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Red Sox plan to sign another Cuban, Yoan Moncada’s mentor

02.24.15 at 12:53 am ET
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According to agent David Hastings, in addition to Yoan Moncada, the Red Sox also plan to sign Cuban outfielder Carlos Mesa, whom Hastings describes as Moncada’s mentor.

The 27-year-outfielder spent three years in the Pirates system (2011-13), advancing as far as High A. He’s a lifetime .215 hitter in 327 games, and also pitched for one season in his native Cuba. He played in 14 games for the New Jersey Jackals of the Canadian-American Association, batting .204 with a homer.

“Carlos is a player I showcased along with Yoan from the very beginning,” Hastings said by phone on Monday night. “He’s been a mentor to Yoan. He’s an important piece of the whole package, in my opinion. It was not presented as a deal breaker, but he tried out every single time Yoan did, and he’s impressive. The team saw value in him and offered him a contract.”

Hastings said Mesa will sign a minor-league deal.

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Agent says guards were protecting Yoan Moncada from kidnappers, not agents

02.23.15 at 9:30 pm ET
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Florida CPA David Hastings just negotiated by far the largest signing bonus in history for an international free agent, getting Cuban shortstop Yoan Moncada $31.5 million from the Red Sox.

Given Hastings’ lack of experience, it makes sense that rival agencies would try to steal Moncada right before his big payday. A source said that Hastings hired armed guards to keep such interlopers away, and Fangraphs reported that two agents working for Scott Boras were removed from a showcase workout in Guatemala.

In a phone conversation on Monday night, however, Hastings disputed that reasoning and said the guards served a much more important purpose.

“We had the armed guards not to protect him from the agents,” Hastings said. “We had the armed guards to protect him from the people out there that would want to kidnap him and hold him for ransom. Or kill him. The process is dangerous for these Cuban players, because once you get them out of Cuba, legally or illegally, they are targets of other people out there that see them as like a diamond. And they want to take that diamond. It’s worth money. The secrecy was to protect Yoan from that element, not from the agents.”

Hastings said he generally tried to keep Moncada’s whereabouts a secret even in the U.S., out of an abundance of caution.

“We’ve been careful ever since we got him out of Cuba to protect his whereabouts, and even when his whereabouts were known, to protect him at that point as well, whether it was here in the U.S. or Guatemala,” he said.

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Agent describes how Yoan Moncada ended up with Red Sox over Yankees

02.23.15 at 8:54 pm ET
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David Hastings, the agent for 19-year-old Cuban free agent Yoan Moncada, described how his client landed in Boston. Simply put, it came down to money.

Hastings said the Red Sox were among four finalists for Moncada, joining the Yankees, Dodgers and Padres. Moncada liked all four teams equally, and after one round of bidding, the four were basically tied at $25 million. Hastings went back to each club to solicit a second round of offers.

“I explained that everyone had the same amount of money, and one team had to distinguish themselves above the others for us to go further,” Hastings said. “I gave them all a chance to give us their second bid. I immediately got second-bid offers and went back to the teams that had not chosen to give second bid offers and told them where they needed to be if they wanted to continue to be in the process, and the Yankees declined.”

The Red Sox won the bidding with a bonus of $31.5 million, far and away a record for an international free agent, beating the previous high of $8.27 million the Diamondbacks gave Cuban right-hander Yoan Lopez in in January. The Yankees didn’t budge off $25 million, and their fans will no doubt be disappointed to hear how that cost them.

“Listen, Yoan would’ve gone to the Yankees, had the Yankees beaten everyone else,” Hastings said. “He liked the Yankees. He liked the Dodgers. He liked San Diego. He liked all these teams. When you like every team, and one is like, ‘We’re going to offer you $1 million more, or $2 million more, or $3 million more,’ it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

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What the Red Sox are expecting from Christian Vazquez in 2015

02.23.15 at 6:19 pm ET
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Christian Vazquez

Christian Vazquez

FORT MYERS, Fla. — At the start of spring training 2014, Christian Vazquez sat in his same corner locker right next to the main entrance of the Red Sox clubhouse at JetBlue Park. That hasn’t changed but his role certainly has.

Last year, David Ross was the starting catcher coming off a World Series in which he caught the final pitch from Koji Uehara in Game 6 against the Cardinals. A.J. Pierzynski was the back-up. And Vazquez was taking his reps, trying to show the organization he could handle the job if either or both went down for an extended period.

He got that chance in earnest when Pierzynski was traded out of town in July and the team was falling quickly out of the playoff race in the American League. He played 55 games. He batted .240 with just one homer and 20 RBIs.

