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One of Red Sox’ top catching prospects suspended 50 games

12.22.16 at 5:14 pm ET
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Jake Romanski

Jake Romanski

Jake Romanski’s career has hit a bump in the road.

The Red Sox’ minor-league catcher has been suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games after testing positive for amphetamine use.

Romanksi spent the entire 2016 season with Double-A Portland, hitting .308 with a .751 OPS in 90 games.

The 26-year-old was a 14th-round selection in the 2013 draft by the Red Sox after spending his collegiate career at San Diego State.

The 5-foot-11, right-handed hitter was named an Eastern League All-Star in 2016. He is rated as the Red Sox’ 36th overall prospect by SoxProspects.com, and tops among catchers in the minor league system.

Why Red Sox aren’t viewing newly-acquired Josh Tobias as just throw-in

12.22.16 at 9:11 am ET
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Josh Tobias (Steven Branscombe)

Josh Tobias (Steven Branscombe)

When it came to trading Clay Buchholz, there were some realities the Red Sox were learning to deal with.

For instance, if a team was going to take on the pitcher’s entire $13.5 million for 2017, the return was not going to be as great as if the Red Sox ate some of the money. In other words, the Phillies weren’t going to trade their top prospect, J.P. Crawford, straight up for the starting pitcher.

So once it was determined that this was the dynamic the Red Sox would be dealing with when it came to a potential trade with Philadelphia, a list was made up. Using the feedback of the international, professional and amateur scouting departments, about 10 names were surfaced to president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski to work from.

One of those names belonged to a 24-year-old named Josh Tobias.

“He’s definitely not just another body,” said Red Sox director of professional scouting Gus Quattlebaum. “We see him as having potential as a versatile, switch-hitting guy with make-up and a feel to hit. Whenever you can find someone who can hit that guy is going to standout.”

Tobias, who didn’t start switch-hitting until the tail end of his career at the University of Florida, was by no means one of the Phillies’ top prospects. There were some doubts about the second baseman’s ability to play his position long-term, with a perceived lack of athleticism serving as one of the reasons he slid to the 10th round of the 2015 draft.

But the Red Sox had enough of Tobias’ back-story that they saw him in a positive light.

Quattlebaum, for one, had seen Tobias a few times throughout the 2016 season, having been responsible for scouting the Phillies’ system. And his reports matched up with longtime scout (and former Tigers and Cardinals general manager) Joe McDonald, who was working the Florida State League for the Red Sox.

And, finally, a phone call was made to Red Sox’ first base coach Ruben Amaro, who was serving as general manager of the Phillies when Philadelphia selected Tobias.

“What stood out is he was always on time at the plate,” said Quattlebaum of Tobias, who combined to hit .294 with a .784 OPS and nine home runs between two Single-A clubs in 2016. “I was impressed by the fearlessness and the confidence he pursued some stuff tough pop-ups near the stands, and I liked his actions near the second base bag. I do think he can bounce around the field. Some scouts have seen him play a little bit of left field.

“At the end of his college career began switch-hit. Definitely more pop from the right side. He just has a simple approach where he was on time a lot, and squared put the ball. He was someone our scouts had liked, and our analytics group liked, so whenever you can find multiple likes on a player that’s a good thing.”

If all breaks right in spring training, Tobias will most likely start at Single-A Salem. And while the priority in this deal will always be perceived as using Buchholz’s contract to get under the luxury tax threshold, the Red Sox believe the other piece of the puzzle bears watching.

“We like him a lot,” Quattlebaum said.

Sorry Red Sox players, you’re still going to be playing on Sunday Night Baseball

12.21.16 at 1:40 pm ET
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Fenway Park fans better get ready for some more night games. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Fenway Park fans better get ready for some more night games. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Part of playing for the Red Sox is dealing with usually more Sunday Night Baseball games than most. That doesn’t appear to be changing.

ESPN has announced the list of Sunday Night games for the upcoming season, with the Red Sox right now slated to participate on April 30 for their game against the Cubs at Fenway Park, and July 16, when they host the Yankees.

The schedule is only listed up through July 23, and there four dates yet to be designated.

It could be a lot worse for the Red Sox, with the Cubs and Cardinals each getting four Sunday Night appearances. The Yankees and Mets also have three, apiece.

The obvious question for Red Sox players would be what their commitment might entail the day after playing these games.

