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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.

John Farrell on Pablo Sandoval: ‘It feels like he’s got to make it up to his teammates and the fans of Boston’

12.11.16 at 4:38 pm ET
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Pablo Sandoval is trying to earn his way back into a starting role. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Pablo Sandoval is trying to earn his way back into a starting role. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Red Sox manager John Farrell joined the Trenni and Tomase Show over the weekend and discussed a number of topics — including the comeback attempt of third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

With Travis Shaw traded to Milwaukee and third-base depth otherwise thin, barring a trade, Sandoval will enter spring training as the clear starter at the position. Photos from Fort Myers show him working hard to lose weight. Farrell did not mince words about the challenge ahead.

“No one’s going to say the first two years of Pablo’s tenure in Boston have gone well,” Farrell said. “That’s obvious. . . . Pablo’s mindset is almost a redemption approach. It feels like he’s got to make it up to his teammates and the fans of Boston here.”

Sandoval missed almost all of last season because of shoulder surgery, which came on the heels of a disastrous 2015 that saw him post some of the worst numbers in baseball after signing a five-year, $95 million deal in free agency.

With David Ortiz gone, the Red Sox will be looking to improve on last year’s woeful third base production, and they hope Sandoval can be a big part of it.

“We’re not asking him to go out and be something he wasn’t prior to the signing of that contract,” Farrell said. “If he gets back to that level — and let’s face it, he’s going to have to go out and earn the job back, because Brock Holt is here, we did go out and pick up Josh Rutledge, who was a quality utility bat prior to the injury last year. We’ll see what transpires the rest of the offseason.”

Farrell noted that prior disappointments had turned their Red Sox careers around.

“There’s been a realizing that the approach he had gone through the first two years here was not the right one for him, and to his credit, he’s made an adjustment,” Farrell said. “He’s got a lot to earn back and particularly to our fans, but we’ve seen it happen before. The resurrection John Lackey went through [in 2013], it can happen. Hanley [Ramirez] bounces back with a big year this year. So I think as he sees other players around him that have done this, I would think it gives him confidence to be able to do it himself.”

Farrell reiterated that playing time will be based on performance, not pay. It’s up to Sandoval to earn it.

“When someone’s taking your job, you’ve got one of two ways to respond,” Farrell said. “You put your tail between your legs and walk out, or you find a way to earn it and fight back. He’s doing the latter right now.”

Read More: John Farrell, Pablo Sandoval, Red Sox,

Red Sox reportedly wanted Miami pitching prospect Luis Castillo in exchange for Clay Buchholz

12.11.16 at 12:10 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

We’re starting to get an idea of what the Red Sox want in exchange for Clay Buchholz.

According to the Miami Herald, the Red Sox asked for right-handed pitching prospect Luis Castillo from the Marlins when talking about a trade involving Buchholz. The Marlins reportedly had no interest in including the 23-year-old in a deal, while also shying away from paying all of the $13.5 million owed Buchholz next season.

Castillo had been part of the trade that got reeled in pitchers Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego in July, but was sent back to the Padres after it was determined Rea’s had physical issues. (For more on that, click here.)

According to sources at the MLB Winter Meetings, it became clear the Red Sox were prioritizing dealing Buchholz over the likes of Drew Pomeranz when attempting to thin out a rotation that currently features seven legitimate starters. (For more on that, click here.)

One Marlins official recently told the Miami Herald that the team believes Castillo can emerge into a 20-game winner. Splitting time between Single-A and Double-A last season, the hard-throwing righty totaled a 2.26 ERA in 131 2/3 innings, striking out 103 and walking just 25.

If the Red Sox do acquire a minor-leaguer for Buchholz, it would mark the first time since Dave Dombrowski took over as president of baseball operations of the Red Sox acquired a player with no major league experience.

Brian Cashman tells Dave Dombrowski he’s going to keep public relations pressure on

12.11.16 at 10:11 am ET
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Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Todays Sports)

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Todays Sports)

The gamesmanship is in full swing.

Perhaps the most notable quote from the MLB Winter Meetings came from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who compared the Red Sox to the Golden State Warriors after Dave Dombrowski’s acquisition of Chris Sale.

According to Dombrowski — who addressed Cashman’s salvo when appearing on the Trenni and Tomase Show from Christmas at Fenway Saturday afternoon — this won’t be the last of the public relations poking and prodding.

