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Ben Cherington on Jon Lester: ‘I haven’t been told we’re out, so I assume we’re not out’

12.08.14 at 9:28 pm ET
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Ben Cherington

Ben Cherington

SAN DIEGO — Striking a measured tone, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington met with the Boston media Monday night at the winter meetings to discuss the latest in regards to his team’€™s pursuit of free agent pitcher Jon Lester.

Cherington, who said he had no scheduled meetings with Lester’€™s agents Monday night but did expect to talk to them at some point, couldn’€™t offer any clues as to what path Lester might take, simply saying he expected the pitcher to choose a team soon.

As for a report earlier in the day that suggested the Red Sox were not one of the finalists for Lester (which the pitcher’s agent, Seth Levinson, called “absolutely untrue”), Cherington said, “I haven’t been told we’re out, so I assume we’re not out.”

Here are some of the highlights from the get-together with GM:

The latest on Lester

“With regards to Lester, we respect that he’€™s got a decision that’€™s going to be made and we assume that will be sometime soon. We’€™ve been involved and had a chance to talk to him at length on numerous occasions. It sounds like he’€™s getting closer to a decision. Aside from that, I don’€™t know any more than that. I think we’€™ve never looked at it like Plan A, B, C, D. We’€™ve looked at it like we need to build a rotation so we have to be in all sorts of stuff and we have been on all sorts of stuff all offseason, or to this point in the offseason. There’€™s probably, between free agent possibilities and trade possibilities, 15, 20 starting pitching scenarios we’€™ve talked about and worked on so obviously not all those are going to land and more of those won’€™t land than will land. We just have to stay involved and keep working and work as hard as we can to get the ones to land that make the most sense. I don’€™t see it as a Plan A, B or C. I see it as we’€™re trying to build a good rotation and we’€™ve got to look at every possibility to do that.”

Did you expect Lester’€™s decision to come sooner than it has?

“You know, I guess there was some speculation earlier in the offseason that it might get done sooner, before the winter meetings, so here we are in the winter meetings. On the other hand, as you guys know, most bigger deals don’€™t happen before the Winter Meetings, so probably not surprising that we’€™re here.”

Are you being held up making other moves because of Lester’€™s process?

“No, we really don’€™t. I think we’€™re in a position where we have position player strength and depth. We have resources, we have some financial flexibility. There’€™s all sorts of different ways to build the pitching staff. We’€™ve been able to pursue all kinds of things. Don’€™t feel constrained, other than just trying to find a deal that makes sense. That’€™s the constraint ‘€“ it’€™s not one guy or the other. We’€™re just still working towards deals that make sense.”

Does your budgeted number for the free agent change?

“You have to to some degree. That number can move over time. All sorts of things can factor into what you’€™re going to do whether trade or free agent. It’€™s not necessarily static, circumstances can change which might lead you to change your position even in the context of an offseason, if one thing happens it might affect another so yes there has to be a line. Every team does that. I think it can be different for every team. I don’€™t believe one thing has to make sense for everyone, something might make a lot of sense for one team and not as much for another based on their particular situation. You have to figure out what makes sense for us.”

Regarding the reported meeting between principal owner John Henry and Lester

“There was a report that there was a meeting with John Henry. We’€™d like to be able to do some of these things without that kind of thing getting out but that got out. We’€™ve had opportunity we’€™ve needed to meet with Jon and meet with Seth and give them all the information we can give them.”

John Farrell on Jon Lester: ‘We’re still confident that we can sign Jon’

12.08.14 at 8:39 pm ET
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Manager John Farrell said that he believes remains in the mix for free agent Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Manager John Farrell said that he believes remains in the mix for free agent Jon Lester. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Though there was a report on Monday that the field for Jon Lester appears to be narrowing to the Giants and Cubs, Red Sox manager John Farrell said that his team still believes that it has a shot to bring back the free-agent left-hander.

