|02.14.14 at 5:00 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Ryan Lavarnway, change isn’t just limited to a new position.
While the 26-year-old is getting a tutorial at first base from Red Sox third base coach and infield instructor Brian Butterfield, he’s also wielding a modified weapon in the batter’s box in hopes of reclaiming some of his offensive prowess. In 2011, Lavarnway emerged as one of the Sox’ top prospects based on the potential power he could bring to a position (catcher) where offense is a scarce and hence valued commodity. He slammed 34 homers between Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues, suggesting a future middle-of-the-order bat who could handle the responsibilities of catching.
But over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, he hit just 14 homers while shuttling between Triple-A and the majors in the two combined seasons. Though he still showed the ability to hit for average and get on base in Triple-A (in both 2012 and 2013) and the big leagues (in 2013 after struggling at that level in 2012), he saw his slugging percentage plummet in the minors from .563 in 2011 to .439 in 2012 to .350 in 2013.
While his ability to add first base to his resume could open pathways to the big leagues, that facet of his game pales in significance next to his ability to restore his status as a power hitting prospect. Mindful of that, Lavarnway has changed his lumber for this spring. Read the rest of this entry »
|02.14.14 at 1:47 pm ET|
ESPN’s Buster Olney joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to discuss MLB news as teams begin to gather for spring training. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
Derek Jeter announced this week that 2014 will be his final season. Olney speculated that Jeter might have made his decision public due to lingering injury issues.
“I really thought that we started to see signs of this last spring,” Olney said. “Because when he did his first press conference he made for the first time mentions of age and time in a way that he never had before. Because as you guys know, one of the great things about Derek — and maybe one of those reasons you would say he’s been one of the best players [of the last 20 years] — is because he’s been so reliable. ‘¦ Last spring he didn’t look right. That was at the beginning of spring training. And then he had the setback with his ankle, and he never looked right; he made only 73 plate appearances.
“I do wonder if in his early workouts and preparation for this year if he’s feeling similar things, that he doesn’t look right. I think that everyone, if you’re a Yankees fan, or if you’re with the Yankees organization you’d love to see him finish up his career the way [Mariano] Rivera did last year. But I think there’s a good chance that’s not going to be the case.”
Added Olney: “I do think, and you guys have seen the numbers on some of the tickets, there’s a lot of pressure on the Yankees, there will be, to play him a certain number of games this year. It will be interesting to see how Derek handles that.”
Stephen Drew remains a free agent, and Olney said the Yankees appear to be an unlikely destination.
“No. Based on everything as of today, no,” Olney said. “They can always change their bottom line. But basically what they’ve been saying is, ‘We’re done. We are finished spending money during the course of the offseason.’ Unless that changes, unless Hal Steinbrenner says, ‘OK, you can add more payroll,’ they’re not going to be the team that signs him.”
Added Olney: “Drew might make sense to the Pirates. but they’re just philosophically not going to give up a draft pick. And the problem is as the winter goes on, teams just decide, ‘You know what, we’re not going to spend money.’ ‘¦ If you’re Drew, your best play might be to sit back and wait and see if some shortstop gets hurt someplace on a good team. Besides that, these guys [who turned down qualifying offers] are in a really bad spot now. Some people have said, ‘Well, the system doesn’t work.’ I think we’re at a point where, two years into it, no. Bad decisions were made, in my opinion, on some of these players in terms of not accepting the qualifying offer.”
|02.14.14 at 1:33 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — One day from the official reporting date for Red Sox pitchers and catchers, shortstop Stephen Drew remains a free agent. The Sox, according to a major league source, remain open to re-signing their everyday shortstop from the 2013 championship run. However, the same source indicated that the Sox’ interest is likely limited to either a one-year deal or a one-year deal with a player option — a contract structure that might be similar to the one-year, $9 million deal with a $5 million player option that Adrian Beltre signed for the 2010 season, which allowed the contract to be calculated as a two-year, $14 million pact (with a $7 million average annual salary) for luxury tax purposes.
While Xander Bogaerts is working out exclusively at shortstop right now, the Sox would be comfortable making the adjustment to have their top prospect prepare for the season at both short and third if Drew were to re-sign. The idea of adding depth to the left side of the infield — an area of potential vulnerability if Bogaerts either struggles or gets injured, given that the only other shortstop on the 40-man roster is Jonathan Herrera — remains intriguing.