But clearly that’s not what earned him the job. He handled the pitching staff as a 23-year-old rookie and blew away everyone with some eye-popping defensive numbers. Twenty-nine base runners attempted to steal with him behind the plate. Fifteen were thrown out. That 52 percent rate was nearly double the 27 percent league average. And that didn’t even include the four pickoffs he executed with his gun of a right arm.

Now, in 2015, there is no doubt — Vazquez is the starting catcher, with Ryan Hanigan the veteran back-up. What are the Red Sox expecting in terms of the next step for the 24-year-old defensive weapon?

“The step that we would anticipate him taking this year is handling the pitchers that he did for the half of last year, and understanding even more so what their trigger points are and how to get the most out of them,” manager John Farrell said Monday. “His development as one of the leaders of our pitching staff is going to be challenged because of the number of new faces that are here. Spring training is going to be critical for he and Ryan Hanigan to understand what each pitcher likes in certain situations, what pitch to go to. But I know that in Christian’s commitment to those conversations and the time spent to learn individuals, that’s who he is as a person. That’s him evolving as a game-caller and a catcher behind the plate.” Read the rest of this entry »

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John Farrell is pretty excited about Brock Holt and Daniel Nava on his bench

02.23.15 at 5:46 pm ET
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Brock Holt

Brock Holt

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Brock Holt and Daniel Nava are the ying and yang of the Red Sox bench. And manager John Farrell acknowledges how well the 2015 Red Sox come together could hinge, in part, on how these two super subs perform.

Daniel Nava hit .300 for the final four months of 2014 while Brock Holt was the only American Leaguer to start at seven different positions over the course of the 162-game season. Holt missed the final 21 games with a concussion but still managed to hit .281 with a .331 OBP and four home runs.

“We’re never restricted by late-inning moves because we’ve got the versatility with those two guys,” Farrell said Monday. “They’re talented players that you can build in some off-days for other guys and rotate them through and seemingly not skip a beat. It goes back to the depth of our roster and the talent that’s there.

“The key is with David being a full-time DH, Brock’s versatility really allows [for substitution options]. Where many teams might use the DH spot to rotate guys through and get them off their legs on a given day, Brock is that built-in player to do that with David in the DH spot. We didn’t know this going into last year but the fact he started games at seven different positions, he put himself in a unique category around the league.”

Holt became Boston’s most productive utility player — and baseball’s most versatile — as Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Will Middlebrooks and Shane Victorino all battled through injuries.

“He’s a good baseball player,” Farrell said. “He’s shown an improved arm strength as we put him over at shortstop the last couple of years, an above-average runner and clearly what we saw in the outfield were good reads and routes when playing all three positions.

“Maybe one of the better stories of the otherwise overall frustrating year was his versatility and how he improved as a player.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Rusney Castillo on Yoan Moncada: ‘A pretty complete player’

02.23.15 at 3:17 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo met with the media in Fort Myers after playing in his first professional game with the Red Sox organization Sunday. (WEEI.com photo)

Rusney Castillo is impressed with potential new teammate Yoan Moncada. (WEEI.com photo)

Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo doesn’t know Yoan Moncada particularly well ‘€“ they met at a Cuban All-Star Game in 2013 ‘€“ but Castillo remembers enough to be impressed with the newest member of the organization.

“If it’€™s true — obviously I don’€™t know anything for sure — but if it is, it’s welcome, and I’€™m happy he’€™s here with us,” Castillo said through translator Adrian Lorenzo.

The Red Sox are still finalizing the deal that will net the 19-year-old Moncada a $31.5 million signing bonus. Once he arrives, he’ll again cross paths with Castillo, his fellow Cuban.

“It’€™s always a positive thing to have more and more Cuban players in the league,” Castillo said. “It’€™s definitely something exciting and something I look forward to continuing.”

Moncada’s addition gives the Red Sox an exciting core of up-and-coming youngsters, whether it’s 22-year-olds Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts in the big leagues, catching prospect Blake Swihart at Triple A, or left-hander Henry Owens, also at Pawtucket.

“We’re not just thinking about now,” Bogaerts said. “We’re kind of thinking about the future as well. He’s a great addition to the team. I’ve never seen him play, but I’ve heard a lot about him. He’s a great talent from Cuba. I mean, he has to be good to give him that amount of money, you know?”

Castillo reportedly raced — and lost –€“ a sprint around the bases with Moncada at that Cuban All-Star Game in 2013, but that’s not how Castillo remembers the story, which he described as a relay.

“I remember that he could run,” Castillo said. “We were in a running competition, but I actually ran home to first, and he ran the bases. . . . I can’t think of a comp off the top of my head, but I know he’s a pretty complete player.”