“I think we’re still confident that we can sign Jon. He’s obviously still going through this free agency process. As we came into this offseason, there were a couple spots in the rotation that we needed to add to and address. We’re in the midst of that right now,” said Farrell. “We’re still optimistic that he’ll be in a Red Sox uniform. There’s a lot of history between the Red Sox and Jon. We obviously have a strong desire to bring him back, and yet hopefully this is coming to a little bit of a head here.”

Farrell said that he’s been in contact with Lester — either through a phone call or texts — three or four times this offseason. While in some respects the Red Sox — and the rest of the baseball industry — must wait on defining the shape of their rotation until Lester makes his decision, the manager did not express any frustration about the lack of resolution.

“Jon’s going to go through his process as he needs to. He’s earned the right to get to this point in his career. And he’s a primary target for a number of teams. That speaks to his abilities as a player and as a pitcher,” said Farrell. “I think we’ll address every other need accordingly.”

Lester is coming off a year in which he went 16-11 with a career-low 2.46 ERA in a career-high 219 2/3 innings while punching out 9.0 batters per nine and walking 2.0 per nine. Farrell said that his dominant performance in his age 30 season showed a pitcher who has figured out how to adapt and remain a top-of-the-rotation contributor.

“He’s made necessary adjustments as any consistent big league has to make adjustments as they go through the league multiple times and year over year,” said Farrell. “That speaks to his work ethic and his awareness of who he is as a pitcher and how he can be most effective.”

That has convinced the Sox to make a heavy play for the left-hander. Whether the team ultimately goes far enough to retain him remains to be seen, but Farrell made clear that the Sox’ preference is to re-sign Lester.

“We’d love to have Jon back in a Red Sox uniform,” he said.

 

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Jon Lester,

Yoenis Cespedes and the right field (non-)question

12.08.14 at 6:25 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

SAN DIEGO — After the Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez with the intention of making him their left fielder, manager John Farrell talked to Yoenis Cespedes about the possibility of playing in either center or right field. Cespedes said that he was open to such a possibility.

But while that development has been portrayed as something of a reversal, an industry source clarified that Cespedes never actually objected to the idea of changing positions after joining the Red Sox. Instead, when asked if he was open to playing right, he simply said that he was more comfortable in left because it was a position that he had played previously. The source suggested that the 28-year-old never actually resisted the idea of changing positions, but that once his relative comfort in left was established, the team opted to keep him in his primary major league position for the rest of the season while tabling conversation about a potential position place until the spring — after he would have had a chance to adapt to his new environment following his trade from the A’s (with a competitive balance pick) for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes.

Cespedes hit .260 with a .301 OBP and .450 slugging mark in 152 games with the Red Sox and A’s in 2014, including .269/.296/.423 with the Sox after the trade.

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, Yoenis Cespedes,

Jon Lester’s agent: Report that Red Sox are out ‘absolutely untrue’

12.08.14 at 4:57 pm ET
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Jon Lester‘s agent, Seth Levinson, shot down a report that the Red Sox are out on Lester and that he is now deciding between the Cubs and Giants, telling WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that the idea is “absolutely untrue.”

UPDATE: Team sources also tell WEEI.com that they believe the report is inaccurate.

MLB on FOX’s Ken Rosenthal had previously reported that “barring late change,” Lester was deciding between the Cubs and Giants.

For complete coverage from the winter meetings, visit www.weei.com/redsox.

Red Sox utility man Jemile Weeks clears waivers, gets outrighted to Triple-A

12.08.14 at 3:49 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — The Red Sox announced that utility man Jemile Weeks (who is out of options) cleared waivers and was outrighted to the roster of Triple-A Pawtucket. The 27-year-old played in 14 big league games with the Red Sox last year after being acquired from the Orioles on Aug. 30 (along with Ivan De Jesus) in exchange for Kelly Johnson and Michael Almanzar. Though primarily a second baseman in the big leagues, the 2008 first-rounder has also played short and center in the big leagues. In addition to second, short and center, he’s also played left field in the minors.

Weeks has a career minor league line of .285/.380/.406. He has a big league line of .260/.322/.360, including a .308/.406/.423 line in 32 plate appearances with the Sox last season.

