and DH for one. Ramirez hit .217 with a pair of home runs in his first big league stint. He currently is in the Venezuelan Winter League to get some playing time after missing a hearty chunk of the year with wrist injuries. He is hitting .236/.355/.461/.815 in Venezuela and is tied for the league lead in homers with 11.
Ramirez has been traded twice, both coming in deals that were straight-up for major league players despite the fact he was just in Single A. In 2006, the 5-foot-11 slugger was traded from Atlanta to Cleveland for Bob Wickman, and a year later he was dealt from the Indians to Texas in exchange for Kenny Lofton.
— The trade of Lowell would open a spot for free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, in whom sources suggest the Red Sox have strong interest. It was interesting to note the analysis of Beltre’s agent, Scott Boras, regarding his client’s abilities. Here are Boras’ thoughts:
(On Beltre’s offensive production) “We did a study of Beltre’s road numbers compared to a very good hitter like, say, Jason Bay. Obviously, Beltre had some nicks this year with his collarbone, but we looked at his ’06-‘08 numbers on the road and compared them to Bay’s ’07-‘09 performance offensively on the road and we’ve come up with the fact that Adrian had more RBIs, he had a few less home runs, his batting average was 25 points higher and his OPS was about the same. And I’m not including anything about Beltre’s 48-home run season. Just to put it in perspective the type of offensive player Adrian Beltre is outside of Seattle. You can really see he compares favorably a very coveted, talented free agent player today. Then you add in the fact I don’t think anybody in baseball will not tell you that Adrian Beltre is far and above the best defensive third baseman.”
(On how Mike Lowell’s presence on the Red Sox will affect the team’s interest in Beltre) “When you’re talking about teams and players who have played well, and they’re under contract, the answer to that is that the team has flexibility. Historically when you have a player under contract you can go to a team at the start of the season, or now, and say, ‘Well absorb some of the contract if you take the player.’ Or you can just keep the player and have him serve a function on the team that may not be in the starting role and have the player be traded in spring training or have the player as the season opens up when injuries occur. Particularly with clubs with one year to go on the contract, major market teams, the idea of it is that the flexibility of those decisions usually don’t preempt teams from making those decisions. The fact that the player still has something to contribute and perform well makes that process easier.”
— It should also be noted that if the Red Sox don’t deem Beltre worth the asking price (one source suggested he was looking for five years and $50 million), the Sox could amp up their interest for Mark DeRosa, in whom the team has previously expressed interest.
Earlier in the evening the Red Sox also talked to the Cubs regarding a possible deal that would send Lowell to Chicago in exchange for outfielder Milton Bradley. Ironically, both players are represented by the Levinsons.
|12.09.09 at 11:20 pm ET|
Brian McTaggart is tweeting that the Astros have signed Brandon Lyon. Ken Rosenthal says the deal is for three years and $15 million.
|12.09.09 at 10:15 pm ET|
A source told Ken Rosenthal he “doesn’t see” the Mike Lowell to Texas deal happening.
|12.09.09 at 9:34 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — It was Scott Boras Day here in Indianapolis. His annual press conference was held in front of 50 reporters here at the Marriot. Following the presser, I caught up with Boras back at his hotel to conduct a one-on-one interview for Comcast Sports Net.
The meat of the conversation had to do with the relationship between the Red Sox and the high profiled agent.
“I have a solid working relationship with Theo,” said Boras.
“I understand that owners are sometimes disappointed when it comes to losing out on a player of Tex’s caliber,” he said. “We made a proposal to Boston where they could have signed him and they made a counter that didn’t meet our proposal and Tex went in another direction.”
Boras concluded that nothing that has happened in the past will affect how he deals with the Sox in the future.
“We value working with [the Red Sox],” Boras said, “and we’ll continue to do so.”
|12.09.09 at 9:05 pm ET|
With talks surrounding Mike Lowell taking place between the Red Sox and Rangers (who plan on using Lowell at both corner infield positions as well as DH, according to Alex Speier), the Boston Herald is reporting the Red Sox‘ interest in Adrian Beltre is “significant.”
|12.09.09 at 8:56 pm ET|
INDIANAPOLIS — A major-league source confirmed that the Rangers are interested in acquiring Mike Lowell, but they would only be able to do so if the Red Sox picked up most of his salary. According to the source, Texas would consider using Lowell at first base (spelling Chris Davis), third base (sharing time with Michael Young) and as a designated hitter. WEEI.com reported earlier that the Rangers and Red Sox had talked about Texas’ acquisition of Lowell, with one source citing it as “possible, but not close”.
The Rangers were a potential trading partner last year for the Sox due to their catching surplus. However, the team is not in position to deal either Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Taylor Teagarden, feeling it needs to have both to handle catching duties. Max Ramirez, who is in the Venezuelan Winter League to get some playing time after missing a hearty chunk of the year with wrist injuries, could be another story. Ramirez is hitting .236/.355/.461/.815 in Venezuela, and is tied for the league lead in homers with 11. He is viewed as a good hitting prospect, though his defense behind the plate is considered insufficient for an everyday role.
The Rangers did clear some payroll by dealing right-hander Kevin Millwood to the Orioles, but Texas is expected to use the diminished payroll to pursue pitching, perhaps Rich Harden. Hence, with a limited budget, the need to have most of Lowell’s salary picked up.
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