|12.07.14 at 8:18 pm ET|
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 »
|12.06.14 at 3:00 pm ET|
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.
|12.05.14 at 10:29 pm ET|
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.”
|12.05.14 at 3:57 pm ET|
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.
‘ Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) December 5, 2014
|12.05.14 at 3:04 pm ET|
The Ryan Lavarnway era in Boston has come to an end.
After being designated for assignment following the Pablo Sandoval signing, the first baseman/catcher was claimed off waivers Friday by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lavarnway, 27, split the 2014 season between Triple-A Pawtucket and the Red Sox, while suffering a broken bone in his wrist, forcing him to miss several months. He played nine games in the big leagues, going 0-for-10, and in 97 career big league games, he has a .201/.249/.315 line with five homers. He was strictly a catcher until being tried out at first base beginning last season, an effort to gain versatility.
The Yale product was drafted in the sixth-round of the 2008 draft and made his major league debut Aug. 18, 2011.
For more Red Sox news, visit weei.com/redsox.
|12.05.14 at 1:28 pm ET|
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz checked in with Middays with MFB from his charity golf tournament in the Dominican Republic and shared his thoughts on the team’s contract negotiations with free agent left-hander Jon Lester and other topics. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
“We know that this year, offensively, we were terrible,” Ortiz said. “We scored less runs than everyone else. That tells you as an owner, as a GM, if you don’t have no offense you’re going nowhere. An example of that is the Kansas City Royals. The best pitching in the game, but they still could not make it, and it’s because they need the offense.
“So right now I think if we go out there and get some pitching, we get my boy Lester on board and go out there and get another starter, I think things will look even better. And remember, this division, everybody’s getting tied up.”
Regarding the Sox’ chances of landing Lester, Ortiz said it might require the Red Sox to show their appreciation in ways other than money.
“All the conversations talking to Lester and stuff, I think the Red Sox still have the ball on the court. And it’s because we all know that Lester loves Boston,” Ortiz said. “And there’s something that we need to make up, and it was that painful trade … during the season. I know my boy’s feelings were hurt when he got traded. And the reason his feelings were hurt was because he loves Boston.”
Added Ortiz: “So I think it’s time for us to kind of make that up, and appreciate that the fact that this guy has been part of a couple of World Series. He has given everything he has. His playoff numbers are ridiculous. And he can demand whatever he deserves.”
|12.05.14 at 8:02 am ET|
ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney, in an interview on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show, said that the bidding for free agent left-hander Jon Lester seems destined to clear $150 million. That likely outcome, in turn, will not reflect well on the Red Sox‘ approach to extension talks in spring training, when the team made a four-year, $70 million offer.
“It was mind-boggling,” said Olney. “If in fact Jon Lester ends up signing someplace else for about $150 million, and given the presence of the Cubs and the Dodgers and the Giants and the Red Sox, it’s hard to imagine that it’s going to be for less than $150 million, there’s no question that one of the biggest things you take away from that is, my goodness the Red Sox miscalculated. That offer, whether it’s the Red Sox signing Lester to $150 million or some other team doing it, your reaction is the Red Sox really misread where the market was going to end up winding up.”
Olney said that the industry is still trying to get a feel for what the Dodgers’ late entry into the Lester sweepstakes means.
“I’m surprised that the Dodgers are in this late. I think everyone is still trying to figure out how serious it is, but it certainly changes the dynamics dramatically. Imagine if you have a weekend poker game with three of your neighbors and then someone walks in with a stack of hundreds. That’s kind of what’s going on here,” said Olney. “Let’s face it, the timing of this was such that suddenly we heard from the Dodgers on the day the Dodgers were meeting with Lester, it may be the classic Red Sox-Yankees push the opponent to pay as much as possible. I think there’s reason to think that, but because the Dodgers have so much money, as one general manager said to me today, they’re the new Yankees. When they jump in, you’ve got to take them seriously just because of how much money they have. Quite frankly, if they want him, then they’re probably going to get him, unless Jon Lester has a serious problem pitching with L.A. We just don’t know yet if their end game is to sign Lester.”