With the outright assignment of Weeks, the Red Sox now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

Source: Jon Lester likely to make decision Tuesday

12.08.14 at 2:16 pm ET
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SAN DIEGO — According to a major league source, Jon Lester is expected to make his decision as to where he will sign Tuesday.

There was some thought the process would be finalized as early as Monday night, but the interest of the teams involved (Cubs, Red Sox, Giants, Dodgers) continues to evolve.

Check back for more from the winter meetings …

Some early winter meetings Red Sox notes: Taking stock of Yoenis Cespedes, Deven Marrero as trade chips

12.07.14 at 8:18 pm ET
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Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes

SAN DIEGO — With a need to address three holes in the rotation, the Red Sox are inevitably going to be linked to virtually every starting pitcher available this offseason. That will be true of a broad group of free agents — beyond Jon Lester, there’s Max Scherzer, James Shields, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana, among others — but also teams with pitching to shop in exchange for bats. The Sox, moreover, feature at least the appearance of surplus inventory at a couple positions of scarcity, chiefly the outfield (where Yoenis Cespedes has assumed the most prominent spot as potential trade bait given that he remains under team control for just one year) and even at shortstop, where Deven Marrero is in Triple-A but potentially blocked by Xander Bogaerts.

“There aren’t any shortstops out there,” noted one executive.

The Mets have a surplus of starters (with names like Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese and Dillon Gee reportedly on the block), and even after their surprising signing of Michael Cuddyer, they could likely use more offense from their outfield and they are clearly in the market for an upgrade at shortstop. However, according to a major league source, the Mets have no interest in Cespedes (his power is intriguing, but the .301 OBP has been hard for them to look past) and they likewise don’t have interest in Marrero as a solution as shortstop because of uncertainty about whether he will hit enough to be an everyday shortstop, or whether he would represent a player who harbors considerable similarities to current shortstop Wilmer Flores, an adequate defender who hit .251/.286/.378 as a 22-year-old in 78 games last season.

Meanwhile, the A’s have starter Jeff Samardzija — who is one year from free agency — as one of the prizes of the trade market. However, while the A’s have a clear need for a starting shortstop in 2015, one major league source familiar with the team’s thinking said that Oakland has the same reservations about Marrero’s offense as the Mets — chiefly, whether he will hit enough to be an everyday option. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2014 winter meetings, deven marrero, Yoenis Cespedes,

Sources: John Henry makes trip to visit Jon Lester

12.06.14 at 3:00 pm ET
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According to multiple major league sources, Red Sox principal owner John Henry flew to the Atlanta area Friday to personally visit with free agent pitcher Jon Lester.

With Lester on the cusp of making a decision as to where he might sign, Henry´s visit was thought to be a chance for the owner to re-emphasize the Red Sox´ interest in signing the lefty. It was the second time Henry has met with Lester at the pitcher´s home during the free agent process, although the previous get-together was with other members of Sox´ownership.

It is believed that while a decision is expected from Lester at some point during the upcoming winter meetings, negotiations with multiple teams (Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants) remain fluid.

Will Middlebrooks: ‘I’m curious to see what’s going to happen’

12.05.14 at 10:29 pm ET
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PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — Will Middlebrooks knew he could give the company line when addressing a small group of media at the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic Friday — just working on getting ready for 2015.

But Middlebrooks understands that when your team signs a player to man your position for at least the first portion of a five-year, $95 million deal, there’s no such thing as turning a blind-eye.

Pablo Sandoval is the Red Sox third baseman, leaving Middlebrooks searching for some clarity.

“I’€™m not really sure what the future holds,” he said. “I know the cliche thing to say is that I’€™m just going to focus on next season and getting healthy. But, of course I want to know what’€™s going to happen. I want to know if I’€™m going to have a job or not. I understand the moves they had to make. From the organization that we are, we have to win next year, everyone knows that. So of course we had to make some moves. I was hurt last year, and have been hurt a lot, and you can’€™t rely on that.”

