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Commissioner notes: Rob Manfred says not so fast to netting at Fenway Park

11.10.15 at 10:43 am ET
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Commissioner Rob Manfred  (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Commissioner Rob Manfred (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Speaking at the general managers’ meetings Tuesday morning, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred touched on a variety of subjects currently impacting the game.

Included in the conversation was the topic of whether or not netting would be implemented in stadiums after numerous incidents this past season in which fans were severely injured by flying equipment.

Manfred pointed out, however, that there is no guarantee any changes will be made to the areas closest to home plate.

“I think as you go out and look at ballparks it becomes evident that a simple, uniformed net to the edge of the dugout is not workable given the variation in the designs of the stadium,” he said. “It’s going to be a little more complicated than that if in fact we move ahead. We’re going to have a full conversation about this at the owners’ meeting next week. I don’t want to prejudge the outcome beyond that. But I do think a simple rule is probably difficult given the variations that exist in our stadiums.”

– Manfred was very adamant that the strike zone, as it is being called, is more satisfactory that it’s ever been thanks to improved technology.

“The umpires calling of the strike zone is probably more consistent that it’s ever been in the history of the game,” Manfred said. “I think the application of technology, going back to when Sandy Alderson was running the umpiring department, has overall time brought consistency in that area.

“The issue of the affect on offense, what I said at the beginning of the year was that I thought we needed, before we made a judgement and started talking about changes, another year of data. Every once in a while even I get to be right. What I mean by that was that we had a really interesting uptick in offense late in the year this year. A increase in scoring. We’re not going to jump too quickly on this one. We really want to understand what’s happening in the game. Our game is too great to be willy-nilly making changes thinking you’re going to address a problem that may not be a problem at all.”

– Manfred is still supportive of the qualifying offer system, which is in it’s fourth offseason:

“We were trying to identify a group of players that were significant enough where the loss merited the team that lost the player getting compensation, and that the player would be in high enough demand that the compensation availability would not ruin his market,” Manfred noted. “The fact that players who say, ‘No,’ go out into the market and get contracts even though the signing club has given up a draft choice kind of says to me we got it right. I don’t think you need somebody to accept. I think that so far we have successfully identified a group of players who were significant losses to the teams they were leaving and were high enough quality that they could bear the burden of draft choice compensation in the market and still get a good contract.”

– In regards to the news that Colorado shortstop Jose Reyes has been arrested for domestic abuse, Manfred cited the recently-implemented domestic violence policy (enacted in August).

“We felt good about the policy when we negotiated it. This will be the first test, and I think it will stand the test,” he said.

Here are the guidelines of the policy:

The Commissisoner’s Office will invesigate all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving members of the baseball community. The Commissioner may place an accused player on paid administrative leave for up to seven days while allegations are investigated. Players may challenge any decision before the arbitration panel.

The Commissioner will decide on appropriate discipline, with no minimum or maximum penalty under the policy. Players may challenge such decisions to the arbitration panel.

Training, Education and Resources:
All players will be provided education about domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in both English and Spanish at regular intervals. Resources to players’ families — including referral information, websites, hotline numbers and outreach facilities — will be made available, along with a confidential 24-hour helpline.
An annual program of community outreach will be developed. It may include public service announcements featuring players, domestic violence awareness days at ballparks and other activities designed to spread awareness on the issues.

– Manfred insisted MLB is doing everything it’s power to stay ahead of possible advances in performance enhancing drug use.

“We are constantly vigilant on the issue of the using of performance-enhancing drugs. It’s not just that we have a testing program that’s now on auto-pilot. We spend an inordinate amount of time working with groups to make sure we know what is the very latest developments that are going on in respect to performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t know how to say it more clearly is that whether or not we have an uptick in offense, we are constantly vigilant on this topic.”

Read More: Fenway Park, Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred,

GM meetings Hot Stove chat, noon

11.10.15 at 8:48 am ET
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Join Rob Bradford of WEEI.com for a noon chat, live from the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. Bradford will be talking all things Red Sox offseason, baseball and life in the land of iguanas on the side of the road, so get your questions in now. It is a great way to get ready for Tuesday night’s Hot Stove Show on WEEI, which kicks off at 9 p.m.

Live Blog GM Meetings live chat

Read More: gm meetings, Hot Stove, Red Sox,

GM meetings notes: Talks already heating up for Dave Dombrowski, Red Sox

11.09.15 at 7:42 pm ET
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BOCA RATON, Fla. — Maybe this year will be different. Dave Dombrowski thinks it’s certainly trending that way.