That said, the likelihood is that if Drew wants a multi-year deal, he would have to get it elsewhere, with the Mets and Yankees considered the most likely teams to offer a deal of more than one year. The Yankees, in particular, seem like a strong fit for Drew, as New York faces questions regarding both health and production at shortstop (Derek Jeter, Brendan Ryan), third base (Kelly Johnson) and second base (Brian Roberts). Drew would represent a strong everyday shortstop option for New York at times when Jeter is unavailable due to injury, and given the icon’s intention to retire after the 2014 season, Drew would represent an obvious solution at the position beyond the coming year — a valuable asset given the expectation that the top potential free agent option, Hanley Ramirez, is expected to sign an extension with the Dodgers, with J.J. Hardy representing the other viable starting shortstop who will be a free agent following the 2014 campaign.
|02.14.14 at 1:00 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — According to a major league source, there are no active discussions involving any the Red Sox‘ potential surplus of starting pitchers. While the team has six established veteran starters (Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster) along with a host of prospect depth options on their 40-man roster (Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Drake Britton and Rubby De La Rosa), the strong class of remaining free agent options who remain available (including Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez) has limited interest in the Sox’ starting pitchers, creating an expectation that if a trade market materializes, it would be unlikely to do so until at least March.
|02.14.14 at 12:14 pm ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. — After spending the entirety of his professional career catching in the Red Sox system, Ryan Lavarnway is getting his introduction to a new position this spring. The 26-year-old worked today with Red Sox infield guru Brian Butterfield at first base. Butterfield had tremendous success last spring working with both Mike Napoli (who had played first base on a part-time basis prior to 2013) and Daniel Nava (who had never played the position at all) last year in Fort Myers. This year, if Lavarnway — who is considered by evaluators to be defensively adequate for consideration as at least a backup behind the plate — can add first base to his skill set, it could open up playing time for him both in Triple-A (where the Sox also have catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler on the anticipated roster, and on the 40-man roster, but are thin at first base) and potentially the majors.
If, for instance, Mike Napoli gets injured at some point, the Sox would want to have a right-handed first baseman to complement Mike Carp and/or Daniel Nava at the position. If Lavarnway gains comfort at first base, he could emerge at that option. While much is made of the 2008 fifth-rounder’s diminished power in the last two years, it is worth noting that he still offered solid offensive production as a backup catcher for the Sox last year, hitting .299/.329/.429 with a homer and seven doubles in 82 plate appearances. As a player on the 40-man roster, Lavarnway could have a leg up on another option such as Brandon Snyder if the Sox need a right-handed first baseman — assuming that his transition to the position goes well. And, given that Lavarnway is in his final year with options, the idea of finding him more potential pathways to the big leagues through positions other than catcher and DH carries particular significance at this stage of his career.
|02.14.14 at 10:10 am ET|
Sports Illustrated baseball writer Tom Verducci joined Dennis & Callahan on Friday to discuss Derek Jeter and the upcoming baseball season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
For Verducci, Jeter’s decision to announce his retirement before the season started was not necessarily a selfish act.
“I think he will like the attention that’s going to come his way; I don’t think that’s the driving force,” Verducci said. “I think he decided two or three months ago this was going to be it and he didn’t want to deal with the questions all year long. … From Day 1 of spring training, the first slump, every city he goes to the questions are going to be there about, ‘Hey when are you retiring? Is this your last year?’
“Now he can just sit back and enjoy it and not have to worry about playing defense against those kind of questions.”
Like closer Mariano Rivera, Jeter will come back for a final season after suffering a potential career-ending injury.
“I know Rivera, I’ve spoken to him multiple times about that, he probably would have retired that year he got hurt, but he was not going out with the last image of him being carted off in Kansas City,” Verducci said.
“I think there was something to Derek, too. … Especially when you’re hurt and you put in the time to rehab, you want to come back and play, you want to see something of a payoff for that work, so I do think it’s actually a double-edged sword. I think the fact that he broke down told him that the end was near and he wasn’t going beyond this year, but it also said, ‘I want to get back on the field and at least play and see what I’ve got left.’ ”
|02.14.14 at 8:30 am ET|
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, speaking Thursday at the team’s spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., said it remains “unlikely” that he would sign another high-priced free agent along the lines of Stephen Drew.
“I said that it was unlikely we would sign another major free agent,” Alderson said, via the New York Daily News. “I think that’s still the case.”
Drew remains without a home after turning down the Red Sox‘ one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer in November and becoming a free agent. His agent, Scott Boras, reportedly has had discussions with the Mets throughout the offseason.
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