Whenever Lester does sign, Olney expects a flurry of moves involving a starting pitching market that has yet to start moving. Free agents could come off the board quickly, and trade activity could be significant.
“[Lester is] the biggest domino. He’s the bottleneck in the whole marketplace right now,” said Olney. “I will tell you that talking with some teams today and this evening, they’re telling me that there’s a ton of talk going on. Whereas three days ago there were a lot of teams that were just inclined to wait until the Lester thing happened, I think the fact that it may not get resolved to the middle of the winter meetings — which is the latest timetable I heard — I think teams are now lining up to do other things. But [James] Shields is directly affected. If Shields, let’s say for argument’s sake, the feeling entering the winter was Shields was most likely to end up with the Dodgers or the Red Sox, and if one of those two teams winds up with Lester, that affects Shields. Maybe the Cubs look at Shields more seriously because of the history now with Joe Maddon, now that he’s their manager. I think for guys like Francisco Liriano and Brandon McCarthy, they’re waiting for Jon Lester so they can kind of draft in his wake.” Read the rest of this entry »
|12.05.14 at 1:51 am ET|
PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — The priority for David Ortiz at his annual golf tournament is to play the role of host for those helping support the event.
But there have been times he uses the occasion to get a message across via the small gathering of media attending the fundraiser. Last year, for example, the Red Sox designated hitter threw down the gauntlet to the team that he was intent on getting a new deal done before the 2014 season rolled around.
This time around, Ortiz lacked any sort of pointed remarks. (“I’m under contract,” he said. “I don’t have to talk about it.”) Instead, there was just a plea. He wants Jon Lester back with the Red Sox.
“Yeah,” said Ortiz when asked if he was optimistic that Lester would return. “Most of the time we come through. I know it’s a tough situation because my boy Lester, he’s got a lot of people in his head right now talking to him. I always wish him the best, but hopefully we end up having him. We need him.”
Ortiz explained he hadn’t spoken with Lester throughout the offseason (just ‘tweeting at him’), but reiterated an understanding of the pitcher’s mindset.
Now, with the pitcher on the cusp making his decision ‘ one which is appearing to be finalized around the time of next week’s winter meetings in San Diego ‘ Ortiz is presenting one last pitch.
“This is a guy who loves Boston, so if I’m the Red Sox I do whatever it takes to keep a guy like that because that’s a guy who brings everything he has every day to the field,” he said. “Not only that but he cares about the city.
“He was devastated when he got traded, and I know that. I can personally tell you that. But this is a business, and I know he understands that. So now is the time for us to step up, man up, and try to make the guy happy.”
Lester appears to be choosing between the Red Sox, Giants, Cubs and Dodgers, with some in baseball believing the Yankees are also lurking. Ortiz just so happens to seemingly be one of the people saying New York is, ‘going to go out and get some pitching, I guarantee it.’
Also in attendance for the first day of Ortiz’s event was third baseman Will Middlebrooks, along with free agent reliever Craig Breslow. The lefty pitcher has drawn interest from more than a handful of teams, but figures to sign only after fellow southpaw Andrew Miller kicks off the relieving market.
“That was something that absolutely surprised me,” said Ortiz of the signing of both Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. “It’s more offense. More good defense. That’s how you start winning and putting a good team together.”
|12.03.14 at 9:25 pm ET|
While the Red Sox, Cubs and Giants have all been part of a public courtship process of Jon Lester, interest from the industry’s financial heavyweights — the Yankees and Dodgers — had not been documented. But, multiple sources connected to teams interested in Lester have told WEEI.com that the Dodgers are a late entrant into the sweepstakes, with both serious interest in the top left-hander on the market and the resources to make a hard, late charge.