What is has left is an uncertain offseason for Middlebrooks, who continues to train in the Dallas area.

He has yet to play in more than 94 big league games, coming off a ’14 campaign in which his final totals included 63 games, a .191 batting average and just two home runs.

“It’€™s not going to be pleasant,” he said of his dip down the organizational depth chart. “It’€™s not enjoyable to be replaced, but, like I said, I understand. I’€™m trying to look at the big picture from the organization, too. But then selfishly I say, ‘€˜What about me? What’€™s going to happen to me?’€™ I want to stay in Boston. I want to play in Boston. Everybody wants to play in Boston, or this type of market. There doesn’€™t seem like there’€™s a place for me now, so I have no idea what’€™s going to happen. All I can do is just get ready, have a good spring and see what happens.”

In terms of finding major league playing time in 2015, Middlebrooks knows his best chance might come as part of another organization. Third base is a relatively thin position throughout baseball, especially when looking for players who can hit with some kind of pop. (It should be noted that San Francisco was in scouting Middlebrooks in September, preparing for the possibility of Sandoval moving on.)

“I don’€™t want to go anywhere. I came up here,” he said. “And I know it’€™s pretty rare for someone to stay in one place their whole career, I understand that. But I’€™m still going to try to. Am I fitting this mold right now? I don’€™t really fit in the mix right now. But it’€™s a long time until April. I just have to worry about me right now and just try and be the best Will Middlebrooks I can be.”

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington did call Middlebrooks the day after Sandoval signed, although there wasn’t much the GM could relay that would add peace of mind to the 26 year old.

“It’€™s kind of blurry right now,” said Middlebrooks of his immediate future. “He can’€™t give me a definite answer. They don’€™t know. I’€™m not in the front office and I don’€™t know what their plans are, but obviously there are still some holes to fill. I’€™m not saying I’€™m going to be the mix of it, but I could be. I’€™m sure that’€™s a possibility.”

One avenue Middlebrooks is open to exploring is playing a new position, such as first base. Although Mike Napoli is entrenched at first through 2015, it would seem to be a better opportunity than what he is facing with Sandoval blocking him across the diamond.

“Absolutely,” said Middlebrooks when asked about being willing to make a position switch to first. “We haven’€™t talked about that. I would imagine that is a possibility. But right now we have a really good first baseman. If I happen to move into a utility role and help out wherever needed, that’€™s fine. I would love to stay here. I want to play here. But it’€™s a business and there’€™s that of things. I’€™m curious to see what’€™s going to happen.”

As for the notion that playing winter ball might have enhanced his stock within the organization, Middlebrooks points to the fact his hand hasn’t fully healed as proof that not participating was the right call.

“It’€™s moving in the right direction,” said Middlebrooks of the right hand injury. “It’€™s not where I want it to be. I think it was a good idea that we didn’€™t go play Winter Ball, because even at this point I feel I wouldn’€™t be in a game. I could go out and take BP. Would it be sore? Yeah. Could I play? Yeah. But this isn’€™t September or October in the big leagues. It wouldn’€™t be good for me.”

Andrew Miller signs 4-year, $36 million deal with Yankees

12.05.14 at 3:57 pm ET
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For fans who thought Andrew Miller might return to the Red Sox, think again. According to Jack Curry of the YES Network, the Yankees and the left-handed reliever have agreed to a four-year, $36 million contract.

UPDATE 7:30 p.m.: The Yankees announced earlier this evening they signed Miller to a four-year contract.

Miller, 29, spent 3 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox before being dealt to the Orioles at last year’s trade deadline, has turned into one of the best left-handed relievers in the game. Last season between Baltimore and Boston, Miller posted a 2.02 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings. Lefties had a slash line of .163/.206/.261 against him.

A former starting pitcher, Miller has spent time with the Tigers, Marlins and Red Sox, and will be entering his 10th season in the big leagues.

From a Red Sox perspective, their current bullpen has Drake Britton and Tommy Layne as the only left-handers on the 40-man roster.

For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.

 

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