The day after the game against the Cubs, the Red Sox are home to play a night game against the Orioles. (It is also “Hanley Ramirez Chain Night.”) The July 17 game is also home, with the Blue Jays coming to town.

As for the possibility of the Red Sox playing on one of the “TBD” dates, there is always that chance. The first open date, May 21, wouldn’t seem likely because it’s at Oakland. June 18 is intriguing, with the Red Sox playing at Houston, with a series in Kansas City to follow. And then there is July 2, when the Red Sox play at Toronto. That would seem to be a good bet.

Apr. 2: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
Apr. 9: Miami Marlins at New York Mets
Apr. 16: St. Louis Cardinals at New York Yankees
Apr. 23: Washington Nationals at New York Mets
Apr. 30: Chicago Cubs at Boston Red Sox
May 7: New York Yankees at Chicago Cubs
May 14: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
May 21: TBD
May 28: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates
June 4: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
June 18: TBD
June 25: TBD
July 2: TBD
July 9: Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Indians
July 16: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox
July 23: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

Dave Dombrowski on Clay Buchholz trade: ‘He gets a change of scenery, fresh opportunity’

12.20.16 at 1:33 pm ET
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Dave Dombrowski

Dave Dombrowski

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski knew he needed to trade a starter this winter, and there was really only one option.

So when the Philadelphia Phillies came calling, Dombrowski pulled the trigger, dealing right-hander Clay Buchholz for minor league second baseman Josh Tobias on Tuesday.

“I think in this case, the timing fit for us,” Dombrowski said. “When we looked at everything, we were in a spot where we had seven established big-league starters, we felt we had a little bit more depth there, we still have some guys that we feel are behind them in [Henry] Owens, [Roenis] Elias and [Brian] Johnson, we got a prospect that we liked, got a club where he can go and start for them, which he wouldn’t necessarily have that opportunity here, so I think everything tied together for us that it made sense doing it now rather than waiting.”

And how did Buchholz take the news?

“I did speak to him,” Dombrowski said. “He was very understanding, thankful. I thanked him for everything he did in the organization while with us. He was understanding of the situation. He was also thankful, appreciative of everything that was done for him throughout the years by everyone in the organization. Enjoyed his time here. He thought maybe it also was a spot where he gets a change of scenery, fresh opportunity. Not always a bad thing, as he mentioned. And that was basically it.”

Clearing Buchholz’s $13.5 million salary puts the Red Sox under the $195 million luxury tax threshold, a goal meant to assure they don’t incur further penalties that hamstring their efforts to rebuild the farm system.

“I think it’s advantageous to be below the CBT just based on the new basic agreement,” Dombrowski said. “It’s something that we were hopeful of doing. It fell into play here very well for us. It’s also a situation where it creates some flexibility for us as we go forward, staying below the CBT with areas we may want to address as the season progresses. Who even knows? Maybe even as the wintertime progresses”

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Dave Dombrowski, MLB trade rumors, Red Sox

Clay Buchholz’ run with Red Sox comes to end with trade to Phillies

12.20.16 at 11:17 am ET
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Clay Buchholz has been traded to the Phillies, with the Red Sox will be receiving minor-leaguer Josh Tobias, a second baseman who was drafted in the 10th round of the 2015 draft. Philadelphia will pay the entire $13.5 million owed the starter next season.

The 23-year-old Tobias played at both Single-A Clearwater and Lakewood, combining for a .291 batting average, .784 OPS and nine home runs.

The 33-year-old excelled after returning to the starting rotation in 2016, totaling 2.98 ERA over his last eight regular season starts. He also offered tremendous value as a reliever, posting a 1.93 ERA in eight appearances out of the bullpen.

Buchholz had been with the Red Sox since being taken in the first round of the 2005 draft, having made his major league debut in 2007. For his big league career, the righty has gone 81-61 with a 3.96 ERA.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was first to report the deal had been completed.

Former Red Sox infielder Travis Shaw explains why he had to Google guy he was traded for

12.20.16 at 7:42 am ET
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Travis Shaw (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Travis Shaw (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

The entire morning of Dec. 6 was bizarre for Travis Shaw.

“That week was weird,” he explained when appearing on the the Bradfo Show podcast.

He woke up to find a message on his phone from Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, having planned on heading over to JetBlue Park for his daily 8:30 a.m. workout. The Sox boss was asking Shaw to give a call back.