“We joked, I said, ‘I know what you’re doing with this Golden State Warrior type stuff. Remember, they lost two of their first three. You have this monster back with [Aroldis] Chapman and they’re going from there.’ They are not kidding me. They are in a position where they have a very good organization. They are trying to be competitive. They still have a good team and have some good young players,” the Red Sox president of baseball operations said.

“It’s funny, because they’ll joke about, he tries to keep pressure on us. He said, ‘I’m going to say this every single day. You’re going to read about this every single day.’ I said, ‘That’s great. We’ll embrace expectations. But don’t give this Golden State Warriors stuff.'”

While the Yankees clearly are not up to the level of the Red Sox when it comes to starting pitching, they are positioned well throughout the majority of their roster, starting with a bullpen which just locked up the closer on a five-year, $85 million deal. New York also added free agent Matt Holliday to shore up it’s offense at the designated hitter spot.

“You can talk about the Cardinals and the Cubs, and you can talk about the Giants and the Dodgers. But I don’t think there is any question the No. 1 is Red Sox and Yankees and when they’re both at the top of their game, it’s good for the game of baseball,” Dombrowski said. “We want to make sure we win those, and it’s much better when the Red Sox are winning. But I think it’s good for the game of baseball.”

Former Red Sox reliever Anthony Varvaro sworn in as police officer

12.10.16 at 4:15 pm ET
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Anthony Varvaro

Anthony Varvaro

Heading into the 2015 season, Anthony Varvaro was on the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster.

Today he is a police officer.

The 32-year-old, who last pitched professionally as a member of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in 2016, graduated from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police academy Friday. The New York native was one of 79 graduating in the ceremony.

Varvaro joined the Red Sox prior to the 2015 season, coming over from the Braves for minor league pitcher Aaron Kurcz.

The righty, who pitched in a combined 123 games with Atlanta from 2013-14, only saw action in nine games for the Red Sox before being designated for assignment. It was discovered that Varvaro was pitching with a torn flexor tendon in his pitching arm, resulting in season-ending surgery.

Varvaro re-signed with the Red Sox prior to last season, totaling a 2.83 ERA in 18 relief appearances for the PawSox. But on June 19 he announced he was retiring from professional baseball to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Source: Rafael Devers was player Red Sox wouldn’t give up in Chris Sale deal

12.10.16 at 3:20 pm ET
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Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers

Now we know where the Red Sox were drawing the line when it came to trading for Chris Sale.

According a major league source, the player the White Sox were asking for in addition to Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech was third base prospect Rafael Devers. It wasn’t until Devers was taken out of the equation by the White Sox that a deal for Sale was completed, with Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz ultimately going to Chicago in the deal.

It wasn’t the first time the White Sox had asked for Devers, with the 20-year-old’s name first surfaced in a potential Sale deal just before the non-waiver trade deadline. A source confirms that major league talent was also asked for by Chicago during July negotiations, which wasn’t the case this offseason.

With Moncada gone, Devers becomes an even more vital part of the Red Sox’ future, with little depth behind current third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

After a slow start with Single-A Salem last season, Devers finished strong. The lefty hitter managed a .326 batting average with seven home runs and .906 OPS after the All-Star break, finishing hitting .282 with a .779 and 11 homers in 128 games.

The Red Sox also have another power-hitting third baseman in their system with Bobby Dalbec, who was a fourth-round pick out of the University of Arizona in last year’s draft. The righty-hitting Dalbec tore up the New York-Penn League during his pro debut, hitting .386 with a 1.101 OPS and seven homers in 34 games with short-season Lowell.

Sources: Former Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine being considered for United States Ambassador to Japan

12.09.16 at 12:08 am ET
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Bobby Valentine

Bobby Valentine

Five years ago, Bobby Valentine was just about a week into his career as Red Sox manager. Now he may be on the verge of becoming a United States ambassador.

According to multiple sources, Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan. The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Such a move would be viewed as another unorthodox appointment by Trump, who named former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon to serve as the administrator of the Small Business Administration Wednesday.

Yet Valentine’s history, and connections to Trump and Japan, make the possibility of such a decision very real.

The former Red Sox manager has known both Trump and his brother, Bob, since the early 1980’s. He is also very close to Anthony Scaramucci, who is part of the Presidential Transition Team Executive Committee. And it was New Jersey governor Chris Christie who, according to a source, first surfaced Valentine’s name for the position.

The connections don’t stop there.