Castillo said the Red Sox spoke to him informally before signing Moncada. Right now, he said, he’s learning just how big baseball is in Boston and around the country.

“I think I can gain an appreciation for it,” he said. “I’ve been gaining an appreciation for how important it is, especially given our fanbase and media presence.”

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John Farrell says he expects David Ortiz in camp Tuesday in time for Wednesday’s first full squad workout

02.23.15 at 2:24 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo shares a laugh with David Ortiz before a game in 2014. (Getty Images)

Rusney Castillo shares a laugh with David Ortiz before a game in 2014. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The only unaccounted for player in Red Sox camp is expected to make his arrival Tuesday.

Manager John Farrell said Monday that he expects Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in camp on time to take his physical and report to camp in time for the first full squad workout on Wednesday.

But asked specifically if he’s heard from the 39-year-old slugger, Farrell said he had not had any formal contact as of Monday morning.

“I don’t have an exact arrival date yet, no,” the manager said.

In the last several years, Ortiz has arrived days in advance of the first full squad workout but he has not been sighted so far.

Read More: 2015 spring training, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, John Farrell

Report: Pawtucket Red Sox moving to Providence

02.23.15 at 10:59 am ET
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Say goodbye to baseball in Pawtucket.

According to the Providence Journal, the new owners of the Red Sox‘ Triple A affiliate plan to relocate to Providence. The mayor of Pawtucket said he’s devastated.

“I can’€™t tell you half of what they said, because when they said, ‘It’€™s not going to be Pawtucket,’ that just took the air out of the room,” Mayor Donald Grebien said.

The new owners of the team haven’t been identified.

Morning Fort: Mike Napoli feels like a new man, Daniel Nava promises not to press as much and Christian Vazquez takes over

02.23.15 at 10:38 am ET
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Mike Napoli is looking to return to form in 2015. (Getty Images)

Mike Napoli is looking to return to form in 2015. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox haven’t even had their first full squad workout but already Mike Napoli feels like a new man.

The slugger who had offseason surgery to address severe sleep apnea can feel an increase in energy and motivation when he heads to the ballpark.

“It’s been night and day,” Napoli said Monday morning. “Just my energy level when I wake up, I get out of bed and get my day started. Before I’d lay in bed until one o’clock. It’s totally different.”

Napoli looks trimmer than the beginning of last season, when he was still dealing with severe sleep deprivation that was sapping him of energy, making it difficult to deal with and overcome the nagging injuries of the last three seasons.

“You just have to be able to stay in the gym and get your workouts in and take care of your body,” he said. “It’s nutrition, working out and getting sleep. Now I can get sleep, which is probably going to help me out a lot. Just recovery, you get nicked up during a long season, you have to be able to recover and hopefully, I’ll be able to do that now.”

On Dec. 3, 2012, Napoli agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the Red Sox, pending a physical. Following a six-week period, the status of the deal was in question after his physical showed signs of a hip issue. He eventually agreed to play 2013 for $13 million.

He re-signed for two years and $32 million after helping the Red Sox to the World Series title. Last year, his numbers dipped. He batted just .248 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs in 119 games. But with his finger, knee, toe and back injuries resolved and his sleep apnea hopefully in the past, Napoli has a lot to look forward to with a rebuilt Red Sox order. He’ll have Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and David Ortiz ahead of him in the lineup.

“It’s been great. We’re going to have a deep lineup,” Napoli said. “It’s going to be fun. Those guys have been around here for a couple of weeks now. We’ve all been getting along and having a good time. Just getting out there and working on our game.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox watched Yoan Moncada under armed guards

02.23.15 at 9:17 am ET
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It’s safe to say there’s never quite been a case like Cuban free agent infielder Yoan Moncada, whom the Red Sox worked out privately last week, according to a source, before agreeing on Monday to a deal that will pay the 19-year-old Cuban star a signing bonus of just over $30 million.

General manager Ben Cherington met with James Hastings, the Florida CPA acting as Moncada’s agent, at the workout. According to a source, Cherington also met with Hastings last week.

Prior to that encounter, the Red Sox were one of the teams to watch Moncada’s showcase in Guatemala, an event that included armed guards hired by Hastings to keep away rival agents, according to a source.

Red Sox international scouting director Eddie Romero and senior VP of player personnel Allard Baird were the point men on the pursuit of Moncada, who was not eligible to sign a big league deal because he’s a teen with fewer than five years experience in Cuba’s professional league. Because the Red Sox will owe MLB the equivalent of his signing bonus, Moncada’s price didn’t soar like it could have had he been a true free agent, in which case the bidding could’ve surpassed $100 million.

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