When asked about his perception of the initial few hours of the usually mundane general managers’ meetings, the Red Sox president of baseball operations noted that, “It’s actually been a busier first day than normal.”

Dombrowski went on to relay that he actually thought the Red Sox might be able to complete a trade, but the other party cooled off on the idea.

Still, it sure seems like things are trending toward something happening in the coming days.

“I do,” said Dombrowski when asked if he believed there was more activity than normal at this young stage of the offseason. “People have asked me why, and I’€™m not really sure of that answer, but I do find that.

“We had some of our guys, I asked them to fly in this afternoon to sort of sit down. A couple of our guys said, ‘€˜Wow, we just got here and we’€™re behind,’€™ because we had so many discussions already. I’€™m not really sure why that is. People have speculated different thought process. New general managers being aggressive. I think part of it is the playoff teams were pretty much identified early, except for a couple, so that allowed some of the other clubs to start planning. I think some agents are probably aggressive because they see there’€™s a big number of pitchers out there. Some people speculated yesterday that perhaps it was a situation there’€™s a lot of general manager who aren’€™t tied to the players in their organization as much. I don’€™t know if it’€™s some or all of that, or really what. But I’€™ve had many more conversations, and more serious conversations, earlier than would be the case.”

The Red Sox primary focus thus far? Pitching.

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Read More: Dave Dombrowski, general managers meetings, Red Sox, travis shaw

Dave Dombrowski meets with Hanley Ramirez to get on ‘same page’ heading into offseason

11.09.15 at 7:04 pm ET
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BOCA RATON, Fla. — Before the usual Hot Stove talks kicked off at the general managers’ meetings, Dave Dombrowski used his first night at the Boca Raton Resort and Club to check in with what sure looks to be a key figure for 2016 — Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez, who lives less than an hour away just outside Miami, drove up I-95 to meet up with his agent and Red Sox officials before truly diving into his preparation for ’16.

“It went great. We asked him to come by. I asked him to come by,” Dombrowski said Monday night. “I talked to his representative. Adam Katz was here. I talked to Adam a couple of weeks ago. Hanley was on vacation for a couple of weeks with his family. He came back just recently and I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page going into the wintertime and we already had a member from our organization, Dan Dyrek, fly down to work with his conditioning individual and talk about what we’€™re looking to do so he already did that. I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page as far as going forward here. We had a great meeting. I guess it lasted 45 minutes or something like that and just had a chance to make sure everything was set.”

One of the bits of good news to come out of the get-together was that Ramirez’s right shoulder, which had forced him to shut his season down for the final month, was no longer a problem.

Ramirez, who began working out at first base in August, also reiterated the position switch wouldn’t be a problem.

“Hanley has no pain in his shoulder. I asked him,” Dombrowski noted. “I said we’€™re counting on him for big things next year. We’€™re counting on him to be our first baseman. I asked him if he thought he could play first base. He said, I can play shortstop, I can play third base, I can play first base. He seemed comfortable. Now when I say that, all of this stuff will be action-based. He’€™s been working out already. He hasn’€™t taken any groundballs. And we’€™re not asking him to take any groundballs at this point. We’€™re not asking him.

“What he’€™s going to do is he’€™s going to be here for a couple of more weeks and then he is going to the Dominican. He’€™s going to be in the Dominican for a couple of months. He has a conditioning individual down there with him who will work. He’€™s in a spot where David Ortiz is going down there, I think the 19th of November, they’€™re going to work out together. He is all set from his conditioning perspective. We didn’€™t ask him to take any groundballs. He asked if we mind if he did some things and we said, all we’€™re worried about is you coming to spring training healthy and ready to go. If you feel you’€™re capable of doing it, great. But we’€™re not asking you to do that at this point. We’€™ll stay in touch on that. The meeting went great and I was impressed. He was here, he was on time, he was ready to go. Looked fine. But it was really at our request so we could just all sit down and visit.”

Besides the health of his shoulders, the other priority for Ramirez will be his conditioning. Dombrowski explained exactly what the organization had in mind for the 31-year-old when it came to body type heading into the new season.

Ramirez played in just 105 games last season, going on the 15-day disabled list on two separate occasions.

“That’€™s one of the things we wanted to discuss with him. We told him that before he left. We had a meeting with him, but I wanted to make sure to reiterate it and have everybody hear it again,” the Red Sox president of baseball operations said. “He understands we’€™re much more interested in him being a little more athletic. And the thing about him that I emphasized, when he is, whatever his exact weight is ‘€“ let’€™s say 245, approximately ‘€“ he’€™s not overweight 245. He’€™s big and huge 245. We would rather have a more svelte 230 type of weight. We’€™re not giving him a mandatory weight by any means. But more athletic, more focused on hitting doubles, using the whole field, driving in runs than worrying about hitting the ball out of the ballpark for 40 home runs.

