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Report: Cubs to hire Joe Maddon as manager

10.29.14 at 6:01 pm ET
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Evidently, after all those years managing indoors, Joe Maddon sought sunlight.

According to a report from CBSSports.com, which cited multiple industry sources, the Cubs are expected to hire Maddon to be their manager. Maddon opted out of his deal with the Rays last week after he proved unable to work out an extension with Tampa Bay. The report said that Maddon will become one of the highest-paid managers in the game, and likely the highest paid in the National League.

A subsequent report by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports (via twitter) suggested that there is not yet a deal done between Maddon and the Cubs, and that he continues to talk to other teams. Still, that may simply be a matter of semantics, with the sides waiting until after the World Series to reach (and announce) a formal conclusion to a deal.

The appeal of a deal for both the Cubs and Maddon seems obvious. The Cubs, a team with the top pool of young talent in the big leagues, get a player with a history of having inherited a losing culture and transformed it into a perennial contender with World Series aspirations. Maddon, meanwhile, would secure one of the top salaries in the game and a team upon which he can put his imprint while trying to bridge the divide from potential to success. Indeed, with the Cubs now 106 years into a title drought, the upside of managing in Chicago may be greater than any other job in baseball.

The Cubs do have Rick Renteria under contract. Renteria, who stewarded Chicago to a 73-89 record in his first year as Cubs skipper, has two years remaining on his contract. But evidently, with Maddon becoming available, the Cubs (and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as well as GM Jed Hoyer) were willing to confront that potentially awkward situation for the sake of securing the services of the two-time AL Manager of the Year.

Read More: cubs, Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein,

Blake Swihart tops Baseball America’s list of top 10 Red Sox prospects

10.29.14 at 10:13 am ET
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Blake Swihart is the Red Sox' top prospect, according to Baseball America. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

Blake Swihart is the Red Sox‘ top prospect, according to Baseball America. (365DigitalPhotography.com/Portland Sea Dogs)

Looking for a catcher in the minors to whom to compare Red Sox top prospect Blake Swihart?

“There isn’t one,” said one evaluator.

Swihart — an extremely athletic switch-hitter who shows well above-average defensive tools, the ability to hit the ball very, very hard on a fairly consistent basis (a skill that translates more often to doubles than homers given that he typically hits screaming liners instead of lofting the ball) and runs well heads the list of Baseball America’s Top 10 Red Sox prospects for the 2015 season. (Disclaimer: I authored the list.)

Given the low standards for offense behind the plate, and the fact that he has a chance to be well above-average in every phase of the game, the 22-year-old stands the best chance of perhaps any Red Sox prospect of being a perennial All-Star. Some rough edges remain in his game (as evidenced by the fact that he walked just twice and struck out 15 times in a year-end stretch in Pawtucket after being promoted following a standout run in Double-A Portland), but the combination of a fairly well-defined floor as a big league starter with a ceiling that suggests the potential to be one of the top starting catchers in the game makes Swihart the Sox’ top prospect.

(Note: Mookie Betts had too many big league at-bats to qualify for the list. Otherwise, he would have been the No. 1 prospect. #feats.)

Here’s a look at Baseball America’s full top 10 list, with their 2014 performance lines and links to stories about the prospects on WEEI.com:

1) Blake Swihart, C – Age 22

Triple-A Pawtucket: 18 games, .261/.282/.377, 1 HR
Double-A Portland: 92 games, .300/.353/.487, 12 HR

Other: Threw out 46 percent of would-be base stealers.

Catching On: Blake Swihart’s accelerating development behind the plate

Blake Swihart most difficult Red Sox prospect to trade

Why Blake Swihart looks increasingly like an elite prospect

Blake Swihart taking off the gloves

2) Henry Owens, LHP – Age 22 Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, eduardo rodriguez, henry owens, Rusney Castillo

John Farrell: Notion that Red Sox coaches ‘hate’ Yoenis Cespedes ‘completely unfounded’

10.28.14 at 9:51 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell, in an interview on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio, made clear his displeasure with a New York Daily News report that cited a Red Sox insider in suggesting that all the members of the Red Sox coaching staff “hate” Cespedes.