One industry source was under the impression that the Dodgers had already entered the bidding with an offer to Lester, while another characterized the Dodgers as poised to play a role similar to the one made by the Yankees in December 2008, when New York swooped in late to sign Mark Teixeira away from other interested bidders with a high bid of eight years and $180 million. A third noted of the Dodgers’ potential interest that Lester, “could help any team looking to win championships,” the unquestioned bar for a Los Angeles team that is after its first title since 1988.
The basis of a run at Lester by the Dodgers is fairly self-explanatory. While the team has the most dominant pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw and an elite No. 2 in Zack Greinke, the depth behind them is less than dominant — particularly given that Greinke can opt out of his six-year, $147 million deal after the 2015 season (the third year of his contract).
(Sidenote: Greinke’s deal likely would offer the opening framework for conversations with Lester given the career similarities of the two at the time of their free agency. Greinke secured his deal after the 2012 season, when, in 1,492 innings, he had a 91-78 record, 3.77 ERA, 114 ERA+, 8.0 strikeouts per nine and 2.3 walks per nine. Lester has logged 1,596 innings with a 116-67 record, 3.58 ERA, 121 ERA+, 8.2 strikeouts per nine and 3.1 walks per nine.)
Josh Beckett was excellent while healthy (2.88 ERA) for a half-season, but not only missed the final months of the season but announced his intention to retire after the conclusion of the season. Hyun-Jin Ryu had a strong 14-7 record and 3.38 ERA, though he logged just 152 innings and his ERA+ of 103 suggests he was in part a beneficiary of a very pitcher-friendly climate in the NL West (though his fielding-independent pitching (FIP) mark of 2.62 suggests that his excellent strikeout rate (8.2 per nine), low walks total (1.7 per nine) and stinginess allowing homers (0.5 per nine) could have yielded far better results but for the poor defense behind him). Dan Haren was a solid back-of-the-rotation contributor, with a 4.02 ERA (87 ERA+ — meaning 13 percent worse than league average when adjusted for park conditions), but he’s been a below-average performer (in terms of ERA+) for three years, and the Dodgers turned to Kershaw on three days of rest and skipped Haren in their NLDS elimination game against the Dodgers.
Lester has something that none of those Dodgers pitchers possesses — a tremendous postseason track record that now accompanies his career-best performance over the last year and a half.
The Dodgers, of course, have financial resources that can match those of any team in baseball, particularly at a time when Greinke may be within a year of entering free agency and when the team might be able to clear some payroll by moving one of its expensive outfielders (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford). One source went so far as to suggest he would be “shocked” if the Dodgers don’t end up being the high bid in the Lester sweepstakes, though whether that proves the case — or whether he ultimately would make his decision on the basis of the highest offer — remains to be seen.
|12.03.14 at 4:21 pm ET|
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington, in an interview on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio, said that the Red Sox remain unsure of the means by which they’ll round out their 2015 rotation, but the team is confident in its ultimate ability to put together a group that will have aspirations to win the division next year.
“I wouldn’t rule out adding two starters. We don’t know what the names are. We don’t know where they’ll come from. We don’t know the cost associated with it,” Cherington told MLB Network Radio. “We’re in a position to be active in the market for pitchers. … Everyone’s got a budget, including us. There is some limit at some point to what you can do. We feel good we’re in a position, whether it’s talent or whether it’s the financial resources, to build a rotation that’s a good rotation and that, along with the rest of the team, can contend for the AL East next year.”
One asset that the Sox have to use in trying to address their rotation is their outfield surplus. Cherington echoed remarks he made at the press conference introducing Hanley Ramirez as the team’s new left fielder in suggesting that the team does face an increasing likelihood of dealing from its positional depth.
“The Hanley signing does increase the likelihood of us making a trade. It doesn’t guarantee it but it does increase the likelihood, and sure enough we’ve had a lot of calls on the outfielders since then,” Cherington told the radio network. “We’ll see what happens in the trade market over the next couple weeks. … We felt like the signing of Hanley put us in a better position not just to address our needs this offseason but to ensure the lineup in the short- and the long-term and to give us the best chance to make sure we have a high quailty defender in both center and right in the short- and long-term.” Read the rest of this entry »
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