“Sometimes I think when you play left field or you play first base, you put in your own mind that you have to be a power hitter, and that’€™s not the case at all. He’€™ll hit enough home runs. We want him to be a productive hitter and drive in a lot of runs. We want to make sure again that we’€™re all on the same page. And he was fine with it. He understood it and I think he’€™ll go forward with that type of mindset.”

Read More: Dave Dombrowski, hanley ramirez, Red Sox,

What all these qualifying offers mean to Red Sox

11.07.15 at 10:12 am ET
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Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann

So, it appears like teams have finally caught on.

All the qualifying offers are in to Major League Baseball free agents, with a record-setting 25 players receiving the opportunity to haul in a one-year, $15.8 million from their previous teams.

It is a huge jump from what had transpired in the three previous offseasons the qualifying offer system has been in place. The first year saw nine offers, with 13 coming the next year and 12 being extended last offseason.

(As a reminder of how it works, if the player doesn’t accept the QO and he signs with another team, the team that inks the free agent has to surrender its highest draft pick, unless that pick falls in the top 10. The club giving up the player receives a sandwich round selection once he signs elsewhere.)

Why so many?

One of the main reasons is that because it has become evident the agents have little interest in advising their clients to take a one-year deal after positioning them for free agency for months leading up to this moment. And since a decision has to be made in one week, there’s no proof what might await in the free agent market, leaving the players often believing there is a multi-year deal out there somewhere.

To date, none of the players handed qualifying offers had accepted the one-year deal, with the gamble coming back to bite players like Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales, both of whom signed a few months into the regular season. The team signing Drew, the Red Sox, didn’t have to surrender a pick because they were his previous club, and the Twins were clear of giving up a pick when inking Morales because the agreement was after the June amateur draft.

Now we will find out if such scenarios have scared off some of these 25 players from exploring the market beyond next week.

As for what this all means for the Red Sox, there are a few players in the group that they were eyeing to see if a QO would be heading their way. The potential of giving up the draft pick is of considerable interest to Dave Dombrowski and Co. this time around considering they sit at No. 12, the second highest non-protected pick.

If surrendered, it would be the highest spot ever given up to sign a player since the QO system started, with the Padres currently holding that honor after giving up No. 13 for James Shields last offseason.

“It’s a case-by-case basis,” Dombrowski said when appearing on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show Tuesday night. “Ideally, you never want to give up your No. 1 draft choice if you don’t have to. But I have been in circumstances where the player that you signed merits you being in a position where you feel as an organization that you’re willing to do that.

“You don’t want to do it. There are some circumstances you’d shy away from, where you say, you know what, I don’€™t want to give that draft choice up for this kind of player. You’re thinking your draft pick is going to be successful, so you have to weigh in to where you think the player you would be drafting there, the type of player down the road he projects to be. It’s something when you talk about development time, that you’re open minded to trading that quality of player you might get with that choice, or not.

“I think it’s a case-by-case basis and you analyze that based upon the player you have a chance to sign.”

The Red Sox would be most likely willing to surrender the pick in order to sign the likes of pitcher Zack Greinke, or, if they choose to go down this road (which I don’t think they will), first baseman Chris Davis. Starter Jordan Zimmermann might also fall into this group.

Starting pitchers Wei-Yen Chen, Hisashi Iwakuma, Yovani Gallardo, Brett Anderson or Marco Estrada? The draft pick conundrum might offer some hesitation.

It should be noted that some other significant potential Red Sox free agent targets will be free and clear from being saddled with QO compensation. David Price, Johnny Cueto and Scott Kazmir all couldn’t be offered the one-year deal because a player has to be with their team for the entire season leading up to free agency in order to be eligible. Price, Cueto and Kazmir were all dealt in the middle of the 2015 season.