“Totally surprised and completely off-guard,” Farrell told the station of his reaction to the report. “It’s unfortunate that a comment like that is made from elsewhere. We had two full months with Yoenis. I think you get a pretty good feel for a player or a person when you’re around them every day for the length of time in a given day that we are. We know him to be one thing, and that is a guy that works well. He became a very good and strong performer in the middle of our lineup. We’re happy he’s here. We’re certainly looking forward to building a lineup with him in the middle of it next year. Completely unfounded and kind of a shame that someone would write something like that because we see him and from what we know of him is completely 180 degrees from what was written.”

Cespedes hit .269/.296/.423 with five homers in 51 games after the Red Sox acquired him from the A’s in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The 29-year-old is entering his final season of a four-year, $36 million contract that will make him a free agent after the 2015 campaign.

Read More: John Farrell, Yoenis Cespedes,

Red Sox OF Rusney Castillo likely done in Arizona Fall League; Puerto Rico in question

10.28.14 at 3:27 pm ET
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Rusney Castillo (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Rusney Castillo (Jillian Souza/Pawtucket Red Sox)

Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo, who suffered a bruised thumb and hand when getting jammed by a pitch on October 20 in the Arizona Fall League, remains sidelined, with the team and player working to determine the course of action for Castillo going forward this winter.

At this point, while multiple industry sources suggest that Castillo will simply need rest to treat the injury, a sidelining that was initially characterized as day-to-day has grown to the point where it’s likely unrealistic that Castillo will continue play in the Arizona Fall League. Indeed, there is a chance that the 27-year-old will not play in the Puerto Rico Winter League, though a determination on that front has yet to be made by Castillo and Red Sox officials.

Castillo, who signed a contract in August that runs through 2020 for $72.5 million, is hitting .278 with a .333 OBP and .361 slugging mark with three doubles, three walks and six strikeouts in 39 plate appearances for the Surprise Saguaros. He was named to the AFL Rising Stars team.

He’€™s up to a total of 125 plate appearances (39 in the AFL, 40 with the Red Sox in the big leagues, 46 in the minors after signing). The Sox had outlined a goal for Castillo of accumulating approximately 200 plate appearances by the time he concludes his first professional tour, though given his current time on the shelf, that goal may be in some jeopardy. The Caguas Criollos (the team for which Castillo is scheduled to play in Puerto Rico) open their schedule on Thursday.

Read More: Rusney Castillo,

Red Sox talking to Koji Uehara; qualifying offer unlikely

10.28.14 at 9:59 am ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

Tick, tock. Free agency looms.

The World Series will conclude either on Tuesday night (if the Giants win) or on Wednesday (if the Royals win Game 6 to force a winner-take-all Game 7). Hours after baseball crowns its next champion — thus formally displacing the Sox from the titlist pedestal — free agency will commence officially.

With it, as of 9 a.m. EDT the day after the World Series, players eligible for the open market can start to engage in informal talks with all 30 baseball teams. Free agency begins with a so-called Quiet Period during which the only formal offers to a free agent can come from the team with which he finished the 2014 season; after five days, the other 29 teams can start discussing contract terms with players.

The Red Sox have a handful of free agents-to-be. Most notable among them is closer Koji Uehara.

Uehara was amidst a second straight year of brilliance, forging a 1.27 ERA while converting 26 of 28 save opportunities, through August 15 before his season hit a considerable pothole. In the span of six outings, he allowed 10 runs, two more than he allowed in his other 58 appearances of the year. Though he closed out the year with three scoreless appearances in the season’s final three weeks, the blip essentially doubled Uehara’s ERA from 1.27 to 2.52, the second-worst mark of his career as a full-time reliever.