“I as soon as I heard that message I was like, ‘Uh, oh,'” explained the former Red Sox infielder.

Once the two did connect, Dombrowski passed on word that Shaw had been traded to Milwaukee — along with minor-leaguers Josh Pennington and Mauricio Dubon — for a reliever. The pitcher the Brewers sent back wasn’t identified, but would soon be uncovered thanks to Twitter.

So, had Shaw ever heard of Tyler Thornburg, the pitcher who would be now calling Boston home?

“I did not, no,” the lefty hitter said.

“Once it broke over Twitter, that’s kind of when I figured out who it was, looked him up. He had a pretty good year last year. … It seems like, the more I’ve looked into it, it benefits both ends. Both teams and both players at the major league level. Only time will tell, but that trade is a good situation for both guys.”

Shaw did admit that the trade didn’t totally come as a surprise.

“You think it’s going to happen, but it’s still strange once it does happen,” he said.

“I thought there was a decent chance it was going to happen. I don’t think the Red Sox were necessarily looking to move me, but you look at the numbers game. Pablo [Sandoval] is coming back. He’s worked his butt off. I’ve seen him down there, personally. He looks good. He was back in the fold, and they were trying to get him back to where he was a couple of years ago. It seemed like numbers-wise, position player, I was kind of the odd man out of the guys from the team last year. If they were able to fill a role they thought they needed, I thought that maybe if another team wanted me I was more expendable than the other guys in the lineup.”

Shaw is currently listed as the starting third baseman on the Brewers’ depth chart, although there is little evidence (other than superimposing a Milwaukee uniform on his Twitter avatar) during current existence that anything has changed.

“The did send me a little care package to work out in, but than that, nothing,” said Shaw. “Shirt, shorts. They wanted me to get some gear on me some time this winter.”

FOR THE ENTIRE TRAVIS SHAW INTERVIEW, CLICK BELOW

Pablo Sandoval is getting skinnier by the day, but there is still long way to go for Red Sox third baseman

12.17.16 at 10:53 am ET
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By all accounts, Pablo Sandoval is doing his part so far.

Our social media accounts have been flooded throughout the offseason with photos of Sandoval’s transformation, with his dentist’s approval serving as the latest Instagram example. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, and offers some hope that Year 3 of the third baseman’s five-year contract can offer some value.

But shedding the belly was just Step 1.

Sandoval seems to have the best intentions, and is attempting to put his 30-year-old body in the best position to find production. But there shouldn’t simply an assumption that the new body will immediately solve the Red Sox’ third base issues.

There is the need to have some assurances his surgically-repaired shoulder won’t be a deterrent. The last time we witnessed Sandoval as a starting third baseman, he represented one of the worst right-handed hitters in the game (finishing 2015 with a .197 clip against lefties). And, this time, from the Red Sox perspective, there isn’t an palatable fall-back if things aren’t trending in the right direction throughout spring training.

It’s hard to fathom that Sandoval got his deal after coming off a 2014 season in which he totaled a .739 OPS, which would have been 17th-best among third basemen this past year.

And this time the fail-safe isn’t going to be Travis Shaw or Yoan Moncada. It’s Josh Rutledge and/or Brock Holt.

There could be very real scenario where John Farrell chooses to use Rutledge as the third baseman against lefty pitching if there are any signs Sandoval isn’t turning things around from the right side. And if things seem like they did with Sandoval last spring training, perhaps the Red Sox bite the bullet and use Holt as the almost-everyday guy.

When you have the kind of pitching the Red Sox would seem to possess, dealing with these sort of uncertainties aren’t a deal-breaker. And, let’s be honest, we can’t forget the fact that the Red Sox won their division while totaling the absolute worst offensive production from the third base position of any team in baseball.

But the Red Sox have to deal in reality, and until the loss of Sandoval’s pounds actually translates the player we last saw four seasons ago all we have is a bunch of Instagram hearts.

How do you think Pablo Sandoval will do this season?

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Why new Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler may go down as Dave Dombrowski’s best trade

12.17.16 at 10:06 am ET
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Brad Ziegler. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Images)

Brad Ziegler. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Images)

Brad Ziegler got his money. Good for him.

The 37-year-old’s first foray into free agency resulted in a two-year deal with the Marlins that will pay him $7 million in 2017 and $9 million the year after. It’s likely he will set-up closer AJ Ramos (who did have 40 saves and a 2.81 ERA for Miami), joining former Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa in Don Mattingly’s bullpen.