Here is a list of the players receiving the qualifying offers:

Brett Anderson, SP (Dodgers)
Wei-Yin Chen, SP (Orioles)
Chris Davis, 1B (Orioles)
Ian Desmond, SS (Nationals)
Marco Estrada, SP (Blue Jays)
Dexter Fowler, OF (Cubs)
Yovani Gallardo, SP (Rangers)
Alex Gordon, OF (Royals)
Zack Greinke, SP (Dodgers)
Jason Heyward, OF (Cardinals)
Hisashi Iwakuma, SP (Mariners)
Howie Kendrick, 2B (Dodgers)
Ian Kennedy, SP (Padres)
John Lackey, SP (Cardinals)
Daniel Murphy, 2B/3B (Mets)
Colby Rasmus, OF (Astros)
Jeff Samardzija, SP (White Sox)
Justin Upton, OF (Padres)
Matt Wieters, C (Orioles)
Jordan Zimmermann, SP (Nationals)

Read More: free agents, Red Sox,

Red Sox pitchers Jean Machi, Alexi Ogando elect to become free agents after being outrighted; Ryan Cook claimed off waivers by Cubs

11.06.15 at 3:39 pm ET
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Alexi Ogando

Alexi Ogando

The Red Sox announced a series of moves Friday, including outrighting pitchers Alexi Ogando and Jean Machi, who elected to become free agents.

Ogando, 32, signed as a free agent last offseason after five years with the Rangers. The right-hander saw action in 64 games this season, going 3-1 with a 3.99 ERA.

Machi, 30, was picked up off waivers from the Giants on July 28 and appeared in 26 games with the Sox, posting a 5.09 ERA.

Outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig was outrighted as well, but he accepted an assignment to Triple-A Pawtucket. The 31-year-old spent most of the season in Pawtucket, trying to regain the stroke that helped him succeed during his previous stint with the Cardinals. In 36 games in the majors this season, Craig batted .152/.239/.203.

Catcher Sandy Leon signed a one-year major league contract for 2016 and also was outrighted and assigned to Pawtucket. The 26-year-old Venezuelan, acquired from the Nationals just before the start of the season to fill a void, hit .184/.238/.202 in 41 games.

Pitcher Ryan Cook was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. The 28-year-old was traded from the Athletics to the Sox at the trade deadline for a player to be named or cash, and he made five relief appearances, allowing 13 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings.

The Sox also reinstated five players from the 60-day disabled list: pitchers Clay Buchholz (right elbow strain), Koji Uehara (right wrist nondisplaced distal radius fracture), Anthony Varvaro (right elbow surgery) and Brandon Workman (Tommy John surgery), and catcher Christian Vazquez (Tommy John surgery).

Read More: Alexi Ogando, Allen Craig, Jean Machi, Ryan Cook

Charles Steinberg named PawSox president

11.06.15 at 10:50 am ET
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Charles Steinberg

Charles Steinberg

On a day when the Red Sox announced a series of moves as part of their front office restructuring, Dr. Charles Steinberg was named president of the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday.

Steinberg has long worked with outgoing Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino, who became chairman of the PawSox last winter.

The PawSox are attempting to relocate, although a plan to move to Providence fell through in September.

“Working at Fenway Park, we have long admired the fans of Rhode Island,” Steinberg said. “The opportunity to help enhance a warm, welcoming, positive experience for families, and especially children, is very attractive. The opportunity to help enhance the PawSox’ community efforts is equally enticing.

“We know we have a staff of loyal, dedicated, knowledgeable people who have given their hearts and souls to the PawSox for years. We look forward to working with them, learning from them and building upon our shared experience.”

Mike Tamburro, who has served as PawSox president for two decades, will remain with the organization as vice chairman.

Read More: charles steinberg, Larry Lucchino,

Billy Beane isn’t keen on trading Sonny Gray

11.05.15 at 9:10 am ET
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Sonny Gray

Sonny Gray

A lot can change over the course of an offseason. Nobody knows that more than Billy Beane.

The A’s chief decision-maker was the one who reversed course last year after stiff-arming inquiries on Josh Donaldson, finally giving the OK to Toronto for a deal involving the probable American League MVP.

This year, the Red Sox are probably hoping Beane has a similar change of mind.

Talking to Peter Gammons, Beane said that he didn’t believe that the starting pitcher so many believed would be a target for the Red Sox, Sonny Gray, would be in the conversation when it came to making a deal in the coming months.

As Beane explained to Gammons for GammonsDaily.com, “trading Gray is not something I think we could do. We have to put a representative product on the field, and continue to dream we get a ballpark. We should have good pitching, with Gray, Jarrod Parker, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, maybe Sean Manaea during the season. I just cannot see us trading Gray or (Josh) Reddick.”

Sources have said that the Red Sox have at least previously asked about Gray, a 26-year-old who finished seventh among all pitchers in Wins Above Replacement this past season. In his second full big league season, the righty went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA while pitching 208 innings. Over the past two seasons, Gray has totaled the exact same ERA (2.88) as David Price.