Still, the Sox made little secret of the fact that, despite the fact that he’s 39 and suffered some performance slippage, given the evident return of Uehara’s stuff in those final few outings, they wanted to bring back the pitcher who was one of the cornerstones of the 2013 championship. The team wants late-inning strike-throwers with swing-and-miss stuff. Uehara clearly, dazzlingly, fits that bill. He is the only pitcher in big league history with four seasons (min. 30 innings) in which he has a strikeout-to-walk rate in excess of 10-to-1; no one else has more than two. His 9.0 strikeouts per walk in his career represent easily the best such ratio in big league history (min. 200 innings); Giants free agent-to-be Sergio Romo is second on the list with 5.5 strikeouts per walk. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Koji Uehara,

Trying to make sense of Yoenis Cespedes’ situation

10.27.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

October has not been kind to the public perception of Yoenis Cespedes.

Trade rumors. Surfaced concerns over his game. And now a report suggesting that not only would the Red Sox hesitate offering the four- to five-year deal they had been contemplating offering due to Cespedes’ switch in agents, but that (according to a “Red Sox insider”) “he marches to his own drum and the coaches all hate him.” (To read the entire New York Daily News report, click here.)

Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and look at the reality of Cespedes’ situation.

When last we saw the Red Sox left fielder, he was catching a bit of heat for some poorly played balls in left field while finishing his two-month stint in Boston with five home runs, 33 RBIs, 48 strikeouts, seven walks, four stolen bases, a .269 batting average, a .296 on-base percentage and a .719 OPS.

His new fan base loved his arm and ability to supply a much-needed commodity for an offense devoid of timing — the ability to drive in runners when it counted, hitting .338 with a .907 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position (for the season).

Cesepdes also seemingly supplied some additional protection for David Ortiz in the middle of the lineup, while possessing the much-needed skill set of being able to hit a baseball over the fence.

And, as was the case in Oakland, he was a popular figure in the Red Sox clubhouse among his teammates.

But there were other factors that didn’t make a long-term commitment to the outfielder a no-brainer.

The initial issue came when, after the Red Sox publicly gushed about the notion that Cespedes would be using his excellent side-to-side speed in right field at Fenway Park, he never played a moment at the position. Instead, there were a few days of shagging balls next to Pesky’s Pole before abandoning the workouts in right altogether.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Red Sox, Yoenis Cespedes,

Chili Davis: Yoenis Cespedes ‘has greatness written all over him’

10.23.14 at 9:45 pm ET
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Chili Davis

Chili Davis

In a conference call introducing Chili Davis as the new Red Sox hitting coach, the former A’s instructor talked about how he viewed one of his former player’s in Oakland, Yoenis Cespedes.

Cespedes and Davis were together since the outfielder’s arrival with the A’s up until his trade to the Red Sox at the non-waiver trade deadline this past season.

“Cespy is a special player, just a very special player with a lot of talent,” Davis said. “We saw that in Oakland and I’€™m sure that’€™s why they brought him here from Cuba and put him right into the big leagues. Big game guy, loves the noise, loves the lights. I feel like we formed a relationship but we weren’€™t quite finished building that relationship from the relationship we formed it wont be that difficult to pick up where we left off. As far as I’€™m concerned and I told him this to his face, he has greatness written all over him. He does. He does everything, he can run, throw, hit for power.

“It took him a while to get comfortable in Oakland as well but once he gets comfortable there there’€™s no telling what he might put up in a season as a player. He’€™s just, to me, I think he can be a great player. It’€™s all up to him, whether or not he wants to be there. But I think he has the ability to be a great player.”

Here are some of the other topics discussed on the call:

John Farrell cited the organization’s (and his own) familiarity with Davis and being a key in bringing him on board:  “It goes back to the person Chili is. You all will get to know him firsthand. This is someone that, setting aside a great playing career, it’s someone that cares about the individuals that he’s working with ultimately to make them better and to make us better. You’re talking about an incredible playing career, an incredible message, the person and the genuineness that Chili is, our players will feel that immediately. Some have already from their time in Pawtucket. It was the person that drew us to him, the experience we had with him back in 2011. We were teammates a number of years ago. Knowing him personally, knowing what our needs are here, this is an ideal fit with Chili joining our staff here in the organization.” Read the rest of this entry »

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