Valentine is still very popular in Japan, having managed the Chiba Lotte Marines for seven seasons, becoming the first U.S. born manager to win the Japan Series with a championship in 2005.

During the former big leaguer’s time in Japan, the Ambassador to Japan was Tom Schieffer, who also was president of the Texas Rangers during Valentine’s tenure as manager with the team. (Caroline Kennedy is the current ambassador, having been appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013.)

Valentine is friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like the former All-American, attended the University of Southern California.

A few other elements that may help Valentine’s case include Japan prioritizing bringing baseball back for the 2020 Summer Olympics, along with the athletic director’s familiarity with SoftBank Hawks owner Masayoshi Son. Son recently announced after a meeting with Trump that SoftBank would be investing $50 billion in America’s technology sector.

Valentine is also close with McMahon, who serves on the board of trustees at Sacred Heart (where a new student commons building is named after the former WWE executive).

Another recognizable name who served as Ambassador to Japan is former Vice-President Walter Mondale, who manned the post during President Bill Clinton’s administration, from 1993-96.

Koji Uehara reportedly joining Cubs’ bullpen

12.08.16 at 8:19 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

According to multiple reports, Koji Uehara is leaving the favorites to win the American League to sign with the team that is favored to win the World Series.

Uehara has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal worth “around” $4.5 million to pitch for the Cubs. In Chicago, he would serve as one of the set-up men for newly-acquired closer Wade Davis.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said at the just-completed MLB Winter Meetings that his club did recently extend an offer to Uehara. Since then, however, the Sox traded for set-up man Tyler Thornburg to round out their bullpen.

The 41-year-old Uehara impressed after coming back from a torn pectoral muscle, not allowing a run in any of his 11 appearances after the injury. He finished his fourth season with the Red Sox totaling a 3.45 ERA in 50 appearances.

Uehara’s run with the Red Sox was remarkable, with the righty finishing the four years with a 2.09 ERA while going 86 for 98 in save opportunities. During that span opponents hit just .179 against him, with the Sox going 183-62 in his appearances. He also struck out 308 and walked 37 in that span.

Uehara would end up making $26.5 million with the Red Sox, having signed a one-year deal with a team option, followed by his two-year, $18 million contract.

Along with Davis, Uehara figures to be finishing off games with relievers Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon.

(The Boston Herald was first to report Uehara was close to signing with the Cubs, with Nikkan Sports first to report the deal was done.)

Mitch Moreland looks forward to joining ‘gritty group of guys’ in Red Sox lineup

12.08.16 at 5:42 pm ET
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Mitch Moreland

Mitch Moreland

The Red Sox opened the offseason hoping to add a left-handed hitting first baseman to provide some lineup balance and give Hanley Ramirez a chance to stay fresh at DH. On Thursday, they introduced him.

The signing of Mitch Moreland may have been overshadowed by the Chris Sale blockbuster, but the Red Sox still have big plans for the Gold Glover, who agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million deal.

“Against right-handed starters, Mitch would be the first baseman,” said manager John Farrell on a conference call. “That gives us the flexibility to DH Hanley in that spot. We’re certainly open to his at-bats growing in number against left-handers. Last year was his best year against left-handers in his big league career. With Mitch getting everyday at-bats against right-handed starters at first base and Hanley moving to the DH spot alignment, we also have the ability against a quality left-handers that Hanley would go back to first base and then we have the ability to rotate some guys through the DH spot. His versatility, his strengths as a player are many. We feel this is a very good fit in a number of ways.”

Moreland, 31, is coming off a disappointing season that saw him hit .233 with 22 homers and a .720 OPS. However, in 2015 he hit .278 with 23 homers and an .812 OPS.

He still had multiple options in free agency as a low-cost bounce-back candidate, but chose Boston because of the roster and atmosphere.

“I had a couple options, but really just the whole fact that it’s a place I really wanted to play,” he said. “Getting the opportunity to come here and be a part of that winning environment, being a part of a winning environment and having a chance to go out and play for a championship is huge to me personally. This is a great option.

“What they were able to do last year, you knew you were in for a fight when you were playing these guys. It was a gritty group of guys that had a ton of talent. I like to think of myself as that type of player, as a gritty type player. Hopefully I felt like I could fit in here and move forward and try to help out and make that goal happen of winning a championship. That’s the main goal as far as playing this game for me. I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity here.”

Read More: Mitch Moreland, MLB trade rumors, Red Sox, winter meetings
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