It isn’t surprising that Beane wants to hold on to Gray, who has just 2 1/2 years service time. (He was taken one spot ahead of where the Red Sox selected Matt Barnes with the 19th overall pick in the 2011 draft.)

The A’s head of baseball operations clearly wants some sort of players to serve as a foundation while he tries to rebuild a team that went just an American League-worst 68-94. For now, he’s identifying Gray as one of those guys.

“Good question, but I think so,” said Beane when asked if he thought Gray would be affordable by the time the A’s young players are ready thrive. “I look at the way the market is going and realize the teams with the money are going to spend it on free agent pitching rather than trading three or four top prospects. Good young players are worth too much today.”

Read More: Billy Beane, Red Sox, Sonny Gray,

Dave Dombrowski on building a bullpen, and moving Matt Barnes to relief

11.04.15 at 2:27 pm ET
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The Red Sox recently took one step towards addressing the need for power in their bullpen by informing right-hander Matt Barnes that he’ll be shifting to relief.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski revealed that news on WEEI’s Hot Stove Show on Tuesday night while also addressing the bigger-picture question of how to build a bullpen in an age where teams like the Royals are winning on the strength of their lockdown pens.

“It’s a great question,” Dombrowski said. “What you really try to do is . . . project some people’s performance taking a step forward, through scouting and analytics, and try to go that way.

“Because other than premium guys that are your premium closers, there’s so much inconsistency in bullpen performances throughout the years. So the good arm just doesn’t settle, because you can have a good arm and still get hit. The projection of stuff, command, secondary stuff, the ability to deal with the pressures of closing. And I think sometimes you have to look at the year before, was somebody overworked, were there any injury factors? You have to look at all of those things and hopefully make wise decisions that end up working for you.”

Step one: shifting Barnes, who bounced between the rotation and bullpen all season at Triple-A and in the majors.

“With Matt Barnes, our plans are for him to come to spring training, and we’ve already talked to him about this, and really focus in on the bullpen, to try to help us with that power arm out there,” Dombrowski said. “[Prospect] Pat Light is pitching winter ball in Puerto Rico and he’s just started to pitch. You never can tell when those guys take that step to really be that important arm. Ideally you want to have somebody out there that can strike out a hitter with above-average stuff.”

Closer Koji Uehara gets strikeouts without being overpowering, while setup man Junichi Tazawa averages roughly a strikeout an inning.

“Tazawa in the eighth can do that when he’s throwing the ball well, but really somebody before that point, you’d like to have somebody out there that can get a groundball for you at times, get a left-handed hitter out, but also get a strikeout,” Dombrowski said. “So that’s what you’re trying to do when you build that bullpen.”

Now question can be asked: Should Red Sox prioritize Zack Greinke or David Price?

11.04.15 at 1:19 pm ET
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Nobody should have been surprised Zack Greinke took the route he did earlier Wednesday morning, opting out of the final three years of his current deal with the Dodgers.

Sure, the 32-year-old pitcher surrendered a guaranteed $71 million, but coming off the season(s) he produced, it was absolutely the logical move considering where the age Greinke would be hitting free agency if staying with his previous deal.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility we’re talking a six-year deal for Greinke, who has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past three seasons. Since 2013, he has gone 51-15 with a 2.30 ERA. (As a quick aside, how in the world have the Dodgers not won more considering their other top starter, Clayton Kershaw, is 53-19 with a 1.92 ERA over that same span.)

So, with the Red Sox very publicly stating finding a pitcher like Greinke this offseason is their top priority, the pitcher’s newfound life as a free agent should be a top priority Dave Dombrowski and Co.

The fly in the ointment is the perceived hesitation Greinke might have when it comes to playing in a place like Boston. Having battled a debilitating social anxiety disorder, the righty has been on record saying he couldn’t envision himself pitching in a place like New York. But what about Fenway Park?

Which pitcher should Red Sox pursue?

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Greinke did have Boston, along with New York, on his no-trade list, but that doesn’t necessarily mean much considering such a move is used for contract leverage more than anything.

There is seemingly a strong support system for the former Royal, Brewer and Dodger, with his former general manager Allard Baird serving as the Red Sox senior vice president of player personnel, and Brian Bannister, the Sox director of pitching analysis and development, having a long history with the pitcher. Bannister and Greinke developed a close relationship while playing together in KC, having shared a common interest in advanced pitching metrics and analytics.

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Read More: David Price, Red Sox, zack greinke,
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