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Jim Callis: Blake Swihart the most difficult Red Sox prospect to part with

07.29.14 at 1:45 pm ET
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It’s a hectic time for the shaping of the Red Sox. The team is currently in sell mode, with the possibility of dealing any number of key veterans such as Jon Lester and John Lackey. At the same time, the Sox are no doubt in the early stages of contemplating how they’re going to address some of their pressing needs for 2015, whether beefing up the middle of the order or identifying a starting pitcher who could serve as a replacement for Lester should he not be with the team in 2015.

That, in turn, has created scenarios in which the Sox could both sell (parting with players slated to reach free agency after this year) and buy (adding long-term assets). For instance, could a team that has an organizational commitment to limiting the risk associated with long-term deals let Lester walk (or trade him, as the case may be) rather than signing him to a five- or six-year deal at, say, $24 million a year, and instead seek to trade for a pitcher like Cole Hamels who is essentially Lester’s age (Hamels, 30, is less than a month older than Lester), but whose contract guarantee would count as just a four-year, $96 million commitment for luxury tax purposes? In essence, doing so would have the Sox acquiring prospects for Lester and trading other prospects away in order to avoid one or two years at roughly the same AAV that Hamels would be receiving.

The Sox would certainly appear to have the trade chips to acquire Hamels, certainly. As Jim Callis of MLB.com noted in this podcast (on whether WEEI.com and/or the baseball industry overrates Red Sox prospects), the Sox might have the best catching prospect (Blake Swihart), the best left-handed pitching prospect (Henry Owens) and the best second base prospect (Mookie Betts) in the game. That permits flexibility to strike a deal. Read the rest of this entry »

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Red Sox minor league roundup: Taking stock of Garin Cecchini’s struggles; Travis Shaw’s landmark; Blake Swihart mashing

07.29.14 at 1:12 pm ET
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A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)

(BOX)

Garin Cecchini, amidst the worst offensive stretch of his career, enjoyed a positive glimmer on Monday, going 1-for-4 with a homer, his first of the month and his fourth of the year. Still, the struggles of Cecchini represent one of the foremost puzzles of 2014 in the Red Sox farm system. A player with a tremendous ability to catch the ball on his barrel and to shoot hits all over the field — while staying back and drawing enormous numbers of walks — has seen his season enter something of a spiral over the last two months.

On May 15, he had a pair of hits to improve his line to a .306 average, .400 OBP and .379 slugging mark. In 49 games since then, he’s hitting .200 with a .262 OBP and .289 slugging mark. And his struggles don’t simply reflect bad luck and a poor batting average on balls in play — Cecchini has 12 walks (6.2 percent walk rate) and 44 strikeouts (22.6 percent rate) during that span, marks that represent a considerable shift from his career norms.

In short, Cecchini — a consistently excellent performer during his professional career — finds himself in an unfamiliar place in Triple-A, with a .243 average, .321 OBP and .326 slugging mark on the year. Evaluators — both inside and outside the Red Sox system — continue to believe that Cecchini will hit, and perhaps the homer on Monday represents the beginning of a strong finishing stretch to his minor league season. But for the first time, Cecchini’s player development path now includes something other than a straight line ascent through the minors, likely delaying his eventual timetable for a regular role in the big leagues.

Travis Shaw went 1-for-4 while launching an eighth-inning homer, reaching a career milestone. Shaw now has 20 homers on the year between Double-A Portland (11 in 47 games) and Pawtucket (9 in 54 games), one of 29 players in the minors with 20-plus homers at this point. He thus surpassed his previous career-high of 19 homers achieved in 2012. Shaw is hitting .290/.347/.491 in Triple-A and .297/.374/.517 between the two levels. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: blake swihart, garin cecchini, manuel margot, raiwinson lameda

Winning by losing? Why Red Sox’ best chance for 2015 might be crumbling down the stretch

07.29.14 at 11:53 am ET
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The Red Sox‘ run of eight wins in nine games proved a blip, quickly giving way to a crumbling stretch of five straight losses and now six in seven games, the latest a dismal 14-1 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays. The team has officially raised the “For Sale” flag, and at a time when the team is on pace for 73 games, given the pieces that could be moving in the coming days, there’s a very real chance that the team falls well short of even that.

Of course, there’s something to be said for just such a scenario. In some ways, the most direct path for the Red Sox to be good in 2015 may be the possibility of being wretched for the duration of 2014 — reprising a page from the late-2012 playbook that helped position the Sox for a title in 2013.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels joined Rob Bradford and Alex Speier on The Trade Deadline Show last Thursday to discuss the matter. (To hear the interview, go to the Trade Deadline Show audio on demand page.)

“On some level the rules are in place to create parity. Finishing at the bottom of the standings, we have a chance to do it this year,” Daniels said. “We certainly don’t want to, we weren’t designed that way. The system is set up that it’s an enormous advantage to finish last. It’s something we need to look at as an industry. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dealing both John Lackey, Jon Lester a possibility for Red Sox

07.29.14 at 11:24 am ET
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According to industry sources, the Red Sox are considering broad-ranging possibilities between now and Thursday’s trade deadline. The expectation is that the team will sift through possibilities until sometime close to the trade deadline, but at least in theory, the team is willing to entertain virtually any scenario. Specifically, as it relates to the team’s two rotation anchors – Jon Lester and John Lackey — the Sox, according to the sources, are willing to contemplate dealing one or both pitchers.

Of course, the team also is comfortable with the idea of retaining one or both if it doesn’t get the package it wants in return. Why?