Ziegler didn’t bust budgets with the signing, but considering he entered his 30’s making the major league minimum, the free agent experience should be a feel-good moment for the submariner.

So, how should we remember Ziegler in these parts? For one, he may represent the best trade Dave Dombrowski has made since starting his run with the Red Sox.

Craig Kimbrel. Carson Smith. Aaron Hill. Drew Pomeranz. Fernando Abad. Tyler Thornburg. Chris Sale.

None of the trades involving these Red Sox acquisitions can yet be viewed as flat-out losses. Until Manuel Margot, Anderson Espinoza, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, Victor Diaz, Pat Light, Wendell Rijo, Aaron Wilkerson and Yoan Moncada do something at the big league level, that wouldn’t be fair. But more than a few of the aforementioned prospects have the potential to make some of the deals uncomfortable for the Sox somewhere down the line.

But considering what the Red Sox gave up for Ziegler, and what he delivered (when he did it), it’s hard to imagine anybody will classify that July 9 deal was anything but a steal.

The 20-year-old starter the Red Sox gave up in the trade, Jose Almonte, seems to be a solid prospect, putting up a 3.23 ERA in his 11 Single-A starts after being acquired by the Diamondbacks. The second piece reeled in by Arizona, the other Basabe brother (Luis Alejandro), has some tools, hitting .310 with the Red Sox’ Single-A team in Greenville before slumping to .217 once in his new organization.

Still, the level of uncertainty surrendered for the certainty Ziegler supplied as the time is what separated this trade.

The righty finished his Red Sox stint totaling a 1.53 ERA in 33 games, having pitched in more games than any other Sox pitcher since coming over. His historic ground ball rate was also slightly better as a Red Sox (second-best in club history) than when wearing a Diamondbacks uniform throughout 2017, with John Farrell’s team going 22-11 when Ziegler pitched.

And during the two-month stretch where the Red Sox were trying to figure out how to live life without either Craig Kimbrel and/or Koji Uehara, Ziegler stabilized a bullpen that was leaning the likes of Clay Buchholz and Robbie Ross Jr.

Simply put, if the Red Sox don’t trade for Ziegler, they don’t make the playoffs. And when contrasting Dombrowski’s other two July trades, that can’t be said for Pomeranz or Hill. And that is a pretty good measuring stick particularly when you may have managed to use the more valuable Basabe brother to get Sale.

All things considered, which was Dave Dombrowski's best trade?

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Junichi Tazawa, former Red Sox reliever, reportedly agrees to 2-year deal with Marlins

12.16.16 at 11:26 am ET
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Junichi Tazawa

Junichi Tazawa

Former Red Sox right-hander Junichi Tazawa has agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Miami Marlins, according to multiple published reports.

Tazawa, 30, had spent his entire career with the Red Sox since signing out of Japan in 2008. A key member of the 2013 World Series champions, he had seen his effectiveness wane in recent seasons, particularly last year, when he went 3-2 with a 4.17 ERA.

His 256 appearances since 2013 ranked fourth in the American League, but they also took a toll. He lost his job as primary setup man midway through last season and basically became a mop-up man.

Tazawa becomes the second high-profile member of the title-winning bullpen to depart this offseason, joining countryman Koji Uehara, who signed with the Cubs.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had made it clear early in the offseason that Tazawa wouldn’t be part of the team’s plans this winter.

 

Read More: junichi tazawa, Marlins, Red Sox,

Hanley Ramirez officially announces he’s playing Winter Ball

12.14.16 at 1:52 pm ET
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He hinted that he was going to do it. Now, it’s no longer a hint.

After announcing at the David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic that he wanted to play in the Dominican Winter League to prepare for the World Baseball Classic, Hanley Ramirez took to Twitter to put some punctuation on the conversation.

Ramirez hasn’t played Winter Ball since 2013, which was the last time he participated in the WBC.

While the Red Sox first baseman is a big proponent of using the WBC as preparation for the regular season, there has to be some trepidation about Ramirez amping things up so quickly. In 2013, during the WBC championship game, the then-shortstop injured his thumb to the extent that he missed the first month of the season.

Ramirez wanted to play for Licey prior to last season, but having come off a serious shoulder injury the Red Sox nixed the idea.

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