Keeping Lester theoretically would allow for additional negotiating opportunities that wouldn’t exist if he was traded. And if Lester did end up leaving as a free agent, the value of a supplemental draft pick is not inconsiderable — particularly given that the associated money could help not only supply the Sox with an additional pick, but could also influence the caliber of other selections (players with signability concerns) whom the Sox could take.

As for Lackey, the fact that he is under team control for 2015 suggests that he could be an important part of the Sox’ rotation foundation going forward, particularly if Lester left.

So, the Sox’ negotiating position appears extremely fluid, with a number of scenarios to consider between now and Thursday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline.

Also worth noting: At a time when the Sox recognize that the rest of the American League East has pulled away from them, the team is open to the idea of dealing Lester within the division. While there’s a prevailing never-say-never approach by the team to any trade scenarios, the Sox appear less inclined to consider dealing Lackey within the division given that he is under team control beyond this year.

Read More: 2014 trade deadline, john lackey, Jon Lester,

Red Sox contemplate dealing John Lackey and potential of drastic change

07.29.14 at 11:05 am ET
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The Jon Lester rumors seemed self-explanatory: Command a trade ransom for an elite pitcher who will be a free agent for the next two months, and for whom another dozen starts have virtually no value to a spiraling Red Sox team but plenty of worth to a contending team trying to find the discover the difference between contention and the possibility of winning the World Series. Given where the Red Sox are in the standings, they *have* to listen to offers to Lester and any other free agent.

But the suggestion that the Red Sox are listening on veteran right-hander John Lackey represented a more surprising dimension in the rumor mill. After all, as Monday’s brutal outing by Clay Buchholz underscored, the Red Sox have exactly one pitcher under team control beyond this season who offers some measure of reliability.

Here’s what Lackey has done the last two years:

2013: 189 1/3 IP, 3.52 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 1.2 HR/9

2014: 137 1/3 IP (on pace for 210 IP), 3.60 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.0 HR/9

That’s a reliable rotation anchor. Lackey’s not an ace, but right now, he represents a solid No. 2 guy in the rotation, and thanks to the unique vesting option at the major league minimum for next year, he is under team control for next to nothing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Blue Jays matchups: Rubby De La Rosa vs. Marcus Stroman

07.29.14 at 8:36 am ET
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The Red Sox will look to bounce back from Monday’s disheartening 14-1 loss when they take on the Blue Jays in the second game of a three-game series Tuesday at Fenway Park. Rubby De La Rosa will get the nod for Boston, facing off against fellow youngster Marcus Stroman.

De La Rosa (3-3, 3.54 ERA) has seen his season marked by one deciding variable: location. It is not a matter of the 25-year-old pitcher finding his command with his pitches, but rather where he is playing.

De La Rosa has looked like two different pitchers when taking the hill at Fenway Park or away from it this season. At home, De La Rosa has pitched like an ace, compiling a 3-0 record with a 1.38 ERA. On the road, De La Rosa is 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA.

De La Rosa’s last start Thursday against the Blue Jays — at Rogers Centre — was his worst outing of the season, as the righty allowed nine hits and seven runs (six earned) over just four innings of work.

“Clearly, he feels comfortable on the mound at Fenway and is able to channel the emotion and adrenaline inside Fenway Park,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “We’ve got to do something to try and even out the splits as they stand.”

In three career games (one start) against the Blue Jays, De La Rosa is 0-1 with a 11.57 ERA.

Stroman (6-2, 3.21 ERA) may be the youngest member of Toronto’s starting rotation, but he certainly hasn’t shown any rookie nerves on the mound this season. Stroman is 6-2 with a 2.21 ERA in 10 starts this year, leading his club in WHIP (1.10) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.93).

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Blue Jays, Marcus Stroman, Red Sox, rubby de la rosa

Clay Buchholz: Sox hurt by loss of some key players from last season

07.29.14 at 7:30 am ET
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A year ago on July 28, the Red Sox were 20 games above .500. They maintained a slim half-game lead in the AL East.

Fast forward to this season, and they occupy the cellar of the division and were just handed one of their worst defeats of the season, falling 14-1 to the Blue Jays.

It’s perplexing to try to account for what has gone wrong this season. But starter Clay Buchholz, who was tagged for seven runs in Monday night’s drubbing (the most he’s allowed this season), tried to offer up an explanation after the loss.

“[We] lost a handful of good players last year that contributed a lot,” Buchholz said. “Having [Jacoby] Ellsbury in center field, a threat to hit 30 home runs in a season, and [who] can obviously run when he gets on base, we don’t have every single factor that we had last year to go into our team.”

Buchholz assured that he wasn’t attempting to slight anyone on the current roster, however.

“I’m not saying anybody that’s on the field right now that wasn’t here last year or wasn’t starting last year isn’t as good, but when you take a couple of guys out of the middle of the lineup and the middle of the field, and try to rely on different people to do different things, it might not happen right away, and I think that’s what we’re dealing with,” Buchholz said.

“Even with that being said and going into spring training, even after the first half, I think everybody was still pretty confident that this team’s definitely good enough to play in October and through October.”

It’s become a reality that the Red Sox are very unlikely to reach October, as are 48-58, sitting 11 games back in the East. They trail the fourth-place Rays by four games.

The Red Sox have taken the position of sellers at the impending trading deadline, with rumors circulating about a number of players, including ace Jon Lester. Buchholz maintains that despite the uneasiness this time of year brings, it’s inevitable.

“I think when it comes to that, everybody thinks of it as a business,” Buchholz said. “There’s nothing you could do if you expressed your feelings any differently rather than just come to the field and try and win that day. Everybody hears about it, it’s everywhere that we’re at so obviously we know, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

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